Starbucks cups and the Internet idiocracy

     In this Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015 file photo, a barista pours steamed milk into a red paper cup while making an espresso drink at a Starbucks coffee shop in the Pike Place Market in Seattle. An evangelist's Facebook diatribe criticizing Starbucks for supposedly taking Christ out of Christmas by designing cups without seasonal symbols has garnered millions of views in early November 2012. But few of the those known for longstanding concerns about a so-called 'War on Christmas' are joining his complaint. Others wonder how this controversy, if indeed it is one, fits into the long history of squabbles over the place of Christmas in the public square. (Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)

    In this Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015 file photo, a barista pours steamed milk into a red paper cup while making an espresso drink at a Starbucks coffee shop in the Pike Place Market in Seattle. An evangelist's Facebook diatribe criticizing Starbucks for supposedly taking Christ out of Christmas by designing cups without seasonal symbols has garnered millions of views in early November 2012. But few of the those known for longstanding concerns about a so-called 'War on Christmas' are joining his complaint. Others wonder how this controversy, if indeed it is one, fits into the long history of squabbles over the place of Christmas in the public square. (Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)

    Isn’t it nice to know that even in a time of international crisis – ISIS, Syria, Putin – some Americans still make time to freak out over trivia? There’s something endearingly childlike (or pathetic) about our willful refusal to put things in perspective.

    Take, for instance, the ephemeral flap about the design of Starbucks’ holiday cup. There’s no better way to illustrate the workings of the instant-rant Internet idiocracy. One guy in Arizona, who bills himself as “an American evangelist, internet, and social media personality,” got so upset about the 2015 cup (no reindeer, no snowflakes; it’s just red) that he ran to Facebook and fumed, “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus.” And, at last count, 16 million voyeurs have watched his riff.

    Elsewhere on the War on Christmas front, a provocateur on the conservative Breitbart “News” site offered his own denunciation: “The Red Cups are now an anti-Christmas symbol, with Starbucks declaring their formerly Christmassy cups to be ‘holiday beverages’ and shedding any sign of Christmas from them.” And last Monday, as you surely know, Donald Trump mined the meme in his own inimitable way: “Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you.”

    This, apparently, is what the culture of victimhood has been reduced to: whining about the art on disposable paper.

    And the attendant lying only makes it worse. The Arizona “social media personality” (a term that screams vapidity) typed this tripe for his virtual fans: “Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off their brand new cups?” Yeeesh. When it comes to peddling falsehoods, this guy outpaces Ben Carson. Starbucks has never put Christ on its cups, or a nativity scene, or the word “Christmas.” Yeah, snowflakes and snowmen and reindeer have adorned previous cups, but those anodyne images were never intended as a celebration of Christian iconography.

    Indeed, last I heard, Starbucks was not a Christ-y company – even though, just FYI, it does offer a “Merry Christmas” gift card and “Christmas blend” coffee beans. Bottom line: Its corporate culture has long stessed diversity, and its customer base includes millions of people who (a) aren’t Christian, (b) are Christians who don’t stoop to paranoid victimhood, and (c) aren’t religious at all. A private company has every right to execute a strategic image strategy in furtherance of its chosen business model. Memo to right-wing Christians and Internet idiocrats: This is what free enterprise is all about – remember?

    It’s truly pathetic – and a failure of perspective – that some people demand fealty to their faith from a paper cup.

    ——-

    Hey, is the Republican race getting wilder or what? In the last 24 hours, we’ve witnessed…let’s see if I can keep this straight…Trump vs. Carson, Cruz vs. Rubio, Santorum vs. Cruz, Fiorina and Paul vs. Rubio, and Paul vs. Christie.

    Trump has refocused his outrage from the Starbucks cup to Carson. Here he was yesterday, on CNN, comparing Carson to a child molester: “It’s in his book that he’s got a pathological temper. That’s a big problem because you don’t cure that…as an example: child molesting. You don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. Pathological, there’s no cure for that.” (Is this perhaps the time when Trump has finally Gone Too Far? Nah.)

    Meanwhile, yesterday, Ted Cruz called out Rubio for having worked on a ’13 immigrant “amnesty” bill, and claimed that Rubio didn’t care about securing the border. (Which means that Cruz sees his fellow Cuban-American as a key rival for the GOP nod.) Rubio retaliated by claiming that Cruz in ’13 was equally focused on carving out some kind of path to citizenship. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum echoed Rubio by attacking Cruz; Carly Fiorina cited the ’13 bill by attacking Rubio; and Rand Paul attacked a tax credit plan that he said would help illegal aliens – a plan floated by Rubio. (Which means they’re all in hot competition for the right-wing primary voters who abhor undocumented immigrants. Yet another reason why Hispanic voters will eviscerate whoever wins the GOP nomination.)

    Also, yesterday, Rand Paul stood up for civil liberties by taking a fresh swipe at Chris Christie, for the latter’s prioritizing of national security. Paul said yesterday that it’s possible to safeguard privacy rights and still pursue terrorists. In an earlier debate, “I tried to explain this to the governor from New Jersey on the stage, but I think (he’s) having a little bit of a learning problem.” (Christie actually has a candidate viability problem. As does Paul.)

    No wonder the GOP establishment is freaking out. Click here, go to the 1:40 mark, and you’ll see what the Republican race currently looks like.

    ——-

    But nothing beats the Louisiana gubernatorial race, which I highlighted on Tuesday. David Vitter, the family-values Senate Republican, has been getting hammered by a Democratic ad that plumbs his past indulgence of prostitutes. The ad came up when Vitter and Democrat John Bel Edwards debated on Tuesday night. Vitter complained about it, and Edwards crafted this retort:

    “If it’s a low blow it’s only be­cause that’s where you live, Sen­at­or. It’s 100 per­cent truth­ful. The fact of the mat­ter is, you didn’t say it was un­true. You want me to take it down be­cause you don’t like it. I un­der­stand that you don’t like it. It hits you where you live….you’re a liar and you’re a cheater.”

    What fun! On Tuesday night, we should’ve skipped the GOP presidential debate and watched them instead.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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