The war against freedom of speech that has emerged on our college campuses the last few years is now metastasizing to many of our private sector companies, large and small.
That is the ominous conclusion we can draw from multiple businesses—from Johnson & Johnson to Nestle—instantly pulling their advertising from Fox’s “The Ingraham Angle” because Laura Ingraham made some ill-considered tweet mocking high school gun control activist David Hogg’s college admission difficulties. They did this even though Ingraham apologized the next day. Hogg, for his part, dismissed the apology, preferring to continue his proven method of nonstop profanity-laced screeds, such as his attacks on Marco Rubio for “putting a price on children’s heads.”
That Hogg, a seventeen-year-old, still acts like one—in fact, a not very mature one—is hardly surprising. What is concerning is that all these companies appear to buy his views hook, line and proverbial sinker without stopping for a moment to consider what they might entail.
Of course, companies are entitled to their beliefs as much as individuals but I submit that these boycotts do not truly represent their opinions but are merely reflexive displays of corporate virtue signaling. They have little or nothing to do with whatever issue is propelling it. This is not about gun violence, a complicated subject with a variety of possible solutions, none of which are close to proven. Debating the issues is the least of it. It is about power and control.
What is going on is more precisely a mass display of political correctness augmented by fear. The groupthink among elites in our culture has become so severe that now even corporate CEOs, who once tended to be pragmatic, do not dare brook the conventional pieties of liberal/progressive thought. This urge to conform is so strong that it overrides the obvious: that boycotting might be against their business interest. These corporations are insulting a vast percentage of their clientele, those same people that made Roseanne the biggest television hit in years last week.
But it is worse because these corporations are actually using free speech for the larger purpose of squelching it. By attempting to take Laura Ingraham—or anyone else—off the air, they are stomping on ideas, ending the discussion. The First Amendment be gone!
The old liberal tradition used to read: You fight bad speech with more and better speech. Now you just annihilate it so it can’t be heard. And in our mass media age, who could do that better than a huge corporation that often has more resources than a medium-sized country?
No need to debate or seek the truth or even compromise. Just extinguish the opposition and move on.
You have to hand it to David Hogg, at least, that he recognized this. As a child of the social media age, perhaps it came to him naturally.
But the corporate executives who followed his lead should know better. It’s rather frightening that they don’t. It may be that few CEOs know the history of political correctness, its provenance, how PC evolved from the proto-fascist theories of cultural relativism. To the relativist, there is no truth. Therefore suppressing speech—the free flow of ideas—is nothing more than an inconvenience and often mandatory. What better way to seize the state?
That these theories were used by the Frankfurt School in an attempt to abolish the capitalist system should be of interest to CEOs of all people.
Those same CEOs would be wise to abandon their boycott for the public good. The next entity boycotted could be them. Fox News, for its part, is brushing it aside and backing up Ingraham. One corporation, anyway, is defending free speech—even if it’s their own.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His latest book is I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already.