Take boycotting. Doubtless, some boycotts can make an effective splash. A fashion world rebellion against dressing the first family, for instance, manages the rare feat of sending a loud symbolic message without hampering productive activities in the everyday world. On the other hand, sometimes boycott movements can wind up chasing after opportunities for publicity that never fully materialize. The Grab Your Wallet campaign tried to make hay out of Nordstrom’s decision to axe Ivanka Trump’s brand, but the department store went out of its way to avow the choice was all business.
And it’s hard to think of a more misbegotten boycotting push than the nascent effort to hit Tesla with the same kind of action that forced Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s withdrawal from Trump’s economic advisory council. Elon Musk is the world’s leading green-energy innovator and supported Hillary Clinton for president. What’s more, without his influence in government and the talent it attracts, the U.S. will most likely struggle to rebalance the economy away from speculation driven by digital technology and toward truly 21st century infrastructure and transportation. Musk sits at the top of the list of people liberals and progressives ought to stay friendly with — this month, this year, and well beyond. How does it help their causes to boycott Musk’s businesses because Musk has the audacity to give advice to President Trump?
Equally unproductive are explicit, vulgar, and profane protests. Obviously we are not a nation of prudes. But there is something especially fruitless, and depressingly so, about watching so many people use dirty words to protest.