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One of the wonderful and unfortunate realities of TikTok’s Stitch feature is that you often see the same video over and over again. I’ve seen more reactions to White Queen Lights Spaghetti than I can count. This week, that Echo came in the form of a person in jeans, boots, a teal t-shirt, and a white baseball cap driving over a can of Bud Light in a pickup truck. The original TikTok never showed up in my feeds, but the reactions flocked to it. “[Anheuser-Busch] literally done the bare minimum to recognize a marginalized community and you’re having a freaking heart attack,” said one. “How blessed are you that this is the biggest problem you face?” Another pointed out that the truck that ran over Bud Light was a Chevy made by General Motors, a company , which like Anheuser-Busch supports LGBTQ+ rights.
All the excitement started earlier this month when Budweiser partnered with trans TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney, who took to Instagram dressed as Holly Golightly Breakfast at Tiffany’s and drank a bud while talking about March Madness. While this may not be a cause for alarm in many quarters, Conservatives began to protest. Kid Rock shot up a few cases of the lager on Instagram. An influencer known as Conservative Dad launched his own “Ultra Right” beer. Country star Travis Tritt tweeted a promise to remove Anheuser-Busch products from his Tour rider. Others followed Rock’s example, destroying or dumping Bud Light and several other related concoctions to express how upset they were that Bud Light had been working with a trans person.
This is arguably a trend within a trend. Since Fox News’ Tucker Carlson addressed the evolving sexiness of M&Ms, it has become a common practice for conservatives to label a company’s actions “awakened” to disparage an organization’s efforts at inclusivity. You may not understand the meaning or the origin of the word, but the message seems to have gotten across because if you address someone or something with this term, you will surely trigger a backlash. And then a game to a game.
So this is the latest iteration. Though reactions and @-replies and response videos have been tools in public debate for decades, the rise of TikTok as a site of public discourse — and the associated demise of Twitter — has changed the tenor of those debates. While people on Twitter mostly yell at each other in text, GIF, or (occasionally) video form, TikTok’s tools allow for a “let’s roll the tape” approach, where users show an offensive image and then comment or verbally refute it can arguments, videos, photos and other images. The same thing could happen – and has happened – in a Twitter thread, but there everyone can chime in in the same place. On TikTok, further comments become an endless loop of stings and reactions.
Online comments have always been a rambling and unruly thing, but what made the Bud Light controversy — and I use that term very casually — so intriguing is that now, three weeks later, it’s not even about Bud Light and Mulvaney goes . Not really. Instead, people point out that the beer brands people are switching to, like Coors, also support LGBTQ+ people, or discuss which brewery makes ultra-right beer. They talk about whether the boycott will have a long-term impact on Anheuser-Busch’s bottom line or rejuvenate the brand — and whether boycotts work at all, given similar efforts against Nike (for supporting Colin Kaepernick) and Disney (for supporting LGBTQ+ -Subjects). It has become the business of the debate itself.
What, ok, good. Maybe there is a place for that. But when a debate about a beer company that supports a marginalized community goes on for almost a month, it’s striking that the conversation is no longer about the marginalized community in question. Anti-trans rhetoric is ubiquitous, and when people want to crush a camp because their parent company sent someone a couple of cans and a few well-wishes, maybe it’s time to talk about why.