In the midst of the uproar over the Confederate Battle Flag (America’s latest Two Minute Hate), an odd rumor began making the rounds on the internet. As far as I can tell, it began on InfoWars, the website of crank conspiracy theorist and talk-show host Alex Jones. As companies like eBay and Amazon began pulling the Battle Flag, and items festooned with its likeness, from the stock available for sale, a few folks decided to get to the bottom of the matter and contacted customer service. What they discovered stunned—nay, shocked—them.
In transcripts of chats and recordings of phone calls, Amazon customer-service representatives declared that they were no longer selling the Battle Flag because the federal government had ordered them not to do so. That all of the CSRs who made this claim were clearly (from the voices on the recordings and the peculiarities of the text of their chats) sitting in call centers somewhere on the Subcontinent, and that all made such claims only in response to leading questions, was irrelevant. An Amazon phone jockey said that Barack Hussein Obama himself had ordered the company to quit selling the Battle Flag, so it must be true.
One of the great dangers of conspiracy theories is that they blind their adherents to more banal—which is not to say less sinister—explanations. No one needed to order Amazon and eBay and massive meatspace retailer Walmart (that quintessentially Southern institution) and Apple and NASCAR and dozens of other multinational corporations to stop selling items featuring the Battle Flag, any more than the government needed to order those same corporations to feature “gay pride” items a few days later, when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered every state of our now “more perfect” Union to perform gay “marriages.” Just as when they had denounced the state of Indiana a few months earlier (see “It’s Just Business,” The Rockford Files, May), these paragons of Big Business were only being rational economic actors. They know which way the wind is blowing, and it’s not toward the South. There’s more to be gained economically in the long run by forgoing some fairly minor sales in the short run.
Forget Alex Jones; if you want to understand why Big Business has become an active participant in the culture wars, read Ludwig von Mises.