(CNN) — When the coffee maker company Keurig revealed plans to pull its advertising dollars from Fox News host Sean Hannity’s show, the online backlash was instant.
The decision, made in response to the conservative talker’s suggestion that the women accusing Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct were lying or on the take, set off a now-familiar chain reaction of partisan outrage — and by early Sunday another round of odd and, given the coffee pods’ $100 (and up) ticket price, apparently self-defeating protests.
Keurig is now having its turn in the barrel, but it is the barrel — not the company’s flapping — that is the distinct and recurring phenomenon worth watching. Once this latest round of indignation hits a boil, Keurig, in its role as liberal bogeyman, will be drained and ditched by its enemies.
For the next few days, though — and perhaps longer if the company backs down; trolls don’t let up at signs of weakness — Keurig will have to weather this weird indignity.
At least one of its machines perished after a fall; another came apart after being whacked with a golf club by a man inside a garage. Hannity fans have threatened further aggressions, usually on social media, as their way of displaying support for the host and sending a message to the company — of which a number are, in an unfortunately costly coincidence, also customers.
Hannity subsequently tweeted his delight at the demonstrations and promised to buy 500 coffee makers — presumably not from Keurig — to give away. (On Monday, after a memo from the Keurig CEO to his employees apologizing for the fallout went public, Hannity told supporters to “hold their fire.” It’s unclear whether the company intends to resume its ad deal.)
In one of the most widely circulated user videos, a helmeted man in protective eyewear, pajama pants and flip-flops — with socks — smashed his Keurig into pieces. A few hours after that, another shared a brief clip of a Keurig being tossed from atop a flight of stairs to its crunchy end on the concrete below.
“Liberals are offended by this video of a Keurig being thrown off of a building,” the post reads. “Please retweet to offend a Liberal. #BoycottKeurig”
The whims of the mostly pro-Trump band of perpetually aggrieved Twitter personalities cut both ways. A few weeks ago, they smiled on Papa John’s pizza after CEO John Schnatter attacked the NFL for its handling of player protests. (And blamed the league for the company’s stock struggles.)
Jack Posobiec, who describes himself as a “political operative” but is best known for his online trolling, tweeted that he would, as a way of saluting the delivery chain, be serving Papa John’s at his wedding rehearsal dinner. Perhaps Posobiec enjoys the product, but in context it was clear: Papa John’s was on the menu for one reason, and it wasn’t culinary.
The increasingly absurd nature of the online right’s attempts to rile political moderates and, as they often phrase it, the “social justice warriors” or “SJWs” on the left, has caused less anger than confusion — and no small amount of confused laughter — over the last year. See here one representative response to Posobiec’s Papa John’s stunt:
And therein lies the meme: “to own the libs.” Why order takeout pizza for your wedding rehearsal? To own the libs. Why throw away all that good cereal? To own the libs. Why — see below — wear a diaper in public? To own the libs.
Why go to Starbucks and buy their coffee when you are upset with the company? To own the libs, of course.
About a year ago, after a Miami man accused a Starbucks barista of anti-white discrimination, some Trump supporters kicked off an uncanny protest. They would go to the stores, purchase drinks and — wait for it — give their names as “Trump.” The “own,” as it were, would come when an employee holding the prepared drink was, given the chain’s custom, made to announce the President-elect’s name. Sometimes the ploy worked, sometimes it didn’t. But the cash, as many noted, always ended up in Starbucks’ coffers.
Perhaps the most spectacularly weird display — and there is some debate on that front — came from members of Turning Point USA, a conservative group founded in 2012 by teen former Breitbart contributor Charlie Kirk. Their outpost at Kent State University in Ohio made some headlines last month when, in an effort to mock the concept of “safe spaces” in academia, did this:
To be perfectly clear, the dissident featured in these photographs (snapped and posted by Turning Point!) is attempting to ridicule his more liberal-minded classmates by crawling around on the floor, in a diaper, alternately sucking on a pacifier and drinking from a baby’s milk bottle.
Breitbart’s reporting on the demonstration landed somewhere between triumphant and secondhand embarrassment, reporting that the “activists” had set off a “massive online backlash,” before adding dryly, “the stunt was relentlessly mocked.”
Even TPUSA founder Kirk seemed a bit unsure of this particular tactic.
“The efficacy remains to be seen,” he said, “but the message is consistent.”