Boycotts Are Supposed to Hurt

In North Carolina, the legislature passed an absolutely appalling discriminatory law, and the effect was that companies started rethinking upcoming business in the state and some notable creative folk, including Bruce Springsteen and Sherman Alexie, pulled out of upcoming events. This has prompted articles like this one and this one, where people are making the argument that when creative folk pull out of doing events in North Carolina, innocent people like children and business owners are punished.

My thought on this is: Yes? And? Boycotts are by their nature designed to cause economic and social distress, are they not? In order to create economic and social pressure to change whatever it is that is being protested, in this case an absolutely unjust law that among other things singles out a particular group of people for discrimination? And if in this case the boycott is of the state of North Carolina, because the state itself passed the law, then yes, causing distress to the children and businesses of North Carolina by depriving them of things that they would otherwise have if the state didn’t have that unjust law is pretty much directly on point. Children have parents who vote. Businesses are owned by people who vote and who can also pressure state legislatures.

This is what a boycott is and does. The bookstore owner in the NY Times article says “we’ve had authors’ backs when their books were challenged or their events protested. We need authors to have our backs, too.” As much as I sympathize with the bookstore owner who complains that she’s being punished for a law she personally abhors, the target of the boycott is the state, not her. The state will be happy to fill its tax coffers equally from the people who have the “right” sort of views as it is from the people who have the “wrong” ones. If the state can look and see that a boycott is having no real net effect, economically and socially, it’s not going to be particularly effective. As a tool of change, it’s a failure.

Boycotts are meant to hurt. Strikes, which are a similar action, are meant to hurt, too — and again, that’s the point. These sorts of tactics are not designed to spare the people who don’t think they’re involved (or shouldn’t be); they’re designed to remind them that they are involved, whether they like it or not, and that their participation is required, again, whether they like it or not. I’m sorry for the bookstore, and for the kids of North Carolina, but Bruce Springsteen, Sherman Alexie and anyone other creative who decides that their conscience does not allow them to go to North Carolina are not wrong.

I understand the bookseller would like their boycott to pass her by; I understand why the other writer wants authors to think of the children. Let us also make space for the argument that those authors are thinking of the children and are leveraging what they have — their notability and the desirability of their presence — to make sure some of those children are not actively discriminated against by the state. Let us also make space for the argument that they are using their influence so that they can “have the backs” of people who the state has just declared to be second-class citizens, and that at the moment, those backs have priority.

And yes, in both cases that might hurt. But again, that’s the point.

142 Comments on “Boycotts Are Supposed to Hurt”

  1. Couple of notes here:

    1. The concept that “boycotts are supposed to hurt” isn’t limited only to ideas I agree with; people boycott for political/social reasons I find reprehensible. But the point in those cases is the same.

    2. I think it’s possible to do things other than boycotts that offer social/political benefits — for example, Cyndi Lauper has announced that proceeds from a show in Raleigh will be funneled to fight the NC law. This does not mean these approaches are better than boycotting, merely different.

    3. For anyone asking what I would do, well, you know, I have no idea. I’m not touring this year, nor am I making any public appearances in North Carolina (or Mississippi, which passed a similar law), so I don’t have to think about it right now. My next book comes out in 2017, and we’ll see where we are then, in terms of touring.

    I will say I am personally very fond of North Carolina; it has some of my favorite people in it, and I’ve vacationed there on and off over the years. I hope as a state it pulls its head out, and soon.

  2. Bingo. Hopefully it will motivate the public to vote these bums out of office, or better yet recall them.

  3. A number of far right-wing folks are claiming Bruce Springsteen was disappointed with Greensboro ticket sales, and just used HB2 as an excuse to pull out. A little digging revealed that roughly 2/3 of the available tickets were sold. So while it was hardly a sellout crowd, it’s clear Springsteen lost significantly more money by pulling out at the last minute than he would have done by staying in. That, to my mind, it truly a class act.

  4. @Disperser–It’s an entertaining idea, but would discriminate illegally against the classes of minorities that are protected under the laws in the state.

  5. Humans don’t like to be reminded that being silent is basically the same thing as supporting the thing they dislike.

  6. Well said. In many cases, the same people that complain about boycott’s such as these support just such pressure on countries such as Iran and North Korea (which I also support). Is Kim Jong Un personally affected by UN sanctions and boycotts? Hell no.

  7. It’s a real problem for those of living in NC who work hard for equality, but obviously can’t vote in every district. The General Assembly doesn’t give a damn if Springsteen cancels, but they care if no one shows up to the High Point Furniture Convention (a big thing) or if Paypal doesn’t expand jobs. Or if other businesses take their tax revenues elsewhere. They finally have to decide which is more important: the right to use religion to discriminate or business, because this issue has shown that you can’t have both.
    Charlotte has lost the Paypal expansion, which punishes the very city which passed the non-discrimination act that led to the general assembly clamping down on them. Unfortunately, there’s no way to support the city that did the right thing without also supporting the state that did the wrong thing.
    Maybe this will be the thing that finally gets the general assembly back to a more moderate stance, but I doubt it. Between gerrymandering and changes to voter id/registration, it’ll be a challenge, but not impossible. NC really is, like most other states, more purple than red or blue. Hopefully, this issue will push more pouty “i’m not voting for anyone” kids to the polls.

  8. I find it extremely troubling the few venues left to “common people” to express their displeasure outside the political system, like strikes, protests, boycotts, demonstrations, public gatherings and blockade have been either deemed morally reprehensible or are outright forbidden.

  9. Disperser, Everyone was discriminated against, even in just the bathroom portion. There was no exception for opposite gendered caregivers of the disabled in places where there was no family bathroom available. So grandpa could be arrested for helping make sure grandma with dementia uses the bathroom properly. My husband could be arrested for escorting me into the bathroom at rest stops at night. This law hurts everyone in pursuit of a stupid bogeyman of the “trans predator”.

    If someone held a sincere religious belief that I couldn’t use their business because I’m an atheist, that sounds fine to the North Carolina legislature.

  10. I hadn’t thought about the fact that it’s actually a good when boycotts ruffle the feathers of people who believe they’re not connected to the issue. Seems to me that this should lead to the understanding that the reverse has to be true: Let everyone else be happy because the ripple effect is ultimately going to improve your life.

    Not that I believe haters are going to stop being haters that readily, but a girl can dream.

  11. Much as I would like to, I can’t boycott NC (perils of looking out my window and seeing said state), but I have to say that I agree completely with those who are boycotting the state.

    The way I look at it, the politicians have the right to pass really stupid and discriminatory laws while hypocritically claiming that’s not the case in order to appease bigoted constituents. Other people have the right to protest that law by refusing to do business with or in the state. Yet another group is protesting the second group.

    The problem exists when one group, primarily the third group (ie. people protesting Springsteen’s boycott), forget that this isn’t a bug, but a feature.

    The more people understand the system, the better off everyone will be. (Well once religious and social conservatives stop trying to enforce their beliefs on the rest of us.)

  12. and Bryan Adams played in Egypt, where they will execute gays and lesbians……is social justice only for the United States or should these performers start applying their principles to any country that supposedly discriminates. I wish I could find the article that described exactly what this law does, maybe there’d be less vituperation against North Carolina than is evidenced…….but, the article is only good if people read it….

  13. With boycotts, the more painful the impact, the more effective (and usually shorter) the boycott is. The pain is spread among the law’s opponents as well as its supporters, and that shouldn’t be downplayed … but if it’s an effective boycott, the economic impact will be temporary, and the benefits permanent.

    Moreover — this is not the first boycott that ever had an impact on people who didn’t cause the problem. If a shopkeeper is opposed to all boycotts, everywhere, on principle, then they can make an argument against it. But if they only oppose this particular boycott because this one impacts them personally … it’s harder to see the logic there.

  14. Nice piece. Boycotts can be good. Next door here in backwards-thinking Indiana our super-majority republican legislature took gerrymandering to the next level after 2010, splitting my liberal college town into four separate districts that are each diluted with large swaths of typcally conservative rural areas so that my vote generally means nothing.

    This is the problem for most of the largely rural states in the south and midwest that do not have the enormous, hugely populated – and typically liberal leaning – cities that the coastal states have. Even so, I believe the combined populations of Indianapolis, Gary, Evansville, South Bend, Muncie, Bloomington, etc. is large enough to make Indiana a blue state if 1) republicans didn’t cheat, and 2) democrats would get off their collective asses and vote.

    Polls indicate a majority of Hoosiers are actually opposed to these regressive laws enacted in an attempt to compensate for recent gains in LGBT rights including same sex marriage. Gov. Mike Pence (Asshole-IN) was forced last year to back down from the state’s terrible RFRA law, but our new anti-abortion law makes Indiana the worst state in America for female reproductive right.

    Indiana hasn’t had an agrarian dominated economy for years (agriculture and forestry make up about half alongside production and processing/manufacturing) and it’s time to wrestle control back from the religious yokels.

  15. Fuzznose:

    Personally I think it’s fine to hold the United States and its constituent states to a higher human rights standard than Egypt, and make decisions based on that.

    With that said, you do point out the tensions that every person in the stream of commerce, creative or not, has to contend with: What lines you draw, and when, and how.

  16. Yes, I read those same articles and my reaction was, “So…we should have continued doing business with Apartheid South Africa? Musicians should have continued to play Sun City?”

    Yes, there is collateral damage, no question. But there is ongoing damage as well. Is the presumably temporary damage to businesses in North Carolina now worse than ongoing and presumably unending damage to all the LGBT (and particularly T) folks in North Carolina?

    Aside from all that, it is perfectly reasonably for people to decide they don’t like doing business that benefits a location they find objectionable for various reasons. Hurting a small business in NC sucks, but doing business that contributes to the tax coffers of a state that punishes part of their population simply for existing is, to many people’s thinking, immoral.

  17. Fuzznose:

    This is the “how dare you talk about problem X here when you’re not talking about problem X there” argument, and it’s generally used to shut down opposition, not because you actually care who lives or dies in Egypt.

    . I wish I could find the article that described exactly what this law does, maybe there’d be less vituperation against North Carolina than is evidenced

    I’ve read the law. I’ve read legal experts opinion on the law, and I’ve still got the same vituperation.

  18. @fuzznose I’m in NC and I’ve read a fair bit of the law and the bathroom aspect is very much the tip of a very nasty anti-labor iceberg. Under this law, my gf would be unable to sue her general manager for sexual harassment. It also prevents cities from setting their own standards for discrimination and minimum wage. This is in no way a good law.

    As for Bryan Adams playing Egypt; I think it’s irrelevant (and not just because he’s Canadian). Part of individual freedom is the right to decide when and where you want to spend your political capital (and accept the consequences). For example, the jazz singer Ian Shaw has been putting a lot of effort into working with the Calais refugees. That doesn’t make other causes less important, it’s just that it’s the one he chose to involve himself with. Springsteen and Adams are choosing NC/HB2; that’s their right.

    They don’t have to justify why they picked the cause they did, and people who disagree with them have the right to express that. It’s the system at work.

  19. I live in NC, though in the Raleigh area, not near Charlotte or Asheville (where the bookstore is). I agree with both sides–boycotts should hurt. That’s the point. To change behavior. If they don’t hurt, behavior won’t change.

    But the bookstore that asked that people not boycott it? It is a small, independent bookstore. The woman was not “silent” in the face of this law. She’s actively publicly fought. So the “now she can’t be silent anymore because it doesn’t affect her…” is unfair.

    The one reason I can think to selectively boycott–to not boycott this store–is that by boycotting, you’re making an already perilous enterprise more so. In other words, if enough people do this, if enough people cancel, don’t shop at the store, etc., then this business will go out of business. A pro-your-cause business, which has done a lot for the community, will vanish, regardless of the success of the boycott. (but hey, you can still do signings at Walmart, right?)

    So, that’s the choice. Boycott everyone, everywhere (in NC), all the time and run the very real risk of harming folks, who support you, in irreparable ways. Or selectively boycott the things that will have the most impact. No one who passed this law cares if that bookstore dies. Do they care if PayPal, movie producers, tech firms, etc. leave? Absolutely. I don’t know that they care about the Boss, but his boycott is hurting him (he’s losing money) far more than it is hurting fans. (Fans are getting full refunds).

    So, yes. Boycotts should hurt. And ideologically, it is 100% right that everyone in the place suffers the consequences. In the real world, the consequences will radically disproportionately affect different groups.

    If you’re all for a whole-cloth boycott, I don’t think you’re wrong. But I think if I were an outside author, and had to choose, I think, having lived in the middle of this, that I wouldn’t do that to the bookstore.

    And, also, the deep down ugly of the bill was the part that outlawed cities making their own non-discrimination policies and eliminating the right to sue an employer for discrimination in state court. While the Trans bathroom issue is atrocious, it really was a smokescreen for a far reaching, really terrifying extension of state government and corporation power.

  20. Wasn’t a boycott ultimately the reason why Arizona agreed to making Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday?

    While the NC boycott is necessary, NC is ultimately going to lose. It should only be a matter of time before the right kind of case comes before the US Supreme Court and it rules that Equal Protection applies to people who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual because last year’s “Obergefel” ruling seems like a pretty good indication of the Court’s thinking.

  21. I understand why Springsteen and others are boycotting NC.

    Problem is, a) the concert boycott isn’t likely to affect most of the &*!$s who are directly or indirectly involved in passing the law and b) it is going to affect people who have always voted against said &*!$s and will continue to do so. It’s probably even affecting people who were planning to come in from out of state, and really had nothing to do with HB2.

    Personally, I prefer Cyndi Lauper’s plan. The concert will happen, so it’s not negatively affecting any of her fans. But all of the proceeds are going to fight the law.

    That said, there’s talk that portions of the bill may be repealed soon. If so, I do hope that all boycotts remain in place as long as the discriminatory portions of the law remain.

  22. PS — former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Margaret Marshall has noted parallels about offering legal protections against discrimination for those who identify as transgender, where the concern is about bathrooms and pools, being much the same arguments made decades ago about ending legal segregation of those who identify as African Americans. “Plus ca change, plus ne change pas.”

  23. I feel the bookstore’s pain.

    But as much as they are already fighting the good fight, not enough of their fellow NC citizens of like mind could be bothered to drag themselves to the polls in 2010 and 2014, so NC turned into a bastion of GOP control just like 30 other states.

    That’s my concern with the Bernie Bros: ‘my candidate is pure, and I won’t vote for HER’ is a guaranteed path to President Cruz and Mitch McConnell retaining control of the Senate. If that happens, the entire country will be Kansas by 2018 and we’ll be lining up for our loyalty sigils.

  24. @George – The loss of the Super Bowl was the primary reason for Arizona to do an about face on the MLK holiday issue. Even then, it wasn’t a case of elected representatives bowing to financial pressure. The MLK holiday issue was put on the ballot for a public vote and passed.

    This result actually put Arizona in rarefied company. Arizona is one of only two states who approved the MLK holiday by public vote (I think the other was Vermont). All other states did it through legislative action. To this day I am convinced that at the time (in the mid-80’s) there are several states that would not have been able to get the MLK holiday passed by popular vote. Of course, the fact that Arizona had to rely on that option speaks volumes about the idiocy of their state representatives (something that persists to this day).

  25. Great article. I also find it on point when you state that people own businesses that can pressure state legislators but not parents who vote. It’s just another indication that our government is no longer “for the people” but “for the money.”

  26. Emily’s post above gets at the heart of the difference between Alexie and Springsteen and the point of a boycott. It’s easy to oversimplify things to “Your leaders did this, you deserve whatever you get.” but NC is an extremely divided, heavily gerrymandered state. Springsteen’s boycott makes sense; it’s a massive corporate event with big headlines and affects the bottom line of a large business and pretty much the entire mixed-purple voting public who can afford a $200+ concert ticket. The General Assembly is feeling that, and good for Springsteen for making that choice.

    For Alexie, he’s boycotting a small independent bookstore in a blue town (None of the Asheville representatives voted for the bill) with a population that spends much of it’s time trying to fight off the wingnuts in the General Assembly that want to see them dead and gone. Boycotts are supposed to hurt, but in this case you’re hurting the resistance, not the invaders. I’d feel differently if the bookstore in question was a large corporate chain, but in the case of the Asheville store, if there’s anything left to do to protest HB2, I’m reasonably sure they’re already doing it. And if you’re a writer who has made his bones writing about the problem of discrimination, staying home seems like wasted opportunity. Because lord knows, the government of the State of North Carolina considers you and your audience just one more problem that needs to be solved.

  27. @Nancie Laupers plan is daft. It costs her money, but because her fans are still coming and will still be spending money in the state, the tax revenue will keep on flowing into the municipal coffers. It fails to have any effect because the State will still get the money it wants. The other boycotts will achieve more because all those people that would be coming and would be spending money, directly and indirectly, on them are now not going to.

    The more general point of the book shop owner, well, it does suck for that bookshop owner, but it sucks for LGBT residents of NC far more. She says she’s already fought, and disagrees with the law, well now she’ll have to continue to fight and fight harder; just like the LGBT residents of that state who also have no choice but to fight or leave. She can join and organise her fellow business people into a more cohesive opposition group, because she’ll have to if she wants her business to survive and that will help the LGBT folk too. She’s upset that this boycott is forcing her onto the front lines of this battle without her consent, but the LGBT folk were placed on it without their consent too.

  28. This may be wandering a bit off topic (and if so, I apologize and feel free to mallet). But it strikes me that what we saw in NC is the State government directly overturning the will of the people–as evidenced by the laws passed in Charlotte and other localities–to serve a larger national party agenda.

    Maybe these are just assumptions on my part: I assume that local-level politics is more in touch with the desires of its constituents, and I assume that similar bills in other State legislatures is evidence of national-level party planning. But still, the kid in me who learned in high school that democracy is the will of the people is raising his hand and saying, “Excuse me…”

  29. John is right. Boycotts are tools of social and political suasion. Anyone can organize one, at least in theory. Whether boycotts are ultimately effective is the key question, for boycotts are a gamble regardless of the cause or its moral reasoning. If the boycott succeeds, the reputation of the organizers–defined in terms of social and political influence–is enhanced. If the boycott fails, their reputation will take a hit. At the same time, the social or political balance of power with respect to the policy in contention is confirmed for what it truly is, not for what it was generally perceived to be beforehand. . .

  30. Here’s the thing (PS, I AM Egyptian AND American..and I hate that I have to put that qualifier in). Egypt, right now, has a hell of a lot of issues, as do Israel and Saudi Arabia. As an ally, as a supplier of (mostly) military aid, the US should really be doing more/have done more to champion real democracy in Egypt. We dropped the ball big time. That being said, we need to have our own house in order before we go telling our allies “you need to do A, B, C”, otherwise, yes, we are hypocrites.

    The people still have some power, but it is the businesses that have the real clout, in many ways. I’m involved in trying to save our water, a water bottling company made a deal on the down-low, because they’d been kicked out by citizens at their preferred site in another state. I spent yesterday at the State House, trying to talk to legislators about the issue. There are so many lobbyists there. People paid to lobby for businesses.

    Unfortunately, we can’t really boycott our water company. As much as I wish we could.

    I do think boycotts are one of the tools we have that can make a real difference in changing things. And I do wish more creative people would boycott NC. I look at Alton Brown, for example. When he goes somewhere, he showcases local food joints, he brings in revenue. It isn’t just about his show. And I am bothered enough by it that I am considering not getting tickets to his show when it comes to my town.

  31. Concise, clear, and I completely agree. Sometimes we have to make a sacrifice and take a hit (financial or otherwise) for a principle we believe in.

  32. If I lived in NC, I would shop at that bookstore. I would go out of my way to patronize it–in fact, do they do out-of-state e-sales? I’ll have to check. But I can see refusing to travel to NC, and refusing to encourage other people to travel to NC.

    That’s where the line becomes difficult to draw. Supporting the bookstore means buying books from them. But promoting the bookstore as a good place to buy books also means promoting NC, doesn’t it, given that it’s a business in NC? There is nothing the bookstore owners can do to mitigate that, though they have obviously tried, and I have great sympathy for them. However, the boycott is aimed at the entire state, not a single business, or even a single city. Personally, I think Alexie has drawn the line as best he can, and I respect that. I doubt one author’s refusing to sign at an indie bookstore in a blue city is likely to be very convincing to the NC legislature, and yes, this instance of the boycott will be more an immediate hardship to the bookstore than the state–but the way boycotts work, if they do work, is by aggregating individual responses into something that is taken seriously. One drop of water at a time . . .

  33. “Let us also make space for the argument that those authors are thinking of the children and are leveraging what they have — their notability and the desirability of their presence — to make sure some of those children are not actively discriminated against by the state.”


  34. Agree totally. If you’re not afflicting the comfortable, you’re not changing anything.

  35. I’ll bet that bookstore owner is going to continue to pay sales taxes to the state.

  36. Building on what –E said: Collateral damage is temporary, to stop an otherwise on-going evil.

    When we bombed the innocent rail-yard and munition factory workers in Berlin an air force mechanic said, to offer comfort, “Every people get the government they deserve.”

    In the third Chtorr War book of David Gerrold, a human potential trainer tells the crowd it’s no coincidence they are in a group where (some folks who can’t be trusted have just been kicked off the course) explaining “That’s your integrity at the level of the group.” He says this facing a man who wants to figuratively wear robes of lily white.

    So while I try to be a good person I know I also wear clothes of grey at the state level.

  37. I had a serious WTF? moment there when I misread the headline as “Boy Scouts are supposed to hurt.”

  38. I posted this on Chuck Wendig’s FB page, It applies here 100%. All of your ignorance of reality is shameful. Your ignorance of how politics has shaped NC is shameful. But, hey, raising pitchforks is fun, right? Go mob!

    “I would advise everyone commenting to educate themselves on the political power structure in NC. Do some research, read a little history and see how this all came about. We have been rising up, we have been occupying the capitol, we have been fighting and fighting and fighting, we have been protesting in the thousands, we have been voting, we have done everything that everyone keeps telling us to do. We’ve been doing it for years. Years! Way before HB2 happened. But the fact is that the system is so rigged that none of it matters. The people in this state have had their voices, and votes, intentionally stripped from them. Blanket boycotts weaken those fighting the good fight. How the hell does that help us in our struggle? Please, someone tell me how kicking us while we are down and hurting is a smart plan? Y’all are messed up if you think that’s the answer. You’re no better than the ones we struggle against.”

    Now check this out for just a hint of how we have been fighting for YEARS:

    And read this, the statement put out from the city where I live and Malaprop’s is based:

    If you didn’t read the articles then here is a statistic for you: “51% of North Carolina voters chose a Democrat for their US house representative, but Republicans won 9 of the 13 seats up for election [in 2012].”

    Maybe we should do what, VOTE HARDER?

    Yeah, I guess we aren’t doing enough, right? But what the hell are any of you doing? Supporting a boycott that doesn’t effect you since you probably wouldn’t be spending a dime in NC anyway? Yay for you! How brave you are! But it’s not your state, so it’s not your problem, right?

    Until it is your state…

    Good luck when that happens.

  39. @ mirlacca Just to clarify, Sales Tax is paid by the purchaser. The retailer only acts as the tax collector (something they have no choice in).

    More in general, while I have sympathy for the independent bookseller (and others) who fought against this horribly motivated and poorly written law, that is the unfortunate side effect of the boycott. Charlotte and other NC cities are beautiful and tried to do the right thing with municipal ordinances. But what happened in the state legislature is something ugly and narrow-minded, and it’s difficult to see whether the population at large is reflected in the state house. Gerrymandering is a huge problem, and we’ll continue to see legislatures riding roughshod over the wishes of their constituencies until we make it too painful for them to do so.

  40. Ebene:

    ” . . . strikes, protests, boycotts, demonstrations, public gatherings and blockade”.

    One of these things is not like the others, unless “blockade” means something very different to you from what it means to me. Sorry I know it’s a few hours since the original comment.

  41. I think many people don’t pay attention to their lawmakers until something directly affects them. As a liberal who has lived in small towns around the south, I know that these idiots get elected for everything from, “he says he’s against more taxes” to “he goes to grandpa’s church” to “he’s no worse than any of the rest of them, I guess” to “my family’s ALWAYS voted Republican.”
    Many of these state senators are ill equipped to do anything other than shake hands and pose for pictures. Then something in the culture war will flare up and these guys dig in – passing stupid laws is so much easier than trying to find solutions to hard problems, and “think about the wimmen folk ” always plays well. Smacking these legislators into the real world by whacking them in the wallet seems sensible and fair to me.
    Also, something that isn’t getting nearly enough press is that the similar law in Mississippi also allows refusal of services to ADULTERERS, which means not only married people having affairs, but unmarried people who have sex, i.e, pretty much anybody. I’m waiting to see how that’s going to work out.

  42. @jakebible, Ouch… Do you have any suggestions for what might be done if not a boycott?

  43. Of course boycotts are supposed to hurt. That’s elementary. The more salient question is whether boycotts are effective and if the answer’s a mixed “in some cases, yes, in others no” then the next question is whether this appears to be a case where a boycott will be effective or not. There’s little point to running a boycott if it’s likely to have no effect (i.e. if jakebible above is correct). To the degree that there’s doubt about a boycott’s effectiveness, then we should also ask if there are other more effective steps we can take. For example, would it be better for bands to have played shows and donated all proceeds to NC organizations fighting against this kind of bigotry?

    Because the point isn’t to make the people boycotting or supporting boycotts feel good. That’s self-indulgent and irrelevant. The point is to reverse the discrimination and specifically the law that was recently passed. Anything that furthers that is useful. Tactics that don’t further that goal are not.

  44. JakeBible:

    Maybe we should do what, VOTE HARDER?

    Yes, you should vote harder. Most North Carolinans who can vote aren’t voting. Which is how the Republicans get in power and use voter suppression tactics to further stay in power. Because the people in your state (and all the other states,) don’t vote (and some of them are blocked from voting.) They don’t vote in local county elections, where Republicans consolidate power. They don’t vote on bills put to public vote. They let tons of questionable regulations go by without a yelp. They let horrible judges sit on the bench and corrupt the law without protest. They let cops stop, beat up and jail the vulnerable and the poor without protest. They let black voters get sent to jail on charges that allow white people to walk, and legally remove those black voters’ right to vote, without protest. They let them use the convicts for private slave labor which keeps wages in the state further depressed because the rest of you don’t vote. They weren’t coming for you, were they? Until they do come for you. Welcome to them coming for you.

    The boycotts from those outside your state are not just about your state. They are about all the states and keeping all the states from becoming like your state. It’s about changing the social climate nationally as well as regionally. They are HELPING you. And helping the country.

    But it’s not going to be a lot of help because the NC boycotts are coming after the law became law, unlike in Georgia where the threats managed to stop the governor doing that there. This time. And they won’t last. In Arizona, they passed the “papers please” bill despite protests and boycott threats. If you’re a Latino American and you are about in AZ without your passport, the cops can stop your brown skinned ass and haul you to jail. Even if you’ve got your passport, they can pretend they think it’s a fake, and haul you to jail. And take any cash you have on you, claiming it’s illegal money.

    It’s not a constitutional law. It violates federal law. But Brewster signed it to avoid a primary challenge and it stood. So there were boycotts that cost AZ millions of dollars. Protests. They got a few of the worst politicians out. But the law still stood. So there were lawsuits. And last September, a federal judge decided that the law was nifty and said it had to stand. So after all that, nothing happened to save the Arizonians from the unjust law. But similar attempts in other states got stopped because of the AZ boycott.

    The politicians who do these laws don’t care if their states lose money. They want the state to lose money and have a messed up economy. That way, they get more federal assistance while decrying federal assistance and demonizing the poor and the non-white. It’s easier for them to get in power and stay in power and use voter suppression tactics to keep it that way. It’s easier for them to sell state assets to their private corp buddies and line their own pockets now and for the future when they leave office to the next round of ghouls. Poverty is great for the Republicans. That’s why they work so hard to keep Americans poor and poorly paid. They’re thrilled that Springsteen cancelled his concert. But in doing so, he keeps the national media spotlight on the bigotry. And that makes it harder for these bills to get through in other states. It changes the conversation.

    You live in Ohio and don’t want the state executing pregnant women by denying them abortions and medical care? Change it. You live in West Virginia where the state government arranged to have your water be flammable from fracking? Change it. You live in Mississippi where their bathroom bill was actually to make it legal for employers to fire people for being a woman or black as well as queer people? Change it. Get people who don’t vote to vote. Campaign for mandatory and automatic voter registration in your state. Protest and occupy the capital building, as you’ve been doing. Get your employer to support the NC boycott or if in NC, pressure politicians with their complaints and demands. Put up all welcome signs in your businesses. Talk the ears off your neighbors about how their bigotry is bad and makes them awful people. Don’t apologize for upsetting them; say they are the ones being vicious because they are. Point out how much money the boycott is costing the state because of those mean politicians. Keep doing what you’ve been doing and do it HARDER. It’s never been easy and it’s not going to be easy now. But wide public protest is how we eventually got federal law changed on marriage equality. And that fucking Confederate slaver flag down in South Carolina. Those bits of progress weren’t the end; they’re just the start of the chink in the wall.

    In Louisiana, they managed to elect a Democrat governor after long effort. And that governor signed an executive order protecting the rights of LGBT people from discrimination and state employees from discrimination, rescinding Republican Jindal’s executive order to discriminate against LGBT people and stop marriage equality. It had to get really bad in Louisiana for that to happen. Jindal was a vampire ghoul who sucked the state dry before there could be a change. The boycotts help pressure change, but it’s only a football pass. The people in the state have to carry the touchdown. And them protesting loudly and angrily at their governor and the legislature because of the horrible, debilitating boycotts (for the limited time they last,) from the unconstitutional law helps the lawsuits against the law, and helps the 2016 election turnout.

    Use the damn boycotts if you’re serious about having a North Carolina that is not a despotic pit. The people who are doing the boycotts aren’t your enemy. Your legislature and governor are. Use all the democracy tactics at your disposal — protest and voting and boycotts against local businesses that are bigoted — to legally kick him and others out of office at all levels of government as soon as possible.

    If you don’t, if North Carolinians fail to change this or take twenty, forty years to change it, it’s simply going to spread. It’s already spreading. The more heat we put on North Carolina and Mississippi, the harder it makes it to do it elsewhere without anyone noticing. Or did you think that racial segregation ended in your fair state because people came and helped North Carolina’s bigoted economy in the 1950’s and 60’s instead of protesting and boycotting it nationally?

    We’ve all failed. We all need to fix it, everywhere. And that means economic protest, public protest and private hassling of your bigoted relatives. It means applauding Moral Mondays and backing up that protest with really bad PR boycotts by big companies and celebrity performers. So yeah, vote harder. USE the boycotts.

  45. Jakebible:

    “Your ignorance of how politics has shaped NC is shameful.”

    Actually, if we don’t live in NC, it’s not shameful at all. It’s not our state, we’re not obliged to keep track of it.

    And while it is no doubt fascinating to learn how this injustice occurred, it has in fact incurred. People are not obliged to give a shit about process, here. They are rightly concerned about result. The result is, North Carolina has a bigoted, unjust law.

    If you are suggesting that people ignore North Carolina’s unjust law because they don’t know the process, well, now, that’s kind of stupid, isn’t it? People can and should react to it. Some people have decided that boycott is the appropriate action. You may not like it, and that’s fine. But it’s not for you to gainsay their choice — or more accurately, you may gainsay it, but they’re not obliged to agree with you.

    “Supporting a boycott that doesn’t effect you since you probably wouldn’t be spending a dime in NC anyway?”

    That’s a limited definition of a boycott, I will note. I (or anyone else) could also boycott North Carolina goods or services — they could say “if it’s made in North Carolina, it’s not for me.” So while they wouldn’t be spending a dime in North Carolina, the dimes spent — or not — could still be counted in a protest.

    Jakebible, no one has to care why your state did this fucked up, bigoted, awful thing, they just might care that it did, and make decisions based on that. And if that makes you angry, fine, but so what? Fix it.

    With regard to “voting harder,” your example is not relevant since the US House of Representatives is not a state governmental organ, and that is where the problem was, but since you mention it, yes, please do vote harder — which in this case means convincing your neighbors who might not vote to vote, to convince those who vote that this law is horribly unjust, and doing what you can so that gerrymandering at any level is not a thing you can use as a process excuse.

    In short: Not especially sympathetic to you, Jakebible. Stop whining here and get (back) to work fixing your state. In the meantime, some people are going to boycott your state. Deal with it.

  46. Boycotts are much more likely to have the desired effect on companies than on governments. Businesses care about sales and revenue, while governments care about maintaining order and staying in power. So businesses often embrace social change before governments do.

    An extreme example is the Cuban embargo. For a long time Russian teenagers have been wearing American jeans and Chinese workers have been making the electronics that you use to read this. And Cuba has still been backwards thanks to the US embargo and travel ban. Commerce is an important engine for social change in a region, and shutting off commerce can cause that change to slow down or stop altogether.

  47. jakebible, there is more that people in NC can do besides vote or refrain from voting. They can write (or e-mail or phone or tweet) to their legislators–all of them and more than once. They can talk to everyone they know about their disapproval of the law and encourage other people to think more about the issues if they seem disinclined to. They can encourage their friends, neighbors, and co-workers to vote, especially those who say, “Yeah, it sucks, but voting won’t change anything.” They can participate in protests or other public expressions of their opinions. Voting is a good thing, but it’s not the only means at one’s disposal for fighting against something one’s government does in one’s name that one abhors. The more the situation affects one, the more motivated one should be to make one’s displeasure known to the legislators, governor, etc. every way one can. If people from out of state can influence the situation by their actions, as people and companies such as Springsteen and Paypal hope they can, shouldn’t the people in NC who are going to feel the negative effects try that much harder, since it affects them more directly?

    If my state ever passes a law like that, you can be damn sure I’ll participate in whatever boycotts are available to me and approve of boycotts by people from out of state and get vocal with my state legislators and governor. Meanwhile, what I can do for North Carolinians who have had rights taken away from them (i.e., all North Carolinians) is not contribute (by way of room taxes, sales taxes, etc.) to the government that perpetrated that abomination of a law, choose to spend my money somewhere that doesn’t have law like that (too bad about my usual summer vacation in NC), not to “punish” North Carolinians, but because it’s my money and I have the right not to spend it in a state that treats its own citizens so poorly, and participate in vigorous discussion about an unjust law. What else would you have me to to try to influence the people and government of North Carolina to repeal or overturn the law? If you can’t think of anything to do but vote, seems like you’re hoping that someone else somewhere will fix things. But how?

  48. I’m an Arizonan who is frequently disgusted and embarrassed by the dumbass legislators (Republicans, natch) who are constantly thinking up new and creative ways to make our state look bad. You bet your ass that I was all for the boycotts here because it did help. Boycotts are another way to turn over the rocks that these idiots hide under, because in AZ, as much as the haters hate queers and brown people, they hate looking stupid more.

  49. I think as long as a boycott is nonessential goods and services, its pretty much on safe moral ground. The “harm” caused by such an act is really an emotionally loaded term for “dissappointment” which is meant to take the *embarrassment* felt as a result of being boycotted and try to turn it into a victim play.

    When a boycott extends into essential goods and services, it can become a seige, an embargo, and objectively bad things can happen as a result to innocent people.

    The thing is that this very definition means that area-wide boycotts are essentially going to have limited ability to force any kind of change and are really more about bad publicity for the place being boycotted. If the boycott extends to the point where it is pulling down the entire area economy, then you can start hurting innocent people.

    And once you start hurting innocent people, any moral calculus that doesnt resort to dogma has to weigh the damages inflicted versus the benefits generated.

    Boycotting a specific corporation for its evil behavior doesnt have the same calculus as boycotting an entire area or state. You boycott an evil company, maybe you put them out of business, but free eneterprise says a new company will naturally spring up to fill the demand, but hopefully without the evil part. Boycotting a population isnt quite the same.

    As it is, Bruce Springsteen and other various artists and such arent affecting essential services and arent going to tank the local economy to the point of inflicting harm on innocents, so it doesnt have a moral cost to do it.

  50. I believe that this is the final text of the actual law. (Legal journalism is even stupider and sloppier than science journalism, if you can imagine such a thing.)

    @jakebible: Do you think that continuing to do business in North Carolina will help fix your state’s politics? And if so, how?

  51. So, Mr. Scalzi has been quite vocal about his policy of not attending Cons that don’t have an adequate policy in place to deal with sexual harassment.

    Ok, no problem. That kind of behavior is pervy and gross.

    Now some people in North Carolina think that allowing people of the opposite sex into bathrooms with them and their children amounts to sexual harassment. To them, it is pervy and gross so they have taken proactive steps to deal with it.

    These folks think the very act of insisting to use a bathroom designated for the opposite sex is an aggressive act. An offensive act. They don’t want to be threatened in what should be a safe place.

    But wait, you say. What if the person of questionable gender has altered their genitally bits to resemble the original equipment of the opposite sex? Doesn’t that change the equation?

    Not to the people who still feel threatened by having them around their children. dont their rights count, too? They just don’t want to be threatened in their safe space.

    People are already uncomfortable doing their business in a public place. The last thing they want is to feel threatened while they are doing it.

  52. Billy Quiets, lowering the thread level as always. Yes, let’s compare rape, assault, and groping, to a momentary feeling of discomfort in a public restroom.

  53. I think it’s clear that the boycott is working – McCrory is flop-sweating all over his desk with that executive “clarification” he did. The boycott is turning the legislature’s comfortable, familiar, presidential-election-year-socially-offensive-legislation tradition into the reality of a state government that is costing the state real good-paying jobs. That is hard to recover from.

    Jakebible: I would suggest vote smarter, not necessarily harder. It might be too late this year but as often as possible the most vulnerable idiots have to lose their primaries as people who drove jobs out of the state. Major corporations have shown that they are not willing to invest in socially disruptive state. Time to focus on zero in on that angle.

  54. Billy: “These folks think the very act of insisting to use a bathroom designated for the opposite sex is an aggressive act.”

    The problem is that trans people are generally much more likely to be the victim of violence for being trans, compared to the extremely low chance that some transperson is going to be violent or “aggressive” towards you.

    bigot play 101 from the playbook is to redefine the victim of bigotry as the aggressor, and redefine the bigot as the “real” victim. And thats exactly what you just did, nothing more.

  55. I am quite impressed that you wrote pretty extensive essay on boycotts, and a specific one at that, without saying you’re doing any boycotting yourself.

    Not being sarcastic — your background in journalism shows :).

  56. Folks, try not to read too much into Jakebible’s rant. He’s correct that we’ve been struggling with these idiots for several years, and his anger is a natural reaction to that. Our environment, women’s rights, worker’s rights, LGBT rights, those living in poverty, and a whole slew of other victims, have all suffered. We’ve stood up to them in protests, and over a thousand have been arrested for it. We’re fighting them in the courts, and slowly winning those battles. We haven’t been sitting idly by, if you catch my drift. All that being said, those who have talked about voting are 100% correct. Democrats ran this state since Reconstruction, and we allowed ourselves to become complacent. The warnings about 2010 fell on (mostly) deaf ears, and we lost the Legislature. Meaning, we also lost the redistricting power. Now, our state and Congressional districts are well and truly fucked. We do (desperately) need to get out the vote, but we’re so deeply gerrymandered even a GOTV miracle probably won’t fix it. But you know what? Within days of the Springsteen/PayPal announcements, our (idiot) Governor is grasping at straws trying to stop the hemorrhaging of $$. The feces has impacted the air-moving device. As John said, boycotts are meant to hurt. If they don’t, not a damn thing will change.

  57. Billy Quiets: And how exactly do you know that this person is “of the opposite sex”? The point is that they *do* look like they belong in that bathroom. You have no idea that they are even there.

    Here’s a useful piece of information: in my entire lifetime of using the women’s restroom, I have never once seen anyone’s genitals. Ever. A baby’s butt once or twice, on the changing table, but never anything else.

    And do you know what I call people who demand to see other people’s genitals without that person wanting to show said bits? A pervert.

  58. To take an example from across the pond, the Corn Laws made the House of Lords an entrenched force against progressive legislation. Public pressure eventually defanged that body politically. Fortunately, it only took 5 or 6 decades of said pressure to accomplish this result.

    Boycott, no boycott, some of these people have made themselves relatively immune to having to listen to the part of the world living in the 21st century.

  59. I’m thinking about how a similar situation played out in San Francisco. The city raised the minimum wage. Borderland Books would have closed, as they could not afford the higher required wages. They appealed to the community, and now offer sponsorships to allow them to stay in business. We didn’t stop the higher wage- we supplemented the store’s income.

    Perhaps the small business owners of North Carolina and Mississippi will need to do something similar

  60. Billy Quiets:

    “Not to the people who still feel threatened by having them around their children. Don’t their rights count, too?”

    As much as the “rights” of those who feel threatened by having their children around black people or Jews, which is to say, nope, none at all. If they’re terrified that their children might be see a trans person in the bathroom, have the kids pee at home. Otherwise, fuck them and their ignorant bigotry. If they’re terrified they might see a trans person in the bathroom, kids or not, well, they should grow the fuck up. It’s not aggressive to want to pee in the bathroom that corresponds to your gender identification.

    Also, Billy Quiets, if you try equating trans people with child molesters thing again, even by way of the “some people” mechanism, you’re going to earn a long stint in moderation.

    Also, folks, this comment marks the end of this particular discussion. Any further posts on this particular topic get the Mallet.

  61. Not that this is a likely issue for writers, who rarely travel with roadies or an entourage, but one of the things that struck me about Bruce Springsteen’s cancellation was that he might have people working on his tour who were themselves trans.

    Even if I was not sold on the idea of a boycott, I would have deep reservations about asking someone to spend time in a state where the government had made it clear through legislation that they were not viewed as a full citizen or even really a human being.

  62. Wow.

    So, sorry for sounding angry. It has been a tense emotional time living in NC lately. By the way, this law effects every single North Carolinian. The law attacks minimum wage, it attacks the right to sue for ANY discrimination, it attacks local municipalities’ rights to create their own ordinances. It attacks a lot more than just who can go to which bathroom.

    Also, I should clarify the reason for my post. I live in Asheville. I go to Malaprop’s. I host the Writers Coffeehouse there once a month. So this is VERY personal. For many of you, it is completely impersonal. It’s just a point to argue. For me this is raw and emotional. Again, my apologies for sounding angry.

    Full disclosure: I am angry.

    This all sucks. It sucks balls, folks. It sucks huge giant, hairy, bigoted balls. And it feels like we are not only getting crushed by the Republican greed machine (because this is about greed, not just bigotry. That’s a smokescreen, y’all), but we are getting crushed by the rest of the country for something the vast majority of North Carolinians didn’t want. The most recent poll before the NC legislature jammed this down our throats was 72% against the State doing anything to overturn the Charlotte ordinance. 72%. That’s why it was rushed through for a vote and signed by the governor within 12 hours. That way what happened in Georgia couldn’t happen here. No time to pressure lawmakers at all. No time.

    But, I am going to take a some deep breaths and respond civilly and realize that the majority of folks posting mean well. I am sure y’all do. So, please do not try to tear me apart. I think we’re on the same side here, just have a disagreement on how to handle it.

    Here I go…

    In response to Mr. Scalzi:

    “Actually, if we don’t live in NC, it’s not shameful at all. It’s not our state, we’re not obliged to keep track of it.”

    True, you do not need to keep track of it, but if you are going to use a national platform and voice to talk about something that is happening in another state, at least do a little research for context. This was a coup, for lack of a better word. The People of NC didn’t want this, but the Republicans in the NC Legislature made it happen anyway. Calling for a blanket boycott, is basically saying that it’s too bad we had a shit sandwich thrust on us, but, hey, the sandwich happened so eat it and deal. That’s just feels cruel. We need help and compassion, not blanket judgement and a giant middle finger thrust at us.

    “If you are suggesting that people ignore North Carolina’s unjust law because they don’t know the process, well, now, that’s kind of stupid, isn’t it?”

    Huh? I never suggested that at all. Why the holy hell would I suggest that? I was asking folks to educate themselves on the struggle and fight that has been going on for years that has led to HB2. I want them to do the opposite of ignore it, I want them to be educated on how it all happened and why!

    I am also responding to your post, which is calling for a blanket boycott, as opposed to a targeted one. A blanket boycott ignores the struggles already happening. Some education might change your mind on that. It might lead you to think about calling for targeted boycotts. A targeted boycott, such as against the corporate dollars that support the legislators, might have more of an effect. It might not. I’m a writer, not a political analyst. But what will not help in any way, is going after the organizations, the companies, the small businesses, the allies that are trying to win this fight. It’s freaking hard, man! Why make it harder? That’s what I am saying. I apologize for any confusion on that point. Again, unbelievably angry here and emotions are overriding clarity at times.

    “Jakebible, no one has to care why your state did this fucked up, bigoted, awful thing, they just might care that it did, and make decisions based on that.”

    You know the whole ignore history and doomed to repeat it blah blah blah? Yeah, this is exactly why folks need to understand the whys, the hows, the process that led to this in order to avoid it in other states. Why would you want to be ignorant of what led to all of this? Don’t let this happen to you, folks. It can and it will sneak up on you fast. I moved to NC in 2002 and it was one of the most progressive states in the south. It was becoming one of the most progressive states in the entire country. Seriously! It voted blue in 2008! Then from 2010 to now, it all went to shit. In six years we went form super progressive to what you are looking at. Six years. That’s some scary shit, folks.

    “With regard to “voting harder,” your example is not relevant since the US House of Representatives is not a state governmental organ, and that is where the problem was”

    My example is very relevant because it demonstrates the gerrymandering that has created the toxic political system in this state. Come on, man, it wasn’t a stretch. State legislators make the districts, whether they are for national office or state and local office. My point is spot on.

    “but since you mention it, yes, please do vote harder — which in this case means convincing your neighbors who might not vote to vote, to convince those who vote that this law is horribly unjust, and doing what you can so that gerrymandering at any level is not a thing you can use as a process excuse.”

    Thousands and thousands of North Carolinians are doing just that, myself included. Your assumption that I am not, or that others aren’t, just reiterates my request (angry, hyperbolic request, yes) for folks to educate themselves before making blanket statements about the citizens of this state. But, the fact that all of our hard work isn’t working should show just how strong the gerrymandering is in this state. Don’t trust me, trust Bill Moyers on this one. He can explain it way better than I can.

    “In short: Not especially sympathetic to you, Jakebible. Stop whining here and get (back) to work fixing your state. In the meantime, some people are going to boycott your state. Deal with it.”

    Jesus, man. That’s just cold. I don’t even know how to respond to this. I mean, wow… “Deal with it.”? Damn. I’m really trying to figure out what your motivation for this entire post was. Do you even care what is happening here? Do you have any empathy at all for the pain so many North Carolinians are feeling? Deal with it? With what? That not only did we get a shit sandwich from our legislature, but now people that live hundreds and hundreds of miles away are freely pissing on us and telling us to call it rain? Deal with it… Jesus, dude.

    I’m on the right side of this issue here in NC. I hate HB2. Despise it. It affects me in ways you do not know. But you’re acting like my objection to the blanket boycott means I get to be treated like I am on the other side. I’m not the enemy. If you re-read my post, you’ll see that I was reacting to the folks that are insisting that a boycott will wake up North Carolinians and get them out voting and working for change. Guess what? We have been! Thousands and thousands of us have been! And still are! And we do talk about it, we do write letters and emails and work phone banks! We do speak up when one of our neighbors says that voting doesn’t matter! We do speak up when a bigot starts spouting off at the mouth!

    This is why I am angry. This is why I posted what I did. This is why a blanket boycott is ignoring what is actually happening here in this state. The war is already being fought and calling for a boycott cuts off our supply lines. It hurts our base. It destroys our sanctuaries and our meeting places. Everyone talks about not filling the coffers of the state, but you don’t realize the state coffers don’t matter. That’s 4.75%. 4.75%! Add in local taxes and you are looking at 7% max!

    What matters are for small businesses such as Malaprop’s to be able to stay in business so folks can have jobs and keep fighting. It is impossible to fight for justice and fight against bigotry when you can’t support yourself. Why would you support a boycott that will only have a maximum 7% effect when you could support small businesses and let them hang onto their 93% and stay in business and keep providing places for citizens to have voices, to meet and discuss, to plan and organize all of things that we are already doing. 7% against or 93% for.

    Hell, man, come to Asheville and only 4.25% goes to the state and the rest stays local. It stays with a municipality that is fighting alongside its citizens. Eat at a local restaurant or microbrewery. Stay in a locally owned B&B or hotel or resort. Buy a book at Malaprop’s. Come talk to us and lend a helping hand. Give us ideas. Share your thoughts and what you think might help.

    Help make things better instead of worse!

    That’s all I’m asking. And, again, I am sorry for my anger earlier. None of the above is said in anger at all. It is said with passion and commitment to trying to help educate everyone about what is really happening here in NC. It most certainly is not whining. ;)

    Thanks, y’all. I appreciate the discussion and I am glad that so many of you are speaking up, speaking out, and doing whatever you can to help.


  63. I live in a state where being “business friendly” is a huge goal for most conservative politicians, from the governor on down. That’s the case for many conservative states. If suddenly businesses don’t agree – especially because you’re passing regulations – legislators will almost certainly start hearing about it from more than just the people who oppose the law. I am not a fan of the fact that it works that way, but it does.
    I do support the idea of boycotts for that reason. If the legislature won’t listen to its own progressive citizens, maybe it needs to start hearing from the kind of people it listens to – businesses and pro-business voters.
    Personally if I were the bookstore owner I wouldn’t be whinging to the NYT and blaming boycotters – I’d be whinging to my legislators, even if I’ve done it a thousand times before. I’d be whinging to pro-small business organizations and advocates, right down my town’s Chamber of Commerce.
    I’d be winging to my local Republican party and prominent Republican donors in my state (usually you can find them on the Secretary of State’s website). I’d be whinging to my neighbors and relatives all over the state to let them know that this law is impacting my life and my business. I’d be doing all I could to extend the impact of the boycott and publicly place harm to my business at the feet of those who really caused it. I’d be contacting my fellow small business who have experienced harm due to the boycotts and telling them what I did and why it would be a good idea for them to do the same. I’d be speaking to the press too, but what I said would be very different.
    Sometimes, that’s what it means to be an ally for marginalized groups. Finding creative ways to fight against harm to you and your family is the hallmark of groups who have no choice but to keep fighting. If your livelihood is at stake, you have to fight. I do happen to think that the progressive families and businesses of North Carolina are fighting the wrong people if they fight boycotters.

  64. My first thought was to do a web search for ‘study effectiveness boycotts’, because I got curious as to when boycotts are successful. One of the first results was an article on boycotts against corporations. Far beyond the dollar value of lost sales Braydon King found that it was the media attention and publicity that negatively changed the corporation’s reputation that caused change. He suggests that when going after corporations boycott organizers will be most successful targeting corporations with positive reputations that are already declining.

    Many studies find that the actual financial hit suffered by either corporations or nations being protested is fairly low including in the case of South Africa. However, the attention and moral pressure often results in change of behavior.

    So, does North Carolina have a positive reputation that it wants to protect? The media aspect certainly seems to be present with wide coverage of the artists and companies that are refusing to do business with NC.

  65. Speaking of voting harder, Robert A. Heinlein once wrote a novel, Doublestar, where none of the main characters were politicians, yet all of the main characters were involved card carrying party members. In other words, voting is not the only way to be involved.

    And please vote locally, not just at the state level. My local level (municipality) had apathy among the people, as we were a bedroom community, and dishonesty (real estate) among those elected. Result? One of the locally elected politicians later became provincial premier (state governor) and was involved in a scandal.

    Does it work to get a party membership? Yes, according to party member Robert Heinlein in his book Take Back Your Government. Of course, you have to work harder with other members, but it can be done.

  66. At the risk of going off topic (please mallet if appropriate), the main character in Double Star was impersonating the Opposition Leader in a system modeled on the Australian parliament. Other main characters were also, or ended up as, members of the same parliament, and an election was one of the key events in the plot.

    So “none of the main characters were politicians” is somewhat inaccurate.

  67. I believe in equal uneasiness for everyone, rip out all the dual sex bathrooms and install unisex ones. Here are the reasons why:

    1: no more carding to use the restroom and no one breaks the law (which is an idiotic one anyway) It makes the transgendered nervous as well as the straights when encountering those who appear to be the opposite sex in the bathroom. This way, everyone is nervous and if enough people don’t like it, they can vote the person into office who vows to change it back.

    2: Less graffiti: who is going to write something on the wall when there is a greater chance they would get caught putting something questionable on the wall.

    3: Only put stalls in, no standing urinals. everything is divided by walls so no one can see if you are standing up or sitting down. and truthfully, no one SHOULD care. (except for those who have to clean up after guys with bad aim). I would say glue the seats down, but being a guy who has had to sit down in a public toilet, i can tell you it wont be a deterrent if the lid can’t be raised.

    4: If you don’t like it, you don’t have to patron the business, but if this catches on, you will be in the minority soon and will have to learn to either accept the change, learn to hold it in, or buy stock in adult diapers.

    5: Girls would be able to drag their boyfriends off to the bathroom if there are no girlfriends around to go with them. (I’m really not expecting that to happen, but the chance of dates visiting the bathroom is a mathematical eventuality, best to get it out there early)

    6: In the long run, it would be a benefit. unisex bathrooms will put everyone on edge, at first: but then it would become commonplace and maybe a little more understanding would develop over time.

    This is an extremely optimistic viewpoint and of course it couldn’t happen in the bible belt simply because the religious zealots out there, who could put the Muslim to shame in regards to the treatment of women; would never let it happen.

  68. Here’s an interesting idea that always comes to mind when conservative evangelicals talk about their religious freedom and a right to discriminate against those they disagree with.

    What if a person’s deeply held religious beliefs include the idea that these hateful evangelicals are blasphemous heretics and are so far removed from Christian theology as to be disgusting and pitiable?

    What if someone feels that anyone who never passes up a chance to praise Jesus’ name, but then promptly forgets every single thing he ever said, taught or asked of his followers to be dangerously anti-Christian? That someone who does not hold love, compassion and respect for their fellow human beings as the highest expression of morality is un-Christian and thus blasphemous?

    Could they refuse service to a conservative evangelical under one of these laws?

    Somehow I doubt it, since these laws only seem to be about enshrining prejudice against LGBT people and have absolutely nothing to do ACTUAL religious freedom.

    It’s been a while, but I certainly don’t remember Jesus saying anything on the subject of homosexuality in the gospels…

  69. If my state ever passes a law like that, you can be damn sure I’ll participate in whatever boycotts are available to me and approve of boycotts by people from out of state and get vocal with my state legislators and governor.

    But your state has passed laws similar to that, BW — they all have. Up until recently, the entire country had a no marriage for gay people law. Check out which ones your state has violating various civil rights currently. This is not a North Carolina problem. It’s an America problem. (Or more thoroughly, a world problem.)

    Boycotts are another way to turn over the rocks that these idiots hide under, because in AZ, as much as the haters hate queers and brown people, they hate looking stupid more.

    But they don’t hate looking stupid more than brown people, JNS. The government fought to keep the law in place and won. Most of them were not kicked out of office in the next cycle. Arizona’s legislature continues to regularly put through or try to put through bills into law to legally discriminate against Latinos, and continues to be run by Republicans with a Republican governor who don’t care in the least about looking stupid — or the state’s economy which they’ve systematically ruined. Arizona legally hates and jails brown people for being brown, in violation of the Constitution and federal laws about search and seizure. What the Arizona boycott did was not save Arizona Latinos and non-whites, but it did stop similar bills in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Michigan, South Carolina and Minnesota from being voted on into law.

    This isn’t a them problem; it’s an us problem. And it’s hard. Folks in Wisconsin fought extremely hard in protest against Walker for years and tried to recall him, but failed and quite a few of them got arrested. And that was JakeBible’s point — a lot of North Carolinians have been protesting, standing up to school boards and town councils and taking action for the last several years. Moral Mondays — weekly protests — have been very successful as a movement there. I offer them full applause for that.

    But the boycotts of NC support the efforts of NC activists, not undercut them. The boycotts aren’t a judgement on the people of NC (the judgement is of the Republicans who pushed the bill through and the governor,) but they are a test for the people of NC — and an opportunity. They give those NC activists more ammunition to use in protesting and pressuring the NC government to change things and move the ghouls out of office through elections. The boycotts give ammunition to the lawsuits being filed or that will be filed. And the boycotts give ammunition to politicians and activists in other states facing the same sort of bills in the state legislature. If you’re for Moral Mondays, you should be for the boycotts — the goal is the same. Change the social climate of both NC and the entire U.S. towards equality and anti-discrimination by registering how very, very cross we are about a revenge attempt at Jim Crow style laws and the attempt at weakening labor laws.

    Gerrymandering of districts does not work if the people in the red districts refuse to support politicians pushing discrimination. Work for change of the social attitudes and gerrymandering works less and less and the politicians change their tunes accordingly. That’s how states go from red to purple. Boycotts do indeed declare NC to be run by backwards unacceptable bigots who are harming the state economy. That may or may not change North Carolinians but it does force them to think about who they want to be and it does force people in other states to confront the issue. It calls out the fact that there’s a big fat wall of systemic discrimination sitting there.

    Trans people make up a very tiny part of the population (though still millions of folk.) But they are making some headway on protecting their civil rights and increasing equality; they’re in the spotlight along with the rest of the queer spectrum, and activists are calling out the harm and discrimination they get. So the con pols figure they are the group that can still freak others out. So they’re the target to raise cash and solidify political power, while weakening civil rights and labor laws in the process. National boycotts from big companies and icons of working class white rock disrupt that photo op. They’ve got the legal victory because they hold legal power, but the more protest, the more their actions actually push the society left. So the Louisiana Democratic governor can get elected and can sign an executive order against discrimination, etc.

    Immigrants, Muslims, refugees and the growing Latino population are all making some headway in protecting their civil rights and increasing equality. So they are in the spotlight and activists are calling out the harm and discrimination they get. So pols like Trump figure they are the groups that can still freak others out. So he targets them. National protests disrupt the photo op. So that’s why Trump’s followers keep beating up protesters at rallies in a desperate attempt to look like persecuted heroes. The protests are increasing and Trump’s followers’ shouted on camera bigotry is pushing American society more leftwards.

    Black Lives Matter and other black activist efforts are making some headway in calling for justice and police reform to remove systemic discrimination towards black people and non-whites. So they are in the spotlight. So con pols figure they are the groups that can still freak others out (scary violent black people are coming to hurt you, kill police and take your white women, etc.), and target them to raise money and solidify political power. They are trying to get BLM dismissed like they did black activist efforts at police reform in the 1980’s. But we actually did get police reform in the late 1980’s and we have the Internet now, so they can’t shut them up, despite trying to do state laws to make their protests illegal. And most people really don’t want to acknowledge that Americans (like a good chunk of the Western world,) are white supremacists. So their actions are pushing people to the left, towards more equality.

    Civil rights protests work. Boycotts work. Twitter hashtags can work. They are speaking up. They may not work directly, but they definitely have indirect effects by dragging the baby demon ghoul of discrimination into the light. Civil rights are about saying people are human and equal. That argument is a blunt small teaspoon against the wall of discrimination, but it’s hard to counter and look good.

    The law will not be repealed in North Carolina, though it may be amended. The boycott won’t work and will eventually get called off. But it will make NC more purple. It will affect elections in NC. It will help civil rights activism in NC. And it will help national trans and gay rights. And it will stop similar bills in other states. Because it is a lot of blunt small teaspoons chipping at the wall at once. So JakeBible, the boycotts are for you, not against you, even if it doesn’t always feel that way and even if some clueless people mouth off because they want to think their state’s shit doesn’t stink like NC. It does; they all do and D.C. too. Use the boycotts. Usually other people in other states — they don’t give a crap what’s happening where you are. But right now, they do. The media doesn’t care. But Bruce Springsteen makes the media care. Use Bruce Springsteen — he’s asking you to do so. Shove Bruce Springsteen’s boycott in those pols’ faces and “down their throats” as their big fat problem, even if they say they don’t care. Nobody cares if they care. It’s still chipping into the wall and working against them.

    Y’all are brave down in North Carolina. But it’s not enough yet. It might not be enough our whole lives. But there’s a dent in the wall. Keep chipping at it.

  70. Ryan:

    I think your comment may be drifting a bit out of the lane and into a more general discussion of religion. Let’s tighten up, please.

  71. I think that at least some of the people complaining that a boycott of NC will impact on the people of the state who had nothing, directly, to do with the passing of the law lacked those scruples will much harsher boycotts (or sanctions) have been placed on countries like Iran or Iraq for the same basic reason (to force a change in the policies and behaviour of the government).

    I’m not trying to make a goose and gander argument. Just suggesting that if it’s a legitimate action to take against ‘them’ then it’s probably a legitimate action to take against ‘us’.

  72. “For many of you, it is completely impersonal.” – Jakebible

    It most certainly is not impersonal for many of us. It is incredibly frustrating to see this kind of thing happen so often in this country, in this century. We are personally outraged and angered, as you are. As I mentioned above, the boycott is working. McCrory is scared or he wouldn’t be floundering around about this. Republicans aren’t used to being on the receiving end of corporate displeasure.

    I think one thing that could help is to promote those retailers and small businesses like Malaprops to a national audience and tell their story – and suggest that boycotters make an effort to “Buy a Book to Bump the Boycott”. A commenter on this thread has already done that. In fact, Malaprops might want to do some promotional stuff on that theme.

  73. No worries, it’s just one of those things that nag at me when discussions of ‘religious freedom’ come up.

  74. I have several siblings (and spouses) who eventually moved to NC, and they’ve all drunk the Republican Kool-Aid, so I have no sympathy for them. One brother-in-law is convinced that there is no case where government can do a better job than unfettered capitalism, a brother had no problems taking extended unemployment benefits, but after he got a job, it was time to stop extending the benefits because it discouraged people from finding jobs, and one sister was against Obamacare but had no idea that keeping her kids on her insurance until they are 26 (which she is doing) is part of Obamacare. I’ve never asked any of them about HB2, but because of the boycott, I think I may just the next time I talk to them. So yeah, the boycott’s probably a good thing.

  75. If it makes you feel better, Ryan, the Mississippi law is so broad and vague that yes, people can legally discriminate against doing business with evangelical far right Christians because of their religious beliefs about evangelical far right Christians under the law. And there are activists in that state who may be doing just that, in fact, as protest.

    The law in MS also allows businesses to refuse to serve black people, single mothers, straight couples living together but not married, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Asians, etc. due to religious beliefs. It allows employers to force their female employees to wear make-up and if they refuse, they can be fired and can’t sue for wrongful termination. It pretty much completely violates half the Constitution and federal laws. It might actually get overturned from lawsuits.

    But they aren’t concentrating on boycotts there because A) it’s really hard to get the media to care about Mississippi; B) Mississippi is dead broke already, thanks to the Republicans, and has little in the way of corporations or Hollywood studios who could apply leverage with a boycott threat; and C) North Carolina has more momentum, precisely because of North Carolinian activists like JakeBible and it being a more purple state.

  76. -JakeBible

    I hear you and share your frustrations. If I were a resident of NC, I would go out of my way to support businesses such as Malaprop’s who are fighting the good fight. Further, I strongly applaud your support of them. But – I am not a resident – so how else can I express my disappointment in your state’s government (and other states, countries, even companies who behave abhorrently) than make a conscious decision not to spend money there? So yes, it dumps the burden on good people such as yourself to carry the fight to the fuckers, and I am sorry about that, but it also gives you a tool, albeit a prickly one, something to use when pounding on the doors, desks and heads of those self-same fuckers.

  77. One modification to the boycott may be useful. Once the law is repealed, spend some money in NC.

    Sure, if the boycott closes a business, you can’t spend there later, and time-value of money is important even if the business survives, but as long as the law gets removed in a reasonable time, it would help.

    Plus it gives those of us who were already not spending money in NC some way to help encourage good behavior.

  78. Cruelly, we have to make a Horrible Example of NC, in order to stop this thing from metastising.

    HB2 is exactly in accord with the recent Republican National Committee resolution on the subject. No, the NC Republicans are not “rogue”, and I’m sure they were astonished at the outcry, and feel aggrieved by it.

    The FRC – Family Research Council – a designated Hate Group – was recently given a seat on the RNC. Their stated objective is to remove all legal recognition of Trans people, and prevent any body, state, federal or private insurance, paying for their necesary medical care. The unstated objective goes further of course, but only a few members are impolitic enough to talk about extermination. That doesn’t go down well at the polls. Yet.

    It’s difficult reconciling this with my belief and observation that those who vote Republican are no less decent and humane than those who don’t. Scientifically, less well-informed in the mass, yet most engineers tend to vote R based on a perception of technocratic and economic competence, and a revulsion to pretention and the “feel good but do nothing” politics that has been so characteristic of the Left in the past.

    I don’t think the Democrats have improved significantly. But the GOP has gone from something that was arguably sane at least, to something quite dangerous.

    If there was any other way rather than unfairly, unjustly and cruelly cauterising the healthy as well as the diseased in NC, for Ghu’s sake, let us know! What we’re doing is a great wrong, and nothing can erase our guilt. Not to do it would be a greater wrong though.

    In other news…

    A lot depends on G. G. v. Gloucester County School Board, a case before the 4th circuit. Simply, the EEOC says that actions like those in HB2 are against Title VII and Title IX. Usually that’s a slam-dunk, the EEOC is the body tasked with interpreting that law. But never, ever underestimate the animus against Trans people. The 4th circuit could well rule that HB2’s potty panic sections are A-OK, despite all the evidence. The First Circuit has done worse before to Trans people, ruling that the 8th amendment has a specific carve-out, ruling that Trans people and only Trans people aren’t covered by it. SCOTUS refused cert.

  79. Except.. My father’s side of the genetic part that is me is from NC. Lots of wonderous boyhood years running in the sand and playing Hide-and-seek after midnight amongst the majorly tall pines with my cousins… the only aunt from his side of the family who had the amazing skill of being able to feed 10 people breakfast and squeeze in 5 or 6 more and make it look like she planned it… Yeah… for some reasons I say punish the fuck out of NC for that stupid bill, but fuck ya’ll for fucking with my family. Choke on that ya’ll. I ain’t sure where I stand and I’ve been choking on it for a few days now.

  80. This whole thing gives me a serious case of deja vu, because I lived in Colorado when it passed (by popular referendum) a similar law back in the early 90s. The law essentially stated that no city could have local ordinances that protected gay, lesbian or bisexual people from discrimination, nor could LGBT people claim discrimination in employment, housing, services etc. It was overturned (to much whining by Colorado conservatives) in 1996 by a Supreme Court ruling, Romer v Evans, because it did not satisfy the equal protection clause. The main difference between Colorado’s Amendment 2 and this law, from what I can tell, is that this one is actually broader.

    I don’t understand how this law is different or how it can possibly stand up in court, unless Trump (or Cruz) wins the election in November and picks the next 2-3 justices. Maybe that’s what these legislators were banking on when they passed it?

  81. Digitalatheist:

    The likelihood is that most of the boycotts aren’t going to do anything to your family, first off. But I understand the contradiction. We don’t want our family members hurt even though they have gone out of their way to harm their neighbors and then can’t for the life of them understand how that’s a problem. Because they’re used to it being normal and right to seek to harm their neighbors, and why are all these people “suddenly” so angry about the harm being done to them. It’s a continual process. But here’s one thing to keep in mind — the impetus for these laws isn’t to punish trans people and gay people. That’s just the bonus excuse. The main cause is to solidify political power and hold over the economy and regulation in order to strip-mine the state for businesses. Keeping trans people out of bathrooms — and adding everything under the sun to them — keeps kids in NC from getting decent educations and economic opportunities (especially the black ones.) It keeps the problems resulting from climate change from being tackled, meaning part of NC is slowly sinking into the sea and the other half is being poisoned and squeezed into a dead heat zone.

    So yeah, it is an attempt at chemotherapy — temporary pain in order to save NC from dying a horrible slow death. Look what happened to Kentucky when the Democrats lost control of the legislature. Look at poor Kansas. Look at, shudder, poor Alabama. North Carolina is so pretty — why prop up the illusion of a good economy under the Republican strip-mining and let it be destroyed? That’s not helping your aunt. It’s shooting her in the foot.


    The legislators don’t care if the law stands up in court or not. This whole thing again is to make money, solidify political control and weaken labor laws and other goodies for corporations (sometimes the same ones calling for boycott unfortunately.) The legal team that helped out Kim Davis and other supposedly persecuted persecuting Christians are the people who are drafting these laws — in 20 different states and more to come. They have a very clear agenda, they are affiliated with the FRC, and this is a highly successful new money making policy machine that they are using now that the gay marriage well is rather dry. They’ll make money on the legal defense of the law whether that’s successful or not. And it’s another way to bust unions, milk federal aid and keep working people desperate and stuck while trying to get as many trans people beaten and killed as possible.

    The bathroom part of the law is completely unenforceable — just because you try to eat in somebody’s McDonald’s does not mean that they get to look at your breasts or your penis — and so far has served largely to get some cis men and women kicked out of restaurants because someone in the place decided they must be trans people instead. It’s already backfiring because a lot of restaurants are making their bathrooms unisex and family instead or putting all welcome signs and stickers on their businesses, despite the risk of terror tactics. This law is moving NC further left.

    Which again, the people behind these laws don’t care about. The important things are power, money, depressing labor, propaganda and instability that scares their target food sources. Which they are also getting.

  82. Laws like this are often the work product of elected officials who forget who they work for. While I’m sure there are some who support revolting laws like this, I am willing to bet it’s not a majority of NC residents. But the others came out to vote when the reasonable people stayed home because they thought it didn’t matter. Voting always matters.

  83. “Not only that, the NC law, unlike other recent anti-LGBT laws, also contains a provision that removes the right of employees to sue their employers for discrimination on the basis of, e.g., race. This is not getting as much coverage as it should.”

    And, you know, the sneaky part of my brain is thinking: good strategy. This is the Jews and the unicyclists again. (You know the joke. Hitler’s hiding away in the Brazilian jungle planning his comeback, and he finally reveals he’s going to round up and kill all the Jews and all the unicyclists. And one of his henchmen goes: “What? Why do you want to kill the unicyclists?” And Hitler smirks and says “You see? I told you no one cared about the Jews!”)

    So the NC government pass a bill that says lots of horrible things, including one truly unbelievably horrible thing (the bathroom clause) and the protests and the boycotts kick in and eventually they say “We’re bowing to public pressure and removing the bathroom clause!” and all the protesters say YAY! and the NC government get to look like Christian martyrs… and all the other horrible things just keep happening.

  84. Does anyone else picture a large, repulsive amphibian when they see the word “gerrymander?”

  85. Oh, for bleep sake, I posted a comment twice and nothing’s appeared. What’s going on?

  86. Pictures are automatically placed in moderation, that’s what’s going on. Keeps trolls from posting obnoxious pictures. This is a thing noted in the comment policy.

  87. Ajay, you came very close with that prediction, only it’s the other stuff that will likely be removed/repealed, while the bathroom part remains in place. The municipal anti-discrimination preemption is only the latest in their attacks on local governments, and they may be (finally) feeling the heat from their base on big-government overreach. And the part that blocked people from filing workplace discrimination suits in state courts (forcing them to go Federal) is looking like it’s in violation of our (NC) Constitution, so the R’s might get rid of that to keep their butts out of court.

    These two issues were mentioned in Governor McPander’s recent Executive Order (which was pointless and politically-motivated), but both he and the GOP leadership are saying the bathroom part is going to remain, come hell or high water.

  88. @Kat Godwin

    You making a pretty damn bold assumption that my family members have gone out of the way to hurt others.. without knowing their beliefs. Both sides of my family have (for the most part) been pretty liberal in my life time… and even back in the very early 1900’s when it wasn’t cool to ask someone with dark brown skin to sit at the table and be served a meal because.. well they were a person, not a color.

    On the other hand I know what you are getting at, which is why I’m torn. For some people there is a “make them suffer”… HELL I got some of that in me. And yet… I have family and friends in NC. I worked there for a decade in mountains that are 250 million years old. It’s where I I learned at least enough Spanish to be able to talk to the Latino community around me and not feel like a total idiot.

    As for embargos, I ain’t sure they will work that well nowadays. Your flight might change connections in Raleigh-Durham or Charlotte. Can you really afford to pay extra to avoid those airports? Is your schedule flexible enough to take hours that won’t connect there? How about people traveling the Atlantic coast? They have to get gas, snacks, rest. Are you going to bypass NC to avoid that and go through TN instead?

    I think the refusal to do business by groups like the NBA or NCAA, NFL or big name businesses will do more in the long run.

    Also, just for the nicotine fiends out there… are you going to stop smoking? ‘Cause a crap ton of that tobacco is from NC. I know, my father’s family used to raise it. You can pass miles and miles of fields of it. The same goes for corn and soybeans and some cotton, although in my youth SC here did more cotton (still nothing as beautiful as a cotton field in bloom, or ready to be picked).

    I meant to also address your point about NC sinking back into the sea. If it does, it will only be returning to whence it came. My family is near Fayetteville and in you poke around in the sand (a reminder of the previous time it was covered by sea) it is easy to find bits of seashells hither and yon. Mind you, I don’t want to see it and hope a crap ton of people get real and start backing science instead of dead religious ideas about how the world works.

    I’m torn, and I think I got a right to be.

  89. Billy Quiets:

    If people adhere to the NC law, I guarantee that girls and cis women are going to see people with beards in the women’s room, because that’s where law-abiding trans men are going to have to go. The two trans men I know best have beards. (Lots of trans men do – it’s an easy way for shorter men with more delicate facial features to be obviously male.) Nobody’s going to look at either of them and say “Yep, clearly they should use the ladies’ room”; most people who don’t know them would never know they weren’t identified as boys at birth. So men like them in North Carolina get to choose – use the ladies’ and potentially get beaten up or killed, or use the mens’ and violate the law? (Or move out of state; I’m pretty sure that the bigots who passed the law would be equally happy to see my friends beaten, arrested, or just out of their state.)

  90. Emily and Orthogonal really broke down the nuances of the issue beautifully, and jakebible’s second post provided some important context.

    The governor and state legislators feel boycotts from PayPal, Deutsche Bank, and maybe even Springsteen acutely. Your average author reading at Malaprop’s? Not so much. There are plenty of understandable and compelling reasons that an author might cancel her reading in light of the bill, and I wouldn’t blame an individual for doing so, but it’s neither morally obligatory nor terribly consequential. For an author saying, “I don’t want to spend my dollars anywhere in NC and I want to register my disapproval,” I’d suggest that actually engaging in the political dialogue within the state will often carry more force than simply withdrawing from the situation.

    In some cases, boycotts run the risk of becoming placeholder activism, as well. HB2 was only possible because of the egregious and racist redistricting in NC — something as morally corrosive as HB2, but less likely to prompt boycotts, and also dangerously common. While this isn’t an either/or proposition, I worry about cases where someone might feel good about themselves for not ordering books from an independent store in NC, but ignores redistricting abuses in their own state.

    I’d say it’s not fundamentally right or wrong to either boycott or continue to participate in local NC economies, but it is shortsighted to say “Boycotts are supposed to hurt” and leave it at that. If we accept that there is such a thing as a well-intentioned but misguided or even counterproductive boycott, then we should ask ourselves if the boycott we’re considering might be one of those. Sometimes we’ll come to the conclusion that it’s effective and right and wise. Sometimes we might come to the decision that it’s not likely to be effective, but some other factor makes it right or necessary for us. Sometimes we may find that a boycott would have unintended or problematic consequences and there are better forms of activism available. But it’s a case-by-case thing — blanket boycotts on a given issue probably aren’t the most thoughtful approach.

  91. For what it’s worth, I think @JakeBible and others from North Carolina are demonstrating pretty effectively that there’s a lot we don’t know about the state and the political situation that begat this law. John – I’m curious about your reaction to @JakeBible’s second comment (14-April, 7:41PM). Was he successful in changing your views?

    Also, for what it’s worth: I am particularly disappointed in Bruce Springsteen here. Most folks have two choices: financially support the state or financially penalize the state. Mr. Springsteen has a third option that is somewhat unique to his talents & his profession: the protest song. He has, in the past, written songs about social & political situations that he disagreed with, and the popularity of those songs (Nationally? Internationally?) have brought all sorts of attention to those issues that they might not have otherwise received. And then there’s whatever Mr. Springsteen chooses to do with the song’s proceeds. I’m not spending his money for him, but a song about this law could raise millions to help elect those who would make sure nothing like this ever happened in NC again. Had Springsteen written such a song & debuted it in North Carolina, it would surely have gone viral and would very likely have had much more of an impact than his cancelation of a single show.

    Last thing: I know a Steve Harrison in North Carolina. @SteveHarrison – are you him?

  92. @Brian Greenberg:
    If Springsteen had been able to write such a song, and if it had gone viral, it might have drawn worldwide attention the like of which N.C. is already dealing with and ignoring. Worldwide, people might notice, but locally to N.C. all it would have done is fill the state’s coffers and fill the bank accounts of local businesses. To them it would show that this law was good for business as it brought people in to listen to the protest songs. At worst it would show that, while people were angry, it wouldn’t have a negative financial effect at the local level and life could go on as normal.

    In cancelling the gig, Springsteen showed that it would definitely have a local effect and it wouldn’t be business as normal, and neither the state nor the businesses who didn’t bother to protest beyond a -Meh, it’s bad but what can you do-level would profit. It made the previously uninvolved very involved and made sure the effects were local to N.C. Now that is worth all the ifs and mights in the world.

    I’m betting with every cancelled gig, convention, and new employer cancelling, the phones to the party donors light up red hot in a way that a few protest songs and business as normal never does. For the small businesses losing money, sorry that it sucks but it sucks worse for the LGBT folks, so why don’t you guys donate to the cause and hit the phones to the Republican local party too.

  93. Yes, I know about the picture reference on the policy page. But it’s a link to a Wikipedia page with the picture on it. I didn’t think it was the same thing.

    But don’t you think it’s cooler than an amphibian?

  94. Springsteen gave the biggest boost to the boycott by giving it publicity. I knew about (and abhorred) the law. Many of my friends and acquaintances did not. But they know that Springsteen cancelled his concert because of it. His action brought an awareness that North Carolina now has to deal with. The very famous CAN make a difference by their actions. If nothing else, they can raise awareness.

  95. Digitalatheist: “I’m torn.”

    My first post on this thread was trying to point out the difference between “boycotts are supposed to hurt” and “boycotts are moral”. War is supposed to hurt, but not all wars are moral.

    Sometimes the internet falls on someone’s head for unjust reasons and causes unjust outcomes: Gamergaters getting a woman fired because she spoke about sexism. But that doesnt mean all instances of internet-falling is immoral.

    Targeting an area for the sins of a few is problematic. In war, its called collective punishment and is considered a war crime. But the punishment is usually to lay seige to an entire population of essential goods and services. The seige of gaza is dancing in the neighborhood of a war crime. The sanctions against Iraq may have caused the deaths of children due to unsanitary conditions created, which might also be considered a war crime. (But as long as we live in a world where waterboarding prisoners of war doesnt get you before the Hague, dont count on a prosecution)

    On the other end of the spectrum, collectively punishing a group by withholding a Bruce Springsteen concert? Not a war crime. Not a crime. And I cant see any way that it would be found to be immoral.

    Do these sorts of boycotts hurt your very-liberal family members who opposed the bigotted laws? A little. Economically, the lost income would have to be spread out over the entire population of those affected. Which renders the cost to any individual family member to be vanishingly small. Lets say it costs them each one dollar.

    My question to you would be whether your family is progressive enough that they would be willing to bear the cost of one dollar if it put pressure on the state to change its bigotted laws.

    Now, if one of your family works for a concert company that was planning on hosting Bruce Springsteen, then the cost is much higher. And then perhaps one could make the case that they are being unfairly punished as a result of the boycott.

    But otherwise, it seems that the actual impact of the boycott puts the econmic pressure on the money-makers and the one-percenters who might have influence on government, and the the cost for individuals in the rest of the state is so diffuse that it has no monetary effect. Ik which case, the broadest, most widespread effect, is bad publicity, not money.

  96. Digitalatheist:

    You making a pretty damn bold assumption that my family members have gone out of the way to hurt others.. without knowing their beliefs. Both sides of my family have (for the most part) been pretty liberal in my life time… and even back in the very early 1900’s when it wasn’t cool to ask someone with dark brown skin to sit at the table and be served a meal because.. well they were a person, not a color.

    I didn’t have to make any assumptions at all because you TOLD me exactly how your relatives were deliberately trying to hurt their neighbors (“Republican Kool-aid,” remember.) Your relative who got unemployment benefits and is now trying to harm his neighbors by depriving them of unemployment benefits. Your sister benefits from the ACA and is deliberately trying to harm her neighbors by demanding they be deprived of getting the benefits of the ACA. They are doing these things. They are seeking policies and politicians to push those policies that deliberately harm their neighbors and block their civil rights in a free society. They are claiming that this harm to their neighbors is right and just and should be/continue to be the fundamental operating principals of U.S. society.

    And they are surprised that others are upset about that (the damn liberals, etc. — you,) because deliberately harming their neighbors is normal to them, reasonable, logical, what everybody does and should believe. It’s what they’ve been taught and accepted and refused to turn away from. And as long as everybody reassures them that they are nice people who of course don’t really want to harm their neighbors, and their positions are perfectly justified or at least should be in power or in power just as much as any other view, they can happily go about putting those politicians in power and harming their neighbors. They can claim deliberately harming their neighbors is a good thing and the law backs them up. That’s what they did with segregation in the South, and women not having the vote and depriving gays the right to marry the person of their choice or serve openly in the military. That’s what they do now with flying Confederate flags in public government spaces, discriminating against trans people and supporting Trump building a wall against Mexicans.

    But when we get out the teaspoons and chip at the wall by saying/showing you’re harming your neighbors and it’s wrong and it should stop (and oh boy is that fun doing it with my mom who is basically a New England liberal and incredibly sweet but likes to listen to talk radio,) they have to deal with it. If there are enough teaspoons, they can’t claim that it’s all normal and everyone agrees with them. They may never give up their desire and belief to deliberately harm their neighbors, but some of them do. They give up the old, fake reality that it’s okay and they change, especially when it involves the welfare of people they know and love.

    And society changes regardless because we didn’t accept harm as normal. That’s how we got marriage equality. And that’s what the boycotts are doing. The boycotts make a lot of people angry and feel picked upon and that’s part of the process — a learning process. Because if they don’t, they can keep pretending that harming their gay and trans neighbors is normal and they can keep making it the law now and in the future. The boycotts say, “you are harming people. Your politicians are harming people. Work to stop it.” Many won’t listen to the message, but many who didn’t even think about it before will.

    If enough social pressure builds up, if enough people shout that it’s not okay for grandma or dad or your brother to deliberately seek to harm their neighbors with the law and the cops no matter how nice people they are, then you get social change. Your relatives who sat down with black people — risked their necks. The black people who ate with them RISKED THEIR LIVES EVEN MORE. Those were teaspoons. Your siblings’ current beliefs are the wall of discrimination. They can stop being part of the wall anytime. But you probably will have to keep chipping away at them with teaspoons of non-acceptance to get that to happen. You can use a blunt teaspoon or a subtle teaspoon — anyone that you want. But if we don’t keep using teaspoons and using them constantly and loudly, nothing is going to change because nothing has to.

    A lot of the angry cons who support folk like Trump are angry that people aren’t accepting their views. They consider that equally angry lack of acceptance of their deliberate harming of their neighbors (teaspoons,) to be harm to themselves. They cling to those who share their views because it makes them feel like harming their neighbors is still okay, as they were taught or came to believe. After all, those trans neighbors are putting on dresses and hiding in women’s bathrooms to attack. (All of a sudden, these folks actually believe in sexual assault.)

    But trans women are not doing that. It’s a lie (because social pressure is already chipping away at their claims so they are pressured enough to lie,) in order to deliberately hurt their neighbors — trans people, gay people, women who are running around thinking they are equal in the workplace and don’t have to put paint on their skin, etc. And again and again, we have to tell them that they are deliberately hurting their neighbors. Or they all will keep doing it. Because it is right and just and everybody thinks it’s perfectly fine.

    The risk of doing it over and over again ranges from unpleasant conversations to death. I don’t think people really get that Bruce Springsteen just painted a big old assassination target on his back, bigger than the one that was already there as a famous person and then the one that was there as a liberal singer. But he still took his larger than usual teaspoon and stuck it in the wall of discrimination. Trans people are regularly beaten, fired and killed in the U.S. Because of people with views like your siblings that you have stated they have, and them being in control of laws. Doesn’t mean that you can’t love them. I totally get you being torn about things.

    And we all contribute to the wall, accidentally and sometimes accidentally on purpose, even when we take out teaspoons and chip at another part of the wall. It’s a big wall and we’ve lived with it all our lives. It’s stuff we don’t think about. Until someone who has been getting hurt from it shouts at us and wakes us up. Until we realize that it’s not normal but bias and discrimination and speak out. The boycotts are a shout. They’re a teaspoon. And the activists in North Carolina can use those boycotts to their advantage.

  97. @disperser: Good luck policing that, and good luck getting the discriminated-against minority to out themselves in a state that has just endangered them.

  98. As an NC resident I support the boycott. I think simply telling jakebible “Well, you didn’t fight hard enough against it!” is unfair though—astonishingly, people fight as hard as they can and sometimes they still lose.
    On a lighter note, we have conservative David French explaining the boycott (—not a direct link) is because American business is too damn liberal and the only way to stop this is for the right wing to reclaim control of American business. He is not being satirical.

  99. I live in a “blue dot” in a red state, a state which is also considering a completely shitty law like this.
    On one hand, I get it, entirely, that as a people, we must make our voices heard and stand against cruelty and intolerance.
    One the other, I know a lot of small businesses, like this bookstore. And they fight, tooth and nail for the little guy. For me and mine. For all marginalized voices. They do their best to be a standard-bearer in what feels like a war.
    And when shitty laws get passed, despite their working hard against it, when they try to remain that safe space in the community, that bastion of tolerance and care and openness and diversity, they still get punished.
    I am looking at that happening here in TN. And I am looking at what a boycott of that nature might mean for the people and small businesses around me who are fighting the good fight every day.
    Because the rest of TN basically hates Nashville for being liberal and “forcing” the rest of the state to treat everyone like they are actual people.
    I always try to stand up for the little guy.
    I’m a little afraid of what is going to happen to our allies on the ground getting swept up in this.
    What about the gay and trans business owners?
    What happens when the smoke clears and we find that we’ve destroyed the very people we were trying to protect?

  100. I don’t like the law. I oppose it for the same reason oppose a lot of hate crime laws, it’s excessive. If murdering someone is against the law and punishable by life in prison or death, then creating a law that makes a hate crime punishable by life in prison or death is redundant.

    In the same way, there are already laws to punish people who go into a bathroom to do leud and inappropriate things. Those laws already protect the public from the people this law is being said to punish.

    I prefer my politically active celebrities to be consistent in their causes and their beliefs, not glory hounds like Springsteen. For example, I don’t agree with a lot of what Tim Robbins or Martin Sheen have to say, but I strongly admire them because they are informed and passionate. I could sit down with them and have a long discussion and be a better, more informed person as a result, even without either mind being changed.

    All that being said, people like Springsteen are hypocrites. They’ve chosen to make the personal choice to not allow customers to benefit from their services and talents as a way to express displeasure over a law they disagree with. At the same time, people like him think it should be against the law for others to exercise the same freedoms. He demonstrates his talent on stage and refuses to play because the government passed a law he disagrees with and he’s applauded. Some baker somewhere demonstrates his talent in a kitchen and refuses to bake a cake because the government passed a law he disagrees with and he’s punished.

    The baker should have the same freedoms as the celebrity. And I, as a paying customer, should have the freedom to not support either one for the shallow positions they take and the ignorant reasons why they take them.

  101. Frasersherman:

    I think simply telling jakebible “Well, you didn’t fight hard enough against it!” is unfair though—astonishingly, people fight as hard as they can and sometimes they still lose.

    1) JakeBible and the other activists in NC have not lost. They have not failed. They have done a remarkable job of protesting and speaking out, at great risk. And they’ve made a considerable difference in North Carolina. And people in North Carolina are starting to listen. With the boycotts and the protests, even more people are listening. Moral Mondays blocked a number of horrible things from happening.

    2) Not every North Carolinian who is inclined to respect LGBT rights and workers rights have been fighting as hard as they can to keep those things protected. Sometimes they can’t because it’s too dangerous. And so the shitty law was passed by Republicans in power. So there is more work to do. The struggle will be harder. They will all have to work harder to change things. That’s the reality. Nobody is happy about it. But it is indeed the job of voters and residents of a state to try to change the state through legal means. That’s what democracy is.

    Blaming outside protesters for your state’s citizens electing horrible leaders doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? Claiming that we can’t be mad at the legalized bigotry and protest because some people within the state are also working hard to protest doesn’t make much sense either. There’s nothing about this that’s “fair.” The boycotts are going to help NC’s economy — in the future. Whereas if we do nothing and Republicans keep doing what they want without blowback and strip-mine the state, the NC economy will go in the toilet. (See Kansas.)

    3) Gay people never get to give up the struggle for their rights. Trans people don’t. Black people don’t. Women don’t. Having everybody be silent and having North Carolina experience no ill effects from this shitty law punishes LGBT people and workers who are discriminated against. It lets the discrimination stay and get worse and entrenched as right and just. It’s an authoritarian victory that encourages them to try for more authoritarian victories which destroy the state economy (see Kansas again.) This is not North Carolina’s first shitty law. Without the widest possible condemnation of the state government, there is no hope of stopping more shitty laws and in other states as well.

    So if JakeBible wants things to change — and seems to — then the boycotts are helping with that. They are not a punishment. The punishment is the shitty law. Gay owned businesses and workers are going to be even more whacked by this law. Unions and other workers will be whacked by this law. Farmers are going to get whacked by this law. The boycotts are A) temporary and B) force businesses not run by raving bigots to be more welcoming, more vocal, more active — the business climate of NC is either going to get very blue very fast, or the economy will go down the toilet. So far, it looks like they’re going blue, which will help NC in the long run.


    And when shitty laws get passed, despite their working hard against it, when they try to remain that safe space in the community, that bastion of tolerance and care and openness and diversity, they still get punished.

    Again, they get punished by the shitty laws that are being used to punish and destroy them because they are bastions of tolerance. Republicans are trying to make that tolerance illegal. In some states, they’ve tried to outlaw protest. Gay businesses, again, are going to be destroyed by the shitty law. That’s what the shitty law is FOR. If there are no boycotts, those laws will increase and wipe out the gay businesses and try to drive gay people from the state. Workers will get more easily fired, without redress, which means they’ll put up with less and less benefits, wages and worse working conditions. Which means poverty will increase and the state economy will go down the toilet. Corporations and hedge funds will strip the state of money and assets and leave it broke. They’ve been doing it for over thirty years. Because you are being punished by shitty laws.

    The boycotts in NC are to try and help keep that shitty law from passing in Tennessee, to make it harder. And it would really help if thousands and thousands of Tennesseans would march on their capital or in their cities in protest of the shitty law. It might not work, but it pushes the needle. Or you can just keep letting the Republicans run the state and make more and more shitty laws that wipe out businesses by marginalized people.

    It’s scary and dangerous and depressing. That’s what repression is. That’s what it’s for. And if we’re silent about the shitty law and pour money into NC and Tennessee, then the Republicans take credit for the economic boom, declare their shitty laws just and true and make more of them, and then wipe you out. Or, your state goes through protest and hell so that eventually things can get better. Your state and every single state in the Union. You know the movie Selma, about the civil rights protest walk across the bridge to the capital on voting rights for black citizens? You’re the black people on the bridge. And they’re going to hit you with sticks (and dogs and guns,) to stop you. And the boycotts are outside people saying, “Stop hitting those people with sticks.” They aren’t punishment; they’re anguish and anger. And if we don’t do it, then the people you’re trying to save will be destroyed and Nashville won’t survive as a blue dot. That seems to be what they’ve stated is the plan.

    There is no way to keep trans and gay people from being hurt when people who find repressing them useful are in power. There is no way to keep trans and gay people from being hurt when the majority controlling social belief is that hurting them is just and good. They will be hurt whether there are boycotts or not. And the businesses in those states will have a harder and harder time doing business because the point of the shitty laws is to make sure that they do have a harder time. The protests and the boycotts may fail in individual states, but they are changing things. Whereas if we don’t do them, nothing changes — it gets worse.

    We all have dogs in this fight. We all have people we love and wish we could protect getting hit by this. But the continual claim that we can’t use boycotts — one of the big levers of peaceful public protest we have — is counterproductive, it seems to me. Not doing boycotts isn’t going to save people. It’s accepting the shitty laws as right and good and unchangeable. We can’t say that only methods that can cause no harm to allies can be used and hope that’s going to protect those being repressed, because it usually doesn’t. It doesn’t even protect the allies.

  102. Erick: “The baker should have the same freedoms as the celebrity.”

    Aw, isnt that sweet how bigotry is being defended on the concept of equality? Totally adorable.

    Bigotry playbook 101: portray the oppressed as the oppressor and portray the bigot as the victim.

    You guys seriously need to come up with some new plays.

  103. Nice try Erick, but I don’t think the Springsteen/baker analogy works at all. Springsteen is giving a concert – he cancels it in protest, and foregoes his profits from all the audience members. He has cancelled the whole concert. He’s not just refusing to sing for the people he doesn’t like. The baker is equally free to stop baking cakes altogether, or in some form that doesn’t single out particular patrons. If the baker wishes to close his bakery every Monday so as to avoid selling cakes to Moral Monday protesters, he is perfectly free to do that. Like Springsteen, in that case, he would be losing general profit (all the people who would buy cakes on Monday), in order to make his point. Much of the disagreement over this sort of law is over precisely that distinction, and you don’t get to call Springsteen a hypocrite unless he’s tossing straight/cis people out of his concert because he doesn’t want to sing for them, or other similar direct discrimination.

    Also – you as a paying customer do have the right to spend your money as you see fit. Nobody has suggested that you be forced to buy cakes or concert tickets.

  104. I think we’re dancing around the issue. NC is using the not so implied violence of the state to discriminate against its own citizens. It’s not about the discrimination, it’s about the abuse of power.

    Remember, what the state can do to one it can do to all.

    ps: please note the left and the right have never had a problem using the state as a club to control people for their own good

    pss: what are we supposed to do present our birth certificate to a bathroom monitor

  105. I’ve been spreading this post. Thanks for it.

    Thanks also for not letting the vile troll start trouble by defending this reprehensible law.

    Fox: Not all boycotts succeed. If a boycott is started by someone everyone hates, with only people who are already effectively boycotting whatever-it-is participating, and if everyone who hates the instigator hears about it, it will backfire.

    If, however, the boycott takes root spontaneously (remember, this was a couple of companies cancelling their expansions or relocations into NC, not anyone proclaiming a holy war), then as people see the praise the first ones get, they will jump on the bandwagon. The result is that the boycott will catch fire, and you end up with what some have called a “Sun City cascade” (after the famous boycott of Apartheid South Africa’s resort for the super-rich—in which boycott, you’ll recall, Bruce Springsteen also took part).

    There’s also that thing that progressives call Being On The Right Side Of History, blah blah blah.

  106. Kat, I do think the boycott is a valid tactic (though not a perfect one). And as to the nasty effects of the bill here, no argument.But I still think the expressed view in some of these comments that “Well it’s your own fault for not fighting harder” is unreasonable. It’s just a variation of the idea I’ve heard for years on the right that if we’d just tried harder in ‘nam or our will to win had been stronger in Iraq everything would have worked out fine.

  107. It’s scary to see how religious extremists seem to rule politics world wide these days, shouldn’t this be the fabled 21st we live in?
    Instead everywhere folks seem to do their hardest to march right back into the dark ages, in a manner of speaking – it’s looks from here that it is only a matter of time till somebody over in your corner of the world points out that the Bible also says that women shouldn’t be educated (I’m pretty sure ist must do so somewhere, if only in the minds of those who rule you).

    Sure boycotts hurt those who fought the law as much as those who supported it, but I can hardly see those already being hurt by the law, being hurt any harder by those boycotts, so, I guess it is the better of evils still.

  108. While the NC boycott is necessary, NC is ultimately going to lose. It should only be a matter of time before the right kind of case comes before the US Supreme Court and it rules that Equal Protection applies to people who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual because last year’s “Obergefel” ruling seems like a pretty good indication of the Court’s thinking.

  109. While the NC boycott is necessary, NC is ultimately going to lose. It should only be a matter of time before the right kind of case comes before the US Supreme Court and it rules that Equal Protection applies to people who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual because last year’s “Obergefel” ruling seems like a pretty good indication of the Court’s thinking.

    Gah! Forgot the comment. Which was:

    Unless the GOP wins the presidential election. Which is why the election matters. If the GOP get to appoint 2/3 justices, all bets are off for the next quarter century.

  110. frasersherman:

    But I still think the expressed view in some of these comments that “Well it’s your own fault for not fighting harder” is unreasonable.

    And JakeBible was frustrated and telling people supporting or doing the boycotts that it was their fault and they are the bad guys. It is in fact JakeBible’s fault that North Carolina passed this law. It’s also my fault in the larger country sense, but North Carolinians bear the main burden for their state because they live there and vote. We are all the bad guys. We are not nice people. The refusal to deal with that — with what we allow and support happening as a society, like black people living in a police state, American children deliberately made homeless, starving and deprived of healthcare — is the number one reason that systemic discrimination stays in place and does its damage.

    North Carolinians did a bad thing. They collectively put/allowed an awful government in place and let that government put through a horrible, bigoted, unconstitutional law. It is their fault. That’s not an unreasonable assertion. It’s fact. If you are a trans person in North Carolina, you’ve just become an open season hunting target and your chances of dying there have now gone up. If you’ve filed a wrongful termination suit concerning discrimination in North Carolina, half of them have now seen their cases go up in smoke under this law. This should not be happening. It should never have existed. It only existed because people in North Carolina decided it should or allowed others to do it. So we don’t get a cookie for speaking up against this bigotry that we let happen in the first place. We’re still bad guys. It’s still our fault.

    The people in Minnesota have been more effective in the government they put in place. They just killed the similar bill that Republicans tried to bring through. It was killed by anti-discrimination legislators, a Democratic governor, the passionate testimony and efforts of trans activists and labor activists. And it was also killed because of the boycotts of North Carolina. That does not make the people of Minnesota more virtuous than the people of North Carolina. The people in Minnesota are bad guys too. It just means they did better with their teaspoons. They got more teaspoons together and got a somewhat less bigoted government running things.

    Democracies mean we don’t make our stand in our countries with violence and guns. (At least ideally.) It means we use protest, speech, voting in free elections, legislation and lawsuits. It’s slow and painful and people get hurt. They don’t always agree about how to protest. And allies tend to be tone deaf and try to take over efforts of marginalized groups and then get whiny hurt when that bigotry is pointed out to them and start tone policing all over the place. They are bad people trying to do good things with teaspoons. Because it’s not about good versus bad and who’s the villain and who’s the hero. Extremists are not the obstacle — ordinary people are. There is not a clear cut path. And it’s not unreasonable to point that out.

    The very nice people of North Carolina did something bad. It is their fault. And so, just like with segregation, they are point zero in a civil rights movement. Bruce Springsteen boycotting the state helps. Joe McHale going ahead with his performance, protesting the law in his routine and donating the proceeds of the concert to the LGBT activist group in NC helps. It all helps. It’s all teaspoons. And it will all, in the long run, change NC, change the world corporate climate, change things in other states, etc. But getting there is going to be bad. Because repression is bad and the repercussions of repression are bad.

    The bigger bet is how much money those using discrimination make off their efforts during the struggle, which depends on how long it takes to get any change. Discrimination is a cultural economic strategy. The concept of races we “enjoy” now was invented to turn groups of workers into slave workers and keep wages depressed for other workers. It’s not a capitalism economic strategy, mind you. Capitalism does not require discrimination or child starvation to function. But it is a controlling economic strategy regularly used in business, government and societies, and used also to seize more political power. They made fortunes off of marriage inequality. It didn’t matter in that, that they lost. This is just the new spring campaign to make more money off of trans people (and weakening things for workers to boot.)

  111. 6: In the long run, it would be a benefit. unisex bathrooms will put everyone on edge, at first: but then it would become commonplace and maybe a little more understanding would develop over time.

    When I was in college in the late 70s, my dorm had unisex bathrooms (this was a highrise dorm, about 40 people to a floor, bathrooms on each floor).

    No one batted an eye.

  112. It’s interesting that people talk about boycotts being temporary. I made a habit of avoiding Shell back when Mandela was still in jail; that habit persists decades later. Dominos, Carls Jr, Hain Celestial Group, Georgia-Pacific, at one time or another those corporations had crappy politics at the top, and once I make the commitment to boycott, I’m not going to spend a lot of time checking back again, I’m a busy person. As a customer, I’m gone for good, or as close as I can manage.

    This is also not entirely ill-founded from a game-theoretic point of view — if people lift boycotts as soon as the rotten behavior is reversed, you’ll get crappy boundary-pushing behavior as companies test collective political limits. If, on the other hand, (some portion of) the boycott is permanent, they’ll not screw with people like that, for fear of a permanent loss of customers.

  113. There’s a bit of a difference between boycotting a company for a service or political reason, and boycotting the entire business output of a state or country for a political goal. I will never ever do anything with Sprint ever again. I eat fair trade chocolate. I will never eat at a Chik-fil-a. Those things are mainly permanent for me. But if you’re boycotting a state or country because of unjust laws and behavior and that country or state changes the unjust laws and behavior, then you probably aren’t going to keep boycotting that state or country. You might, but you might not because the boycott fulfilled the goal. And if a business that was located in a state you boycotted moves out of that state, you probably won’t boycott them, even if they sell products to that state. Boycotts are a personal protest, even when organized.

  114. Late to the party because of incoming finals (yaaaaay) and emotional turmoil caused by my creepy online stalker, who keeps sending me emailed essays explaining that male rape is a lie of the patriarchy and that black women are gender traitors (I don’t know, I just want them to stop changing accounts and just go to spam already because their bigoted horse shit is pissing me off), so just going to put in my 2 cents now before I forget:

    1. I have a buddy in NC who says the boycott’s a good idea. He also called the governor some things I can’t repeat in public, so his opinion might be a little biased. The boycott will hurt the state, but hey. NC’s people elected these yahoos. The people put them into office. This was all a free and rational choice. The yahoos put in the stupid law of bigotry +3. Ergo, the people are indirectly responsible, and them shouldering a significant part of the consequences is morally acceptable.

    2. The law is so hilariously bigoted that I ran out of superlatives trying to describe it to my family. It’s also morally indefensible and is going to draw some unflattering comparisons to segregation if it already hasn’t.

    3. Personally, I’m too scared to use gender-neutral bathrooms ever since the crappy lock in the Willets 1st bathroom stall malfunctioned one night in freshman year and a drunk woman looking for a place to throw up burst in on me on the toilet, but that’s my personal preference (in fact I prefer to avoid public restrooms in general these days, ever since the above incident), and I firmly believe that public restrooms should be made gender-neutral. That covers people without gender like my best friend and the “nonbinary” stuff I don’t understand but is apparently a thing so rock on, as well as cis and trans men and women. Plus you need less in the way of facilities.

    4. I think boycotting NC for this abomination of unctuous legalese idiocy is a good move, overall. I’m sick and tired of reactionary idiots pulling stunts like this–it’s the 21st century, people! 2016, not 1916.

    tl;dr: Law steaming pile of horse shit. Boycott good. Floored busy as hell and half-brain-dead. Floored’s college life remarkably crazy. Floored dealing with creepy internet asshole who keeps emailing Floored. More protections for LGBTetc people needed. Gender-neutral bathrooms (and indeed, IMO everything except maybe pronouns–why CAN’T I like pink, Princess Jellyfish, and Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun, damn it???) good.

  115. It’s bad when the entrenched establishment (read the legislatory body or bodies responsible for these laws) feel as though they’re sufficiently shielded by virtue of being who they are and where they are from any consequences of passing said legislatiaon. It’s absolutely FINE for them to follow their “conscience” at the expense of anyone and everyone else who (by the virtue of not meeting the “high bar” set by their conscience) is then left with having to pay the price of it all while they sit there in their ivory tower patting themselves on the back on just how good and virtuous they are and how they’ll all go to heaven. Some day. Meanwhile, out in the real world, their “virtue” is creating a hell on earth right now. A world ruled by fear and loathing.

    I think that enough has been said and written that those passing these laws are very well aware of how much out of step with the developing society they are. But they simply DO NOT CARE. I’m not sure how much – and what kind – of boycotts might change their mind, but I am reasonably certain that right now at least htey really don’t care that some musicians and authors are boycotting their stage. I think when it starts to hurt – when they start losing actual mony, like federal funds and the like – that’s when they’ll start to think twice about it. Right now, they aren’t really fussed about it. THEY aren’t affected. You don’t think any of the legislators would have been found at a Bruce Springsteen concert? How likely is that? And perhaps in their twisted gestalt this is just a cherry on top kind of situation – because they’re kind of punishing the kind of people who WOULD go to such a concert and who by definition thelegislator types see as “not my kind”.

    I think Trump had it right in one sense – there’s a good argument for a wall, BUild one around these petty legislatures and let them play at being tinpot gods inside those walls for all they’re worth. Meanwhile, here, outside, in the real (our) world – let’s just get on with living shall we…?

  116. And as one restaurant in NC that went to uni-sex bathrooms because of the law pointed out, there are lots of people who may need assistance going to the bathroom and the persons assisting them may not be the same gender — women with small male children and infants, men with small female children and infants, or disabled companions or older relatives with various forms of dementia or medical conditions.

    One time, I was at a fireworks display that was done in a large public park. There were relatively decent restroom facilities because the park had an outdoor concert area and playing fields with stadium seats. But most of the time, men can go to the bathroom faster because they can pee without needing a booth and disrobing. And they never put in enough stalls to accommodate women’s bathroom requirements. So there was a long line for the women’s room and no line for the men’s room. So women started using both bathrooms. Most women will have used a men’s bathroom several times in their lives, more if they go to a lot of music concerts. We’re discriminated already when it comes to the restroom facilities, so we don’t pay that much attention to the sign on the door. And when a guy comes into a woman’s restroom because his little daughter doesn’t want to go into the groddy men’s room, nobody bats a fucking eye. People need bathrooms, bathrooms are there. And unisex bathrooms, as well as often lockerrooms have been standard in universities for nearly forty years. Single sex options exist — and should — but the same argument that was made against having any unisex bathrooms back then — that men would attack women if the magical repelling barrier that kept them from women’s toilets and showers was somehow removed — is being made against trans people. Bigots always recycle the same rhetoric.

    Additionally, trans people are similar to the cis population. Although they may have a higher than 10% odds of being gay oriented or having a queer orientation such as bi or asexual, the majority tend to be straight. Most trans women are attracted to men, not women, and most trans men are attracted to women, not men. So you really don’t want to have trans men forced into the bathroom or lockerroom with your wife if you were that worried about attacks, as one trans activist pointed out. If you think that being trans is a mental illness, as so many of them claim, then that very mental illness keeps trans women from being interested in attacking your womenfolk, and makes trans men much more of a danger if they’re forced to use the ladies’ room.

    Of course, the claim of the law itself is that trans women aren’t deluded, but are lying, using the ruse of being trans in order to look at boobies. It states that trans people are criminals simply from existing, that people can correct (discriminate) their criminal lie (not allowed in the bathroom,) and if the trans person won’t cooperate, the people can have the trans person arrested and thrown in jail for being trans. It’s a law to make being trans illegal — you can be fired because trans is criminal, arrested, thrown out of an establishment, kept from bathrooms, locker rooms, medical care, emergency services, etc. The law is a hunting license, one that extends to gays, bisexuals, people of different genders and on the spectrum (a gay woman was already thrown out of a MacDonalds,) and further to any worker employers want to target and harm.

    But the point of the law is not logic but to increase political and financial power for its backers, let voters who support harming their neighbors freely harm their neighbors and try to coerce and violently force businesses, churches, organizations, medical facilities and schools to harm people as normal, legal and good. Trying to decimate the effectiveness of activists for gay and trans people in revenge for marriage equality is just the cherry on top of the shit sundae.

    Floored — sorry to hear that you have harassment troubles. This site might have some resources to help if you haven’t checked it out already:

  117. One thing I haven’t seen anybody bring up about the Springsteen cancelation is that it’s not just him traveling. It’s him, and a band, and backup singers, and stage managers, and lighting techs, and bus drivers, and more. It’s possible that at least one person in the road crew is trans—and by traveling to NC, Springsteen would be making them visit a state that just declared itself to be hostile. I think that alone is a good enough reason to cancel.

  118. Djvasi — That’s why a number of academic conferences have done quite long boycotts against holding their big annual meetings in cities in states with these kinds of laws. Because some of the academics are gay, etc., and they don’t want them going to the conference and getting arrested by bigoted laws. So they choose other cities in states without those laws so that their membership will be safe.

  119. I live in North Carolina (barely missed Mr. Scalzi’s signing at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh quite a while back; drat!), and I’m all for the boycott. I keep thinking that my state is finally maturing, and then something like HB2 happens. Not to mention the pre-SCOTUS-ruling regressive views on marriage equality, police violence and racial targeting, blatant theocracy, astoundingly bad education and mental-health systems, Confederate flags, an unusually inhumane pork farm in Smithfield, victim-blaming in rape and similar assault cases…you name it!

    I live in a relatively progressive area, but I really want to move away eventually. Probably urban Colorado or New England, or somewhere along the West coast.

  120. @ Kat Goodwin: I’m currently just sending all the asshole’s emails to spam and politely notifying them of this fact. Problem is, they keep changing accounts. I’m going to try tinkering with my spam filter when I’m done with classes in two weeks.

    On a more optimistic note, Captain Sikh America is coming to campus tomorrow and I’m super excited–I’m a huge Captain America fan and this guy’s cosplay is fantastic. Just the thing to take my mind off things like bigoted laws, Daesh, the orangutan in a suit who calls himself a presidential candidate, Putin’s land grabs, and the news I’ve heard that M. Night Shyamalan is making another Last Airbender “movie” (and I use the term movie only because technically the first one was filmed with a camera).

  121. When I was in college in the late 70s, my dorm had unisex bathrooms (this was a highrise dorm, about 40 people to a floor, bathrooms on each floor).

    No one batted an eye.

    FFS, hands up everyone who has been traumatized living in a house where everyone used the same bathroom? Just ONE documented case of anyone anywhere sexually assaulted in a public bathroom by a faux-trans cross dressing rapist? I can wait. Even putting aside the grotesque transphobia of these ‘bathroom laws’, they’re concern-trolling a phantom menace that just doesn’t exist.


    All that being said, people like Springsteen are hypocrites. They’ve chosen to make the personal choice to not allow customers to benefit from their services and talents as a way to express displeasure over a law they disagree with. At the same time, people like him think it should be against the law for others to exercise the same freedoms. He demonstrates his talent on stage and refuses to play because the government passed a law he disagrees with and he’s applauded. Some baker somewhere demonstrates his talent in a kitchen and refuses to bake a cake because the government passed a law he disagrees with and he’s punished.

    As others have pointed out, false analogy being fake as hell. Now, as others have pointed out, if Springstein was only selling tickets to registered Democrats or refusing to sell tickets to evangelical Christians or members of the NRA then youmight have a point. But he isn’t, so you don’t.

    But let’s draw another one, for years right-wing lobby groups have been calling on supporters to boycott Disney theme parks and movies because they just don’t like the company’s LGBT-inclusive policies (most recently threatening to pull production from Georgia if the state passed a so-called “religious liberty” bill). I can’t speak for the rest of the Whateverness, but my response? Fair enough. And that boycott is supposed to hurt too — including Disney employees who may just hate the gays with the force of a million supernovas.

    I don’t think supporters of the North Carolina boycott are the ones trying to have it both ways.

  122. As a resident of NC, I would like to invite all of you to boycott my State. I know that this may hurt some of the wrong people too (sorry, JakeBible), but it should eventually lead to the end of this law. The fact is, the State really does care about attracting new business. It is important to the cities, counties and State governments as well as the business community. It’s called tax-base, it’s called customers. They do care. Cancel your trips, conferences and performances. Don’t move your company here.

    SB2 was a “stunt” from the start to fire up the bigots to vote in November. I’m hoping it has the opposite effect.

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