Larson: The soft tyranny of boycotts

Just this past week, Sean Hannity took an abrupt vacation from his Fox News television show after Media Matters for America, and other groups on the left, began targeting his advertisers. It wasn’t clear if the vacation was voluntary. Maybe it doesn’t matter because either way, it was probably a good idea to give Hannity a low profile for a few days. He had pushed the speculative story that DNC staffer Seth Rich was a WikiLeaks informant and was murdered for it. Though they pulled their story about the Rich murder, Fox News says they stand behind Sean, and will welcome him back. We’ll see if the backlash blows over.

Media Matters’ message was clear to any and every other prominent media personality: leave that particular story alone.

But let’s talk about boycotting. I’ll say it up front, I’m not really a fan of it. I can’t say I always oppose them, but they are often problematic for me for a number of reasons. First, there are often many innocent casualties when boycotts take place. Second, the impact of a boycott in our instantaneous digital age can be disproportionately damaging. Third, it stifles free thought and discourse. Fourth, it often smells like extortion. And least importantly, conservatives aren’t very good at them.

Every so often I get a call from one of my radio listeners with a hornet in their knickers about something I said. The threats are often cliche: “I will never listen to you again!” or “You’ve lost a listener!”. The problem with that threat is that it’s a one and done. One guy has “never listened to me again” — about five times now. I’m pretty sure they immediately tune back in to find out how much I care that they’ll never listen to me again.

Boycotts always begin fevered, but they rarely last. A couple of years back, when Target advertised their convoluted bathroom policy, we vowed never to shop at Target again. And by gum, we didn’t… until we needed to go school shopping for the kids. While we spend far less at Target than we used to, we happen to be lousy boycotters. Sometimes a good sale trumps a distant memory.

And quite often the people calling for boycotts are just a little shy of brilliant. Remember back when gas prices were super sky high, and people vowed to not buy gas on one specific day in the near future, because we were all going to collectively stick it to the man!? Well, turns out if I don’t fill up on Tuesday, I just put a little more in on Wednesday, and those oil sheiks are still getting their money.

However, economic thuggery over political issues is disturbing. Last year, Paypal opted out of a planned 400-employee facility in North Carolina over that state’s bathroom bill that wasn’t LGBTQ-friendly enough. Earlier this year, the NFL telegraphed to Houston officials that similar bathroom policies may affect their decision to host a future Super Bowl there. Remember when Chicago and a host of other large progressive-controlled cities simply would not allow Chick-Fil-A to build a location because the CEO believes in traditional marriage?

The problem with these sorts of tactics is that secular progressive thugs take innocents hostage, then demand an agenda item for ransom. Chicagoans just want to eat some chicken and waffle fries, Houstonians would just love to host a big NFL game, and North Carolinians would make fine Paypal employees. Those bilateral arrangements would work just fine, but third-party agendists bring in their big political stick and make demands. It’s not illegal, but it’s sickening.

A few years back, Rush Limbaugh said a few out-of-line things about women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke on his radio program. Another orchestrated effort to bully advertisers away from Rush’s immensely popular and lucrative radio show began. As a program director for one of Rush’s affiliates, I received a couple dozen calls from people demanding we drop Rush from our airwaves. I was polite, but inquisitive. I would ask questions about where they were from, Most answered honestly, and were from out of state. I thanked them and ended the conversation. I received only one complaint from someone within our listening area.

The point is that many of the boycotts we see are orchestrated by progressive groups and aided by the media, hardly an organic upswell from average Joes and Janes. The moment we realize public policy is increasingly dictated by economic threats over a political issue, it’s frightening.

And it’s frightening because it’s soft tyranny.

Associated​ ​Press​ ​award-winning​ ​columnist​ ​Neal​ ​Larson​ ​of​ ​Idaho​ ​Falls​ ​is​ ​also​ ​the​ ​author​ ​of​ ​“Living​ ​in Spin.”​ ​He​ ​is​ ​a​ ​conservative​ ​talk​ ​show​ ​host​ ​on​ ​KID​ ​Newsradio​ ​106.3​ ​and​ ​92.1,​ ​and​ ​also​ ​at​ ​“The​ ​Neal​ ​Larson​ ​Show”​ ​can​ ​be​ ​heard​ ​weekday​ ​mornings​ ​from​ ​8:00​ ​to​ ​10:00. His​ ​email​ ​address​ ​is​ ​