Editor's Letter: The Real Boycott Effect

To listen to antigay boycott instigators, you’d think the sky is falling all the time. But it ain’t so, and in fact, for the amount of backlash that happens as a result of overzealous proscriptions, companies should hope to become targets.

BY Matthew Breen

May 16 2012 4:00 AM ET

To listen to antigay boycott instigators, you’d think the sky is falling all the time. But it ain’t so, and in fact, for the amount of backlash that happens as a result of overzealous proscriptions, companies should hope to become targets.

Over the last few decades those behind the hate group American Family Association have asked their hapless supporters to withhold patronage from some brands they consider particularly nefarious. The American Girl dolls were “pro-abortion, pro-lesbian.” Ford marketed to gays, and Campbell Soup Co. advertised in this magazine, sending the message that “homosexual parents constitute a family.” The nerve. Toys “R” Us sold an Archie Comics title with gays getting hitched. (Do we have to explain the difference between comics and real life again, AFA?)

For several years conservative Catholic and Baptist groups tried to take down Disney for the crime of treating LGBT people like people. JCPenney was the target of an attack by a “million”-ish moms because it selected Ellen DeGeneres as a spokeswoman. And the National Organization for Marriage asked its supporters to avoid buying Starbucks coffee because of the company’s support of marriage equality in the state of Washington.

But the sky is still up. There aren’t roving gangs of doll-carrying lesbian 8-year-olds, Ford advertises where it likes, Disney was unmarred by the protests, and the comic in question didn’t just sell, it sold out. JCPenney has renewed cultural cred, and most recently Starbucks saw a jump in stock value in the wake of NOM’s petulant attack. 

These far-right boycotts have been unmitigated failures and have often raised their targets’ profiles. It’s clear evidence to me that people who are interested in equality and fairness outnumber those who aren’t. It’s a source of great optimism to me for our collective future.

One might well surmise that being the target of a far-right tantrum is great for business, so when a spoof article appeared that detailed an odd coupling between Microsoft and Apple—the two companies practically begging NOM to boycott them — it was so believable that many websites picked up the story as if it were actual news. I’m doing what the spoof article suggested. NOM, AFA, zealots, I’m asking you, pleading with you, to boycott The Advocate. For that matter, boycott justice, boycott equality. We’re going to do just fine without you.

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