By now you have probably seen the video of conservative celebrity person Kid Rock attempting to shoot up a stack of Bud Light cans from close range and seemingly missing a good percentage of the time. A different celebrity might have been able to buy enough cans to stage a second take after the first went so badly, but not Kid.
By way of explanation, this whole thing started because Bud Light's advertising team inked a paid sponsorship deal with trans internet celebrity Dylan Mulvaney, a minuscule deal of the usual "hold up our product on camera and pretend you like it" variety that our modern influencer class relies on for sustenance. There was no bigger message behind it than "lots of different folks like our beer so you should probably drink it too," but conservative media absolutely ----ed their pants over the clip and that's why Kid Rock was attempting to murder a few cases of purchased beer rather than abide the thought that both he and a trans American were allowed to put the same brand of beer in their drinkholes.
What you may not know, however, is the extent to which this whole frenzy was orchestrated by the media empire of one Rupert Murdoch. To have Murdoch's New York Post tell it, this is the most important story of the modern era. Drinkhole sponsorships and their cultural ramifications are of more import than the indictment of a former president, an ongoing war in Europe, and the dangers of Woke Bank Executives combined.
On Monday, NBC News reporter Ben Collins noted on Twitter: "By my count there have been at least 20 New York Post stories about a single sponsored Instagram post by Bud Light with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney" that was "less than a minute long." The Murdoch Post has kept pace in the days since with (we'll be omitting links here; Google if you must) articles announcing that "Bud Light boycott over trans activist Dylan Mulvaney pact ‘has legs’ as sales outlook thrown into doubt," and, "Bud Light distributors ‘spooked’ by backlash to Dylan Mulvaney partnership," reports intended to drive a narrative of an international megacorporation driven to the brink of collapse after they insulted a great swath of cheap-beer-swilling hard-right bigots by suggesting, even in a single video, that their designated cultural enemies are allowed to like the same beers they do.
The Post is also leaning on Murdoch's other empire of spite, Fox News, for much of the legwork. From Fox News’ coverage you'd think Anheuser-Busch executives were fleeing angry mobs as we speak.
This is another good reminder, then, that just as what you see on Twitter does not represent reality, what you see on the news doesn't necessarily represent reality either. There are stories that are in the news because they are unambiguously news.
And then there are other stories that exist solely because someone who owns or operates a gargantuan media outlet wants to make it news, and is willing to devote a significant portion of their company's attention to making it happen.
"Beer company sponsors influencer" is not news. "Beer company sponsors influencer that the fascist far-right doesn't like" still doesn't make the cut. There aren't two dozen New York Post stories every time a beer company sponsors a local rodeo, because the Post wouldn't be able to buy enough ink to print them all up. There are damn few "straight news" articles that have ever challenged one-day beer company rodeo sponsorships anywhere by collecting feverish quotes by animal rights activists who vow to never ever barf up the company's cheapest products again now that the corporation has committed this vile deed. It is not a thing.
When Fox News, Fox Business, and The New York Post are all filling their news buckets with as many breathless updates on a Kid Rock-premised cultural mini-snit as they can squeeze out, that's a story that's being pushed. That's an agenda. One also imagines it's deeply embarrassing for all the reporters who have been roped into the new, all-consuming beat, but that would be no more than speculation on our part. For all we know there are Murdoch-employed reporters who have waited their entire lives waiting to be summoned for a "Kid Rock does a thing" story, and they'll be framing the resulting stories and hanging them up on their living room walls.
How the stories came to be written in the first place is one question; the next is whether the reporting, all of it focused on selling this single Bud Light sponsorship as a corporate financial disaster of astonishing scale, is intentionally misleading. Whether Murdoch's hard-right empire is once again doing a bit of book-cooking on this one not for the sake of reporting a story, but for creating one. And the answer is ... probably!
One of Tuesday's Fox Business stories is gorily headlined "Bud Light suffers bloodbath as longtime and loyal consumers revolt against transgender campaign," and nobody is going to confuse that one with a straight news story. (It's also not marked as an opinion piece–the Fox site instead labels it "Lifestyle," which is itself several kinds of weird.)
What an opening paragraph:
Consumers nationwide revolted against the nation's top-selling beer brand after it stepped "recklessly" into the culture wars last week with its new spokesperson, transgender TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney, according to bar owners and beer-industry experts around the country.
Bar the doors and door the bars, because the consumers are revolting.
The whole piece is just a collection of quotes from individual bar owners interspersed with phrases like "catastrophic decrease" and "nightmare scenario" and "public relations calamity" and, of course, "woke." Bud Light has "everything to lose," we're told. We don't get a quote from a rodeo, but "nightmare scenario" is the phrase used to report that a 100-person weekly dart league in Texas is very upset with Bud Light's move.
Side note: If you're wondering how large the trans population in America is compared to the population of Americans who are members of "dart leagues," we can answer that question—sort of! Recent data puts the number of transgender Americans at approximately 1.6 million. The American Darts Organization "counts around 700 dedicated players out of 100,000 total active," as of 2019, so if the Bud Light advertising team is going to start running some numbers on this it's not looking good for the dart leagues.
On the other hand, if you were to tell me that dart league players tend on average to consume 16 times as much beer as trans Americans do, well, I'm not going to fight you on that one. End side note!
Now, there are several problems with this Murdoch-wide barrage of news stories announcing a financial apocalypse for the international megacorporation that paid some unknown small sum to get boosted by a trans influencer in a sub-minute video. The first is that for all the panic—or rather, despite a barrage of Murdoch empire posts quite bent on manufacturing a panic— Anheuser-Busch InBev remains near its one-year highs. That's not exactly a nightmare scenario, even if the Texas dart league circuit has suffered a momentary blow.
The second problem here is that journalism based on anecdote is very close to useless when it comes to learning anything other than which reporters are skilled anecdote-hunters. A Vox report on the Bud Light apocalypse paints a completely different picture, using completely different anecdotes.
An anonymous Arkansas liquor owner brushes off the culture battle: "A lot of people are talking about it, fired up about it, they’re never drinking Bud Light again, yada yada yada, but they’ll be drinking them in a month, as soon as the news cycle quits."
Beer columnist Dave Infante is willing to put his name to a considerably meaner quote: "Bringing a substantial, sustained boycott against [Anheuser-Busch InBev] to pressure them into walking back their support for trans people or however you interpret this campaign, it would require just an enormous amount of coordination and discipline that, frankly, the right wing in this country just doesn’t really display for stuff like this."
Yeah, that ... is a pretty accurate observation. It might be a bit weird that a professional beer columnist has a better measure of the nation's far-right than much of professional political journalism does, or it might not be weird at all. Your choice on that.
The third and biggest problem with the Murdochs' attempt to punish another international megacorporation for its supposed cruelty towards beer-swilling bigots is that the conservative figures who have most promoted the idea of a conservative boycott are, and how shall I put this, not very bright.
Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw's Instagram promotion of a boycott didn't exactly go well. Crenshaw opened his refrigerator to "throw out" his Bud Light, declared himself satisfied when there was none there, and ignored the prominent cans of Karbach—one of Anheuser-Busch's other beer brands.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene didn't fare any better with her tweet boasting her switch from Bud Light to Coors Light. Good try there, but Molson Coors has been a big booster of LGBTQ+ causes and events, so have fun with that.
Sen. Marco Rubio has turned video self-humiliation into high art, though, so you can never count him out.
Psst. Anheuser-Busch is itself owned by a Belgian multinational. The BUD on the New York Stock Exchange refers to Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, based in Leuven, Belgium. (The name also sounds like a type of missile that NATO forces would be considering for shipment to the Ukrainian military. It would have considerable range, but taste terrible.)
Our last point of evidence is, of course, the now-countless videos from conservative nobodies who literally went out to purchase cases of Bud Light so that they could film themselves pouring it out or otherwise destroying it. Here's a tip, y'all. The beer company still turns the same profit whether you drink 'em or dump 'em.
If you are alive, and have been for at least a few months, you probably recognize this pattern. This is the Battle of the Woke M&Ms all over again. For a full year, Fox News bleater Tucker Carlson kept bellowing about the injustice of a candy company making their candy less sexually arousing, according to him, and boy howdy has that been a ride. After that it was the Xbox that turned "woke" (a software update gave users more power-saving options, which is all it takes for the snowflakes of conservatism to consider themselves victims).
What those stories didn't have, however, is the whole of the Murdochian empire organizing coverage to best do damage to the not-exactly-rival company being singled out. Tucker Carlson was allowed to whine about his decreased sexual attraction to candy mascots without it becoming fodder for the entire Rupert Murdoch cinematic universe. The rest of the Murdoch empire was quite happy to inch away from Tucker as he held forth on which sort of shoes imaginary candy mascots should wear in order to best arouse him.
This time, though, it's like a can of Bud Light killed Rupert Murdoch's father. This time it's a full-on war.
The Fox News website is now stoking fascist themes of national 'crisis' and necessary renewal
Dominion has Fox News by the throat
The latest conservative freakout is about Xbox software updates, because sure, why wouldn't it be
No, M&M's won't be getting rid of their 'spokescandies' because of a Republican tantrum
On today’s episode, Markos and Kerry are joined by a friend of the podcast, Democratic political strategist Simon Rosenberg. Rosenberg was one of the few outsiders who, like Daily Kos, kept telling the world that nothing supported the idea of a red wave. Simon and the crew break down his strategy for Democratic candidates to achieve a 55% popular vote in all elections—a number that a few years ago would have seemed unattainable, but now feels within reach.