June 1, 2023

Target Boycott

“Target, which rolled out its Pride Collection at the start of May, is pulling some products from its stores after facing customer backlash, saying it was acting to protect employee safety… Screenshots and posts on social media show that Target previously sold a $25 slogan sweater with the words ‘cure transphobia not trans people’ and an $18 ‘too queer for here’ tote bag.” Reuters

Bud Light has continued to suffer declining fortunes as a boycott of the beer brand over its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney is reported to have had a lasting impact on its sales and revenue… in the week ending May 20, sales volume—the number of units of beer sold—declined 29.5 percent compared to the same period last year, while sales revenue was down 25.7 percent on the same week in 2022.” Newsweek

Here’s our prior coverage of Bud Light. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left criticizes the boycott, arguing that corporations are simply adapting to changing attitudes in society.

“[Target] announced that it was ‘making adjustments to our plans’ for marketing products centered on Pride Month, ‘including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.’ ‘Confrontational behavior’ is a relatively gentle framing for the company’s concern that anti-LGBTQ activists who opposed Target’s Pride displays were (according to the company) threatening store staff. There’s no reason to think that such threats are exaggerated, given the escalation of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric…

“The attacks on Pride are often framed as efforts to curtail the small LGBTQ community from forcing its worldview upon others. But those attacks themselves fit that description: a subset of right-wing voices finding community and influence online seeking to force Target and other brands to adhere to their boundaries of acceptability… [Acquiescing to the pressure] increases the likelihood that pressure will be applied by small groups in similar ways in the future.”

Philip Bump, Washington Post

"Confederate flags offend me. They represent the violence of slavery and nostalgia for a white supremacist past. Assault weapons offend me. They represent death and destruction and the moral bankruptcy of politicians willing to sacrifice American children on the altar of the 2nd Amendment. But rainbow colored T-shirts, dresses and baby rompers?… Why are we stuck in the middle of a moral panic about sexuality and gender identity?…

“It’s happening because ginning up fear about the ‘corruption’ of children is a tried and true technique for rallying the far right. Because same-sex marriage is legal and transgender people have made extraordinary strides. Because the Christian right needed a new bogeyman after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, neutralizing an issue that has animated the Republican base and turned out votes for decades. Because Americans have grown relaxed about the LGBTQ+ community…

“A 2020 survey conducted by GLAAD, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, and Procter & Gamble found that 75% of people who do not identify as gay or trans or queer — that is, a supermajority — were comfortable with seeing non-straight folks in marketing campaigns.”

Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times

“‘One thing businesses are very good at is determining the public mood,’ Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse told me… That has made them responsive to broad-based progressive social causes, such as the environmental and Black Lives Matter movements…

“This is what the right’s rearguard actions are really arrayed against. The goal is to extract pain from — and in some cases wield state power against — corporations to stop them from making profit-oriented decisions that reinforce cultural evolution already underway.”

Greg Sargent, Washington Post

From the Right

The right supports the boycott, arguing that corporations should avoid culture war fights.

The right supports the boycott, arguing that corporations should avoid culture war fights.

“Imagine a beer company that just wanted to make good beer and sell it to you. Imagine if that company wanted to sell beer to everyone but didn’t feel that its job was to make you more accepting of transgender individuals, any more than it felt its job was to warn you about the national debt or teach you the value of standardized testing in public schools or warn you about North Korea’s intercontinental-missile program. Imagine a beer company that liked its existing customer base and didn’t feel a need to reeducate those customers and get them to give up their ‘fratty, kind of out-of-touch humor.’…

“Imagine an everything store like Target that wanted everyone to shop there, but that had the good sense to realize that partnering with a brand that had ‘Satanist-inspired merchandise’ was not the way to win over shoppers in a country that is still roughly two-thirds Christian…

“Unsurprisingly, lots of people don’t like being lectured, particularly if they suspect the lecturing is coming from some left-wing 20-something or 30-something marketing executive who can barely conceal his or her contempt for the existing customer base. The top executives at Anheuser-Busch realized, far too late, that the Bud Light marketing efforts had been hijacked by a bunch of woke youngsters who didn’t really think their job was to use progressive agenda to sell Bud Light; the marketing department believed its job was to use Bud Light to sell the progressive agenda.”

Jim Geraghty, National Review

“To paraphrase the famous misquotation of auto executive Charles Wilson, what’s terrible for Bud Light sales is good for America. With every viral anti-Bud Light video and 12-pack moldering on a store shelf or in a warehouse, the message is being sent to other corporations that gratuitous forays into the culture war are risky. Target has directly learned the same lesson with its ‘pride’ apparel…

“The best outcome of all this would be if corporations realize that there’s a potential cost to going along with the woke cultural tide and resolve to stick to the 50-yard line of American national life. No one is going to care if a boutique brand based somewhere in Blue America associates itself with every new progressive fad. It’s the companies that are firmly in the mainstream that shouldn’t needlessly alienate people or take sides in contentions that have nothing to do with their core business. Bud Light is an ongoing warning of the hazards.”

Rich Lowry, New York Post

“In a culture where everything is politicized, everything is, well, politicized… The lesson for corporations should be to become more conservative, not ideologically but fiduciarily. Although I don’t like some of the excesses already on display in the era of Bud Lighting, if it results in corporations retreating from politics in favor of their core mission — shareholder value — America will be better for it.”

Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times

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