Our editorial questioning the boycott against businesses who advertise on Commissioner President Blaine Young's radio show got our readers' attention.
Even across the Independence Day weekend, when other editorials drew online clicks in the double-digits, "Calls for local boycotts ill-advised" netted over 1,100 unique hits (the most we had on any editorial since we launched our redesigned website on April 11) and 121 comments (another record).
Clearly, we provoked a strong reaction. Some of the criticism was directed at us.
"FNP you have lost your mind," said alovelyplace, and in another comment, "I'm sorry for the FNP's downslide several notches on the respectability scale." stated. "This editorial is nuts" said formerfcps. "This is the most ignorant editorial from the FNP I have ever seen," said runningaddict414. "Did the brains take the day off?" "This editorial is laughable," bukweet commented.
Woof. Some stiff criticism there.
Setting aside those ad hominem zingers, however, what we read in response was a well-thought-out, rational set of arguments in favor of boycotting from many of our commenters.
And to answer in short, no, we're still in full possession of our senses. The members of the editorial board did debate where to fall on the advisability of economic boycotts before writing it, and our readers' outpouring led us to debate the issue a second time. We wondered if we could have been clearer.
We don't often follow up with a second go-around on a topic, preferring to raise the question in an editorial that leads off the debate and leaves it to the readers, but we wanted to readdress the topic because this one really seems to have touched a nerve and we were a little obtuse in illustrating our central point.
We asked ourselves if this was really the most effective way to protest the actions of a majority of the commissioners. We don't think so. For one thing, the protest is at the advertisers who support Young’s radio show on WFMD 930AM. Imagine that support is removed. What happens? Will Young be chastened? Will he suddenly have a change of heart on the numerous votes he’s taken and suddenly refund nonprofits, buy back Citizens and Montevue, and hire back hundreds of county workers before submitting his resignation?
Young will retain his seat, he'll still be in charge of the board, he'll still have the three votes he needs to drive through any legislation he wishes. It’s unlikely he’ll have a sudden “Christmas Carol”-like epiphany.
The boycott would have no affect on Young's votes as an elected public official. There's a disconnect between that role and his radio show. Similarly, there’s not cause and effect link should the protest be directed at Yellow Cab, which Young co-owns. Young’s role and actions as an elected official do not rely on his private activities as a businessman -- and that’s the difference between this boycott and the ones of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, to name two examples.
Even if the boycott were wider and took in other members of the board, it still wouldn't hurt commissioners Billy Shreve, Kirby Delauter, and to a lesser extent, Paul Smith, who often form the voting bloc behind Young. We're open to hearing how this boycott would affect them if the organizers want to argue it.
So, if it's not hurting Young, or his cohorts on the board, to any great degree, who's getting pinched here? The businesses who choose to advertise on his show -- whether or not they agree with Young's policies. They bear the brunt, not Young, and that’s why we felt and argued in our first editorial that the boycott was inappropriate.
If the end goal is to have Young vote some other way, boycotting advertisers to the radio show is the wrong way to do it.
If the goal is to signal discontent and blow off some steam, mission accomplished.
If the aim is to take the show off the air, boycott away.
But if the aim is to get Young out of office, then this boycott is misdirected. As we said in our original editorial, there's much more effective ways of doing that, the best being at the ballot or donating to a candidate you do support.