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Culture War Roundup for the week of April 10, 2023

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Unfortunately, I really want to talk about all the Bud Light stuff, and I don't want to make a new throwaway for it. So you will have to deal with this short summary of my jury duty instead of the nice effort post I've been cooking up on dog walks: 1) The pool is almost sarcastically diverse, as though someone had intentionally excluded anyone else resembling my 'peers.' 2) If someone shows up it's because they want to serve on a jury, and they find it strange that someone would intentionally decrease their chances of being selected 3) The entire experience can be a colossal waste of time and energy, 50 otherwise productive people spent all day not working because one illegal immigrant made a sexual innuendo to another illegal's girlfriend/stepdaughter. Why not just deport them?

Onto the Bud Light thing, as discussed earlier here yesterday. The short summary would be that someone (also from San Diego, coincidentally) decided about a year ago that they were a woman, and Bud Light decided to make them a special commemorative can, which apparently they drank in a bathtub as part of a marketing campaign. This has made a lot of people (including me) very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. I'm writing this post now because the company just offered its' first official response and it's perfect gpt fuel-on-the-fire. It's short so I won't give highlights, instead, a summary that suggests it pisses off everyone rather than mollifying anyone. I eagerly invite someone to provide a mirror image of 'their tribes' response but I want to share a few thoughts about mine in a few buckets:

1). For most of my adult life, I drank an incredible amount of Bud Light. Occasionally flirting with the limits of 'functional' alcoholism at ~30 a day, occasionally dipping below my typical 10-12, occasionally taking a month off because I'd been getting fat. This amount of consumption is not unusual in my peer group. Just do some napkin math: (minimally) one beer per half hour of time awake and 'off the clock.' Essentially, Bud Light is not a 6 pack that sits in your fridge for weeks, it's bought in 18 packs by people like me on the way home for the night.

2). We drink Bud Light for exactly the reason you (the proverbial 'you', of course) poke fun at it. It's thin, watery, and doesn't have a lot of alcohol. I can drink 30 a day and never get shithouse drunk the way I will after 3 bourbons on an empty stomach. I can drink more than a tiny sip and enjoy the flavor, unlike a double tangerine ipa. I like to sit around and drink beer, and it's a perfect beer for that.

3). I have my friends that drink Bud Light, and my friends that poke fun at me for drinking Bud Light. I love both, but with the later, we usually don't tool around in the garage while drinking. These days with the later it's usually more like visiting the latest pop-up microbrewery which may or may not have food (or anything drinkable). There's a culture, or if that's a bit grandiose, a vibe around a hot sunny day and a big cold box of weak watery beer.

4). Unlike most potential boycotts, I (and my people) have some purchase with this one ('purchase' for the non-english natives among us here meaning 'agency, power, or leverage'). We get a little say. There is a little verve here. This is not nike, something I already didn't buy, or every insurance company known to man, something I can't really avoid buying, this is weak watery beer!

5). Unlike most Allied marketing, this feels like it was meant to hurt. I'm aware Bud Light has done rainbow pride cans before, and I've probably even bought some without thinking about it. But something feels wrong about buying this beer now that I know they intentionally had a AMAB in a bikini drinking their commemorative can celebrating '365 of womanhood.' Not only can I effectively boycott this, but I can't unfeel the desire to boycott this! This one might have legs.

After the non-apology from the brass, Bud Light may have terminally tarnished their brand. Planting a flag and vitally interested to hear your thoughts

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers. Talking about getting and spending, we lay waste the world.

Rarely is the chasm between my own thought and mainstream thought so apparent as when conversation turns to advertisers. I loathe these faceless entities working to wrest my thought into the shape of their own designs, prodding and pulling for whichever levers they can pull to make me consume ever more of their products. I block all ads I can block, recoil when one prods through my defenses and demands my attention.

Yes, this latest campaign is miserable, but not because of what’s in it. It’s because I must watch people broadcast their allegiance to consumption, because they pull ads into my consciousness and reveal their passion for the norm of advertising by crying out against deviations from that norm. Yes, Bud Light ads are grotesque, as are Nike and all culture war ads of the day—but when were they not grotesque, these machines spending untold millions to entangle people’s identities and values with the mass-market products they consume?

I do not care about Dylan Mulvaney, do not care about Bud Light. This lack of caring is not apathy, but a deep-felt antipathy towards the machine that pulls them into my sphere of awareness. Every time someone tells me with heated emotion about the latest symbol of consumption for this or that, the Enemy has won. Every time culture warriors line up for and against Product, the centrality of Product to Culture is sacralized.

Yes, you might say: you may not care about these things, but they care about you. That is, in short, the problem: they care about me when I do not wish to care about them, they spend millions hunting me while I work to evade them, and then they tap into the passions of vectors like you and in so doing find me once more, force themselves into my consciousness once more.

Ad culture is grotesque. It has been so long before Mulvaney and will be so long after they are replaced by the next in a flood of spokespeople sacrificing their lives to the Machine. Drink what beer you will, treat it as an expression of your deep-felt values if you must, but in my book this ad campaign should receive just as much attention as every other hostile, shrieking intrusion into our minds: none at all beyond a muted channel and averted eyes.

I hate ads as well but they do help match buyers and sellers. Should we outlaw them entirely? If not how far do we restrict?

Aren't there parts of Europe where billboards are banned so that old cities don't look like Times Square or Shibuya?

I'm definitely on the side of slash and burn everything and anything that has to do with the AD business, offline and online. Even if not outright banned, just severely curtailed would be fine too. And not in those meaningless ways the GDPR does. I mean in real, painful, multi-billion-dollar industry destroying ways.

I'm not TracingWoodgrains but I'm very very sympathetic to his point, and my personal limit would be text describing the product, and images of the product.

You're allowed a professional photoshoot of your product, even though I give this allowance very reluctantly (black and white text, no images would be preferred), because I grudgingly admit people prefer to see the thing they're deciding to buy. Absolutely no videos. I don't see a realistic way to get rid of endorsements, unfortunately, but they should be strictly regulated.

Culture building around a product should be banned — no dove beauty campaigns, no mulvaney beer bottles, none of that. "This skin product will do this for your skin, and you can buy it for this price, here". Information sharing between seller and buyer only. The mind of very basic ads you see in local newsletters.

As a side effect this means corporations will effectively be banned from expressing any political, cultural, or controversial opinions publicly (since that is also an advertising campaign, building tribe loyalty to a product) which is wonderful and should be pursued to the extreme— in my ideal universe corporations are essentially politically gagged. Talk about your product alone, or shut up.

Basically, rewinding back as much as possible to the kinds of ads they had back in the very, very early days of advertising before they realized people buy based on emotions not based on facts, with as many emotional factors removed as possible. There's no sticking the genie all the way back into the bottle but cutting off as much of its limbs as possible is still a worthy goal.

This sounds great, I love it. Separation of Corp. and State?