On Boycotts and Disinvites
Scott Alexander and the commentariat of Slate Star Codex are very, very concerned over so-called “social justice warriors” using their voices and boycotts to change policies that they don’t like and possibly even saying “So and so is an objectionable crank with freak ideas.” The so and so in this case is Chuck Yarvin who is very well outside the mainstream and has authoritarian tendencies.
I gotta say that I am a bit perplexed by concerns over boycotting and open criticisms of speech and association. Scott Alexander admits that he does not want restaurants to discriminate against same-sex couples and he understands why Chuck Yarvin’s political views are indeed scary for many people (Not so much for his commentariat though). Yet he doesn’t want people to boycott businesses or call out cranks either.
So what are people to do? I don’t agree with all boycotts. I am quite critical of the BDS movement. But boycotts are really one of the few ways for people to cause change, real change. You show your moral and ethical disagreement by refusing to support a business, regime, or conference with your money. There seems to be a basic free speech and association right by saying “I am not supporting this business or regime because of practices X, Y, and Z and I don’t think other people should either” or saying “Conference X invited this crank because of X, Y, and Z to speak and I think that is dangerous even if he or she is speaking on apolitical matters.” Then you have a fight or debate in the public sphere. The conference clearly saw that inviting Yarvin was a mistake and that many people thought he was odious.
This is why many people on the left see conservatism as being nothing more than a maintenance of privilege. The view is simply that liberals are not to do anything to voice their displeasure over anything because that means conservatives might have to do something.
So what are people supposed to do? Just boycott silently? Why shouldn’t they speak out?