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About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

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Misadventures in boycotting: In-N-Out Burger & Wil Wheaton

Uploaded: Sep 1, 2018
These two recent instances of political boycotting are interesting supplements to an earlier blog.(foot#1)

The Chair of the California Democratic Party, Eric Bauman, called for a boycott of In-N-Out Burger because it donated to Republicans. It has become routine for various groups within the Democratic Party coalition, and the Democratic Party itself, to try to use boycotts to suppress other viewpoints. Consequently, this alone would have barely qualified as "news". However, the popularity of In-N-Out Burger produced immediate push-back from other Democrats. This was supplemented by In-N-Out Burger's statement that they made similar/more donations to groups aligned with the Democratic Party.

Trying to do damage control, Bauman claimed he meant the call for a boycott to be only a personal statement. Yeah, right. A person who is a designated primary press contact for an organization avoids making any personal statements to the press or public. Because disclaimers that something is only a personal statement are near-universally ignored, only extreme circumstances Bauman, as Democratic Chair, probably saw his boycott call as acceptable, if not expected of him, and simply failed to anticipate the magnitude of the blow-back.

While this incident says a lot about the ethics of the current Democratic Party, it also reveals much about the current Republican Party. The Republican response was to simply to express support for In-N-Out Burger. They had an opportunity to make a principled statement about how such calls for boycotts are tearing at our social and political fabric. Was it that they didn't recognize the principle? Or maybe it isn't something that they would want to stand up for?
Disclosure about my politics.(foot#2)

----Wil Wheaton----

Wil Wheaton is an actor and political activist.(foot#3) He is attempting to pressure Twitter to permanent ban certain other accounts by organizing other celebrities to temporarily leave Twitter with the threat that it will be permanent if a deadline isn't met (the details are irrelevant here, but can be easily found with web search). Twitter was the only major social media site that hadn't caved in to the pressure.

Wheaton moved to a Twitter-like site, ^Mastodon.social^, joining a sub-group ("instance") there.
Simplified to the bare essentials: He blocked a user who had prank'ed him. That user claimed to be transgender and said that Wheaton not accepting messages from them made them feel threatened and that Wheaton was anti-transgender. On that basis, they organized a campaign against Wheaton. Mastodon decided that the easiest way to deal with the situation to ban Wheaton rather than deal with those abusing their platform.
The responses I have seen have regretted yet-another social media company unwilling to stand on principle, but couldn't help chortling over poetic justice, karma, being "^hoisted with his own petard^" (from Hamlet), ...

The focus of this blog series is pragmatism. Before you comment that I am endorsing principles over pragmatism (which I am), recognize that standing on principles is often very pragmatic. The social media companies--individually and as a group--have routinely caved in to campaigns of false accusations and complaints, and have failed to punish those abusing their platforms in this manner. Unsurprisingly, this has created a culture that fosters such campaigns, and also unsurprisingly, the campaigns have become more and more absurd and caving in to them has become more and more indefensible for the social media companies. Whether they want to think of themselves as such, the social media companies have allied themselves with a wide range of very unsavory groups. Although I don't expect readers who work for these company to comment, it would be interesting to know if those companies realize the problem, or if they see the current situation as largely aligning with their goals.

1. Blog cited in introduction:
^Enough with Boycotts & "We don't want your type around here"^, 2018-03-31.
Much of this long -- even for me -- blog is a higher level discussion of misusing boycotts as political weapons.However, the end, starting with section "Public boycotts of companies",discusses this type of boycott.

2. Disclosure for those who haven't read enough of my earlier blogs to infer my politics:
My differences with both the Democratic and Republican parties are so great that I cannot accept affiliating myself with either.Nor would I describe myself as falling into the category of "leaning" toward either.I am what is described as a "Negative Partisan"(not "anti-partisan" or "non-partisan"),that is, I find my decisions on voting to be based on "least worse".
In my writings, I tend to focus on the Democratic Party because it is the dominant party in this area and in California.I regard the Republican Party as the state's largest fringe party,one that makes little effort to be taken seriously outside its enclaves(similar to Berkeley for other fringe parties). Details in earlier blog: ^California Democrats seek to revive the Republican Party: Republicans expected to resist^, 2017-07-16.
I have thought about writing an article,tentatively titled "A Pox on both your Parties ...",but the rough outline indicates it would likely have more paragraphs than readers,plus it would be appropriate for this blog series.From talking to friends, I know that my approach to politics is very different from most people:I usually make my decision before reaching the candidate's "laundry list" of positions on issues.I start with questions such as "Is the candidate more interested in power or in governing?"and the intertwined "Is the candidate going to govern for the whole polity or just his supporters?". And the question "Does the candidate support the principles of a democratic, constitutional republic?" is sadly becoming a differentiator. See what I mean about it likely being painfully long?

3. ^Wil Wheaton: Actor^
He became famous as the character Wesley Crusher in the TV series ^Star Trek: The Next Generation^,and has appeared as a repeating character on ^The Big Bang Theory^as himself.

An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.

----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The ^Guidelines^ for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.
A slur is not an argument. Neither are other forms of vilification of other participants.

If you behave like a ^Troll^, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Realistically, a resident of Gunn High School,
on Sep 1, 2018 at 6:28 pm

Realistically, conservatives eat a lot more greasy food than liberals, even in the states where this chain is located. This is probably a publicity stunt by the company, betting that they will gain more sales than they lose.

Same goes for the NRA increasing their advertising and gun sales increasing every time there is a school massacre.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 1, 2018 at 6:52 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Realistically of Gunn High School: "publicity stunt"

Your teachers and/or parents have failed you badly: This is pure conspiracy logic.

Parents: If the schools aren't helping your children learn proper reasoning, the on-going School Board election campaign offers you a good opportunity to ask the candidates "Why not?"

1. Why would In-N-Out Burger need a publicity stunt? The most common customer complaint is "long lines" = that it has too many customers.

2. How would In-N-Out get Bauman to make such a stupid statement? People in the Democratic Party orbit have long been making calls for boycotts with negligible reason (eg boycott Delta Airlines because NRA members are among the many audiences that they market to). Occam's Razor indicates that this was a "unforced error" by Bauman, not something he was prompted to do by In-N-Out.

> "same goes for the NRA"
Similar conspiracy logic, and similar response from me. Increases in gun sales are uncorrelated to school shootings -- they are correlated to calls for gun control/bans -- which may or may not follow a school shooting.

Caution: Conspiracy logic can get you banned from a wide-range of social media platforms. Although that rationalization is currently applied mostly/only to conservatives, the social media companies may be compelled to do so on a non-partisan basis.

Posted by Crusty, a resident of Community Center,
on Sep 1, 2018 at 8:32 pm

[[Off-topic + irrational.]]

Posted by Just the fats, ma'am, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Sep 2, 2018 at 11:36 am

[[botched support of conspiracy logic.]]

If you signed up for notifications of new comments on this blog,
you may be getting notifications but finding nothing new.
I am deleting comments from trolls and blind partisans with the hope that they will eventually tire and go away.

Posted by Boycott doug, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 2, 2018 at 6:19 pm

But this boycott was okay?

Web Link

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 2, 2018 at 6:37 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Boycott doug"

No, the Breitbart call for a boycott of Kellogg is definitely not OK, and I am glad to see that it led to additional advertisers dropping Breitbart.

Kellogg stopped advertising on Breitbart and that led to Breitbart's call for a boycott of Kellogg. It is ambiguous whether this was a boycott by Kellogg. Kellogg's mention of "values" suggests that it might be. However, the Breitbart audience doesn't seem to be an adequate fit with what I would guess is the target audience for Kellogg, in which case dropping advertising was not part of a boycott but a reasonable business decision.
But not enough info to make a judgment.

Posted by Lisa Merriam, a resident of another community,
on Sep 3, 2018 at 6:18 am

Boycotts have become so prevalent, they rarely impact brand, especially in a situation like #BoycottInNOut where the reason for the boycott is so frivolous. #BoycottStarbucks, on the other hand, hurt the brand because Starbucks behaved in a way contrary to their core brand values. Web Link

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 3, 2018 at 8:47 am

From my perspective, people only Boycott something that suits them probably because they don't have a particular affinity to the business to begin with. Politics aside, I don't visit In N Out, or Starbucks, so if I said I was going to boycott them it would be very easy for me.

Posted by Just the fats, ma'am, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Sep 3, 2018 at 12:09 pm

" the Breitbart audience doesn't seem to be an adequate fit with what I would guess is the target audience for Kellogg,"

The target audience for Kellogg is those that consume breakfast cereals (loosely) - one assumes Breitbart consumers also consume cereal.

[[Blogger: The target audience for ads is NOT those who EAT cereal but those who BUY cereal. Grocery shoppers and grocery list makers skew heavily female (statistics, not stereotyping. Right wing media consumers skew more and more male the further Right it is.]]

Rather, isn't Kellogg saying they don't want to be affiliated with Breitbrat ideology, to salvage the rest of their target market?

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 3, 2018 at 3:50 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Lisa Merriam: "boycotts ... rarely impact brands"

Change the focus from "brand" to "business" because that is actually what is potentially being impacted.

The problem with this claim is that it presumes that the business owner doesn't respond to the call for a boycott. If a business caves into those calling for a boycott, I would say they have been impacted.

For example, an activist showed up at a store after closing time and demanded to be served (the store was finishing handling the last few legitimate customers). The employees said no. The activist called for a boycott. The employees were fired.

In Portland OR, a "food truck" across from the Federal Building and there were ICE employees among those being served. Boycott called. Threatening behavior including death threats against the employees and families. Location closed.

In this day, calls for boycotts often produce those who want to personally enforce the boycott with threats of violence and violence against the owner and employees -- and even customers -- and destruction of property.

Back to examples: Again in Portland OR. Two women started a food truck business serving Mexican food based on recipes that they had encountered during a vacation in Mexico. Boycott called because of "cultural appropriation" (the owners were White). This business, which had been popular, was forced to close.

A big business: National Football League and kneeling during the national anthem: A significant drop-off in business (viewers) with this controversy being cited as a significant factor.

Papa Johns: Founder and Board Chair pushed out because he had used a certain word in a comment in a private conversation against the use of that word. Similarly a Netflix executive was fired because he used the same word in discussing a policy of how to censor certain words that are seen as offensive to many. Details in an earlier blog ("Use-Mention distinction fading ...").
These are cases of businesses taking preemptive actions to avoid boycotts.

Update: Add Google/YouTube: Google/YouTube put some companies' ad alongside video that were potentially offensive. The media, starting with the Wall Street Journal, decided it was better (for their profits?) to stoke the outrage machine rather than presenting a competent account of the situation. Fearing boycotts, companies reduced their advertising. Having long ignored complaints about this problem, G/Y's "solution" was to use "blunt force" and cut off advertising to many legitimate YouTube channels ("demonetization"), thereby damaging and destroying businesses that people had spent years building. ("Being a monopoly means never being held accountable, much less say you're sorry").

In assessing the damage to civil society of these types of boycotts, one should use much broader metrics than did a company's business decrease.
While boycotts by fringe groups have always been with us, the focus here is on boycotts by major groups, or groups able to mobilize large numbers.
And I recognize boycotts as legitimate tools in a range of situations, the Montgomery Bus Boycott being a classic example.

Crucially, the most damaging impact of boycotts based on politics is a very strong message that the boycotters are willing to destroy the livelihoods, and even lives, people of differing perspectives and priorities. This is pushing up to, and sometimes over, the line of using political violence against opponents.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 3, 2018 at 6:24 pm

I'm not a fan of all these corny boycotts
But if there's one company that needs a boycott, it's AMAZON
You shouldn't be able to buy everything in the world from one single monolithic entity
There's something seriously wrong with that
And it has nothing to do with the fact that Jeff Bezos owns WAPO

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 3, 2018 at 6:38 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Resident" of Midtown

Let me encourage you to broaden your concerns about monopolistic power to include the information monopolies/oligopolies/trusts (beyond WaPo): the social media giants and the broadcast giants (radio, TV, cable).

I don't know who said it first, but this has become a common attitude among the elites:
The future is (unconstrained) monopolies, and that future is already here.

Posted by Antonio chris, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 3:31 am

Antonio chris is a registered user.

[[Incoherent. Too many missing words. Possibly intended as an insult.]]

Posted by Realistically, a resident of Gunn High School,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 10:12 am

This just in - the ALT RIGHT is organizing a nationwide boycott of NIKE because of their new "Just Do It" advertisement featuring an African-American man.

[[Blogger: Normally I would deleted this comment because it core is false -- the WHO and the WHY -- but I am leaving it because of the responding comment below.]]

Posted by Humble observer, a resident of Mountain View,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 11:15 am

Comment above from "Gunn High School" (which means what, it came from a child?) illustrates the shallow, facile, willfully-inaccurate ideological rhetoric so common today, and for that reason, may warrant preserving, as a case example.

The advertisement in question features an activist whose actions are extremely controversial (including among African-Americans, and particularly African-American athletes). Claiming that the African-American ethnicity is the reason for a boycott is like claiming that anyone who voted against Obama did so because of his skin color (i.e., you're not allowed to disagree with his policies, or we'll label you a racist.) Cheap shot, and cheap thinking.

[[Blogger: FYI: The comment referenced here is apparently from the same commenter who posted the original comment in this thread, and not simply someone using the same alias.]]

Posted by Just the fats, ma'am, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 1:28 pm

[[Blogger: Another comment I would normally delete for its serious falsehood and illogic. But I am leaving it as an example to which I will be responding below.]]

"whose actions are extremely controversial"

Kap talked to a Vet and was told that quietly taking a knee is a respectful way of protesting, not "extremely controversial".

So if respectfully taking a knee is now "extremely controversial" what do you call the Tiki-torch bearing, white supremacists in Charlottesville?

Quite the snowflake, all up in his feelings over a Nike ad.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Not sure why Nike would pull off this stunt other than to express anti-Trump sentiment.
I'm not burning my Air Jordans but now my view of Nike is tainted and I will probably choose an alternate brand next time I buy shoes.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 2:24 pm

By the way, the only one being a snowflake is "Kap". You would think a football player would stick to playing football and winning instead of making "social justice commentary". Why an unemployed, virtue signaling ex-football player is now some hero for the Left is beyond me.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE "Just the fats" immediately above

Kaepernick's official statement in Aug 2016 about his kneeling was
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Most of the reaction was to the opening sentence -- seeing him as declaring the US to be institutionally and deliberately racially oppressive. There was some reaction to the final sentence because it was seen as putting Kaepernick in the racist "White lives don't matter" camp (Various Black Lives Matter leaders had been asked to include police murders of Whites and Asians in their activism and had rejected those murders as "irrelevant" or a "distraction").

This was expanded by associates and supporters of Kaepernick (and himself) to state that the rarely sung third verse of the national anthem celebrated the killing of slaves. The lines were
"No refuge could save the hireling and slave // From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:"
Here "slave" referred to former slaves who had become freed men by joining the British forces in the War of 1812. They formed a highly effective fighting unit designated "The Colonial Marines". That it was these marines, not generic slaves, being referred to can be seen by the reference to mercenaries ("hirelings"). Similarly it refers to battle not murder: their being routed ("flight") or killed ("grave").
Aside: The California NAACP has taken a position based on the same misinterpretation.

I find it quite reasonable that people would see Kaepernick's action was deliberately offensive to the country.

Given the immediate response, that Kaepernick supposedly claimed that he saw kneeling as "respectful" is ridiculous.


> "So if respectfully taking a knee is now "extremely controversial" what do you call the Tiki-torch bearing, white supremacists in Charlottesville?

The antecedent (first clause) is false (above).
The question (second clause) falsely implies that the White Supremacists were "extremely controversial". There was no controversy -- they were, and are, despicable.
But this is a common rhetorical trick routinely employed by those with no interest in honest discussion.

Summary: This commenter is an example of people who promote division and animosity in our society.

Posted by Novelera, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 3:07 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

@Resident - Midtown. There has been lots of press about Kap's protest. There was a very long one in the NY Times. From what I've gathered, he is a good enough player to start as quarterback for some teams and certainly to back up a starting quarterback in many others.

The Times article showed the Nike ad, a close-up of Kap's face and the words: "Believe in something...even if you sacrifice everything."

So Nike thinks Kap's viewpoints are worth putting into a huge campaign ad.

And the comments about "stick to playing football" sound very much like the "shut up and dribble" aimed at LeBron James.

At the very least these sports figures have the same 1st Amendment rights as you and I do to post our opinions on Doug Moran's blog.

[[Blogger: FYI: A range of pro/con arguments about the appropriateness of this type of protest in the workplace (football stadium) were presented in the second (of two) in the section "Examples" at the end of my earlier blog "The Right to Listen: Free Speech #2" (Web Link 2018-06-14).

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Aside RE: Novella "From what I've gathered, he is a good enough player to start as quarterback..."

There has been a lot of debate both ways on this by sophisticated sports analysts -- more than the minimal stats.
It is decidedly off-topic here.

However, if you know someone who is interested football and you would like to introduce them to a "Moneyball"-style approach, I can recommend "Johnny Manziel isn't ready to start, not even close" - SBNation.com, 2015-11-10.

Arguing sports can be a gateway to better appreciation of, and interest in, statistics.

Summary of cited article (which has embedded video clips):
"Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White took a closer look at Johnny Football's big game against the Bengals last week and found a young quarterback who isn't ready to start."
ME: This is an excellent example of what reporting should be, bringing expertise and resources not available to the typical reader. It focuses on the play that should have been made versus the one that was: A completed short pass is treated as negative yardage when a longer pass was available.

Posted by Just the fats, ma'am, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 4:04 pm

[[ Hyper-hypocritical hyper-partisanship: Condemns me for not deleting a response-in-kind to an insult by him. I left both because I got to them too late.

Posted by Just the fats, ma'am, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 4:40 pm

[[ False claim, although I suspect that he may not realize it. However, I don't believe he would consider contrary evidence.
This has crossed the threshold into troll-like behavior.]]

Posted by Humble observer, a resident of Mountain View,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Without quoting any now-deleted material, I'll point out that in an earlier response to me -- which ignored the point of my own comment (obvious misrepresentation in the comment right before it), and indulged in what-about-ism (or rather "what do you call"-ism), "Just the fats" 's misrepresentations extend also to the President. Trump himself had made clear that the "very fine people" he referred to were not the white supremacists at the Charlottesville rally (a detail that some media and "Just the fats" choose stubbornly to ignore). I think therefore that "Just the fats" is substantiating some of Doug Moran's points, and doesn't even realize it.

[[ Blogger: FYI: Some of the details in this comment referred to a previous comment that was in process of being deleted as this one was being posted.]]

Posted by Marty G, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 4, 2018 at 9:02 pm

Why the misadventures in oblique references? Just tell him he (she) is wrong and show him with truth:

"You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists," Trump said. “The press has treated them absolutely unfairly."

“You also had some very fine people on both sides," he said.

See? Easy peasy pumpkin pie. Copy and paste the transcript for the partisan.

[[Blogger: I believe that the quotes cited here are from a follow-up / expanded / revised statement by Trump.
The first quote given is factually correct: There were people outside the "neo-Nazis and white nationalists" groups present because the rally was entitled "Unite the Right" and was promoted as such. However, leaders of various right-wing groups found out otherwise, withdrew their own participation and attempted to get the word out to their followers to not attend.
Be careful in reading media accounts because of the significant biases displayed: Trump faced "relentless criticism" (Web Link - top search result) for blaming left-wing violence as well as right-wing. There is a long history of the mainstream media going against the video evidence and minimizing left-wing violence at such events. There were arrests (and now convictions) for brandishing and discharging guns on both sides (open carry is legal in Virginia).

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 6, 2018 at 8:54 am

I thought this discussion would include something more about the long lists of boycotts that "the base" is promoting. First is a long slightly out of date "TheRightBoycott" list by someone on "The Right", followed by someone more Democratically inclined on "The Daily Dot", which references the the above, and finally a recent editorial from "The Long Beach Post" that is skeptical about boycotts, entitled "The political boycott: shopping made impossible":

First, the TheRightBoycott:
"Web Link

The Daily Dot commentary on the issue:
"11 pro-Trump boycotts that completely backfired" (https://www.dailydot.comlayer8/trump-boycotts-protests-backfire/)

And, the Long Beach Post editorial on "shopping made impossible"
"The political boycott: shopping made impossible" (Web Link

This stuff goes way back, of course. Procter and Gamble was a target back as far as the 1980's, and again in 2004:
"Conservatives Urge Boycott of Proctor & Gamble" (Web Link

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