I’m from the northern part of the US, and that’s probably why I’ve never eaten at Chick-fil-A, a fast food chain that serves (reportedly delicious) chicken sandwiches. Eating some greasy food that a bunch of Southerners swear by wasn’t exactly on my bucket list, and that was before I came across the spate of news articles describing the company’s politics—Chick-fil-A is run by the type of Christians that make America and American politics such a strange and ominous place. The company donates millions of dollars to anti-gay marriage groups with names so innocuous they’re terrifying, like the “Marriage & Family Legacy Fund.” And not only do they donate to bigoted organizations (that’s as American as eating apple pie while watching baseball and freaking out over your daughter’s sexuality), Chick-fil-A’s founder, Samuel Truett Cathy, bases his business around “biblical principles” according to a Forbes article that makes Chick-fil-A sound like a cult. The company closes all their stores on Sundays so employees can attend church, routinely pry into the personal lives of workers (promoting someone who moonlights at a strip club is frowned upon, for instance), and put potential franchise operators through a grueling interview process to make sure they have the right “values.” They aren’t in violation of anti-discriminatory hiring practices laws because franchise operators are technically “independent contractors,” but Cathy’s said that he’d fire anyone “who has been sinful,” and there was a recent lawsuit filed by a Muslim who claimed he was fired because he wouldn’t participate in a Christian prayer (the case was settled out of court), all of which sounds pretty fucked-up and cruel to my blue-state ears.
Maybe Chick-fil-A’s politics are the reason it hasn’t opened many franchises in places where butt-sex-having urban elites live. Its politics were definitely the reason that NYU students have been protesting the chain’s presence on their campus (well, that and NYU students just love to protest). The school passed the decision to ban the state’s only Chick-fil-A from the campus to the student government, who decided to keep it around because banning Chick-fil-A would violate the zealous bird-fryers’ “freedom of speech.”
Well, eh, I don’t know about that, well-meaning young student politicians of NYU. Your school is private, so technically, free speech doesn’t strictly apply in a legal sense to the campus. (However, universities should be a place to facilitate the free and open exchange of yada yada yada.) If the administration and student body finds some business’s politics totally abhorrent, you can totally kick them out—like if Uncle KKK’s Nazi Memorabilia Emporium and California Pizza Kitchen was on your campus, you could get rid of them no matter how delicious their vegan-bacon-and-pineapple slices are.
One often overlooked, but terrific, feature of Freedom of Speech is that it doesn’t guarantee you a platform for your speech, or protect you from the consequences of saying horrible shit. Internet forums aren’t violating your civil liberties by not letting you post creepy photos of children; they’re saying, reasonably, “We get to pick the content that appears on the site that we pay to keep up, you fucking perverts.” When a Jewish landlord doesn’t want an anti-Judaism message to appear on a billboard he owns, he might make some atheists angry, but he’s well within his rights.
The bummer of all of this is that the rich and famous have an easier time of getting their message out, and the basement-dwelling bloggers that have sharper, smarter things to say than New York Times columnists face an uphill battle. But when some public figure comes with some heinous nonsense, it’s fun to watch them suffer some well-deserved slings and arrows. Remember when that angry, fat drug addict Rush Limbaugh called that college student a slut for no reason at all and everyone went “Boo! Hiss!” and advertisers deserted his show en masse? That’s not the “PC Thought Police” or the “Feminazis” or whatever the Republican talking point distributors are calling it these days, that’s the way it works. You have the right to say crazy bullshit, and everyone else has the right to call you on your pill-addled, hateful, horny ramblings.
That’s why pieces like these, which call the NYU student protests “organized bullying” and spout pious phrases like, “Higher education, however, is ill-served by this spirit of censorship.” Boycotts and protests—which can be classified as “bullying”—are part of the public discourse. If you’re willing to espouse your beliefs as publicly as Chick-fil-A does, and if your beliefs are considered heinous by a big segment of the population (and being anti-gay marriage is now, thank God, considered a hateful, bigoted position by a bunch of people) you are going to get excoriated in public. And if you can’t handle that, keep your fucking mouth shut.
Previously - Let My People Drink