By Evan Nierman

A troubling affliction for which there is no vaccine is infecting the country and wreaking havoc at corporations across America daring to dabble in politics. It is called boycott fever and it’s costing corporations billions of dollars.

With every passing day, it seems another business is coming under fire on social media for some misstep or error in judgement deemed unforgiveable by an anonymous online mob and worthy of economic punishment.

The way it typically shakes out is that someone puts out a call to cancel or boycott a business based on some aspect of their politics or marketing practices which someone has deemed to be unacceptable. It happened with Bud Light and it’s happening now with retailers Target and Kohl’s.

And now Chik-fil-A – long a darling of the Right because of the corporation’s Conservative policies – finds itself in the crosshairs. The reason?  Someone resurrected a 2 ½-year-old company DEI initiative, claiming Chik-fil-A has “gone woke.”

“This is bad. Very bad. I don’t want to have to boycott. Are we going to have to boycott?” conservative strategist Joey Mannarino wrote on Twitter, kicking off the furor.

Chick-fil-A says on its website that the company’s “commitment to Being Better at Together means embedding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion into everything we do,” including focuses on ensuring equal access, valuing differences and creating a culture of belonging. 

The fast-food chain has historically been a favorite of the Right and vilified by the Left because of its anti-LGBTQ+ stance and religious roots. The company isn’t open on Sundays so employees can attend church, and the chairman has been an outspoken critic of same sex marriage.

The problem with a boycott of Chick-fil-A based on this latest fabricated outrage is that it shows that people who are in favor of boycotts are being indiscriminate upon whom they’re training their fire.

Chik-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy has said the company operates on “biblical principles and believes that Christians are missionaries in the workplace. He  has said his goal is “to take biblical truth and put skin on it. … We’re talking about how our performance in the workplace should be the focus of how we build respect, rapport and relationships with others that opens the gateway to interest people in knowing God.”

You couldn’t skew much more to the Right.

Which is why the fact that Conservatives are now clamoring to cancel Chick-fil-A is beyond absurd. If we continue down this road, there will be no company left in America that hasn’t been canceled. Yes, businesses must understand that dipping their toes into American politics is a risky endeavor these days with partisanship at an all-time high and rancor exceptionally fierce. But the furor over Chik-fil-A is a manufactured mess.

Online activists may be engendering tweets, likes and views, but at what cost? Real people with families and mortgages who own company shares work at these businesses whose reputations are being savaged by naysayers with a mission to destroy. It’s patently unfair.

Simply said, boycotts are bad medicine.

Corporations, like people, are complex, and cannot be defined by one attribute. People need to leave Chick-fil-A alone. There is no basis for a Right-wing boycott of this fast-food chain, and the action only serves to undermine the credibility of other boycotts that are meant to create economic pressure to evoke a policy shift.

Boycotts use the power of the purse to change someone’s political stance, while cancel culture is about rushing to judgment and seeking vengeance to exact permanent damage. Knee jerk reactions that result in either boycotts or cancellations are not good for America.

 It’s time to shake off this summer fever and bring America’s businesses and economy back to full health.

Evan Nierman is CEO of crisis communications firm Red Banyan and author of The Cancel Culture Curse: From Rage to Redemption in a World Gone Mad.