What’s Really at Stake with Chick-fil-A
Here seems to be the consensus regarding the Conservative attitude toward the recent calls for boycots of Chick-fil-A:
“So now we have a calling for a nationwide boycott of the chain. A-list actors have vowed never to eatthere again, and Boston’s mayor has said he’ll do all he can to keep Chick-fil-A franchises from opening in his city. And the Jim Henson Company, which was working on a promotional campaign with Chick-fil-A, ended the partnership last week, with CEO Lisa Henson ordering Chick-fil-A’s payment to be donated to a gay-activist organization instead.This is just plain stupid! The owner never said anyone who was gay could not eat there. He says he respects those who disagree. The bottom line is these people love freedom of speech expect when you disagree with them. In other words, get out of our way if you disagree with us!”
I am just tickled by this because the irony of this positon in regard to who holds it is delightful. To risk sounding overly pretentious and condescending, it astounds me how ideology, in this case, literally shields the eyes of some, like a protective mother, so that essentially something so ridiculous and inaccurate can pass as truth. I want to call special attention to “The bottom line is these people love freedom of speech expect when you disagree with them.” In this person’s mind (and it seems like this is a consistant position) what is at stake here is liberty, i.e. freedom of speech in this case. Liberals are being sensitive and angry and victimizing this poor principled company that happens to hold a different opinion than theirs. Therefore, liberals, who are supposed to pride themselves on tolerance, acceptance, diversity, etc. are made to be fools and hypocrites because they can’t stand it when someone actually disagrees with them. And to be clear, to the conservative, this is just a petty “disagreement,” as this amateur pundit put it.
What is so fascinating here is that the our friends on the Right cannot fathom that the culture is shifting, they are on the wrong side of history, and most importantly, this fact is actually hinting at messing with American capitalism. Now to be clear, the second thing to remember is that this person is wrong about is they think that this is somehow not a nice capitalistic boycott. What conservatives herald, the free market, is working against their social cause. No one, contrary to conservative fantasies, is trying to censor or arrest Chick-fil-A executives. Also contrary to fantasy, no one is dancing on the grave of their recently passed vice president. Rather, free people are using public discourse to say “hey, this is not a petty matter of opinion. A basic human right to happiness is in the balance right now, and therefore we urge those who recognize this as an important issue to join us in forgoing chicken sandwiches with pickles on a soggy bun.” Lo, as was noted, several promenant public figures, companies, and even cities have taken heed and decided to disassociate with this chain of restaurants. Every dollar is a vote (for better or worse, usually worse) and while that usually means that Conservatives win (it is well established who has the wealth in this country), this one time the “free market” is impinging upon how conservatives think the world should work. Furthermore, though in the grand scheme of things this Chick-fil-A thing may not be significant in itself, what it represents is truly dangerous, and I think conservatives realize, even if not consciously: this marks a major, visible instance of consumers developing a collective conscience and making ethics a serious consideration in where they spend their money.
This is the dark scary truth that ideology is shielding from the mind of the conservative causing them en masse to totally equivocate and act like this is an act of fascist censorship rather than a democratic boycott. Even greater, if I may fantasize myself for a moment, this represents the great truth that democracy may not be be complicit with unethical forms of capitalism (if not capitalism itself). That is, if people are given the facts, and begin to care about how people are actually treated, and begin to care about equality of our citizens, business as usual cannot go on. There is reason from everyone from Starbucks, WalMart, and Apple to be terrified of this. The ethical, conscious consumer who violates the direct command of simply “Consume!” is not what our economy is based on. We are conditioned not to ask questions about our food or how a new TV at Best Buy is so damn cheap.
Jacques Lacan theorized that our superego gives us the injunction:
“Enjoy!”, i.e. give way to your dirty imagination. To put it in yet another way, what we encounter here is the clear example of the fetishistic split, of the disavowal-structure of “je sais bien, mais quand meme…” (I know very well, but…”): the very awareness that they did not do it gives free rain to your dirty imagination. You can indulge in it, because you are absolved from the guilt by the fact that, for the big Other, they definitely did not do it.” (Zizek, How to Read Lacan)
We know very well that this hamburger pollutes the environnent, violates human and animal rights in its production, but we must enjoy nonetheless. Just go to Times Square and look at what the colors are screaming at you. Or turn on the television. Sabrina Dawkins puts it like this “Consumerism has replaced or become the internalized father in Freudian psychology. It is the new superego that encourages, insists, demands that one “Enjoy!” Abundance is offered and one should continuously enjoy.”Zizek continues ”to enjoy is not a matter of following one’s spontaneous tendencies; it is rather something we do as a kind of weird and twisted ethical duty.”
Here, we have a case of total delusion (or fantasy) on behalf of those who support Chick-fil-A, unable to face what we can only hope is a turn against our “ethical duty” to consume, to “enjoy!” the abundance put in front of us. Perhaps we are learning to ask questions. To make ethics a primary concern in our consumption. If we are in a democratic capitalistic system, to make the most of it by “voting” for who deserve our votes, limited as they may be for 99% of us. Why are we told by conservatives not to boycott? Because of the sheer perversity of using capitalism and democracy, what has been so good to them, against them, even if it is in a minor way. They apparently can’t recognize this, so this entire situation is played off as some kind of Marxist coup to censor free speech.
One other person, who the first person I quoted agreed with, said “Anyone can boycott anything they want. For myself, I don’t care if they give money to homophobic organizations or give to “Clubbing Seals for Hitler”. So long as they serve everyone regardless of sex, race, sexual orientation or religion (etc.), and their food is tasty, I’ll buy it. I think this whole reaction to Chick Fil A is completely idiotic.”
So, here we have it. On one hand, spend your money how you like, on the other, it’s idiotic to not spend your money at Chick-fil-A over a petty “matter of opinion.” Don’t need Lacan for this. Draw your own conclusions.
It’s all very interesting.