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Ender's Game Boycott—Will 'Tolerance' Prevail After SCOTUS Marriage Decision?

The Chick-fil-A boycott debacle should prompt boycott supporter to re-think their game plan.

BY Joan Desmond

| Posted 7/22/13 at 12:22 PM

 

The film adaptation of Ender's Game -- a great young adult sci-fi novel/series, and one of my oldest son's favorite books -- is the target of a high-profile boycott initiated by Geeks Out. The gay-rights group has no problem with the book, but with its author, Orson Scott Card, who has spoken out in the past about homosexual behavior and is a past board member of the National Organization for Marriage, the nation's leading political group resisting changes in the nation's marraiage laws. 

The film will be released in November, but the boycott campaign, Skip Ender's Game, is already in full gear. Organizers have urged the book's fans to stay home.

Do not buy a ticket at the theater, do not purchase the DVD, do not watch it on-demand. Ignore all merchandise and toys. However much you may have admired his books, keep your money out of Orson Scott Card’s pockets.

The boycott website cites a 1990 published comment by Card,who said that “Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books.” 

Scott issued a statement responding to the boycott effort

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984," Card wrote. "With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

The film's producers have disavowed Card's "anti-gay" stance, pointing out that the production has nothing to do with the issue of gay rights. And it's too soon to say whether the Geeks Out campaign will develop traction and set a precdent for punishing past and present advocacy of traditional marriage.

 Despite the illflamatory statements, however, there are some signs of sanity, leavened by respect for free speech, and a dose of political pragmatism, in media comentary on the issue.

The Los Angeles Times book critic weighed in on the controversy here. David Ulin noted that Card is a Morman, and saw fit to question the moral crediblity of his faith-based stance on mariage.  

Equally egregious is the way Card has used faith to justify his position when even prominent Mormons such as former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsmanhave endorsed gay marriage; faith should not preclude clear thinking or tolerance or moral judgment, after all. 

Still, Ulin was not prepared to endorse the boycott.

Is it fair to judge a creative effort by the politics of its maker, especially when, as in the case of “Ender’s Game,” those politics don’t have anything to do with the work?

The LA Times asked readers, "Would you boycott an artistic work because of its author's politics?" 68% said no.

In a July 20 column in the New York Times opionion page,  Julie Lapidos likened the boycott campaign to "blacklisting."

Generally, boycotts are used to pressure companies or governments to end objectionable activities; consider the boycott of Chick-fil-A to protest the chain’s financial support of antigay organizations. What Geeks Out has in mind is closer to blacklisting. The group wants to “send a clear and serious message to Card and those that do business with his brand of antigay activism — whatever he’s selling, we’re not buying.” This isn’t about stopping the dissemination of antigay sentiments; it’s about isolating Mr. Card and shaming his business partners, thus cutting into their profits.

If Mr. Card belongs in quarantine, who’s next? His views were fairly mainstream when the Sunstone article appeared and, unfortunately, are not unusual today. Just 10 years ago, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his inflammatory Lawrence v. Texas dissent that Americans have every right to enforce “the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct” in order to protect themselves “from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

If that isn't enough to convice gay-rights supporters that they should think twice about promoting such boycotts, Lapidos also reminds Times readers that the Chick- fil-A boycott actually backfired.

These things have a way of backfiring, as when former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas promoted Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day to counter the Chick-fil-A boycott. Attending a goofy popcorn movie could become a way to express disapproval of gays and lesbians — hardly a happy ending.

With polls showing U.S. voters divided on the issue of same-sex marriage, "marriage equality" advocates need to move forward cautiously. Tthe Chick-fil-A boycott debacle provided a wakeup call. Let's see what lessons have been learned.