There are a lot of boycotts I’d support. But artists shouldn’t be boycotted for their political views.
Three quick disclaimers: 1) I think it’s fine if you’re skipping the movie because you don’t want to support a vicious homophobe like Card. 2) Obviously, people have a free speech right to call for a boycott. 3) I have zero sympathy for Card, considering how much work he put into making his own hateful bed (using scorn sheets and spite pillowcases, no doubt).
But an organized boycott against an individual artist for his political views goes against a culture of free speech. If people feel their jobs or livelihoods are threatened if they state their political position, then that creates an coercive incentive for people to shut up.
Furthermore, that’s not how art should be judged. In this case, I’m not very concerned – Ender’s Game looks like it’s going to be utterly mediocre – but as a general principle, art should be judged by whether or not it’s good art, not by whether or not the creator is a good person. Alexandra Petri hits on this point:
Comb through the ranks of great artists and creators and it’s easy to find things to object to in their personal lives and beliefs. Henry Ford was anti-Semitic. So was Richard Wagner. They do things that make you sick. They believe things that are fundamentally wrong. But they are capable of creating things that take your breath away.
Oscar Wilde, no stranger to intolerance, wrote in a review that “The fact of a man being a poisoner is nothing against his prose. The domestic virtues are not the true basis of art, though they may serve as an excellent advertisement for second-rate artists.”
If you are only willing to support artists who agree with you, you wind up stuck with a lot of mediocre art.
In a society with a healthy free speech ethic, people can disagree – even about serious issues – without striking at opponents’ livelihoods.
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Before any conservatives reading this get too smug and “well, of course lefties are against free speech” about this, please recall that anti-gay folks get people fired for being gay, or for being pro-gay, all the time.
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Here are some recent pieces I’ve read about the Orson Scott Card thing:
I’ve Decided To Give Orson Scott Card The Benefit of the Doubt! | Popehat (The title of the post is sarcastic, and the post itself is a hilarious takedown of OSC’s recent plea for tolerance.)
Joe. My. God.: Orson Scott Card Pleads For “Tolerance”. Best sentence: “Oh, how very interesting the talk must be at NOM headquarters today upon learning that a member of their board of directors has just told a national magazine that their entire campaign of hatred is now ‘moot.’”