Reasons Not to Boycott “Duck Dynasty”

Obligatory libertarian boilerplate: A&E has every right to hire or fire anyone they want; everyone has a right to free speech, but they don’t have a right to someone else’s microphone. Obligatory atheist boilerplate: Animus towards gays is abhorrent, and I support equal rights for gays and lesbians.

That being said, I don’t think it’s wise for gay rights proponents to attack and boycott every movie/TV show/company that employs someone who says things they don’t like. We saw the same thing happen with Orson Scott Card and Chik-fil-A. It’s one thing to condemn their beliefs and speak out against prejudice, but when you start going after people’s livelihoods (and the livelihoods of the people they happen to work with) you really do start to validate the narrative of persecution: “Step out of line, say something we don’t like, and we’ll have you fired.”

Did your local Chik-fil-A franchise owner or fry cook deserve to be punished? How about the lighting and sound people who worked on Ender’s Game? At some point you have to stop applying this 6-degrees-of separation-from-bigotry political litmus test in order to engage in associations that have nothing to do with politics. You want to interrogate your Starbucks barista or gas station attendant about gay rights or Iraq or the Fed before you buy from them?

See also Jonathan Rauch's Kindly Inquisitors
See also Jonathan Rauch’s Kindly Inquisitors.

This is also one of the understandable reasons conservatives distrust the rhetoric of tolerance. It’s why a lot of people in red states think liberals consider them sideshows: “Oh it’s cute you’re all backward and stuff, dance for us on TV, but don’t dare express different opinions, or we’ll go after your reputation and your livelihood.” That doesn’t appear very “tolerant” to most people, including people who have nothing against gays. It abandons the moral high ground and turns bigots into martyrs.

One of the great things about the market is that it allows people with irreconcilable beliefs to cooperate without knowing or caring about each other’s political or religious identity. While the motive for shutting down this kind of genuinely hurtful speech is understandable, this knee-jerk boycott-everything reaction actually worsens the political, moral, and religious balkanization of our society.