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Culture War Roundup for the week of May 1, 2023

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I've been on the record in the past stating that most Right Wing consumer boycotts will not be effective, either due to lack of follow through on the part of conservative consumers or because many corporations lack a conservatively oriented base of talent to run their businesses. I was under the impression that the recent Bud Light trans kerfuffle would be similar. As one tweet put it, "Kid Rock makes music for people who know how to steal catalytic converters;" and the ad itself was so obscure that I never would have heard of it without the internet megaphone around it. (Despite being exposed to an unfortunate degree of Bud Light content through sports broadcasts etc) If the boycott ever got off the ground, no way it would have stamina. A couple suits would be fired, but six months from now people will still drink Bud Light.

Well so far, it looks like I was wrong, The WSJ reports. {Link may be paywalled, I read it in print, I can send you a scan of it if you need it} Major points:

-- Bud light's weekly sales have dropped 21% compared to last year since April 1, on a steady downward trajectory. Coors and Miller's light offerings have gained 20% during that time. This near perfect replacement (IDK how much other light beer brands matter here) indicates that one of the early criticisms of a potential boycott, that drinkers would replace bud light with another AB INbev corporate product, was wrong. Miller-Coors is a different company, even if it is another giant corporate brewer and not my preferred local choice of Yuengling. Other AB products are dropping sales as well, even those with very separate marketing like Michelob and Busch Light. 20% sales drop for Bud Light has a huge effect on the US beer market. Bud light accounted for as much as 17% of total unit sales of beer in America. If the "Right wing boycott" can bring down Bud Light, damn, these guys are loaded for bear. That is a pop culture, business, and media juggernaut, that is the best selling product of the biggest brewer. If touching trans issues in a mild way can bring sales down 20% in one go, for any brand, that will change the game.

-- What I thought was a weakness of the Bud Light Boycott (that essentially no one was going to see the ad organically), has turned out to be its strength. Similar dynamic to how very clearly bad police shootings cause less controversy than police shootings that really weren't that bad. The WSJ states that: "[M]any people, including bar and store owners, wrongly came to believe that Ms. Mulvaney's video ad aired as a television commercial or that the can with her picture on it was stocked on store shelves, wholesalers said." Because the content did not appear to people organically, they really didn't know what it was, and people assumed it was so much bigger than it was because the usual suspects of CW flame fanning amplified it. A throwaway insta video became a TV ad, Bud Light making a custom can as a joke became people fearing that the beer they bought on a store shelf would have a trans woman on it. Right wing influencers successfully made this into a much bigger deal than it was.

-- A major force pushing Bud to change course was the middlemen. Wholesalers and distributors are a key part of Bud Light sales, they move the beer from the brewery to grocery stores and bars etc. Because they are independent of AB Inbev, and often small family owned businesses, probably small c conservative local business owners, they aren't beholden to corporate woke hierarchies and need to protect their own businesses not their future corporate careers. Without those businesses Bud Light cannot function as a brand, and their anger forced corporate to do something. That gets back to the point I made in my prior post: Conservative here have found an industry that isn't beholden to woke talent the way media is, isn't beholden to woke capital the way public companies are, and targeted it. Good work.

-- AB Inbev is apparently promising distributors, in addition to various little trinkets like a free case of Bud Light for every distributor employee, that it will spend "multiples" of its original planned marketing budget on Bud Light. AB thinks they need to come out in force to push back, they clearly think their business in general is threatened. Lose Bud Light and the whole company will shrink.

-- I was wrong about this one. I thought this was a tempest in a teapot, it could have legs. It would be literally impossible for me to reduce my consumption of AB Inbev products, I don't know the last time I drank a Bud heavy or light. My beer consumption in general is small enough to not be a real market for brewerys. But for those of you who do, I encourage you to continue with the boycott. I'm far from the most anti-trans poster here, but I'm excited to see a big company brought to its knees when it give into corporate woke. Go buy a case of Yuengling instead, their family ownership supported Trump and got shit for it. Bud Light Delenda Est.

I’m loosely with @Tarnstellung: this response is disproportionate. That’s becayse it’s not about the actual offense. It’s about ethics in games journalism the ingroup successfully flexing in the culture war. You said it best yourself—the “usual suspects” had to fan the flames, or it never would have gotten off Insta.

In the spirit of the thread…isn’t this kind of bad?

Compare the usual examples of cancel culture. An entertainer gets banished to the sixth circle of hell for a comment made in 1995. A guest speaker gets his gigs canceled because he was too charitable to the outgroup. Judging the exact deserts takes a distant back seat to defending the narrative.

Here the narrative is “Budweiser is a puppet of the woke.” The evidence for: a personalized can and cringey social media video. Oh, and a general sense that big corporations are the enemy. Which one of those points is doing all the work?

I don’t see much reason to be proud of people hitting all five of our “examples of waging the Culture War.” Of course, they weren’t really interested in convincing me. The fact that I don’t already parrot their lines means that I’m on the wrong team.

N.B.: I don’t exactly have skin in this game. Yuengling is the best of its bunch, but I’m more a Modelo guy. Please consider my sentiments on the subject to be as lukewarm as the average Bud.

Replying to both you and @Tarnstellung here.

I'm not particularly anti-trans, but I am very anti-Bud Light, and very pro people exercising their power.

Bud Light is a piss-colored metaphor for the kind of corporate slop culture that I hate in all its forms. I hate that they put flags on the cans and advertise as America's beer while being owned by the Belgians. I hate the "out of touch bro" advertising themes they used for my childhood the way they glorify a male ideal of lazy stupidity, I hate the obligatory lukewarm "current thing" woke fakery even more. I hate the beer itself, it factually isn't very good, Yuengling and Lion's Head are both better, or very cheap, Lion's Head is modestly cheaper at my local beer distributor and has games under the bottle cap, its best attribute is that it is available. I hate the corporation slicing and dicing consumer groups to create market segments to convince that their piss-beer is a necessary accoutrement to their newly invented lifestyle. I hate that anyone cares enough about Bud fucking Light that they feel that their marketing is "claiming territory" in their identity.

I think the world would be a better place if people, rather than choking down the slop that ubiquitous and milquetoast corporations like AB Inbev serves, choose to actually try to get things they want. If the local brewery a mile from my house did pro LGBTQERTY_>?+} cans because the owner has a trans friend, I'd probably buy them if they made a porter. That's a real person expressing a real feeling. Bud Light marketing to trans fans is trying to redefine a lifestyle segment of the marketplace on a spreadsheet. Fuck em. I'd rather see the people stick it to the corporation.

In general, I don't think "Cancel Culture" as a concept can be applied unless you already had a legitimate claim on fame. Influencers, for example, have no claim on being canceled because they have no talent beyond people liking them. If your talent is people liking you, and people stop liking you, well sounds like you're shit out of luck, like a baseball player with the yips. Cancel Culture is more about someone like Woody Allen, where people will often say they love his work but hate him. Or people who want Kaepernick run out of the NFL, or people who want Deshaun Watson run out of the NFL. Being canceled means having talent and being banned from exercising that talent, not merely being disliked.

Bud Light has no legitimate claim on the being the best selling beer in the country. Its dominance is based purely on marketing and branding. Well, fuck up your marketing, fuck up your branding, fuck em. A world where Bud Light's customers do at least a little critical examination of what they consume will probably improve the world.

Bud Light Delenda Est.