Goya Foods, Free Speech, and Pluralism

Angry that the CEO of Goya Foods praised Donald Trump as “an incredible builder,” the Left has organized a boycott of the company. Goya, of course, brands itself as providing “authentic Latino foods.” According to its website, “Goya Foods is the largest, Hispanic-owned food company in the United States.”

CEO Robert Unanue was at the White House to participate in President Trump’s Hispanic Prosperity Initiative. The initiative was created by executive order and seeks to improve access to education and economic opportunities in the Hispanic community.

According to the Mercury News, “In his brief remarks, Unanue announced Goya would donate 1 million cans of Goya chickpeas and 1 million other food products to American food banks. He said the company wanted to help families hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.” This is a nice gesture and shows corporate responsibility.

But for AOC and others, any praise or association with Trump is a capital offense that requires shaming and dire economic consequences.

Unanue protests that the boycott of Goya amounts to a “suppression of speech.” Well, not exactly.

Under the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The right to free speech cannot be impaired absent government action. We, as citizens, have the freedom to buy from whomever we choose, whether our reasons are good or bad. If, for example, Middle America boycotted the NFL because of its embrace of the radical woke agenda, this would not deny the players or league the right to speak their minds. Boycotts and protests are a proper tool that can be used to convey a message and/or put pressure on another private actor. But they should not be used lightly or casually.

While Unanue was incorrect to assert that his free speech rights are under attack, he is correct in saying that other democratic values are endangered. What is really at stake is American pluralism. The typical dictionary defines pluralism as “a condition or system in which two or more states, groups, principles, sources of authority, etc., coexist.” According to Thought.com, “[t]he political philosophy of pluralism suggests that we really can and should ‘all just get along.’ First recognized as an essential element of democracy by the philosophers of Ancient Greece, pluralism permits and even encourages a diversity of political opinion and participation.”

With the present cultural revolution, there is no room for a diversity of opinions. You are either a supporter of the radical agenda or you are an enemy who must be silenced and destroyed. For the Left, if you are one of the 62,984,828 Americans who voted for Trump in 2016, then you are the evil. The new revolution denies that reasonable people can hold different positions on the best course for our country. Those expressing opinions contrary to Leftist dogma are being forced out of the marketplace of ideas by cancel culture run wild. Again, this crusade is not an attack on the constitutional right of free speech, but on pluralism.

There is no denying that we will have strong disagreements. Principles often have sharp edges and can cut. But we will not survive as a country if we can’t agree to disagree. The fact that AOC and others would seek to tear down the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States for the CEO’s nice words about Trump when Trump is pushing a program to help the Hispanic community shows Procrustean conformity is the only allowable course.

The United States is more diverse today than it ever has been. If we abandon pluralism, then our future will be nothing but warring factions seeking to cancel each other. We will be at perpetual war until one faction prevails. This “winner” will dictate what one is allowed to say, think, and do. We are headed in an ugly direction. Can’t we all just get along?

William J. Watkins, Jr. is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books, Crossroads for Liberty, Reclaiming the American Revolution, and Patent Trolls.
Posts by William J. Watkins, Jr. | Full Biography and Publications
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