So, Starbucks. I know, I know, but this isn't one of those posts, okay? I want to actually attempt to explain at least some of this bullshit.
As everyone in the United States has seen on repeat for the past news cycle, Starbucks replaced their red cups with snowflakes and doves on them with red cups.
The first I saw of the news was the sudden arrival of 80 billion posts on my friends' list complaining about people complaining about this change.
I saw not one actual complaint about the change.
My guess is, hardly any of my friends posting backlash against the backlash actually saw any original backlash either.
So, our knowledge of this "Starbucks controversy" comes in the form of replies to a complaint that, so far as I can tell, never really took off online. Sure, a few people were raising their hands to clouds and shouting Merry Christmas in their living rooms like every year, but, you know, most years we just tell grandpa to stop yelling at the TV and go back to our lives.
This year, for some reason, we decided to make up a bad guy and skewer him. And this news cycle, it happened to be right-wing Christians attacking Starbucks (whether or not they actually did). Because it is plausible enough that somewhere, someone who believes in the Savior was ticked off about the removal of a few white pictures on a red cup. Or, like, wouldn't it be funny and eye-roll inducing if there were someone mad about something like that? It WOULD. Okay, let's go with that. And then as people continue to open their computers, this happens:
Because it's an easy joke. It's an easy topic. It's an easy debate. It's easy. People like easy. And people love to tell other people that there are more important things going on than what they are worried about. Makes the first lot seem very important and worldly while they also get to contribute to the very topic they deem so unimportant.
And in this--very rare--case, Sbux cups actually ARE unimportant. (Usually, people telling other people their worries are meaningless because people are starving, or houses are burning and etc., are just falling back on a logical fallacy to inflate their own sense of importance). But not this time.
So, Starbucks cups.
Meanwhile, there is Mizzou, there are protests in the Philippines, Russia has a nuclear torpedo, we're close to finding life outside our solar system, Israelis are killing Palestinians in hospitals, Yale students are being Yale students, the ozone hole is as big as it was at record bigness, and the like.
All below the fold to Starbucks and its new cup.
Let me tell you.
In communications academia we have this theory called agenda setting. It basically states that the media set the agenda for the public and its opinion. To break that down: the media tell the people what is important to them and how they should think about the issue. And the public then responds. This is a self-propelling phenomenon, as whether or not the public agrees with the salience of the issue the media tell it is important, they still contribute to that salience by responding. Ergo, what the media decide to promote is the issue that goes to the front lines. And all the people railing against that power simply make that power stronger.
So, why would media focus on a Starbucks marketing decision, amid all the actual important news out there? As mentioned before, it is easy.
You see, even though media set the agenda for the public, media are beholden to what the public will actually talk about and they pay people like me big money to tell them what those issues are going to be. In the online age particularly, picking a topic that the public will respond to and argue over quickly and virally is of utmost importance to continue the relevance of any given publications, and guys, the media knows you a little bit. It's been serving you for a while now.
The media knows that liberals want to laugh about how stupid conservative people are, and that conservative people want to be like, bro, I don't even care about a cup, wtf, and that religious people want to chime in about a very important piece of their lives no matter where they fall in the argument.
The argument, remember, that isn't even happening because who of any importance actually said, OMG STARBUCKS HATES CHRISTIANS.
Not one person. At least in the early days.
In fact, the media TOLD Donald Trump (and a few other "important / newsworthy" people, that this was an issue, and basically invited them to be that guy. Because you can't fight a ghost forever.
So when Trump did his Trumply duty and spoke on it, we all wiped our brows in relief. It worked. The plan worked. We got our bad guy.
And when Dunkin' Donuts saw a chance to get its name in the news because holy crap, what a TON of advertising for Sbux right now, and that is totally unfair to the other coffee chains, it, too, made its own followup. Then Ellen and other people with credibility stepped in.
And now we've got a story with legs. And we get to sit back and say, "See, public? We told you this was a big deal and you heard it here first. We told you this was a big story. We broke this story. You know, the story we completely fabricated."
Another win for publications filling pages looking for clicks.
And the public began to play along. After a million posts starting with those memes above, then going into the actual news stories linked just after those, people started to voice their opinions on the issue and we got ourselves a nice (if tiny), eff-the-pc-police camp. So, thanks, internet commenters. You've done your job. In my public search, I found two. TWO.
"So I went to Starbucks to test the no Merry Christmas bull that Donald Trump has been talking about, and sure enough, they are not allowed to say it or write it on your cup! So not only do they support killing babies by employee matching planned parenthood, but they really have banned the use of Christmas this season! Thinking it's about time for a total boycott!"
"Christmas is the best holiday of the year. It has nothing to do with religion - it's about family time, snuggling, warm cider, christmas trees, gift-giving, reindeer and santa claus ...
The disappointment with Starbucks is about the PC-neutralization of American culture, and not about religion.
Once again Trump has the right idea. Dump Starbucks. Peet's has better coffee anyways, and they have holiday cheer!"
But we still haven't answered why the media choose to inflate the importance of stories like this. And I can't speak for them, I can only speak for me, but I can tell you, as a member of the media, it is hard to report on news. News is sad. And bad. And angry. And unfair. And people are fucking dying out there every day. And it's our job to tell you about it. And you don't want to hear about it, and we don't want to write about it, not because we don't care, but because we care so much, and we are helpless. We are the mouthpiece of the atrocities of the world, and we soon learn that just telling people about these atrocities does not end those atrocities. Only action and behavioral change on a systemic level does. And news articles are like bb guns in the fight to create that change. We have entire models on this, again, in academia. Changing behavior in just ONE individual takes the perfect recipe of facts, timing and interest on the part of that person that must be applied for months if not years. Changing the behavior in a society? That takes decades, and millions of voices, and the change is slow and painful and we're tired.
So, the public wants a break to complain about a cup?