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Why Target caving to the "anti-woke" mob represents a new level of danger
After years of support for LGBTQ people, Target didn't even make an attempt to push back. It should have learned from Disney that bowing to haters only emboldens them.
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Target this week became the latest company to bow to MAGA extremists and violent white supremacists. And the speed at which it happened was horrifying. After threats Target quickly removed Pride merchandise from all of its stores:
The retail giant said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday that it was committed to celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community but was withdrawing some items over threats that were "impacting our team members' sense of safety and well-being" on the job.
Apparently, workers were being harassed and threatened, and some displays were vandalized and thrown to the floor. Groups, including Moms for Liberty and the Proud Boys, had been behind some of the harassment.
This problem required Target to spend some of its billions in corporate profits on security and working with law enforcement, including the FBI, as these are domestic terrorist groups, instead of bowing to their demands.
Governor Gavin Newsom of California was right to slam the Target CEO:
Before we go further with Target, let’s put this in the context of an overall corporate retrenchment on LGBTQ rights. We’ve seen a very concerning development over the past few years as companies that once stood firm for LGBTQ equality, including threatening to pull their headquarters from states that pushed anti-LGBTQ hate, have increasingly stayed silent.
In 2015, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana faced enormous backlash after signing` a discriminatory "religious liberty" bill that would allow businesses to deny services to LGBTQ people.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, Eli Lilly and Co. CEO John Lechleiter, and Angie's List Co-founder and CEO Bill Oesterle spoke out forcefully against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, saying it hurt their business in the state. Oesterle said the cancellation of a planned $40 million headquarters expansion in Indianapolis was due to the law. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff threatened to pull his company out of the state.
Pence was forced to ask the legislature to rewrite the law, which they did, softening it substantially and enraging Christian nationalists. A year later, Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a similar bill after an uproar by activists and companies in the state. Salesforce once again spoke out firmly. Disney and other Hollywood film studios threatened to stop making films in Georgia, which had become a center for TV production. Coca-Cola, headquartered in Atlanta, and the National Football League sent very strong warnings to Deal against signing the bill.
Fast forward to 2023: Governor Ron DeSantis, in the weeks and months before his announcement of his presidential run, signed a slew of harmful anti-LGBTQ bills that made those prior religious liberty bills seem tame. Doctors and medical professionals in Florida can now turn away gay and transgender people based on their religious beliefs.
Schools are barred from discussing the mere identity of gay and transgender students, teachers, and parents under the "Don’t Say Gay" law. Gender-affirming care for transgender youth is banned completely, and parents could see the state take their children from them if they’re found to be getting such care. Drag shows are now deemed "adult entertainment" and barred from any place where children might see them.
All of this and more, and yet there hasn’t been a peep from major corporations about pulling out of the state—except for Disney, which did stop a planned $1 billion office park project only after it got into a prolonged battle with DeSantis. But there’s been no threat from Disney that it is pulling business already grounded there, such as Disney World (and it is in fact investing more money in Florida). And let’s not forget: Disney at first hedged, bowing to DeSantis and professing it would stay out of the fight when the "Don’t Say Gay" bill was first introduced, causing an uproar among employees. This only empowered DeSantis more, as he moved to revoke Disney’s self-governing status after the new CEO, Bob Chapek, meekly and tardily spoke out against the bill responding to the critics.
And it was only when Bob Iger, the retired previous CEO, came back at the end of last year that Disney began pushing hard, including filing a lawsuit against DeSantis. Disney learned the hard way that caving in only put them in a terrible spot, as DeSantis, buoyed by the anti-woke mob, would go in for the kill.
Anheuser-Busch should have learned from Disney regarding the fiasco of their Bud Light promotion to LGBTQ consumers by doing promotions with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. After the haters went into overdrive and threatened violence against executives and bars serving Bud Light, the company caved.
As sales slumped, Anheuser-Busch put two of its executives on leave and issued a statement from its CEO, Brendan Whitworth: "We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over beer."
Now sales are slumping further as Bud Light angered everyone, satisfied no one, and saw the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ group, suspend its Corporate Equality Index score, which used to be 100, while LGBTQ folks are boycotting the brand.
The LA Dodgers Organization, after years of supporting Pride Nights in June, caved this year and dropped the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of drag queens who dress up as nuns and do enormous works of charity in the LGBTQ community and beyond. This came after Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and the Catholic League in New York objected.
It was a breathtaking cave-in, and the outrage was quick and ferocious. After other LGBTQ groups pulled out of Pride Night, the Dodgers apologized and invited the Sisters back. This was good, but they clearly only half-learned from Disney, doing exactly what Disney did and realizing that backtracking on LGBTQ rights was ultimately untenable because you’re bowing to a small, vocal, and violent minority while completely torpedoing yourself with the majority.
Both the Dodgers and Disney never should have caved in the first place.
And Target should not have either. The case of Target, in fact, represents something bigger and more dangerous. This is a not a company that is refusing to take a position, like Disney (initally), or is disassociating from a group, like the Dodgers. This is a retailer actually removing products from its stores because a vocal minority threatened violence. What next? Removing Passover displays because of neo-Nazi threats?
It’s much more serious than the Bud Light controversy, because that was a company launching a new campaign to make inroads in a community. Target, on the other hand, has actually been putting Pride displays upfront in the stores for over 10 years.
This is a complete and total capitulation on something Target has done for years, both selling products during Pride and also showing support to its LGBTQ employees. All because of MAGA threats.
This vocal minority doesn’t have the buying power to launch boycotts—all of which in the past have dismally failed—against Disney and other entities. So the new strategy is to threaten violence via their own armies of brownshirts. And it is working— at least it did with Target. That is truly dangerous.