The art of the Boycott

by Bernard McCormick Friday, February 10, 2017 No Comment(s)

The president called a press conference. The room was filled with reporters, but when the president walked in, they all walked out. Surprised, he turned to his press secretary, but the man had left. When he tried to find out from the Secret Service what was going on, he found they had all gone to bed. He went out to the presidential limo, just in time to hear the driver say he was quitting. 

The street was crowded, attracted by the presidential limousine, but when the people saw the president, they quickly disappeared—into doorways, up alleys, around corners, up chimneys. There was a restaurant nearby, but when the president went in, all of the people got up and left. He asked for coffee, but the waiter refused to serve him. In fact, he walked out. The president went to complain to the manager, but the manager locked his office door. When he walked into the kitchen, all the cooks raced out the back door. 

The president walked to the White House. The crowded street emptied out; all the cars sped off. The president saw a figure peeking out a window, but as he came near, a curtain was drawn. When he got to the White House, no one was there. The staff had quit.  The guards were gone. The door was locked. An airplane was overhead. But when the president waved to get attention, the plane made a sudden bank and disappeared. The president attempted to tweet, but his phone was dead. Some knave had hacked it.

In case you hadn’t guessed, this is a boycott. Or, to be historically precise, Boycott with a capital “B.” These are times when organizations threaten to boycott anything associated with President Trump, and Democrats boycott some hearings, and people threaten to boycott Starbucks because its CEO said he would hire refugees from the Muslim countries. Politics aside, some people weary of the traffic jams caused by cars lined up to enter busy Starbucks stores, may welcome that idea. In any event, it may be useful to recall where the term boycott comes from. 

Like all great ideas, it began in Ireland. In the year 1880, as the Irish were making their annual attempt to escape English rule. A retired British military man, Capt. Charles Boycott, had the unenviable job of collecting rents, for an absentee landlord, from poor Irish tenant farmers in County Mayo on Ireland’s rugged west coast. He wasn’t a beloved figure to start with, and when a bad harvest made it tough for the tenants to pay, and farmers faced eviction, resentment against Boycott grew.

Instead of killing him, as the Irish sometimes handled such touchy problems, the people took the advice of the Irish politician/patriot Charles Stewart Parnell. He suggested they “shun” Boycott. That they did. Nobody would work for him or serve him in a restaurant or even talk to him. They turned from him on the streets. And some people actually drew curtains when they saw him walking by.

The situation quickly drew national and eventually, worldwide attention. Boycott could not stand it and was forced to leave Mayo. And even then, no carriage driver would accept the job of taking him to his train. He actually rode in an army ambulance. 

When he arrived in Dublin, the situation was little better. People threatened the hotel where he stayed, and he soon left for England.

By then his name had provided a new noun and verb for the English language. Within months, boycott became a term for, well, boycott. The history of Capt. Boycott seems ironically applicable to the current political climate.
If what we read in the lying media is true, that psychologists suspect President Trump suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder bordering on mental illness, the idea of an Irish-style boycott would make him even crazier.

Imagine if a man who has an incurable craving for approval were to suffer the same fate as Capt. Boycott. Suppose nobody would talk to him, or do TV interviews, or even mention him in stupid columns like this. Suppose nobody whispered his name or made fun of him on “Saturday Night Live.” Suppose not even Fox News, which is a public relations arm of the Republican Party, would give him airtime. Suppose he could not get a room at his own hotels. And imagine if even his press secretary, Sean Spicer, stopped destroying his own reputation by his bumbling, petulant defense of every wacky thing the president tweets in the dead of night.

Does anyone doubt that the president would become completely unhinged and, like the original Capt. Boycott, flee to some country where people actually would talk to him?

But what sane country would take an illegal immigrant? Russia comes to mind. 


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