A Yuengling truck. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
A Yuengling truck. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

By Mark Grabowski

Will everyone calling for a boycott of Yuengling beer because its owner supports Donald Trump also boycott Apple and Facebook due to their unethical businesses practices?

If they’re truly principled they should, but don’t count on it.

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Yuengling, a family-owned brewery in Pennsylvania, came under fire this week after its owner reportedly said he supports Trump during a brewery tour by Trump’s son. An army of Trump haters expressed outrage on social media, calling for a boycott of America’s oldest brewery.

That much of the criticism was expressed on Facebook using Apple devices seems paradoxical.

Apple has a long history of human rights violations, including reportedly using child slave labor to make iPhones. Meanwhile, just this week, Facebook was exposed for allowing advertisers to exclude users by race — a policy critics deemed racist and illegal.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for those tech companies to be boycotted, though. The Yuengling boycott isn’t about a principle, which requires consistently following rules. Rather, it’s about virtue signaling and will likely lead to unintended consequences.

Mark Grabowski
Mark Grabowski

“Virtue signaling,” a neologism coined by British author James Bartholomew, is the increasingly popular social media practice of indicating one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or approval for certain political ideas or cultural events.

Not only is it obnoxious, but it’s also a lazy way of thinking.

For example, one angry Yuengling customer stated, in a much circulated tweet: “I just found out the owner of [Yuengling] is a Trump supporter and I’m devastated I have to throw out the 6 pack in my fridge now.”

What a ridiculous response! Throwing out beer that’s already been paid for is a thoughtlessly wasteful and meaningless “protest.”

Refraining from future purchases may not accomplish much, either. Who do Yuengling’s critics think will be most hurt by a boycott? It probably won’t be billionaire owner Richard Yuengling Jr. But some, if not many, of the brewery’s 250 employees — some of whom may be minorities and Hillary Clinton voters — might get laid off if sales drop.

I don’t support Trump, but I do support a marketplace of ideas. As our nation becomes more pluralistic, it’s imperative we strive to tolerate a wide range of contrarian, unconventional and sometimes offensive viewpoints.

On the other hand, given our country’s diverse demographics and divided politics, businesses such as Yuengling are wise to remain apolitical rather than risk alienating customers.

But America has long been a place where its citizens can have totally opposite political views and still cooperate.

For example, Yuengling can sell me a beer and I can enjoy drinking it. Likewise, many Trump supporters continue to drink beer brewed by Anheuser-Busch, even though it donated $10,000 to Clinton’s campaign.

Let’s stick with that principle. I may not agree with what you say, but I will drink your beer.

Mark Grabowski is a lawyer and teaches communications law at National University in San Diego.