Better Anti-Boycott Arguments, Please

| Mon Jun. 23, 2014 6:35 PM EDT

Kelsey McKinney writes today about the controversy over the Beverly Hills Hotel. The hotel is owned by the Dorchester Collection, which in turn is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, which in turn is owned by the Sultan of Brunei. The sultan has recently proposed a new legal code based on a strict interpretation of shariah law:

Under the first phase of [the sultan's] proposed implementation of sharia, fines and jail time can be given for failing to attend Friday prayers, indecent behaviors, and being pregnant outside of marriage. The second phase will allow flogging and limb severing for property crimes, and the third will allow stoning for crimes of adultery and gay sex.

Unsurprisingly, a bunch of Hollywood celebrities object to this and have tried to organize a boycott of the hotel (though, oddly enough, nobody seems to care much about any of the other hotels in the Dorchester Collection, including the Hotel Bel-Air, which is all of two miles away). I'm not going to pretend that I have any settled views on this whole thing, but I'm struck by the arguments of some of the folks who oppose the boycott. Here's Russell Crowe:

Sending me abuse will not stop my support of Gay , Lesbian, Bi and Trans Gender rights. The laws that Brunei are adopting are hideous.....However, throwing the staff of Dorchester Collection Hotels under the bus to make a political point is not acceptable to me.

This is the standard anti-boycott argument from the hotel's management, and I wonder if Crowe and others understand what it means? It's basically a case against ever boycotting any business for any reason. After all, pretty much every business employs lots of people who are merely innocent bystanders in these kinds of affairs.

This is a plausible argument against boycotts in general, but that's the only thing it's a plausible argument against. If you've ever supported a boycott of any business anywhere, it won't work.