Published on: March 9, 2017
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.
Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
I'd like to say for the record that at this point, no matter what their political positions or the political implications of their actions or inactions, statements or lack of statements, I have no intention of boycotting Starbucks, LL Bean, Nordstrom, Under Armour or New Balance. I like all of these companies, find the products they sell to be relevant to my life, and they've done nothing that I think is so egregious that it'll change my shopping behavior.
My instinct generally is to go out of my way to support companies that I think support causes or positions with which I agree
On the other hand, I am going to be boycotting Uber ... not because of the company's politics, but rather because I don't like the way they seem to treat their people or the way they seem to view themselves as being above the law. By the way, calling it a "boycott" is probably a bit of hyperbole, since this is just me deciding to do business with a competing company. I'm not part of any sort of organized effort, nor do I plan to be.
For the longest time, I was boycotting Mel Gibson movies, because I thought he was an anti-Semite, and I have a problem with that. And for an even longer time, I've boycotted Roman Polanski movies, because it was a way of expressing my contempt for someone who fled the country to avoid a rape trial. That said...I have to admit that I recently watched Hacksaw Ridge, which Gibson directed (and I'll review it in "OffBeat" tomorrow), and when it came out in 2010, I watched Polanski's The Ghost Writer, because I was intrigued by the premise. In these cases it was a matter of appreciating the art but not the artist ... which strikes me as both a justifiable position and a first-class rationalization.
I say all this because the issue of boycotts has been front and center lately, largely because of the toxic political climate and the polarized - and polarizing - level of discourse in the country. I have to be honest - I'm sort of tired of it all, in part because there's absolutely no context or nuance to the conversation.
Let me be clear. I believe in protest. I think that people, when faced with public policies or public officials with which they disagree, ought to be insistent and loud ... and ought to back it up by voting. I have fond memories of protesting against Nixon in 1972 ... it was an experience that I think in a lot of ways was formative. And it was at least in part because of protest, along with the work of the press, that created the political momentum that helped drive him from office.
But I think that boycotting Starbucks because its CEO disagrees with the Trump administration's approach to refugees, or LL Bean because one member of the board took a specific political position, or New Balance or Under Armour because executives expressed support for pro-American manufacturing positions that they believed were being espoused by the Trump White House ... well, this just doesn't work for me. People have a right to express political opinions, though, as I've mentioned here before, these days they do so at their own risk.
I'm much more likely to decide not to do business with a company if I learn of behavior that I find objectionable. Like polluting the air or water, or in some way mistreating employees, or being guilty of sexism in hiring. That's where I draw my line.
The thing is, everybody draws the line in different places. And as toxic as the climate is, retailers and suppliers have to be careful about what they say ...or at least, when they take a position, they have to be aware that dominoes can fall, sometimes in unexpected directions.
For my part, I'm going to try at least be a little intelligent about how I express my opinions through my purchasing behavior. If you boycott everything all the time, it ends up not being worth anything.
And I like what the great mystery writer Ross Macdonald once said, that "People cannot endure inexplicable worthlessness."
Which is sort of how I feel about the level of the political discourse right now - it is inexplicable, and tough to endure.
But I'm going to do so in my LL Bean sweater, New Balance boots, Nordstrom shirt, while drinking a Starbucks coffee.
That's what is on my mind this morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: