By guest writer: Comrade Jessica “Labour” Lynn
You did it, comrade! You beat fascism. Now you can relax, put on the new Fred Hampton bio pic, look forward to lining your wallet with those Harriet Tubman twenties, and slide through the next three years without having to pay attention to politics.
But, before you do, let’s revisit April 2017. Springtime for Trump. No, it wasn’t the first Black Lives Matter protest (but nevermind that.) It was, however, the first to get its own Pepsi Ad. No, not the Pepsi Company that, in 1972, asked the CIA to intervene in the inauguration of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president of Chile who sought to nationalize his country’s industries, which resulted in a right-wing coup and almost two decades of fascist rule. Well, actually yes. That Pepsi. But they’re different now—and they care about the people’s voice.
I invite you to revisit the ad. I did, and no. It did not age well. The first thing you’ll notice is: Pepsi portrays the protests as only a display of creativity. Break dancers, photographers, and a fucking string quartet join the march, almost out of boredom. There is plenty of diversity among the crowd, and two minor characters. However, neither of them are black. The posters don’t allude to what they’re protesting either. “Peace,” peace signs, and “join the conversation” come into focus, but little else. But never mind that! This is when our star arrives on the scene—Or, rather, the scene arrives to her.
Yes, even Kendal Jenner forgot about the civil tension that day. She, being creative herself, models in a restaurant the protest passes by. Kendal somehow knows what they want though because she skips the conversation and joins the march right then and there. After fist-bumping her way to the front, Kendal is face-to-face with the handful of cops that are blocking the path of the protest. However, like most spontaneous mobs, this one has sponsorship.
Kendall knocks the cop out with an ice cold Pepsi. Other activists join in and force the police to retreat. First riot cops, and then, eventually, the National Guard is called in. “Join the Conversation,” or JTP, is labeled a terrorist organization. The crowd is teargassed, one of the minor characters is pulled into an unmarked SUV, and a curfew is enforced. A rubber bullet ends up destroying the right side of Kendall’s face, ruining her modeling career (and her eyesight) forever. The commercial ends with her taking one last picture—her mugshot.
Now, if Kendall Jenner had rocked that cop’s shit with a soda can the same way Twisted Tea was used to shut up a racist, it might’ve been a decent commercial. Instead she hands the cop a Pepsi and the crowd cheers her on for some reason. Just a message of unity, how we both want the same thing. If that were the case, there would be no need for a protest. We only remember this commercial because of how bad it failed; not because Pepsi supported the protest, but because they didn’t. They tried to appeal to those who felt passionate about a movement without alienating the people opposed to that movement.
Now, if you yourself had marched, protested, and even fell victim to the police brutality absent from this commercial, you might feel a little indignation seeing something you supported co-opted for clout. That being said, it’s not much worse than if Kendall had just worn a Dead Kennedys shirt. Ok. Maybe it’s a little worse; but it’s not nearly as callous as co-opting a movement to get into power, only to abandon all those who got you there. For something that shameless, you need Liberals.
It’s important to remember that BLM has been active since 2013 and, in 2015, a leaked memo from Nancy Pelosi instructed fellow Democrats not to offer support for, what they called, “a radical movement.” Yet, in a few short years, the Democratic party has co-opted this movement, and mutilated it to the point that one might think Black Lives Matter was a response to Trump; and, in the most ironic turn, used it to make Joe Biden, author of the ‘94 Crime Bill, President, with a cop as his VP.
Much like the theme of the Pepsi commercial, Liberals only appropriate revolutionary aesthetics to attain power. After that, they only care about remaining in power, which means: appealing to the consensus. Already, Biden has negotiated with Republicans on the campaign promises that he hasn’t abandoned. The same Liberals who had said Biden could be pushed left once in office are now telling the right to distance themselves from Trump. There would be no incentive for the Republicans to do that unless they could persuade Democrats to vote for them; and if that were the case, it would further prove that there are no ideological differences between the two parties.
If we are to judge them based on their actions, it would follow that Liberals believe progress comes naturally with time; but “there can be no progress,” as Christopher Hitchens said, “without head-on confrontation.” If we are to change anything, we can not have our movements represented by those who depend on constituents. We are all we need, and we will not be made to choose between Coke and Pepsi.