Boycotting Chick-fil-A is “a poor use of our political capital”

Alan Noble on the current Chick-fil‑A kerfuffle:

Making Chick-fil‑A the symbolic battleground for the definition of “marriage” is a poor use of our resources. Are we making a public statement by supporting or boycotting Chick-fil‑A? Sure, but only in a coercive and circuitous way. Rather than deal with the issue directly, we’re devoting resources to coerce a company to adopt our values. This method of political activism leaves almost no space for public discussion about the issue, since our “activism” is comprised of buying or not buying a chicken sandwich. The purchase doesn’t convince anyone of the rightness of our cause, just the extent of our power. If we want healthy public political discourse, we need to be encouraging charitable dialogue, rather than economic arm wrestling.

And speaking of Chick-fil‑A, Glenn Greenwald perfectly encapsulates what I find so troubling about many of the political responses to Chick-fil‑A (emphasis mine):

It’s always easy to get people to condemn threats to free speech when the speech being threatened is speech that they like. It’s much more difficult to induce support for free speech rights when the speech being punished is speech they find repellent. But having Mayors and other officials punish businesses for the political and social views of their executives — regardless of what those views are — is as pure a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech as it gets, and beyond that, is genuinely dangerous.

If you support what Emanuel is doing here, then you should be equally supportive of a Mayor in Texas or a Governor in Idaho who blocks businesses from opening if they are run by those who support same-sex marriage — or who oppose American wars, or who support reproductive rights, or who favor single-payer health care, or which donates to LGBT groups and Planned Parenthood, on the ground that such views are offensive to Christian or conservative residents. You can’t cheer when political officials punish the expression of views you dislike and then expect to be taken seriously when you wrap yourself in the banner of free speech in order to protest state punishment of views you like and share. Free speech rights means that government officials are barred from creating lists of approved and disapproved political ideas and then using the power of the state to enforce those preferences.

If you don’t like what Chick-fil‑A is doing, then you, as an individual, have every right to protest them. (Though, as Alan Noble points out, you might want to avoid a boycott.) However, when government officials start using their power and position to punish a business that — as far as anyone knows — has not actually broken any laws, but rather, has aligned itself with an unfavorable ideological stance, then we’re quickly moving into some disturbing territory.