How did we get the word “boycott?”

According to Wikipedia:

“The word boycott entered the English language during the Irish “Land War” and is derived from the name of Captain Charles Boycott, the estate agent of an absentee landlord, the Earl Erne, in County Mayo, Ireland, who was subject to social ostracism organized by the Irish Land League in 1880. In September that year protesting tenants demanded from Boycott a substantial reduction in their rents. He not only refused but also evicted them from the land. Charles Stewart Parnell, in his Ennis Speech proposed that, rather than resorting to violence, everyone in the locality should refuse to deal with him. Despite the short-term economic hardship to those undertaking this action, Boycott soon found himself isolated—his workers stopped work in the fields and stables, as well as the house. Local businessmen stopped trading with him, and the local postman refused to deliver mail.

The concerted action taken against him meant that Boycott was unable to hire anyone to harvest the crops in his charge. Eventually 50 Orangemen from Cavan and Monaghan volunteered to harvest his crops. They were escorted to and from Claremorris by one thousand policemen and soldiers—this despite the fact that Boycott’s complete social ostracism meant that he was actually in no danger of being harmed. Moreover, this protection ended up costing far more than the harvest was worth. After the harvest, the “boycott” was successfully continued. Within weeks Boycott’s name was everywhere. It was used by The Times in November 1880 as a term for organized isolation.”

Some famous boycotts:

African Americans during the US civil rights movement;

the United Farm Workers union grape and lettuce boycotts;

the American boycott of British goods at the time of the American Revolution;

the Indian boycott of British goods organized by Mohandas Gandhi;

the antisemitic boycott of Jewish-owned businesses in Nazi Germany during the 1930s;

the Arab League boycott of Israel and companies trading with Israel;

the Arab countries crude oil embargo against the West of 1973;

the US-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow;

the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles;

the movement that advocated “disinvestment” in South Africa during the 1980s in opposition to that country’s apartheid regime.

Boycotts employ intimidation.  The goal of a boycott is to change business or governmental practices.

Do you know about the Motrin Twitter Drama?  A large group of mothers were extremely upset about this Motrin advertisement which was found insulting to mothers.

Some called for a boycott of Motrin:

The blogosphere and Twitterverse are all a buzz with Motrin’s condescending ad regarding babywearing moms…

Moms might be wondering, apart from spreading the word about this (which we’ve already done an awesome job of) and contacting Motrin, what else can we do?…

Here’s my suggestion, you can start by boycotting Motrin, but before you reach for a bottle of Tylenol instead, read on. Johnson & Johnson owns both Motrin AND Tylenol, so if you truly want to boycott them, you need to avoid both.

Eventually the Twittering Moms scared Motrin, and they pulled the ad.  Whether you agree with this action or not, this threat of a Motrin boycott was a legitimate use of consumer (and political) might.

Boycotts employ intimidation.  The goal of a boycott is to change business or governmental practices.

On the other hand, I found this boycott disturbing.

Some gay marriage supporters are calling for a boycott of El Coyote Cafe [a popular restaurant in Los Angeles] after learning that manager, and reportedly partial owner Marjorie Christoffersen donated $100 to Proposition 8 group

I have seen a number of articles recently where gay activists in CA have outed those who donated money to Proposition 8, calling for a boycott of their businesses.

Again —

Boycotts employ intimidation.  The goal of a boycott is to change business or governmental practices.

This Mexican restaurant is not discriminating against gays.  One partial owner donated $100.  Do we want Republicans boycotting Democratic-owned laundromats or refusing to sit in a restaurant with Libertarian waiters?

As you know, I was vehemently against Proposition 8.  But it was a legal election, and the wrong side won.  It is time for those involved to get to work, pushing for gay marriage, working within the system and persuading voters.  A boycott of an establishment because of one individual’s VOTE is the worst kind of intimidation.  It is against this individual’s free speech.  This individual is not a power broker.  No one should be afraid of voting what they believe, fearing they will lose their job or be blacklisted in an industry.  Going against the Mormon Temple tax-exempt status is one thing, but attacking a religious individual because of his beliefs is Un-American.   You are not going to change this individual’s mind.  Some religious people just believe that marriage shouldn’t be re-defined to include same-sex marriages.  Start persuading others rather than seeking revenge.

I hate to bring this up, but if you don’t know, this month is the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht in Germany.  The tone of this post is strongly influenced by that fact, even though I know it is a bit irrational to connect these threads.  On a single night in 1938, 92 Jews were murdered by the Gestapo and angry mobs, 25,000–30,000 were arrested and deported to concentration camps, 200 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of Jewish businesses and homes ere ransacked.  I went to a memorial/conference this weekend that was attended by many survivors.   Scary and sad stuff!   But it got me thinking — bad economic times and contentious political activity always make me wary.  People get angry and frustrated, especially with those with differing views.   Is there already this combative feeling in the air?   I doubt our society would ever become as ugly as that of 1930’s Germany, but I hope we all remember the lessons of the past — the importance of seeing the humanity in others, whether it is a Republican or Democrat, a clueless New York copywriter writing Motrin commercials,  a gay man wanting to marry his partner, or a Mormon donating $100 to a stupid cause.