Monday, February 3, 2014

Coca-Cola reminds America that it is beautiful. Some disagree.

During last night's blowout Superbowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, Coca-Cola aired a commercial that was intended to highlight the inclusivity and the beautifully interwoven cultures that make up the ideal of the American Dream.

I thought it was a nice sentiment and an artfully produced piece of marketing, and then thought nothing more of it. But apparently some Americans publicly disagreed on Twitter and other social media platforms, and in ugly fashion.

This type of vehement negative reaction has surprised some people, but as an amateur student of history I am much less surprised. Xenophobia and ingroup-outgroup mistrust and hatred have been the historical norm for millennia. What is amazing when you really think about it is how far humanity has come in just the last few generations, and how the people who make these awful bigoted statements are becoming more and more marginalized. Not long ago awful statements like these on Twitter were rallying cries for elections and popular movements, and printed on the front pages of newspapers, and circulated nationally on pamphlets...not the subject of ridicule and condemnation. One does not have to look far into the historical record to find numerous examples of anti-Irish, anti-Polish, anti-Jewish, and most notably anti-African-American bigotry.

Anti-immigrant propaganda cartoon from 1896

I think the feedback loops inherent in the broadcast platform of Twitter, and the valuable social criticism as exemplified by the Public Shaming tumblr blog, is another reason why the internet is so awesome. I suspect that this internet feedback will quickly bring a about a revolution of thoughtfulness and consciousness-raising, and that this will be a much bigger effect in moving the world forward than most people realize. This type of virtuous cycle used to be a much slower process, and required curious and literate people to encounter books, magazine articles, and have personal relationships and experiences that would have the same effect. Now, people can be taken to task almost instantly for their bigotry and stupidity, and perhaps taken to task by someone all the way on the other side of the world. This is how change happens, and happens fast. How amazing is that?

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