Reader Cato e-mails:

As I have mentioned I work for sporting goods retailer that amongst other things sells guns. I can’t say which one if you want to post this, but several of them have thus far NOT followed Dick’s lead in response to the Florida shootings. I don’t personally work with the guns and am not an expert on them. I work in another area. Nonetheless I can tell you in the last week we have sold almost every AR-15 in the store. We have also sold heavily other Modern Sporting Rifles (that’s guns speak for what the media calls assault rifles. All rifles can be used to assault someone, but I digress.)

We have a branch of Dick’s Field and Stream stores nearby. In the past week we have had numerous customers — I personally spoke to one yesterday — come in and tell us that they were NEVER going to shop their again and had cut up their store cards.

Meanwhile REI just announced it will no longer stock Camelbak, a popular line of hydration packs and water bottles, because its parent company, Vista, also manufactures ammo and sporting rifles. Apparently bike shops also are dropping Vista made products, which include Bell bike helmets. From what I’ve read this stems from one person tweeting that HE wasn’t going to buy Vista made products, and it went viral.

The thing is Dick’s has been losing money and from what I’ve heard (I don’t know this one for sure, I  do know for sure about Dick’s) so has REI. [Note: I looked into it, and REI is doing well. — RD] In the case of Dick’s, particularly its Field and Stream franchise aren’t going to spend enough money to make up for the customers they’re alienating. (And remember, gun owners don’t just buy guns, they buy gun safes, scopes, cases, holster, ammo, tactical bags and if they’re hunters, as slew of other merchandise)   People just don’t buy that many soccer balls and the people applauding Dick’s aren’t going to take up bass fishing or bow hunting just support a retailer that briefly pleased them.

I don’t know about other industries, but apparently in sporting goods the power of progressives on social media is great enough to convince  capitalists to choose to lose money, and possibly lead their own companies into bankruptcy.

It’s true: REI is not ordering more CamelBaks. From the REI media page:

REI does not sell guns. We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month. In the last few days, we’ve seen such action from companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart and we applaud their leadership.

This week, we have been in active discussions with Vista Outdoor, which has recently acquired several companies that are longtime partners of REI. These include Giro, Bell, Camelbak, Camp Chef and Blackburn. Vista also owns Savage Arms, which manufactures guns including “modern sporting rifles.”

This morning we learned that Vista does not plan to make a public statement that outlines a clear plan of action. As a result, we have decided to place a hold on future orders of products that Vista sells through REI while we assess how Vista proceeds.

Companies are showing they can contribute if they are willing to lead. We encourage Vista to do just that.

Given REI’s successful branding strategy, this might actually serve the company’s bottom line. But it’s not just REI. Now bike shops are facing pressure to drop Giro, Bell, and other products. Excerpt:

Beyond the major gear supply chains, public pressure has also fallen on individual bike shops to take up the cause. They now face a tough financial choice: drop popular products, such as the CamelBak hydration pack or the CoPilot baby seat, or risk losing the support of a cycling community uneasy about putting money into the pockets of the gun lobby.

For Metropolis Cycles in Portland, Oregon, joining the boycott would mean taking a significant hit. The independently owned shop holds about $3,000 worth of Vista products, or about 5 percent of its total inventory.

“It’s not chump change,” Metropolis co-founder Nathan Roll said. “If we were to close that out, we’d be losing money certainly. We haven’t made a decision either. We’re waiting to hear back from [Vista]. They haven’t made a public statement yet.”

It is the right of all people to spend their money as they wish. Period, end of story. It makes sense to me that people would choose not to buy sporting goods from stores that sell AR-15 rifles. I wouldn’t join them in that, but that kind of protest is reasonable. And it also makes sense that angry gun owners would choose to withhold their business from stores that won’t sell AR-15s.

But the idea that progressives and progressive-minded companies would try to ruin manufacturers and retailers of such anodyne products as hydration bottles and bike helmets infuriates me. Though I own several guns, I don’t really care about the gun issue. Though I’m generally in favor of stronger gun laws, I have never cast a vote based on a candidate’s views on gun control. I grew up in a gun culture, and live in that same gun culture, but I am cold to the passion for guns that lots of people around me share.

Why does this set me off, then? Because it’s Memories Pizza all over again. 

Seriously, you progressives are going to punish a maker of bicycle helmets and a manufacturer of water pouches because their corporate cousin makes guns? And you’re going to threaten local bike shops over this? Seriously?! Of course you are. That’s progressivism in 2018. Self-righteous bullies. Like I said: Memories Pizza all over again. Once you get that progressive mob rolling, they’ll try to destroy any business — Masterpiece Cakeshop, Arlene’s Flowers — that offends their sensibilities.

(Actually, I concede that this is significantly different than Memories Pizza, in which the entire world of Right-Thinking Liberals came crashing down on a small-town family business. My point is that this feels like the same kind of thing: a righteous left-wing mob lashing out indiscriminately at businesses that have suddenly become transgressors — enemies of the people — for spurious reasons. As this blog’s commenter “Jones” put it in a comment on the Enemies Of The People thread, even though (being Muslim) he despised Trump and his supporters during the election campaign:

[M]ore recently I’ve had some surprising thoughts about Trump. On a visceral level, I’m deeply fearful of what would happen if Trump failed to win the next election. That feels borderline insane, and I want to learn more about what damage is really being done out there. But I think there’s no doubt that progressivism is the real enemy, and the one we’ll be dealing with for a while.

I get that. Boy, do I get that. The mob and its Big Business supporters ganging up on Bell and CamelBak, just like they ganged up on Memories Pizza and the State of Indiana in 2015, really brings that home. Almost overnight, supporting traditional marriage became a sign of HATE, and the mob was bound and determined to savage the haters. Now I guess selling Bell bicycle helmets and CamelBak water bottles means you support the slaughter of high school students.

Remember what David Brooks said the other day in his column on the NRA, progressives, and the culture war?:

The only thing I’d say to my progressive friends is, be careful how you win your victories. It is one thing to win by persuasion and another thing to win by elite cultural intimidation. Illiberalism breeds illiberalism. Using elite power, whether economic or cultural, to silence less educated foes usually produces a backlash.

Conservatives have zero cultural power, but they have immense political power. Even today, voters trust Republicans on the gun issue more than Democrats. If you exile 40 percent of the country from respectable society they will mount a political backlash that will make Donald Trump look like Adlai Stevenson.

Truth. This is not really about bike helmets and water bottles. This is about intimidation.

Question: do these boycotters actually expect Vista’s Savage Arms to stop manufacturing AR-15s? If it has to, the parent company will figure out a way to separate the non-gun businesses from its gun manufacturing. At worst, it will sell the gun business or the other businesses. Point is, not one fewer AR-15 sporting rifle will be made, nor one fewer one sold, because there is a market for them. Bell, CamelBak, and other companies that have nothing to do with guns will suffer, and people will lose their jobs until the corporate separation is accomplished.

But the backlash? It’s going to be something with more staying power. You watch. It’s anecdotal, I know, but just in the past several days, I’ve talked to four different people — from different parts of the country — who can’t stand Trump and didn’t vote (or voted third party) in the 2016 election, but who now find themselves so unnerved by illiberal liberalism that they expect to vote Trump in 2020.

UPDATE: Erin Manning gets to the gist of the matter. This is exactly right:

Rod, I think what you’re reacting to here is what might be called the “two minute hate-ification” of social protest.

It used to be that if society slowly came to perceive something as an evil that either hadn’t been thought of that way before, or hadn’t been properly understood (I’m thinking cigarette smoking here), etc., there was a certain amount of patience involved in presenting the view that that thing wasn’t terrific and also a that great deal of leeway should be given to people who were still grappling with the issue. Even when lots of people were joining in with the idea that maybe letting everybody smoke in classrooms and office buildings and restaurants wasn’t such a good idea, you didn’t just wake up one day and find editorials in every newspaper decrying smoking as the Worst Evil Ever, and labeling smokers “anti-fresh-air activists,” and calling loudly for boycotts against the paper company that sold some of its products to companies that would eventually turn them into cigarette packages, and running “name and shame” lists of ashtray manufacturers.

But today things are different. Just as we went, in less than ten years, from being a country where the idea of two men somehow marrying each other was late-night TV’s idea of a good comedy sketch to a country where you’re not supposed to express the belief that it still takes a man and a woman to form a real marriage, we now have become a nation where we’re constantly being scolded and told that something we sort of thought one way about yesterday has become a thing we Must Think About In Socially Approved Ways today, and the pace just keeps accelerating.

How long did it take to go from “Biological males don’t belong in the women’s dressing room,” to “Some women have penises! Get over yourself, bigot!”? How long did it take to go from “Children do best when raised by their own married biological parents” to “Of course two gay dads can be expecting twins–their gestational incubator doesn’t matter!”?

And now we’re moving from, “Gun violence is terrible but in general legal gun owners are responsible people,” to “Guns are evil, and everybody on the right side of history thinks so!” We’ve seen how this script plays out, time and time again. The two minute hate-ification has begun, and it will probably end with gun owners being marginalized and ostracized as people who aren’t fit to be around the right sort of people. Heavy pressure on companies even tangentially linked to certain types of guns will increase, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone starts wondering in some trendy newspaper or magazine why there are fifteen different Olympic events featuring shooting, and what kind of message that sends children (remember, kids, boatloads of condoms at the Olympics = good, but target shooting at the Olympics = bad!).

The trouble with the liberal activists is that their scripts are getting so predictable, that even the two minute hate may not be an effective tactic for very much longer. I think that’s part of the reason we are seeing such frantic activity and so much increased speed on these kinds of topics: there’s a very real sense out there that the very methods of communication that make stirring up the two minute hate so terribly easy are, ironically enough, also very effective at making people get bored and distracting them with something even newer, long before the desired progressive objective has been achieved.

(Of course, in tech terms, a lot of conservatives are wondering why their printed newsletter subscriptions are declining and asking around, via landline phone solicitation lists, to find out if people would rather get the newsletter emailed to them instead; conservatives aren’t much good at the two minute hate logistics, and seem to be the only people consistently surprised that anybody gets swept up in them.)