Rod Walton: Just what is proven by a boycott?
BY ROD WALTON World Staff Writer
Sunday, August 05, 2012
8/05/12 at 3:26 AM
Boycotts are big news lately, so I thought I'd do a little research on just how much economic impact and cultural influence they really have.
Full disclosure: I'm not a big boycott guy. I don't really care where a restaurant's political leanings lie as long as both the right and left wings are cooked properly in my order, but I understand how passionately (and often humorless) that political extremists are from both sides.
But boycotts are fascinating exercises in negative power, nonetheless. The name itself goes back to something called the Irish Land War of the late 1800s and a man named Charles Boycott.
Mr. Boycott was helping evict tenants and found himself not able to find enough croppers to work at harvest, or something like that.
The Delano Grape Strike of the 1960s, organized by Cesar Chavez, apparently was very successful in furthering the cause of those who protested labor conditions on California grape farms.
Since this is Olympic season, I guess it's appropriate to note I first became aware of boycotts with the events of the 1980 and 1984 Summer Games. We didn't go to the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and the Russians didn't come to ours in Los Angeles four years later.
Arizona's immigration battles apparently have hurt that state economically, according to studies by various sources. The state's Hotel and Lodging Association estimated a $15 million decrease in room revenues during 2010, while others put the losses at closer to $50 million and more.
The boycott topped headlines again this past month when Chick-Fil-A executive Dan Cathy gave his conservative opinions on gay marriage during a radio show interview. Cathy's company is known for its fundamental religious stance, including closing on Sundays, but his comments against same-sex marriage drew fierce criticism and equally boisterous support.
The mayors of Boston and Chicago seemed to threaten potential municipal action, such as not allowing additional stores built there, to punish Chick-Fil-A's leader for his stance. Conservatives, in response, showed up in lines going out the restaurant's doors nationwide on an Appreciation Day this past week.
Everyone has rights, although I don't know why politicians would try to wield their power against a businessman simply because they disagree on a cultural issue. Patrons of any business anywhere can show their support or displeasure with their pocketbook, in my opinion.
Freedom of speech cuts both ways. Natalie Maines had the right to criticize President Bush in 2004, and country music fans showed their power by buying fewer Dixie Chicks albums and concert tickets.
The boycott and its counterpoint, the show of support, are apparently alive and well. The real, long-term economic impact, if any, remains to be seen for most of these actions. But they make for good news stories.