EXACTLY WHAT I MEANT – A few days I wrote a long post reflecting on boycotts, which I increasingly see as an exercise in free speech designed to punish others for exercising theirs and preventing them from exercising it in the future. And this morning, via Tim Blair, a case exactly on point from New Hampshire:

An antique shop owner who claims she was vilified on social media and lost her business after displaying an early 20th-century flour sack with a swastika logo has filed a lawsuit against a former customer.Nicole Guida’s suit states that Katherine Ferrier’s alleged acts were “… wanton, malicious and oppressive, and she was motivated by ill will, hatred, hostility or evil motive.”…

The lawsuit says Guida told Ferrier that the swastika was an ancient symbol of good luck, with no connection to its later use by the Nazis.Ferrier later posted a comment on her Facebook page that, among other things, encouraged people not to shop at Chic & Unique.The posting resulted in Ferrier and Guida each receiving numerous responses, including threats.

With business down by half, Guida has had to close her business earlier this month.

Notice again that the shop owner was not even a real Nazi displaying a Nazi swastika. She is a victim of a busybody who doesn’t know her history (but who does these days?) and didn’t realise that for millennia swastika was a powerful (religious) symbol before being appropriated by the national socialist cause. Just wait until Ferrier ever goes on holiday to some more Buddhist parts of Asia – boycotts all around.

Seriously though; this is precisely why I am uncomfortable with a concept of a boycott. By all means, let’s keep it legal – it is itself an exercise in free speech, after all – but let’s not kid ourselves about its true nature: it’s a form of community-based censorship designed to stifle free speech.