You’re reading Reaction. To get Iain Martin’s weekly newsletter and full access to the site, sign up for a free 30-day trial here.

Question: What do Alastair Sim, the Beijing Winter Olympics, Coca-Cola, and the 1880 Irish Land War have in common?

Answer: Boycott.

Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott to be precise. Sim played an Irish priest in the 1947 film about the Land War in which tenant farmers,  fighting against higher rents and evictions imposed by absentee English landlords, adopt passive resistance. They refuse to gather Boycott’s crops and ostracise anyone who cooperates with him. The British Army is called in, but the farmers win. In the final scene, Sim’s character tells them: “In this little parish you have set an example which will go down in history and will be studied and followed wherever people are oppressed. If any man offends against the community, you can ostracise him, you can isolate him. You can boycott him”.