Trump, SNL and the Threat of Special Interest Groups

GOP 2016 Trump

Remember the film Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray’s character keeps reliving the same day over and over until he gets it right? Hilarious when scripted by Harold Ramis, but if I had to go through that in real life, I know I’d go out of my freakin’ mind.

Somebody find me a shrink before I lose it for good.

A Hispanic coalition wants Comcast’s (NASAQ:CMCSA) NBC’s Saturday Night Live to nix Donald Trump hosting the show on Nov. 7. The group is also threatening to call for a boycott of SNL and the network. I guess they’re offended by something Trump said. What a shocker.

And yet, I can’t help but feel like we’ve been here before. Like it’s déjà vu all over again … and again … and again. Here’s the storyline; tell me if you’ve heard it before:

A public figure crosses a line into the ever-growing realm of offensive rhetoric. Special interest activists threaten to boycott whatever company he’s associated with so advertisers and customers jump ship, the offender gets fired and everyone conforms to the ever-narrowing cultural norm.

Sound familiar? Maybe this will jog your memory:

Remember the uproar over Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s GQ interview that aired his biblical fire and brimstone views on homosexuality? A gay rights group issued a statement condemning the remarks and pushing for A&E and its sponsors to “reexamine their ties” to Robertson. A&E is a joint venture between Hearst and Disney (NYSE:DIS).

How about Chic-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s stand against same-sex marriage? Or the Food Network, jointly owned by Tribune (NYSE:TRCO) and Scripps Network Interactive (NYSE:SNI), dumping Paula Dean over her racially charged deposition testimony? And who can forget NPR firing Juan Williams for saying that people in Muslim garb on a plane made him nervous. Not to mention the boycott against Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM) when CEO John Mackey penned an op-ed offering an alternative to Obamacare.

Is it really Feb. 2, already? Or maybe we’ve just gone Back to the Future. Sorry, got a little carried away with movie metaphors there.

Some argue that this sort of tactic is free market capitalism at work. They say it’s all well and good for special interest groups and social media hordes to have their voices heard by calling for product boycotts and for heads to roll. They say it’s the American way to protest what they perceive to be injustice.

But it’s not. On the contrary, it censors free speech and constrains free markets. Let’s take the Trump situation, for example.

It’s one thing to protest what The Donald said about Hispanics by boycotting his hotels, using political muscle and Super PAC ads to back an opposing candidate or even suing him in court if you think you’ve got a legitimate case. That’s a fair protest that directly pits one entity’s legal rights against another’s.

It’s another matter entirely to threaten to boycott a network or pressure its advertisers simply because it’s putting a guy you don’t like on a program. That’s interfering with the network’s right to do business however it sees fit – and its customers’ right to choose if they want to watch it or not.

What the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and other minority activist groups are doing is attempting to threaten, coerce and bully companies – and deprive customers of their products – even though they’ve done absolutely nothing objectionable. That, my friends, is an attempt to censor and extort.

An increasing number of special interest groups are using this same tactic, not just against big corporations like Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, but on small businesses, educational institutions, government entities and non-profits. And it works every time a weak-minded executive or selfish leader kowtows to them for fear of being labeled anti-gay, racist or misogynist.

Meanwhile, the divisive political climate, insatiable 24x7 news cycle and social media hordes amplify the noise and work the masses into frenzy. Next thing you know, a sound bite has turned into the rallying cry of a stampeding herd. That’s how thin-skinned political correctness is quickly becoming the norm in our culture.

But here’s the thing. That mechanism only works if we allow it to. If we fail to see it for what it is: special interests attempting to censor free speech, extort companies and constrain free markets. Make no mistake. If we fail to act against it, we’re doomed to live this scenario over and over until it becomes our daily reality.