Once again, patriots are learning the hard way that when you tether your identity to a for-profit institution, you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed.
Black Rifle Coffee Company was supposed to be a company that countered the effete stereotypes of other coffee sellers. When Starbucks promised to hire refugees, BRCC pledged to hire veterans. The company ran a promotion donating free bags of coffee to police officers. Its products are adorned in pro-military, pro-police kitsch. Black Rifle was supposed to be the rare company willing to openly market to the majority of America that doesn’t enjoy riots, protesting the flag, 13-year-olds getting castrations or double mastectomies, and every other piece of the ideological package that has become America’s de facto ruling ideology.
Black Rifle actually hates populists and conservatives. In fact, it’s willing to pay you to never be their customer again. That’s the takeaway from the company’s 7,000-word profile in The New York Times last week.
Sometime in the last few months, The New York Times asked Black Rifle if they’d be interested in an interview. As a proud MAGA-backing coffee company, Black Rifle could have responded in several different ways:
-Deliver a terse statement
-Ask for a list of questions and give brief, accurate answers
-“The Times is the enemy of the American people. F off.”
Black Rifle did none of those things. Instead, founder Evan Hafer sat down for a wide-ranging in-person interview. The company posed for a photo shoot. They gave the Times’ Jason Zengerle everything he needed for a massive story making it absolutely clear how the company really feels about its most enthusiastic supporters.
The Rittenhouse episode may have cost the company thousands of customers, but, Hafer believed, it also allowed Black Rifle to draw a line in the sand. “It’s such a repugnant group of people,” Hafer said. “It’s like the worst of American society, and I got to flush the toilet of some of those people that kind of hijacked portions of the brand.” Then again, what Hafer insisted was a “superclear delineation” was not too clear to everyone, as Munchel’s choice of headgear vividly demonstrated.
“The racism [expletive] really pisses me off,” Hafer said. “I hate racist, Proud Boy-ish people. Like, I’ll pay them to leave my customer base. I would gladly chop all of those people out of my [expletive] customer database and pay them to get the [expletive] out.” [NY Times]
Hafer’s choice of epithet is revealing. One doesn’t even have to like the Proud Boys to know that calling them racist is ridiculous. The group’s leader is sometime FBI-informant Enrique Tarrio, an Afro-Cuban. It famously attracts Hispanics, Asians, and Polynesians. The Proud Boys are all-male and proud “Western chauvinists.” Hafer could have called them violent, or stupid, or a potential federal op. But instead, he chose to call them racists, the one slur against them that is completely indefensible.
In other words, Hafer doesn’t actually know anything about the Proud Boys. He’s just repeating nonsense talking points fed to him by the Right’s enemies, whom he evidently views as a reliable information source.
That pattern recurs throughout the article. The damning revelation of the interview is that, whatever his superficial signaling towards American nationalists, Hafer has thoroughly submitted to the moral imperialism of the left. He accepts their core premises about reality and allows them to define the limits of his worldview.
Hafer and Best were talking in a glorified supply closet in the Salt Lake City offices, where potential designs for new coffee bags were hanging on the wall. One of them featured a Renaissance-style rendering of St. Michael the Archangel, a patron saint of military personnel, shooting a short-barreled rifle. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Hafer knew a number of squad mates who had a St. Michael tattoo; for a time, he wore into battle a St. Michael pendant that a Catholic friend gave him. But while the St. Michael design was being mocked up, Hafer said he learned from a friend at the Pentagon that an image of St. Michael trampling on Satan had been embraced by white supremacists because it was reminiscent of the murder of George Floyd. Now any plans for the coffee bag had been scrapped. “This won’t see the light of day,” Hafer said. [NY Times]
St. Michael the Archangel has been essential to the Christian religion for two thousand years. Millions of Catholics say a prayer to St. Michael after after Mass. As Hafer himself knows, St. Michael is popular with soldiers, veterans, and religious Americans of all stripes. But rather than letting a classic symbol stand on its own terms, Hafer has allowed the hegemonic left to define what it means. A “friend at the Pentagon” warned him that a two-thousand-year-old iconic symbol was not okay, because a few alleged “white supremacists” “embraced” it, whatever that means. So, too bad, no more iconic Christian saint allowed anymore. What other symbols Hafer could be browbeaten into opposing. The Gadsden flag? The American one? It appears the only limit is the Pentagon’s shame, and given the Pentagon at this moment is paying to surgically mutilate its own soldiers, it’s not clear any such limit exists.
Black Rifle professes to be eager to put some of its fiercest and trolliest culture-war fights behind it. “What I figured out the last couple of years is that being really political, in the sense of backing an individual politician or any individual party, is really [expletive] detrimental,” Hafer told me. “And it’s detrimental to the company. And it’s detrimental, ultimately, to my mission.” [NY Times]
Of course, Hafer is entirely wrong. Being political isn’t detrimental in the slightest. Virtually every company in America has pledged total monolithic fealty to leftism in the past year, without serious consequence. It’s being conservative or a patriotic nationalist that is harmful for a company. Those companies are targeted by regulators. They’re denied permits for new outlets. They lose their credit card services, their PayPal support, and their bank accounts. They’re kicked off the Internet by hostile tech companies.
Hafer presents himself as choosing to abstain from politics. But he’s not. Instead, he’s admitting that he dabbled in pandering to conservatives, then realized it was hard, and not a fight worth having. The commitment was fake.
The sad fall of Black Rifle Coffee Company actually began last November.
Battered, denounced, vilified, imperiled, but unbroken, Kyle Rittenhouse celebrated his first day out on bail by posing for a photo wearing one of the company’s branded t-shirts. The Blaze’s Elijah Shaffer then tweeted out the photo, with the caption “Kyle Rittenhouse drinks the best coffee in America.”
The tweet was, undeniably, a PR hiccup for Black Rifle, since it gave the impression Black Rifle was sponsoring Rittenhouse’s defense when it was not. Still, it was a golden opportunity for the company to stand apart from the crowd. Given the American environment in 2020, BRCC could have stood out by simply saying nothing. Or, they could have released a statement clarifying that Black Rifle wasn’t directly sponsoring Rittenhouse’s legal fight, and explained how supporters could do so. Or best of all, they could have seized the opportunity to start supporting Rittenhouse.
Instead, the company did exactly what literally any other company would have done: It aggressively distanced itself from Rittenhouse, and refused to even say his name, calling him only “the 17-year-old facing charges in Kenosha.” The CEO of Black Rifle made Shaffer delete his tweet.
Here’s Eric Hafer explaining their decision.
— Black Rifle Coffee (@blckriflecoffee) November 22, 2020
It goes without saying that this is suicidal behavior by the company. The left will never forget or forgive whatever flimsy crimes they believe BRCC is guilty of. The company’s leaders have pointlessly and gratuitously insulted their only allies, Americans who crave companies to support that aren’t in league with a cultural zeitgeist that wants them, their children, their communities, their culture, and their country destroyed. Once the left has finished provoking BRCC into alienating its former allies, they will simply move on to their next target.
In a sense, BRCC is a fitting metaphor for the United States itself. Just like BRCC, the USA as an institution despises and trashes the people who actually love it; meanwhile the people it favors instead will never love the country or even care what happens to it. When the last American patriot finally gives up and peels the flag decal off his car, that will be it. Patriotism won’t have shifted to the left. It will simply be dead.
But there is a deeper and more important point to this entire episode, a point that transcends Black Rifle itself: The right must stop fetishizing every company that panders to them, and they must move on from their embarrassing worship of the modern American military.
This entire episode only happened because of how trivially easy it is to pander to the American right. Black Rifle just slapped guns, camo, and the flag on whatever it could, added a dose of performative masculinity (Want to prove you’re manly? Just say “fuck” a lot!), and then raked in cash exploiting the same demographic that likes to “own the libs” by buying overpriced Dr. Seuss books on eBay.
A quote from Black Rifle’s relatively new corporate America “co-chief executive” Tom Davin hints at a new strategy to completely abandon conservative America in favor of becoming yet another “Manly Bacon Man Kitsch” brand like Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s Razor Blades.
Tom Davin, a former executive at Taco Bell and Panda Express who two years ago became Black Rifle’s co-chief executive, says: “Our customer is driving a tricked-out Ford F-150. It’s blue-collar, above-average income, some college-educated, some self-made-type people. It’s people who shop at Walmart rather than Target.” [NY Times]
The company’s ads are indistinguishable from a parody that would appear in a Grand Theft Auto video game:
Make a list of anything Reddit has considered “manly” over the past decade, and chances are BRCC has marketed with it. Bacon? Yep.
— Black Rifle Coffee (@blckriflecoffee) November 6, 2018
Chicks in bikinis? Yep.
Over-the-top heckin’ coolerino shlock like guys with lasers riding sharks? Yours for just $26.99.
In many ways, the imagery that Black Rifle indulges is actively harmful. Male-to-female transsexuals famously have a cartoonish, porn-influenced, stereotypical idea of what being a woman is like. That’s why drag queens have such a garish, over-the-top look. BRCC ads evoke the same idea, but for men. Their target demographic is, in a sense, male-to-male transsexuals. The ads reduce veterans from citizen soldiers to a pantomime of desperate masculinity, guys who need tattoos, whiskey, and twenty-seven different guns to feel like “real men.” BRCC ads are supposed to trigger “snowflake” liberals, but they’d be just as crass and ridiculous to a World War 2 veteran in 1946.
Many members of the military are heroic individuals, worthy of admiration and emulation. But many other members are not, and increasingly the worship of the modern American armed forces serves to distract from how wastefully American troops are used abroad, and the sinister way the Pentagon is transforming America’s security into a social science experiment.
Kyle Rittenhouse is braver and more admirable than most of the soldiers conservatives are reflexively trained to worship. The average American soldier fights in conflicts that have either no bearing on Americans’ safety and well-being, or a negative bearing on both. Rittenhouse, on the other hand, selflessly put himself in peril to protect his own community from marauding psychopaths. American troops are rewarded with college tuition, pensions, and affirmative action for millions of federal jobs. Rittenhouse’s reward for defending his fellow Americans is personal ruin, a potential lifelong prison sentence, and denunciations from cowards. If Black Rifle had an outlet in Kenosha, Kyle Rittenhouse would have risked his life to defend it. But Black Rifle won’t even risk unpopularity to defend him.
So what should patriots do going forward? Well, if you like coffee, buy coffee. If you can give money to a company that shares your values, or avoid giving money to one that hates them, even better. But stop tethering your identity to specific corporations, and stop being an easy lay for slick marketers who try to impress you by putting a gun on a coffee mug. Fundamentally, it is liberals who derive meaning from brand allegiance and living life as contrived stereotypes (this is why they are so attached to identity politics). Americans of all political affiliations must adhere to something greater: Family, traditional values, and enduring, inherited institutions that don’t treat them as marks from which to grift another dollar.
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