There’s something I used to tell my senior students before they went out into the world upon graduation. Every year they would ask for one piece of advice from me, hoping that I’d give them a secret insight that everyone was holding back from them. Not understanding that an advance placement English teacher wasn’t exactly the best person to give them nuggets of success, I would tell them in one sentence: “Don’t mess with a person’s spouse or paycheck.” What those eight little words meant to me were simple. They meant, don’t make life more unbearable than it already is. Today’s Twitter-using, sue-first, ask later, trial-by-public opinion, boycott-everything-we-disagree-with America is getting to a dangerous level, and while some say the recent call for boycotts are a form of free speech, it is a worse form of bullying than what triggered the cry in the first place.
Boycotting does not affect the CEO or upper management of a major company. Whether one is being antagonistic to Fox News or Starbucks, the real victim is the hourly employee. When these major companies lose money, workers lose hours, bonuses and upward mobility within the company. The last thing cut is CEO bonuses.
Recently, David Hogg, a 17-year-old boy who was present during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida got into a Twitter war with conservative pundit Laura Ingraham after she mocked his announcement that he was rejected by most of his first college choices. That created a boycott movement and over 20 sponsors left her Fox News nightly show. One of her few liberal supporters was Bill Maher, a man who has had his fair share of groups that attempted to boycott him.
“I want to defend Laura Ingraham,” Maher told his Real Time audience. “I know it sounds ridiculous, but it has to do with the Parkland kids and guns and free speech. Again, [Hogg] is in the arena, and then he calls for a boycott of her sponsors. Really? Is that American? He complains about bullying? That’s bullying! I have been the victim of a boycott. [. . .] I’ve lost a job as a result. It is wrong. You shouldn’t do this by team, you should do it by principle.”
Maher’s point clearly shows that actively taking a person’s paycheck and livelihood because he or she makes fun of you or disagrees is worse than the mocking. There are real consequences, and domino effects do happen. Ingraham’s ratings haven’t been affected, but Hogg is now trying to find new groups to take down.
Recently the high school senior tweeted his 700,000-plus followers a mystery tweet about future boycotts, and then on April 17 sent this out: “[BlackRock] and [Vanguard] are two of the biggest investors in gun manufacturers; if you use them, feel free to let them know.” Hogg then used the hashtags #BoycottVanguard and #BoycottBlackRock.
For those unaware, Vanguard and BlackRock are investment management companies. I guess Hogg likes the idea of the employees losing their money, investors losing money and the people who work in the warehouses of the gun companies losing their jobs too. The only reason he has a voice is because he’s a kid. If anything, he is exploiting his participation in the tragedy at his high school to take down innocent people for his own popularity. Google his name and you’ll find numerous pictures of the tiny teenager, lips pieced, fist raised as if he’s the leader of some cult movement.
I’m not denying that he wants to end gun violence (who doesn’t?!), but his take-no-prisoners, go-for-the-throat tactics are disrespectful and out of line.
Sadly, America is so thirsty for leadership, it’s following a kid. Remember, he still has to ask an adult to go the bathroom while in a classroom.
I wish Hogg were my student. I would love to tell him that while we appreciate his desire, his methods are wrong. He’s messing with people’s lives. Ingraham will be fine. The investment groups’ CEOs will be fine. But their employees and assistants wouldn’t be. All he’s doing is using one tragedy to bring potential hardship to others not responsible, and that is where the boycott movement goes wrong.