Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Left Needs a New Target--Chick-fil-A

The Weekly Standard takes a look at the college campus movement to ban Chick-fil-A from campuses.  Why?

A Pennsylvania outlet’s sponsorship of a February marriage seminar by one of that state’s most outspoken groups against homosexuality lit up gay blogs around the country. Students at some universities have also begun trying to get the chain removed from campuses.
“If you’re eating Chick-fil-A, you’re eating anti-gay,” one headline read. The issue spread into Christian media circles, too.

Now  you have to look at a couple of things in this matter.  First, it is not Corporate Chick-fil-A that has sponsored the "offending" seminar, but it is a franchisee.  Like most fast food chains, individual stores are owned by franchisees, that is local businessmen who have a certain amount of discretion in their public face.  That is not to say the corporate Chick-fil-A would not endorse the seminar, but I point out the difference because there is no proof that Chick-fil-A as a national corporation sponsored the seminar.

Second, why does a sponsorship necessarily equate to being anti-gay. It is true that the corporate ethos of Chick-fil-A has a distinctive Christian overtone and is that such a bad thing?  The last time I checked, Chick-fil-A is a privately held corporation and not a government entity, they can sponsor who they want, for what ever reason they want.  But if Chick-fil-A sponsors a debate between gay rights supporters and anti-gay right supporters, is that anti-gay?  What if the company or a franchisee sponsors a gay pride parade?  Chick-fil-A franchises sponsor a great many local charities and events.

So the problem is what?  According to Peter Wood, the problem is that those on the left believe in free speech only for those who agree with them:

So far as I can tell, no one has accused Chick-fil-A of discriminating against gays and lesbians in its employment practices or its customer service. The incident that sparked the boycott campaign was a Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A restaurant’s provision of sandwiches and brownies to a marriage seminar put on by the Pennsylvania Family Institute—a group that opposes gay marriage and has been characterized by activists as anti-gay. The seminar in Harrisburg is “The Art of Marriage:  Getting to the Heart of God’s Design.” Presumably Chick-fil-A contributes to other groups that hold similar views. Does that really provide a sound reason to those who favor gay marriage to drive Chick-fil-A off campus?
I think not. The campaign is unwise because it seeks to punish and stigmatize those with whom the protesters disagree. The ideal of the campus as a place where people debate their differences by means of rational arguments and well-vetted evidence has been on a downward trajectory for decades. Kicking Chick-fil-A off campus is a reductio ad absurdum of the now-common tactic of roaring at your supposed opponents. The company, after all, isn’t busy on campus promoting an anti-gay marriage agenda. It’s just selling chicken sandwiches.
Protests like the one aimed at Chick-fil-A are partly or even mostly attempts to exhibit the power of the protesters. That aim has nothing to do with winning the argument—is gay marriage a good social policy or a mistaken one?—and everything to do with controlling the narrative. Only those who agree with the protesters are granted a legitimate voice hereafter. Roar loud enough and you may intimidate the target, but that’s of less importance than pumping up excitement among followers and creating a secondary wave of self-censorship among others who correctly surmise that it is dangerous to disagree.

That is the agenda.  And I think Chick-fil-A should do the Christian thing--turn the other cheek and continue with their business practice.  Since their campus presence is no doubt due to a contract with the school, I suggest that Chick-fil-A continue those contracts and dare the schools to cancel the contract.  If at the end of the contract period, the franchise wishes to terminate the presence, they can do so pursuant to the contract.  I dare say that the quality of Chick-fil-A's food and service (they end every interaction with "My Pleasure" which I love) will keep the franchise on campus.

Protests like this one are silly and serve no actual purpose but harden the lines of debate.  The left does give a toss about legitimate debate--they care only that they get heard and any opponents are silenced.  They are like a 4 year-old child who has learned that if you cry long enough and loud enough you will get what you want.  What it takes is good parenting to end that notion and it takes good people who despise the tactic punish the whiny 4 year old left.

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