Take a spin through the conservative media ecosystem — or listen to most of the Republican presidential primary field — and you’ll learn one major takeaway: The “woke mind virus” has fully infected America’s largest corporations. A non-exhaustive list of companies that personalities on Fox News have derisively called “woke” over the last couple years — for reasons spanning featuring trans people in ad campaigns to running corporate DEI programs — includes Bud Light, Hershey’s, Pizza Hut, Walmart, Nike, Kaiser Permanente, Chick-Fil-A, the whole airline industry and the weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
Naturally, conservative influencers are taking the opportunity to make a quick buck and a political statement (in the same way you might find liberals desperately trying to find bidders for their Ruth Bader Ginsburg Christmas ornaments). A slate of alternative “anti-woke” brands of chocolate, beer and other sundry goods you might normally buy at your local Target have proliferated across the internet in recent months to meet the boycotters’ needs. Jeremy Boreing, the co-founder of the conservative media company the Daily Wire, launched a skincare and razor brand and followed it up with “she/her” and “he/him” chocolates — you can guess which variety comes with nuts. Conservative influencer Seth Weathers got in on the action with the announcement of “Conservative Dad’s Ultra Right Beer,” a Bud Light alternative free of any ties to transgender influencers. “If you know which bathroom to use, you know what beer you should be drinking,” Weathers said.
But are these products actually good? And what does the rapid proliferation of this kind of product say about the cultural status of the right — and the state of corporate politics in America today? Only one way to find out.
Weathers made his pitch to replace Bud Light on April 12. By April 14, we had ordered two six packs for $19.99 each plus shipping, coming out to a whopping total of $54.61 for 12 beers. (Our order, didn’t arrive until June 26 since Weathers was forced to find another brewery after the one he had tapped to produce the beer pulled out when it was “made aware of the marketing for the product.”)
That wasn’t all. We tried a spate of so-called “anti-woke” wares: a cup of coffee (decent), chocolate (regrettable) and facial moisturizer (confusing) before cracking open the beers, and reproduced our tasting notes in the conversation below. The quality of the products left much to be desired. But that’s almost beside the point. What these products really offer isn’t a serious alternative to Bud Light or Hershey’s or Starbucks, but tools for building a bizarre new conservative counterculture — at least, for anyone with too much cash and plenty of time to wait. Caveat emptor:
2A Medium Roast Coffee
Blackout Coffee Company
$16.95 (+ SHIPPING)
DEREK ROBERTSON: I think I might have brewed this to be too sludge-like, although an alternate explanation is that I am simply too woke to enjoy the coffee.
Blackout Coffee Company has this really nondescript message about what it is that says: “Our brand is bigger than coffee. We are a purpose driven company and acknowledge the people and traditions that make our country great.” It also says “we were tired of giving our money to coffee companies that didn’t share our values.” What does that imply? The obvious idea is that it would be a thinly veiled shot at Starbucks, but the idea that Starbucks is this liberal coffee company is deeply outdated. Now you’re more likely to have people accusing them of union-busting, or putting smaller coffee shops out of business.
CALDER MCHUGH: For all of the idea of getting wokeness out of our coffee, you’d think they’d want to actually name what they’re criticizing.
ROBERTSON: Now that this has cooled down, I can actually taste it, and it’s not bad. It’s a medium roast. Not to be a nerd about this, but there’s this common misconception that the more a coffee tastes like mud the more it’s going to make your eyes pop out of your sockets with caffeine, and in reality it’s quite the opposite. They’ve reached a nice balance with this medium roast.
MCHUGH: So, why do you think they’ve taken this tack? Why are they doing this at all?
ROBERTSON: It’s an entrepreneurial opportunity — Blackout Coffee Company does not think that they’re going to supplant Starbucks. There’s a weird symmetry between what these companies are doing — the idea that they’re a small, mom-and-pop company that wants to instantiate their values via the economy — and what organic farms in the 1990s, or a company like Dr. Bronner’s, would do. It’s a reflection of how mainstream culture has flipped, where conservatives now view liberal hegemony as the thing that needs to be protested with their small-batch goods.
MCHUGH: And it’s distinctly small-batch. Their ambitions are different from a VC-funded startup attempting to disrupt a space; they don’t actually want to disrupt anything. The reason that it works is because they have something to exist in opposition to. Which means that for their consumers who are actually interested in having an anti-woke lifestyle, it’s almost impossible to actually have it — you’d have to jump through insane hoops.
ROBERTSON: If you only consumed anti-woke products, it would make your life much more difficult and expensive. I was struck when I was reading the Blackout Coffee Company’s website — they made a big deal out of how they locally source and roast these beans. And the cocoa is fair trade.
Nuts + Nutless Chocolate Bars
$24.99 (+ SHIPPING FOR 4 BARS)
ROBERTSON: I don’t really enjoy being implicitly asked to think about genitalia when I’m about to have a tasty snack.
MCHUGH: I actually don’t really enjoy thinking about politics in general when I’m consuming.
ROBERTSON: Yeah, that’s kind of the whole joy of consumption.
This is a place where conservative boycotters overlap with something like 1990s Adbusters culture: There’s this idea that Americans are just mindless consumers who will put their little piggy noses in whichever trough is in front of them. In the ’90s this was a liberal-coded argument. There’s still a progressive left that critiques consumerism, but now if you’re fighting American corporate hegemony you’re usually perceived to be fighting corporate liberalism.
Something that handicaps liberals in these cultural arguments is that they can’t admit when they’ve won. The spirit of liberalism and progressivism is to not be satisfied with the status quo; there’s always a new frontier to be liberated. So it’s hard for liberals to acknowledge when they’ve achieved a position of hegemony or influence. And they have. In many ways we do still live in a repressive, heteronormative society, but think about the post-9/11 era when it seemed like every product was like this, at least implicitly.
MCHUGH: Freedom fries.
As far as the chocolate itself goes, with apologies to the fair-trade crowd, I don’t think this is very good.
MCHUGH: These are terrible.
ROBERTSON: Awful. They just taste bad, they’re a strange consistency. There are these dry, flavorless little chunks of nuts stuck to the bottom.
MCHUGH: Do you think that Americans’ attitudes are actually way more liberal than they were 20 years ago? I don’t think that our culture is more pluralistic — maybe in some, but not in super-distinct ways — than it was 20 years ago. But I do think companies sort of decided en masse that it makes business sense to communicate a set of liberal values. This is a response to that. In the same way that communicating distinctly hippie-like liberal values was a response to the consumerism of 20 years ago.
ROBERTSON: That conservative sentiment is a reaction to something that people feel like has been taken away, or is in danger of being taken away from them. And something has, which is the ideological messaging apparatus of American consumer culture. That is a really powerful apparatus!
MCHUGH: Another thing we’re talking about with this is the packaging. A lot of this is very American flag-oriented, which is unsurprising but also interesting. There’s an attempt to connect to an imagined vision of the country and maybe an imagined past.
Hyaluronic Acid / Argireline Facial Moisturizer
$29.99 (+ SHIPPING)
MCHUGH: This is not my favorite moisturizing product I’ve ever used. But I also don’t have a real comprehensive skincare routine.
ROBERTSON: I’m imagining that we use this and tomorrow we just grow immaculately groomed, Steven Crowder-like 5 o’clock shadows. [ED NOTE: This hasn’t happened to us — yet.]
MCHUGH: Here’s the actual question about this product: Who is this for? They also have a skincare bundle on their website, a charcoal facial cleanser and this facial moisturizer.
ROBERTSON: Also which company are they theoretically protesting? Has Old Spice forsaken manhood?
MCHUGH: The closest I can tell is it does seem like an outgrowth of the weird anti-Harry’s Razors beef that Jeremy Boreing has. [Harry’s pulled out of advertising on Daily Wire podcasts after getting complaints online that the hosts were being overt homophobes on mic.] So many of these products are responding to one thing, without even responding to “woke culture” run amok in general, and it’s always a product that has some huge amount of market share.
ROBERTSON: With so many of them there are elements of ideological protest, but it’s also just entrepreneurship. The modern conservative movement was founded on building lengthy mailing lists of people who are willing to give you money. Without that, nothing in the institutional conservative movement works. So selling a product like this is a no-brainer if you know the overhead on making this terrible candy bar is lower than what you might reap from helping to build that movement.
MCHUGH: The website says: “A bamboo charcoal cleanser suited for men with thick skin and a lightweight facial moisturizer, enlisting hyaluronic acid and jojoba oil to heal and hydrate. Jeremy’s skincare bundle is the most nourishing one two punch to the face, whether you work from an oil rig or a swivel chair.”
All this stuff is prohibitively expensive, right? The two six-packs were $19.99 each, plus shipping. Even if you’re living in the woke capital of the universe, you can still walk to the store and get a six-pack of locally-brewed woke IPAs for $16. This was like $52 total!
Conservative Dad’s Ultra Right 100% Woke-Free American Beer
Ultra Right Beer
$19.99 (+ Shipping for 6-pack)
MCHUGH: The proper way to do this would be to shotgun them.
ROBERTSON: The label says: “Eat steak, lift weights, be uncensorable, drink a little beer.” I can feel the wokeness leaving my body.
This is not very good at all, and I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of shitty macrobrews.
MCHUGH: OK, so what are your favorites?
ROBERTSON: Well, I’m glad you asked, because it’s the beer that I think makes this totally redundant — Coors Banquet Beer, which is delicious and owned by an extremely conservative family. Coors is the actual anti-woke beer, so I don’t know why this needs to exist. Coors probably is not extremely eager to be perceived like that for obvious reasons — they don’t want people living in liberal cities like myself to stop buying it — but Coors, or even Miller High Life, are much, much better than this.
MCHUGH: Thinking about the marketing of these beers for a second, from a bottom line standpoint, Bud Light’s deciding to have a trans person hawk their product didn’t work because of the backlash, but they did that not because of some sort of natural support for the trans community but because they believed that decision would help them sell more beer. That calculation would never have been made 10 or 20 years ago; they never would have believed that having a trans person in one of their ads would help them commercially. So, what the average American consumer buys has probably become more culturally liberal. But these corporations aren’t truly more progressive themselves, they’ve just changed their attitude on what they think sells.
As far as the actual product of the Ultra Right Conservative beer, which is drafting directly off of this Bud Light marketing campaign to make its own sales, considering the ABV (4.8 percent) and the quality, the closest comp is probably … Bud Light. But Bud Light goes down much easier. This is a little more robust.
ROBERTSON: This tastes kind of like a non-alcoholic IPA. It’s watery, but then with this weird hoppy aftertaste. I can’t imagine anything less conservative than a non-alcoholic IPA.
MCHUGH: The bad taste might have something to do with their difficulty finding a place to actually brew this for them. They say the price will go down but it’s still $19.99. They have official merch — the T-shirt is $30; the hoodie is $50; the hat is $35. It’s insanely expensive.
MCHUGH: OK, it’s time to rank these products.
ROBERTSON: I think the ranking is very clear. The coffee is probably the best. The facial moisturizer … I can’t really make a judgment about it because I don’t understand it, but it’s fine. And then I prefer the beer to the chocolate. The chocolate is really bad.
MCHUGH: Inedible. With the beer, like, normally I would love to have a beer at 3:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, but …
ROBERTSON: The problem with drinking this beer at 3:00 p.m. on a Wednesday is that the only reason to drink this beer is if you’re going to drink at least five of them, which we are not going to do right now.
MCHUGH: Which is too bad, because they’ve been sitting in my fridge for a while.