Chick-Fil-A and the Age of Slacktivism

A couple weeks ago, Dan Cathy, the President and COO of Chick-Fil-A, made the following statement on the Ken Coleman Show:

“We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”

Dan Cathy is an idiot.  He’s a bigot, and he’s on the wrong side of history.  In 2004, George W. Bush was re-elected in part because Karl Rove was able to prey on homophobia and intolerance (and also by getting people to believe that a decorated veteran was less able to lead the country in a time of war than a guy who never saw a day of combat in his life).  Eight years later, more states have legalized gay marriage, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is no more, the President came out in favor of gay marriage, and a nationwide movement began with “It Gets Better”.

But refusing to eat Chick-Fil-A on moral grounds isn’t part of turning the tide.  Since Cathy’s statement, there has been an uprising on social networks chastising the corporation for its homophobic believes.  Somehow, people were surprised that a business that’s closed on Sunday to observe the sabbath had deep ties to Christianity.  This shock has led to not only Facebook and Twitter posts against Chick-Fil-A, but calls to boycott the business.

There seems to be a misunderstanding regarding the efficacy of boycotts.  It’s a throwback to the 1960s when civil rights organizations boycotted segregated businesses.  However, these businesses tended to be small, family-owned shops.  If your restaurant was located in a neighborhood that was half-black and half-white, and all the black people stopped eating there, then you’ve lost 50% of your revenue, and you were forced to consider whether how much money you’d be willing to lose because of bigotry.

Boycotting a corporation like Chick-Fil-A, however, doesn’t register to them.  While they obviously can’t ignore the media blowback from Cathy’s statement, there’s no way for them to measure how many people are boycotting.  Maybe profits are lower because people are eating out less since the economy sucks.  Maybe more competitive businesses are rising up around their locations.  And how will Chick-Fil-A fix this problem?  I doubt Dan Cathy will make an apology and even if he did, how many people would it bring back?  Isn’t it easier to lay people off or raise prices?  I assume if Chick-Fil-A’s profits dropped steeply, that would be their move because Dan Cathy’s convictions are stronger than the convictions of his detractors.

As I said, I think Dan Cathy’s views are despicable, but we should acknowledge that he’s willing to sacrifice millions of dollars for them.  Chick-Fil-A could be making 1/7th more money than it makes now by being open on a Sunday.   The bible says to take a day off for the sabbath, and Dan Cathy will abide by that commandment.   His opponents, on the other hand, can’t be bothered to do more than not spend money on fast food.

This isn’t to say that people haven’t gone out to protest.  If you picked up a sign, staged a sit-in, or did anything that required you to do more than sit at home, this post is not directed at you.  I commend you on taking action, taking time out of your life, and showing people that you truly care about this issue.  You have done far more than someone who posts a negative Chick-Fil-A meme on Facebook followed by a funny picture of an adorable animal.

Because we now live on the Internet, and are defined by how we share our beliefs and spend our money, then a simple post qualifies as protest.  “I’m so angry, I shared someone else’s link.”  We’re past the point of raising awareness (and again, if you weren’t aware that Chick-Fil-A’s management has Christian beliefs, then you weren’t really paying attention in the first place), so it’s really just to make yourself feel better.  You’re pro-gay rights, and you lifted a finger to do something by clicking on your mouse.  Well done.

I can’t stand that anymore.  I can’t stand this unearned self-righteousness and people refusing to truly sacrifice for what they believe in.  Honestly, I’m not that bothered by eating at Chick-Fil-A.  As I said, history’s inexorable shift towards gay rights is unstoppable, and it doesn’t matter how much money Dan Cathy and his ilk donate to anti-gay organizations.  They’re on the wrong side of history whether I buy an 8-piece chicken nuggets or not.  I’ll support gay rights right now and you can too: click here to donate money to the It Gets Better Project.

“But if you’re pouring money into Chick-Fil-A’s coffers, then you’re just negating what you’re putting into It Gets Better!”  a person I just made up might say.  Except Chick-Fil-A is on the wrong side of history.  I will happily give them money so I can watch them waste millions of it on a social issue they’re going to lose.  Their money is poorly spent.  It Gets Better’s money is wisely spent because they need momentum, and they will touch the lives of countless young people who will in turn support each other.  Chick-Fil-A can’t create homophobes, so unless they’ve concocted an anti-aging formula that runs off intolerance, then the company can’t change the fact that homophobic people are the past and  enlightened young people are the future.

However, if your argument is that you can’t in good conscience give money to a homophobic business, then that’s fine.  But what are you willing to give your money to?  In all likelihood, you own some piece of technology made in a factory in China.  In China, they work long hours for slave wages in factories that are so bad that one corporation, Foxconn, had to put up suicide nets.  Working conditions are so terrible, that they had to come up with a way to stop employees from killing themselves.  Nets are cheaper than higher wages and decent working conditions.

If this bothers you, then I encourage you to throw away any piece of technology that was made on the backs of this kind of harsh labor.  Chick-Fil-A might be against gay rights, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any suicide nets on the premises (I guess an argument could be made for the ball pit on the playground).  Also, if you put gas in your car, then why do you support endangering our oceans?  As we learned a couple years ago, deepwater drilling is incredibly hazardous, and conditions have not significantly improved since Deepwater Horizon.

Except giving up your technology or your car is sacrifice.  It won’t stop tech companies from using cheap labor or oil companies from drilling, but you will feel that sacrifice every day because your life will be more difficult because of it.  Circling back to Christianity, the notion of tithing doesn’t have a bad premise.  If you were forced to give up 10% of your income to charity, you would most likely feel it.  That’s sacrifice.  That’s the courage of your convictions.  Refusing to eat a chicken sandwich: not courageous.

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 politics, stupid

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