So some Portlanders are organizing a boycott of Moreland Farmers Pantry, a not-yet-open grocery specializing in GMO-free foods, because it has been discovered that the owners of the story are anti-marriage-equality and have said so in Facebook postings. (A secondary issue is that one of the store’s co-owners linked to a libertarian article arguing that stores should have the legal right to refuse to serve gay customers). The boycott includes publishing a list of vendors who are working with MFP, so that readers can encourage those vendors to cut off relations with the not-yet-open store.
Here’s the comment I posted on their facebook page about a half-hour ago. (Regular “Alas” readers will notice that I adapted some text from a post I wrote about Mozilla last week.)
Speaking as a Portlander who has gathered signatures, made phone calls, and knocked on doors to support marriage equality, I very much disagree with this boycott.
Do you really think trying to drive people who disagree with us out of business is a good way to persuade people who disagree with us? Is a society in which people are economically punished for speaking out on a currently live controversy, the kind of society you want?
Three reasons I think this boycott is misguided:
1. It goes against what I think of as a “free speech culture” to try and drive small stores out of business because of the owners’ statements on current political controversies. Although there’s no government censorship going on here, we can and should want more from a society than just “no one was thrown in jail.” Truly open and free speech – substantive free speech – won’t exist if people are afraid of being economically destroyed if they speak out on current issues.
2) It doesn’t actually advance the cause of marriage equality in any significant way. If anything, it hurts the cause, by giving our opponents ammunition for their “gay bullies” argument.
3) It encourages people to think of politics as a matter of maintaining personal purity through choosing the correct store to shop at, rather than making meaningful change.
(I totally acknowledge that you have a free speech right to criticize, and to boycott, the Childs. But I likewise have a right to criticize your boycott.)
The owners of the boycott page deleted my comment. I wanted to ask them why, but they’ve blocked me from leaving any other comments, so I can’t.
Local restaurant owner Nick Zukin has publicly (and intemperately) disagreed with the boycott, on similar grounds to my objection, and some folks on Facebook have suggested that his restaurant should now be boycotted in turn.