Somehow, the left in 2017 has become a place where doing business with Cuba and Iran is fine, but doing business with L.L. Bean or Simon &Schuster is morally questionable.
In case you missed the memo, let me explain.
The website grabyourwallet.org maintains a long list of “retailers to boycott” and “additional entities to consider boycotting” based on tenuous ties to Donald Trump. L.L. Bean, the Maine-based outdoor goods and clothing manufacturer, turned up on the “consider” list on the basis of one Bean family member’s support for Trump.
In a Facebook post, the company responded, “Like most large families, the more than 50 family member-owners of the business hold views and embrace causes across the political spectrum.” It added, “L.L.Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions. ... To be included in this boycott campaign is simply misguided.”
Simon &Schuster, for its part, has come under fire for having a deal to publish a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, described last year by The New York Times magazine as “one of the loudest, most provocative voices at Breitbart News.” A bookstore in Ireland, Raven Books, announced that it would cease stocking all Simon &Schuster books in retaliation. The Chicago Review of Books announced it would punish the publisher by refusing to review any of its books for a year. (An imprint of Simon &Schuster published my biography of Samuel Adams.)
Never mind that Simon &Schuster also publishes books by Hillary Clinton, or that the Grab Your Wallet boycott or “consider” boycotting list includes not only L.L. Bean but also Amazon, Macy’s, Walmart, Nordstrom and even People magazine, which it faults as a “media outlet that normalized Trump as a pivotal moment.”
Remember, among their objections to Trump is his supposed intolerance.
Lest one dismiss this as a fringe phenomenon, consider that President-elect Trump himself addressed it by tweeting his support for L.L. Bean, and that The New York Times business section devoted half of its front page to the Simon &Schuster story.
As for Iran and Cuba, President Obama’s farewell address touted as great accomplishments of his administration the ending of strict American trade sanctions on both countries. Yet both Iran and Cuba jail political prisoners under cruel conditions. They restrict freedom of the press and assembly. Iran funds deadly terrorist organizations and attacks and executes gay people. Even the Obama-Kerry State Department reports these facts.
The New York Times nonetheless is offering, for 2017, 10 different “Times Journeys” trips, some of them guided by its journalists, to Iran. Prices start at $7,395 and escalate to $135,000 for an around-the-world tour in a customized Boeing 757 with a stop in Iran.
When people are OK with spending money that goes to Iran or Cuba but not with spending money on companies such as L.L. Bean or Simon &Schuster that have some highly attenuated connection to someone who might have done something to help the president-elect of the United States, it’s an indication that their actions aren’t based on a single rational standard.
No, this is about something else. Maybe it is the herd mentality. Maybe it is public virtue signaling, a kind of showing off. Maybe it’s a way to express anxiety or frustration. It’s easier to stop shopping at L.L. Bean than to persuade a Trump voter to choose the Democrat the next time.
It’s possible to detect an element of humor in the whole situation, but be careful. Give liberal friends an L.L. Bean gift card or Simon &Schuster book and they just might take it as a microaggression.
Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of “JFK: Conservative.” His column appears Sunday.