NFL punter and noted gay rights supporter Chris Kluwe didn’t seem too happy with my pointing out his McCarthyism yesterday.
As a reminder, Kluwe wrote “If you ever want to read Ender’s Game, I would highly advocate getting it in a way that does not require you to pay for it.” I called this out for what it was, namely, old-school-, HUAC-, Red Channels-style McCarthyism. Tweeted Kluwe:
@sonnybunch It’s funny that you automatically go right to “theft”, instead of considering, oh, I don’t know, libraries? Borrowing?
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) February 26, 2013
and, after I said that I found it funny he was advocating that artists be deprived of compensation for their political views, he followed up with:
@sonnybunch I’d like to introduce you to this crazy concept called “capitalism”. That’s how it works.
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) February 27, 2013
To briefly touch on his first complaint: If he meant that people should borrow Ender’s Game he could have avoided confusion by saying so. When someone explicitly tells someone else to “get” something without paying for it, “borrowing” is usually not the form of “getting” we think of. But this is a quibble; if he was advocating increased library usage, then great.
I don’t want to let a debate over semantics derail the real point here: Kluwe thinks it’s fine and dandy to deny an artist compensation for his work because of his political beliefs. You’ll note that he doesn’t want to deny people the pleasure of enjoying the art—he just doesn’t want the artist to be compensated. He hides behind the shield of “capitalism” in invoking this defense.
Though tempted to respond sarcastically—I’m sure the studio heads who blacklisted the Hollywood Ten were more than happy to say “Hey, it’s just business! If they want to make movies all they have to do is stop being commies because we’re in the business of serving the American people and the American people hate commies!”—I will restrain myself and instead try to lay out a coherent view of why I find the politicization of every aspect of life both dispiriting and somewhat dangerous.
So, first: Obviously, Kluwe and the others who advocate against Orson Scott Card being employed because of his political beliefs are well within their rights. I’m not arguing that they should be required to buy the Superman anthology that contains Card’s work or that they should be required to buy Ender’s Game.
No. What I’m saying is that they’re jerks for trying to strip an artist of his livelihood for reasons that are entirely unrelated to his artwork. Similarly, if a group of NFL fans tried to get Kluwe fired from the Vikings and blacklisted from the NFL because they were angry that he thinks gays should be welcome in NFL locker rooms—a stance that has exactly zero impact on his ability to kick a football down the field—I would think they were jerks.
In summary, my basic, working theory on the subject is this: If you judge whether or not someone should be hired based on their political thinking or whether or not you should patronize a business because of the causes an executive of that business supports and that political thinking has nothing whatsoever to do with the work of the individual or the business, you’re being a jerk. Don’t be a jerk.
Now, this is not to say that I think capitalism cannot be used for good or to affect political change! If a company is discriminating against a group—say, a restaurant that refuses service to gay couples or a bus company that requires minorities to sit in the back—then by all means, boycott! That’s a situation where the politics actually impact the service rendered. If a company is a bad actor, punish the company.
But the politicization of every facet of our life—the urge to boycott a yoga company because their owner digs Ayn Rand; the need to tear down a health-food store because its worker-friendly owner thinks Obamacare is bad for the country; the desire to deny a filmmaker awards because she dares show the implementation of a policy you find troubling—is destructive to the very fabric of our society. It turns neighbor against neighbor, customer against proprietor, fan against creator. Capitalism with jerk-ish characteristics is a radical, scary concept that should play a much smaller role in our everyday life.
It’s turning us all into jerks.
Don’t be jerks.