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Why I Won’t Boycott Barilla

September 28, 2013

Barilla-pasta

As far as I’m concerned, pasta is pasta. No matter what the shape, size, brand or color, it all tastes like pretty much like spaghetti to me. I’ve never seen the point of making it fresh, so I always procure it from the pasta shelf of the local supermarket. And more often than not, I find myself buying Barilla.

I’ve never seen Barilla advertised on TV — or anywhere else, for that matter. The brand quietly insinuated its way into my consciousness because it was among the first to offer whole-grain pasta, which (at least according to our medical sages) is more beneficial to our bellies and our arteries than the refined stuff we used to gobble so recklessly in our youth.

In fact, it surprised me that Barilla is the world’s leading brand of pasta, with a gargantuan share of the market both in its native Italy and here on these shores. I first learned about Barilla’s 135-year-old pasta empire just a couple of days ago, when the social media started swirling with accusations that the company’s chieftain, one Guido Barilla, made some detestable homophobic remarks during an Italian radio interview. As a result, right-thinking progressives everywhere were calling for a boycott of Barilla products.barilla boycott

Homophobia is a nasty business, of course. For untold centuries, gay men and women had to endure the scorn (and worse) of the more conventional folks with whom they shared the planet. Many if not most of them lived in a perpetual state of fear. The recent strides made on behalf of gay rights are, on the whole, a good and long-overdue sign of social justice, and you can quote me on that.

But let’s look a little more deeply into Signor Barilla’s scandalous remarks. He was quoted as saying that he would never feature a gay family in his company’s advertising. Homophobic? I’m not so sure. Did Barilla issue his comment freely, as a slap in the face of the gay rights movement? No, his radio interviewer asked him point-blank if he would ever depict a gay household as the centerpiece of an ad for Barilla.

He gave a blunt and honest answer. He’s a businessman, not a civil rights activist. According to the U.S. Census of 2010, same-sex couples account for approximately one-half of one percent of all households. The figure is probably even smaller in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy. It would be sheer marketing madness for a pasta mogul to tailor his advertising to that demographic.

Earlier this year, Cheerios ran a commercial featuring a cute, pudgy-faced little girl with a white mother and a black father. In its aftermath, you could hear the howls of protest from below the Mason Dixon Line — along with the more refined howls emanating from American liberals in response to the howls from Dixieland. If, half a century after the Civil Rights movement, so many Americans still resist the concept of interracial households, imagine the potential uproar over a televised gay couple passing the pasta bowl around to the kids. To my knowledge, no major American advertiser has stepped forward to produce such a provocative scenario. So why pick on Barilla?

Why? Because, under pressure from the interviewer, the pasta king held fast to his unfashionable definition of a family — a definition that has reigned supreme in human society for, oh, about the last ten thousand years, give or take a few thousand. That he refused to champion the more contemporary and all-embracing definition was plainly unacceptable to right-thinking progressives everywhere.

Here’s the nub of the problem I have with so many progressive thinkers. Yes, it’s fine and even laudable to support broader rights for people our society has marginalized in the past. What’s not so fine and laudable is to excoriate and excommunicate everyone who doesn’t automatically get with the program.

Like the Good Lord in his Old Testament wrath, the more impassioned progressives seem intent on damning the heretics, breaking them and banishing them to outer darkness, where there will be eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth. If they don’t like an idea, or a renegade loudmouth, or an unenlightened company, they don’t simply criticize it — they marshal their collective energies in an attempt to destroy it.

I have to confess that their lockstep liberalism frightens me. It puts me in mind of Cromwell, Robespierre, the Bolsheviks, Chairman Mao (that grandfatherly mass-murderer), and other forward-looking individuals with zero tolerance for retrograde ideas.

Conservatives, for all their recent peccadilloes, seem to be a little more tolerant of dissent. You get the feeling that despite all the righteous opposition to their often venal schemes, most of them still believe in the free marketplace of ideas.  (They almost expect to be disliked.) On the other hand, I get the impression that progressives feel impelled to stamp out dissent as if it were a colony of ants invading the sanctity of the kitchen. 

Granted, Guido Barilla could have been a little more sensitive. Nobody forced him to voice his opposition to gay couples adopting children. But look at it this way: here was a traditionalist… a man who grew up in the era when “family” meant a husband and wife surrounded by copious offspring… a middle-aged Italian whose company image is built around the cozy slogan “Where there’s Barilla, there’s home”… and he actually came out in favor of gay marriage during his infamous interview. (Gay marriage is still illegal in Italy, by the way.) How many corporate potentates would have been so liberal just a few years ago? And now the forward-thinking world wants to see him and his company twist slowly in the wind.

When asked how his refusal to feature a gay family in his advertising might affect his business, Barilla answered with businesslike equanimity: if gays “like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta, if they don’t like it then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand,” Simple as that. He’s not dismissing his gay customers; he’s conceding that they’re entitled to make a free choice. As is he.

Barilla apologyWhen the public outrage hit the fan, Barilla suddenly backpedaled and, like any corporate chieftain with a good P.R. staff and a healthy respect for the bottom line, attempted to restore his name with a dose of timely damage control. I always shake my head at these cringeworthy exercises in self-abasement. If you have convictions, have the guts to stand by them — or don’t express them in the first place.

The bearded, shaggy-haired Barilla pleaded with his customers to forgive him as he came to understand “the evolution of the family.” He was planning to meet with representatives of the community he offended. It wasn’t that he’s anti-gay, he insisted. He was simply trying to say “that the woman plays a central role in a family.” (Of course, he neglected to comment on households headed by two women.)

Barilla’s apology struck me as tackier and more embarrassing than his original comments. I don’t believe anyone should be forced to renounce deeply held beliefs through bullying or boycotts. Our minds are the last vestige of privacy in a notoriously invasive world.

Yes, we need to support fairness for the formerly marginalized. That’s their birthright. But we also have a right — and yes, even a responsibility — to question fashionable ideas that grate against our instincts. Some of us will naturally take longer than others to embrace the notion of a man referring to his husband or a woman to her wife. If our progressive friends are truly friends, we shouldn’t have to worry that they’ll send us into exile.

Until further notice, I’ll continue to buy Barilla whole-grain pasta regardless of Guido’s shaky opinions on what constitutes a family. I’m not especially interested in his opinions, anyway; I’m more interested in his pasta.

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59 Comments leave one →
  1. Love the Ocean permalink
    September 28, 2013 1:53 am

    Conservatives are more tolerant of dissent? Oh, please. They believe in the free marketplace of ideas? Oh, please…seriously. Trust me, all extremists stamp out dissent. But, that’s not even relevant here…this rises above opinion to the top of the morality hierarchy because this involves human beings suffering discrimination and second-class status…and we humans should be at a point where we all recognize and reject that.

    • September 28, 2013 8:12 am

      LTO: Conservatives tend to just dig in and make it difficult or impossible for more progressive (and even moderate) proposals to prevail. That’s a serious problem. But you generally don’t see conservatives organizing boycotts of companies owned by liberals or attempting to drive Rachel Maddow off the air. They’ll just disagree with you and refuse to budge.

      Anyway, as I see it, the Barilla case isn’t about gay rights. (Guido Barilla said he was in favor of gay marriage.) The controversy swirled around a forced response to an interview question about marketing. You know I’m not especially enamored of corporations in general, but the head of a company has a right to market his products so they’ll sell. It would be inflammatory and probably disastrous, especially in Italy, to use a gay family to showcase a mass-market product. As I said in the piece, what major advertiser has stepped forward to feature a gay family in its advertising? Barilla is being singled out because he was put on the spot and answered “incorrectly.”

    • September 28, 2013 8:42 am

      Extremists do generally stamp out dissent. You appear to equate “conservative” with “extremist,” which is a misrepresentation all too common among today’s liberals. Disagreement with the progressive agenda is,to many, ipso facto evidence of extremist (dare I say, “heretical”?) beliefs. So, belief in marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, so recently a mainstream, even mundane, tenet of our society, has, in the past 5 or so years, become “extremist.” I don’t think that it has much to do with opposing human suffering or second-class status….I think it has to do with intolerance and the need to stamp out dissent, when in pursuit of a political or social agenda.

      It appears that Mr. Barilla fell victim to the kind of agenda driven “journalism” that dominates that once proudly independent thinking profession. He made the mistake of answering a “gotcha” question in a politically incorrect way, and he is being made to pay the price by those who insist that their own moral righteousness should never be questioned.

      • September 28, 2013 8:45 am

        Rick, you and I “simulposted.” In any case, I meant to add that my comment was a response to LTO.

      • September 28, 2013 9:27 am

        Priscilla,

        Indeed, when in doubt, create a story if you cannot find one.

      • September 28, 2013 12:15 pm

        Priscilla: I’d like to dig into the story a little further to satisfy my own curiosity. I want to find out who the interviewer was, and what his or her agenda was in this case. It did seem like a “gotcha” question, a deliberate set-up. (Who would ask the CEO of Ford or Coca-Cola if they were planning to feature any gay families in their advertising?) Then, too, I wonder if Barilla had a previous reputation for homophobic statements, or if the social left was simply waiting for a chance to lash out against his family-oriented image.

    • September 28, 2013 1:39 pm

      “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional!”

      The Buddha

    • April 19, 2014 3:34 pm

      There is much wrong with many conservatives, but inarguably conservatives are far more tolerant of disent today.

      If you wish to find intolerance on the right – you must seek out wacko’s like Rev. Phelps.

      If you are looking for it on the left – you need look no further than our president.

      Whether this has always been so, I do nto know. Rick makes note of Robspierre and numerous intolerant villians on the left who have resorted to blood.
      On occasion tyrants arguably on the right have filled the streets with blood, but the most glaring examples of the past several centuries belong to the left, from Robespierre, to Stalin, to Mao, to Pol Pot the left is more willing to silence and murder over ideology.

  2. Roberta Swanson permalink
    September 28, 2013 5:02 am

    he should have just responded with “why not?”…rick, have you tried pasta made from brown rice?… 

    ________________________________

    • September 28, 2013 8:14 am

      Roberta: When the interviewer put him on the spot, Barilla probably should have responded with a simple “I’ll think about it.” It still would have been honest, and it wouldn’t have gotten him into such hot water. And no, I haven’t tried brown rice pasta yet. (I did try brown rice Triscuits, though.)

  3. September 28, 2013 9:18 am

    Rick, I always enjoy your commentary, and generally agree with your views. However, in this case I believe a businessman should be held accountable for what he says in the public media. Here on the Island (Sint Maarten), this company’s pasta is not only all over the shelves, but is also two to three times the price of even the pricey American pastas that are sold here. But it doesn’t move well, and perhaps there is a different reason for that. But let me tell you this: Since all of our food here is shipped through at least a few weeks of very warm and very humid climes, every grain product must be carefully sifted or rinsed to get rid of any mealworm larva and legume pests. Barillo pasta–despite it’s “all natural” and whole wheat claims–never contains any bugs. Many years ago, I used to use Wondra flour for gravies and–especially-crepes, because it mixed so easily. One summer, every flour and flour-based product in my pantry became infested with bugs–except the Wondra.

  4. September 28, 2013 9:26 am

    So, the man sells pasta and has opinions that differ from “right thinking progressives.” Let’s burn him at the sake for his crimes. Really, are people so sensitive that this issue becomes a hot button for the media?

    I would love to do away with these labels anyway. Conservative, liberals. Are people really such simpletons that we can place them neatly in two buckets?

    Perhaps a course in growing a thicker skin is in order. If gays cannot fathom why the concept of a homosexual family MIGHT be unappealing to some, then they need to take a course in critical thinking.

    • September 28, 2013 12:20 pm

      Rich: Gotta agree with you on two points here: yes, we definitely over-label ourselves (and others) these days. And yes, gays have to realize that they’ve made extremely swift progress in the last ten years or so. The older ones have to remember that not too long ago, they were all classified as deviants. And now suddenly we’re all expected to change our definition of “family.” It will probably happen eventually, but jeez, some of us need a little time to adjust.

      • September 28, 2013 1:29 pm

        No Rick, man, you have to go ALL in on this topic or you will not be allowed to live certain “liberal” states. Really, man, you have to take a stand (kidding intended).

  5. September 28, 2013 9:29 am

    To continue…
    The point I was trying to complete before I got cut off is this: There is already some “lie” about the product, as it is virtually impossible to get wheat-based products here on the island that don’t develop bugs if they are not consumed within a week or so. So right there the “all natural” part is suspect, and the consumer should wonder about the integrity of the company.

    When a businessman makes comments that negatively impact on others in society, that person’s product deserves to be boycotted by consumers who disagree. Boycotting is an effective means of expressing disagreement. And it’s non-violent.
    I’m not gay, but I have friends who are. They are no more and no less the wonderful people I want to call “friend.” Althougn I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I also believe that everyone else is entitled to disagree. When a person expresses an opinion about any group, those who know better should also feel free to engage in “peaceful protest.” I’m wondering how you would respond if the comment were about Armenians. I love you, Rick, but I would much prefer that you started using other pasta products made by smaller Italian companies. Most of them actually are tastier.

    • September 28, 2013 12:21 pm

      Ellie, I have always supported the idea of local boycotts as a way to exert political pressure….in a limited way they can work, or at least the threat of them can work. The Montgomery bus boycott would be a good example.

      But, generally, national boycotts for political reasons tend to be useless, or counterproductive. Conservatives are always threatening to boycott this or that movie, because its star/director/producer has made some offensive remark or has spun a story so as to make conservatives the villains. But, generally, if it’s a good movie, people go to see it regardless of their political persuasion. When Christian conservatives boycotted Disney, the company’s profits went up. Similarly, the big Chik-Fil-A boycott last year, which was also in response to the gay marriage issue, pretty much backfired, and Chik-Fil-A’s profits soared as a result of the publicity.

      I personally boycott some products – Chinese made food products, for example – for quasi-political reasons, but mostly because I know that the food industry in China is gross and might poison me. So, while I support anyone’s decision to boycott a product for whatever reason, I think that most boycotts are ineffective.

      • September 28, 2013 12:38 pm

        Priscilla: Looks like we simulposted again. (We have to stop meeting like this!) You know, you made some good points about boycotts: 1) that conservative extremists do it, too (I tend to think of boycotts as a leftist weapon against free speech, and I probably shouldn’t); 2) some blatant outrages (like the Montgomery bus system half a century ago) really do call for organized action; and 3) more often than not, they boomerang by giving free publicity to the object of the boycott.

    • September 28, 2013 12:31 pm

      Ellie: Oh, I’m used to being part of a marginalized minority group, believe me. Not that I detect any actual animosity… just vast indifference and neglect. (As a Belarussian, you must know what I mean.) But I have other identities as well: American, male, Baby Boomer, Rutgers grad, obscure essayist, advertising copywriter, father, ex-husband, NBHS alumnus, birdwatcher, Philadelphian. I think the problem with identity politics is that too many of us focus exclusively on our membership in one group (usually a group that perceives itself as oppressed) to the exclusion of our membership in other groups.

      As for boycotting… yes, it’s a form of dissent and it’s peaceful. But what alarms me about it is the collective nature of such action. It’s not as if individuals are reflecting privately and thinking “I don’t like Barilla’s stance on gay families, so I’m not buying his products.” It strikes me as more public, more organized and little more coercive. I almost feel as if I’m putting friendships on the line if I don’t go along. (Though not yours… we go too far back and like each other too much to bear each other any ill-will over politics, and I appreciate that about you.)

      • September 28, 2013 1:27 pm

        I do boycott Starbuck’s coffee, not because Schultz is an egomaniac and a putz, but because his coffee SUCKS and the baristas think they are serving up something other than a hot drink.

        Spare the attitude and learn how to make coffee. Must be the BS in Literature that is pissing them off. Hey, I didn’t tell them they had a bright future!

      • September 28, 2013 1:41 pm

        Rick,

        I suggest the following repsonse to these friends who want you join a boycott”

        “I don’t do boycotts.”

        Repeat if they are not clear.

  6. September 28, 2013 10:38 am

    I am part Polish. Polish jokes abound and for good reason. Will I boycott anyone who tells a Polish joke? How much of waste of time would that be.

    I am part German. Hitler is part of my past (genetics wise anyway). Should I be sensitive about any negative German allusion?

    How much of a waste of time would that be?

    Grow up folks, others have opinions. They are humans, they can’t help themselves.

    Me too!

  7. September 28, 2013 10:39 am

    PS-They make good pasta and I will continue to buy it.

  8. Ron permalink
    September 28, 2013 12:09 pm

    Rick, I have to agree with most of what you say, but I must asked if there is proof that most all negative comments about the interracial Cheerio ad were from south of the MD line. Since I am from below that line myself, I have found few who have said anything but that being a cute ad. And I must add also that equal amount of riots and violence from racial equality and school integration happened well above the MD line or well west of that area. (Boston for example, LA for another). The only difference in racial hatred between the north and south since the mid 60-‘s is northerners are in the closet about segregation and in the south it is much more open. It exist everywhere.

    • September 28, 2013 12:44 pm

      Ron: You know, I had second thoughts about my “Dixieland” remark as soon as I posted the column. You’re absolutely right… I have no proof that the majority of the flak came from the South; I just made an assumption, and for all I know it’s a wrong one. Yes, there’s plenty of anti-black bigotry up here, too — though a lot of it has to do with urban street crime. Thanks for keeping me honest. (I’ll see if I can tinker with that statement.)

    • September 28, 2013 1:35 pm

      Based on my experience, no locale, gender, or race has a monopoly on racism. I have personally seen and experienced plenty in the North and coming from people of ALL colors and nationalities. On balance, I think we need to get over ourselves a bit on this topic.

  9. September 28, 2013 12:19 pm

    How hard is it to buy a different brand? It seems to me the very least a person can do is make an inconsequential change in their shopping habits, its not like barilla is any better than the other available brands, they are just a larger company. Furthermore most stores have their own generic brand which is cheaper.

    Considering how easy this is, I have to say it seems like you are making a statement in support of Guido Barilla by refusing to.

    I have no respect whatsoever for people who take a “moderate” position on civil rights. They either exist or they don’t, and you either support them or you don’t. If you are against gay marriage and buy into the one man one woman line that Guido managed to fit into his non apology, then just say so. As for myself I am for total equality, no compromises, and no exceptions.

    • September 28, 2013 1:31 pm

      I am buying double my normal order of Barilla Pasta tommorrow. Someone has to take a stand for free speech!

    • September 28, 2013 9:06 pm

      Giuliano, I don’t see the Barilla case as being about civil rights. It’s about the definition and perception of family. Most Americans (if you believe the polls) are now in favor of, or, at the very least, not opposed to gay marriage. Even the Pope, for crikey’s sake, condemns homophobia. Being a traditionalist is not the same as being a bigot.

      You say you have “no respect” for the moderate position on this, yet the moderate position is support for gay rights. Re-defining marriage is a fairly radical change, and I disagree that those who hesitate to do that are anti-gay.

      • September 28, 2013 9:21 pm

        As usual, spot on. It is apparently unseemly to actually think these things through. Religious faith has been replaced by PC faith, as dictated by the intelligensia, or those who merely aspire to such levels.

  10. Rob Anderson permalink
    September 28, 2013 12:40 pm

    I would like to second Giuliano’s opinion. Barilla’s remark not hateful per se, but it strongly implied that there was something wrong with gay families that made it impossible to use in advertising his pasta. However much Barilla may privately support gay marriage, his public remark was damaging to people who – to this day – suffer as second class citizens if and when they are open about their homosexuality. Such a remark requires sanction, and a boycott is the best non-violent choice.

    • September 28, 2013 1:32 pm

      Now we will “sanction” for “strongly implying” something. Wow, this is a bit touchy isn’t it?

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        September 28, 2013 8:45 pm

        Touchy? Oh I don’t think so. I have several gay friends – four of whom are married to each other, WITH KIDS – who would beg to differ with you. It’s easy to be glib about this sort of thing when you don’t have to suffer the consequences in your own life. My good friend Gina and her wife Sherry have raised two amazing kids to honorable adulthood, but the entire way all four of them have had to endure no end of shit from people practicing their “free speech.”

    • September 28, 2013 7:54 pm

      The thing is, Rob, advertisers don’t use fat, old, ugly straight people in advertisements either. I don’t think that that is necessarily because they consider them second class citizens (although in many ways, fat people suffer far more discrimination than gays) but because advertising is all about image.

      I have come around to the idea that gay marriage can co-exist with religious freedom, as long as we are vigilant in protecting everyone’s rights. But that will not be easy, and all of the rainbows in the world won’t make it so.

      I am often reminded of the brilliant observation of Fran Lebowitz on this subject: “Do you think gay marriage is progress? Are you kidding me? This was one of the good things about being gay. I am stunned that the two greatest desires apparently of people involved in the gay rights movement are gay marriage and gays in the military. Really? To me these are the the two most confining institutions on the planet: people used to pretend to be gay to get out of going into the army.”

      Go figure.

  11. September 28, 2013 12:49 pm

    GIT and Rob: But you also have to think of this issue in terms of marketing (and it IS a marketing issue): What CEO in his right mind (not that all of them are in their right mind to begin with) would risk profits by using gay families in a commercial for a mass-market product like pasta? I could see if Benetton (to name an Italian fashion company that was very much in the vanguard on social issues) ran such an ad. (I wonder if they have.) But let’s face it: we’ve just recently gotten over calling gay people deviants, and now all of a sudden we’re supposed to embrace gay families. Social change doesn’t happen that fast. It’ll happen, but it won’t be overnight. A businessman with a mass-market product has to be aware of that.

  12. September 28, 2013 1:06 pm

    I am ambivilent on the notion of gay marriage. I can see both pros and cons from a societal view. I also find the automatic genufllecting on this issue by many on the left as quite amusing.

    I also find Guliano’s last statement on “equality” as humorous as well. Then again, that’s just me. Such righteouness is surely admirable, no?

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      September 28, 2013 8:48 pm

      Men like you, Belloff, are experts at denigrating simple, human decency by referring to it with words like “righteousness.” You will find the rest of us unimpressed.

      • September 28, 2013 9:16 pm

        Interesting you speamk for the “rest of us.” A bit pretentious I think.

      • September 28, 2013 9:17 pm

        Interesting you speak for the “rest of us.” I didn’t know you have been given such authority.

  13. September 28, 2013 1:07 pm

    Deviant:

    Differing from a norm or from the accepted standards of a society.

    n.
    One that differs from a norm, especially a person whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.

  14. September 28, 2013 1:14 pm

    Based on this article, the estimated gay population in the US is 4M, which is about 1% of the population. This of course, suggests that gay behavior/preference is NOT normally distributed, at least as a percentage of the population. What is more interesting to me is that I would estimate that stories with gay related topics quite easily exceed 1% of the total.

    Seems like the medeia is fixated on covering gay issues, maybe.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/07/gay-population-us-estimate_n_846348.html

  15. Love the Ocean permalink
    September 28, 2013 7:49 pm

    Giuliano and Rob: Well said!

    Rick, your site doesn’t notify me of comments and new posts, even though I check those options off.

  16. Love the Ocean permalink
    September 28, 2013 7:50 pm

    Rick, OK, I see…the site didn’t permanently capture my email address.

    • Ron P permalink
      September 29, 2013 11:53 pm

      LTO what did you do to get this to capture your info and keep it. I have tried a couple times to get the responses and postings to work and have had no luck. And mine saved the e-mail from a previous try.

  17. September 29, 2013 9:16 am

    Qw REALLY need more moderation — look at what’s happening in Washington right now! Let’s work together to build this moderate movement!

    • September 29, 2013 10:33 am

      I don’t know if that is really true, Mary Ann. Perhaps we actually need a bit of confrontation in DC right now. As it has been in the past, these birds get along at the expense of the taxpayers. They party, we work hard (if we can find work). Meanwhile, the promises get made and broken, year after year.

      Perhaps this is JUST what we need. Perhaps, we will get tired enough to get rid of the dead wood once and for all?

    • April 19, 2014 4:01 pm

      Sorry, we need less moderation. It is compromise and cooperation that got us into the bind we are currently in.

  18. September 29, 2013 10:47 am

    Not to upset the apple cart too much, but I find the referenced story a bit EXTREME. I think it is germane to the whole topic we are discussing.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/argentina/10339296/Six-year-old-becomes-first-transgender-child-in-Argentina-to-change-identity.html

  19. September 29, 2013 4:34 pm

    I know boycotting pasta companies is really really important. Why are we not upset over something like this?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/us/nsa-examines-social-networks-of-us-citizens.html?_r=0

  20. September 29, 2013 5:02 pm

    This is certainly a tougher one.

    I think Rick rightly centers on the real issue here, which is the intolerant left-wing reactionary grousing that arises whenever issues darling to that ideology are whiffed. I first heard of it from my leftist Facebook acquaintances who, as predictably as sunrise, announced that they would boycott Barilla. I’m unabashedly averse to this kind of lock-step thinking. And, as other comments have suggested, it actually goes against the very steps gay advocates are taking to stymie such judgmental and intolerant attitudes. It becomes less about an individual’s actual position on the issue and more about the value of dissent in a particular congregation. While I think Rick is wrong in saying that rightists are more comfortable with internal dissent, the real point there is that leftists are DEFINITELY not comfortable with it. If there’s any single aspect to leftism that turns so many away, it’s the propensity toward blind collectivism–even if we as individuals actually might agree with their position.

    That said…

    “If you have convictions, have the guts to stand by them – or don’t express them in the first place.”

    Sorry, guys, but Barilla deserves EXACTLY what he gets. As Rick and proceeding comments pointed out, Barilla is a business man, and if he couldn’t take the heat he SURELY had to know was there, then he should have kept his mouth shut. He could have politely “no commented” the question. The Chik-Fil-A owner didn’t backpedal at all, because he’s a businessman and he took a calculated risk. I think, because of Barilla’s backpedaling, the travesty here is that he appears to not know his customers or the market, or he doesn’t care. Yes, perhaps the majority of his customers (worldwide) do favor “traditional” marriage, but marketing isn’t always about the majority. This suggests a naivety that is almost inexcusable.

    Priscilla’s point about fat, ugly people might have more weight in this particular discussion, except for one thing that Rick and almost everyone seems to have forgotten: Barilla specifically singled out homosexuals as being barred from his advertising. Advertisers do not announce SPECIFICALLY that they single out the groups Priscilla mentioned, for what we all know are obvious reasons. They still do it, of course, but this isn’t about what actually transpires, this is about public perception, however flawed it is. It doesn’t matter that Barilla was specifically asked the question, it matters that he chose to answer, as I said above. (Priscilla and I can debate another time about the mythical journalistic objectivity she alluded to–spoiler alert: it never existed.) He was not misinterpreted; his very words are clear. Now, if my next question makes eyes roll, then so be it: Had Barilla singled out blacks, Jews, or (the more likely) any non-Italians, would the sympathy for him flow so steadily? Of course he would not necessarily (or not even likely) be racist or bigoted for being specific about his advertising, but the public perceptions–reactionary, reductive, simplistic–are always there, have always been, and always will be.

    Let me end by pointing out that no one’s actually being forced to do or say anything here. Boycotts, however futile they actually ending up being, aren’t an actual “sanction.” It’s a group of citizens exercising free speech, just like Barilla was exercising his. NO ONE is having that right taken from them. I would beg the ideologues of the world to refrain from the too-easy and seductive tactic of victimhood. Barilla isn’t a victim. Mean, nasty liberals aren’t Big Brothering him. Notice how everyone who has a group voicing displeasure with him/her is being “picked on?” So let’s dispense with the melodrama. Barilla opined, people (over)reacted. Let’s not fuel the ultra-righties any more than the ultra lefties, shall we?

    • September 29, 2013 5:39 pm

      Listen, I am not out here shedding tears for Mr. Barilla. On the other hand, he was asked specifically if he would use a family headed by a gay couple in advertisements for his company, And he foolishly gave a truthful answer, instead of weaseling out of a loaded question. So, yeah, I do think that this has a lot to do with the kind of image control that companies practice all the time. Barilla is the world’s leading pasta company, and if you think that there aren’t a whole lot of competitors out there celebrating this gaffe and fueling this controversy, than I would suggest that you are overlooking a big part of this uproar (http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/09/27/barillas-competitors-respond-pasta-for-everyone/)

      As far as debating journalistic objectivity, SGF, I will grant you that true objectivity has never existed.

      Then again, I never said that…I said that good investigative journalists were once independent, as opposed to being water carriers for the liberal power elites.

      • September 29, 2013 6:24 pm

        “It appears that Mr. Barilla fell victim to the kind of agenda driven ‘journalism’ that dominates that once proudly independent thinking profession.”

        The word journalism being in quotes strongly suggests that you think that independent journalism doesn’t carry its own agenda. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single writer, or a cog in a vast conglomerate…they’re all biased. And I’m not even talking about the abstract, unattainable objectivity you suggest, but the mere act of removing even the smallest vested interests from one’s piece. The very nature of journalism doesn’t allow for this. They’re all water carriers, Priscilla, even if it’s one man for himself. I’ve suggested the work before, but I’ll do it again–check out Paul Starr’s The Creation of the Media. I think it’s essential reading for the subject.

        As for image control, my point about journalism covers that as well. You’re talking about companies selling a product. OF COURSE they want to see their competitors fail. Would not the competitors have celebrated ANY potentially harmful gaffe? They’re capitalizing (or attempting to) using this issue. No biggy there.

        And for the record, I wasn’t singling you out as supporting Barilla. Rick and a few others had done so, and I was referring to them. Apologies if I suggested otherwise.

      • September 29, 2013 6:36 pm

        Ah, no apology necessary, SGF. I think I may be wordsmithing on the journalism thing, although I do believe that true investigative journalism has been on the wane for a while now….it’s not so much the agendas that bother me, it’s the lack of…well, investigating.

        It’s all essentially Pasta Wars now. To the victor goes the sauce.

    • September 29, 2013 5:55 pm

      Technically, boycotters are largely in engaged in freedom of choice, not speech, per se. That said, there is nothing “wrong” with boycotts either way. Its just the silly lock-stepping as you pointed out.

      I also think we clearly need to work on more urgent issues as to whether the CEO of a pasta company was not quite PC.

    • April 19, 2014 3:59 pm

      SGF;
      For the most part I agree. But I work expand that for most businesses – particularly large mass market businesses, there is no segment of the market they can afford to offend.

      A small percent shift in sales can be the difference between a profitable and unprofitable business. The left likes to scream that business is all powerful and immoveable.
      That is crap. With few exceptions we may chose where we buy as we please. The survival and success of most every business depends on increasing the likelyhood we chose them – again and again and again. Small changes in buying habits by small segments of the market can be the end of a business.

      Barilla can not afford to piss of consumers – regardless of whether they are on the left or right. Most businesses strive vigorously to avoid getting caught in these positions.
      There are lose-lose.

  21. Pat Riot permalink
    September 29, 2013 11:04 pm

    Good post, Rick! I agree. That’s my opinion. It’s crucial to humanity for people to be able to give their opinions. There’s a significant difference between actively persecuting/attacking people vs. giving one’s opinion about something or about other people’s choices.

    • April 19, 2014 3:49 pm

      Pat;
      Persecute and attack people if you choose – you are free to do so – so long as you do not engage in actual violence to do so, or use government as a proxy.

  22. April 19, 2014 3:48 pm

    I have zero problems with anyone who wishes to boycott or condemn anyone else for any reason. So long as all the choices involved are voluntary.

    If you wish to boycott Barella because they are “homophobic” more power to you. If you chose to take your business from their competitors and to them because their stance on homosexuality appeals to you. I may beleive you are wrong, but you should be free to do so.

    If you are a consumer – you may take your business where you please, If you are a baker, or a photographer, you should be free to chose your customers as you wish.

    At various times in different roles we are all either buyers or sellers, producers or consumers. I sell my time, my effort, my creatitivy – I do so as an employee or a consultant. I choose who I will work for and who I will not. But declining a customer comes at a price, my freedom to make choices is not free. But the choice as to whether I am willing to pay the price is mine.

    I have the same choices as a buyer. I can buy fair trade, or free trade or made in america, or union made or …. as I please – or not.

    • April 19, 2014 3:58 pm

      Except in some states, where you will be forced to serve gay wedding cakes against your will.

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