Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Were you wondering what Josh thought about Chick-Fil-A?

I was thinking about Chick-Fil-A recently. When I started this blog, I covered a somewhat broader array of topics than I do now (the scope of which has now pretty much narrowed to the occasional cartoon review, Roger Zelazny post or story about Lily). I have a tag for politics but I doubt I've used it in over a year. (I will note that I observed that the Citizen's United ruling would have a poisonous influence on our electoral system, but you didn't exactly need to be Earl Warren to see that one coming.)

Part of it is because I missed the give and take that goes along with these things. I wasn't getting a lot of comments back then, so there wasn't much point in talking about politics if the only thing I did was post a screed that sounded like it came straight from the pen of Billy Joel's angry young man.

Anyway, for those of you not following at home, Chick Fil-A's chief operations officer came out in support of traditional marriage.

No, let's back it up a bit.

I'm in support of a traditional marriage, in that it's worked well for me. I love my wife very much, and she loves me.  It's a relationship based on mutual respect. It's given us a daughter we love as much as we love each other. We've been married almost fifteen years and we will hopefully be married for a long time after that.

However, we have single friends and gay friends a straight friends and unmarried friends with children, friends who have been married for a long time with no children, friends who have been in a monogamous relationship for years but never married, friends who didn't find the right person until they had married the wrong one. It takes all kinds. So when I say I support traditional marriage, I mean as one option among many.

When Dan Cathy, the COO of Chick-Fil-A, says he's in support of traditional marriage, he doesn't mean the same thing I do. He does not support traditional marriage; he opposes anything but traditional marriage.

He has the right to hold whatever opinions he wants. There are no thoughtcrimes here. First Amendment, Voltaire, etc, etc. He can say whatever he wants. We could ignore him as we do to loudmouth jerks every day if Chik-Fil-A had not spent over $2,000,000 donating to the following organizations, with the express purpose of disenfranchising their fellow human beings.

The Eagle Forum
is notorious for its opposition to equal rights for women. Also, they're part of the anti-vaccination movement, which is a particular pet peeve of mine.

Focus on the Family, which  advocates school sponsored prayer and supports corporal punishment and strongly opposes LGBT rights.

Family Research Council, which advocates against LGBT rights, abortion, divorce, embryonic stem-cell research, the theory that global warming is the result of human activity. The Family Research Council is listed as a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

I know some people were aware of Chick-Fil-A's politics prior to this, but these recent events brought them into sharp relief. The thing is, they do make really yummy chicken and the thing that really kept me away from eating there was the long lines as much as my awareness of where they stood.

There was a backlash against Chick-Fil-A for their statements, followed by a groundswell of support. Former Governor Mike Huckabee organized Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, and you probably know what happened. The company broke all sorts of sales records.

But, I think that means we're going to win.

I think the one enduring legacy of this is that the Chick-Fil-A brand is henceforth going to be associated with bigotry. People who followed this kind of thing already associated Chick-Fila-A with bigotry, but now that view is mainstream.
It's out of dog whistle territory now.  And while you get the occasional out-and-out racist who opens his racist rants with "I'm not racist, but...", most people don't want to be seen as bigots. Even bigots. Especially bigots. They need a fig leaf. Most people want to see themselves as a good person. 

Every now and again, I get an email telling me that somebody is organizing some sort of boycott against gas stations to send a message to someone about something, so don't buy gas on a given date. And I shrug and delete it. Because it's a stunt. I need to fill up my gas tank about once a week. If I don't do it on boycott day, then I'm going to do it on boycott day +1 or boycott day -1 and they're going to get my money either way.

And the same principle applies here. They got a short term boost, but that is going to be outweighed by the people who are never going to eat there again.  One good day is not going to make up for the next few year of bad ones. By this time next month, none of the people who ate at Chick-fil-A on "appreciation day" are going to think about this again.

But those who are boycotting will still be boycotting. As Peter David wrote, under slightly different circumstances, when asked how he can nurse a grudge, "I have tough nipples."


  1. This is about the best response I've seen to Chic Fil A, from someone who is personally affected by their hateful agenda and the support that hate groups receive: http://www.owldolatrous.com/?p=288.

    You know all this already (and it touches on points you made), but it nonetheless brings up important aspects of the issue that you didn't address, even though I'm sure you had them in mind.

    Also, I think the first paragraph to point 2 very much shreds the Voltaire argument.

  2. To help reinforce your point that Chick-Fil-A's stance has left "dog whistle" range, know this: I'd never even *heard* of the place until all this stuff went down. (I live in a state that, thankfully, doesn't harbor a single Chick-Fil-A.)

    And, yes, I can pretty much guarantee you that if I ever do come across one, I'll never eat there--I didn't even know that Chick-Fil-A was a thing before a few weeks ago, so now I *only* associate it with bigotry.

  3. This is an excellent post. I agree with you wholeheartedly on the reasons for boycotting Chick-Fil-A, and I haven't eaten there for some time because of these policies, but I'm doubtful that this boycott and a more public awareness of their politics are going to do anything to hurt them. The American public has a very short memory. People who would be so angered at the hateful, bigoted politics of Chick-Fil-A that they wouldn't eat there knew about it already and weren't eating there anyway. People who found out about it now will say, oh, that's terrible, but still eat there. Case in point: a close family member who is almost as liberal as I am said to me, why did they have to say anything about it at all? I asked if she was going to stop eating there because of this and she responded no, but she would wait a month before she went there again to give the furore time to die down.

    I hope I'm wrong and this does hurt them. And I do agree that in time we're going to win on this issue, but that's because young people overwhelmingly support gay marriage. I hope one day people look back at this time and are ashamed that people were denied rights based on their sexual orientation. Paul F. Tompkins had a pretty great response to this issue in his latest podcast episode- http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-pod-f-tompkast/id385372276.

    Oh, and a place without Chick-Fil-A! I thought Chick-Fil-A was everywhere now. Then again, I don't remember seeing any when I lived in Rhode Island, but that was a long time ago.

    1. There weren't any around me when I was growing up either. It was only in recent years that they expanded to my area.