Although American conservatives are frighteningly competent when it comes to actually winning elections, they cannot stage a public protest for shit. Republican attempts to emulate liberal rallying cries like the March on Washington and the Women’s March typically end like 2013’s 2 Million Bikers to DC rally, which drew a crowd of 10,000, or last year’s March 4 Trump, which brought nearly 100 conservatives to the nation’s capital. Even extraordinarily well-funded astroturf groups like Turning Point USA still manage to come up with self-defeating stunts like wearing adult diapers in public to protest “safe spaces.”
This brings us to conservatives’ favorite method of protest: filming themselves destroying consumer products they already paid for to stick it to companies who try to expand their target demographic beyond “white people 55 and older who have brain lesions.” In honor of the latest iteration of this tactic, which has elderly racists torching their Nikes and inhaling synthetic polymer fumes in order to spite an advertisement featuring former San Francisco 49er and National Anthem-kneeler Colin Kaepernick, let us explore the storied history of this very smart and very effective method of civil disobedience — and what little it hath wrought.
1966: Christians burn records they already paid for to own John Lennon
While a chronology like this could conceivably begin with Moses’ destruction of the golden calf, which was probably worth a ton of money, the story of conservatives reacting with violent rage to the diversification of pop culture really begins in the 1960s. In 1966, an interview in which John Lennon made an offhand comment that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus” set off a firestorm in the Bible Belt. A radio station in Birmingham, Alabama asked listeners to send in their Beatles records so that they could be fed into a wood chipper, and other stations in the Deep South followed suit and organized massive vinyl bonfires. The Ku Klux Klan, which was particularly offended by comments from the same interview that criticized segregation, nailed Beatles records to a burning cross.
Outcome: The Beatles’ next album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, sold more than twice as many copies in the U.S. as its predecessor. However, Lennon’s eventual assassin Mark David Chapman cited his past blasphemous comments as one reason for the murder, so in a sense it kind of… worked?
1979: White Sox fans purchase disco records and then burn them to own the concept of disco music
The enduring idea of the nightclub as a place where people take sketchily sourced drugs and dance to repetitive music was invented during the disco era, and more and more people are saying that the music was some of the best, ever, and that we love to hear it. The genre was especially popular with racial and sexual minorities, who reached new heights of visibility during this period. Unfortunately, the straight white Baby-Boomer dipshits who now make up the rank-and-file of the GOP were unable to grasp how cool this all was, instead preferring to drink Miller High Life and listen to butt-rock trash like Bad Company and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. The backlash to disco culminated in the Disco Demolition Night publicity stunt at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, which was then the home of the White Sox. Attendees were given a discount for bringing in their own disco records, which were blown up with firecrackers between games. This deeply stupid display excited fans to the point that they rushed the field and had to be dispersed by police in riot gear.
Outcome: Disco still rules. Fuck you.
2015: Erick Erickson shoots his copy of The New York Times with a gun to protest gun control
RedState.com editor Erick Erickson was so upset by a 2015 New York Timeseditorial calling for gun control in the wake of a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, that he shot seven bullets into his copy of the newspaper and tweeted a picture of it. Naturally, the media response outside of decaying Bush-era blogs like RedState was to point and laugh at this pathetic man’s display of impotent rage. That tweet has since been deleted, probably because Erickson — who rebranded himself as a #NeverTrump milquetoast in 2016 — is now a New York Times op-ed contributor. Who says you can’t get what you want with violence?
Outcome: Again, the Times lets him write his own op-eds now. They let the guy who shot the newspaper with a gun because he disagreed with it become an op-ed contributor. Cool.
November 2016: Breitbart readers flush cereal down the toilet because Kellogg’s pulled their ads from the site
In late November 2016, liberals began targeting Breitbart’s advertisers and demanding they cut ties with the website that former executive chairman Steve Bannon once called the “platform for the alt-right.” It worked on Kellogg’s, and the breakfast-food behemoth pulled its ads almost immediately. Breitbart and its army of gout sufferers declared “#WAR” on the company with the #DumpKelloggs campaign, which mostly entailed dumping already-paid-for food into the trash, burning it, and flushing it down the toilet (it is inadvisable to flush cereal down the toilet).
Outcome: Kellogg’s seems to be doing much better than Steve Bannon, who has since been fired from the White House, forced to step down from his position at Breitbart, and disinvited from the New Yorker Festival. The propaganda outlet still appears to harbor a grudge against Kellogg’s; as of this writing there is an article on the front page about people getting salmonella from a tainted batch of Honey Smacks.
November 2017: Fox News viewers destroy their Keurig coffee makers because the company pulled their ads from Hannity
Conservatives were not pleased with Keurig when they pulled advertisements from Sean Hannity’s show after the pundit defended then-Senate candidate Roy Moore against allegations of pedophilia last November. Their response was to destroy their Keurig coffee makers, which can cost upwards of $150, by flinging them off of balconies and smashing them with hammers.
Outcome: Hannity, who was either embarrassed by his fans’ idiocy or hopeful that Keurig would return as an advertiser, walked back his outrage a few days later and offered to give away 500 free Keurigs to his viewers.
September 2017: Racists set their own NFL jerseys and season tickets on fire to own players who kneeled during the National Anthem
At this point, Colin Kaepernick is probably responsible for more old white men having heart attacks than red meat and obesity combined. His decision to kneel for the National Anthem in protest of racist police brutality in 2016 continues to drive conservatives absolutely insane. They were not and are not sure what Kaepernick was protesting, exactly — guesses include “the flag,” “the anthem,” and “the troops” — but they are very, very upset about it. And once Donald Trump seized upon the issue last September with a series of furious tweets, a feedback loop was created in which players kneeled more to spite Trump, giving him more of an excuse to milk the culture-war issues that energize his base. In response, Trump supporters began a boycott of the NFL, ostensibly because the league would not fire players who kneeled, and set their memorabilia and (very expensive) season tickets on fire.
Outcome: Trump often cites the NFL’s declining ratings as a personal success, but this trend predates the National Anthem protests and Trump’s presidency. People just aren’t watching that much network TV anymore.
2018: Racists mutilate their Nike socks and shoes to own Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick claims that he was unlawfully blackballed from the NFL last year due to his political stances, an allegation that may soon go to trial. In the meantime, Nike has made Kaepernick the center of a new ad campaign. The same people who burned their NFL memorabilia are now setting their Nike shoes on fire to spite the athleticwear giant, creating what must be horribly toxic fumes in the process. John Rich, of has-been country duo Big & Rich, announced on Twitter that the band’s soundman cut the Nike logos off his socks in protest, an act that could not conceivably have any effect other than making his ankles look stupid. Boycotts of Kellogg’s and Keurig, which might theoretically suffer from losing a portion of elderly white men as customers, are stupid enough. A boycott of Nike, whose target demographic skews young, athletic, and black, makes even less sense. But if Nike ever releases a line of orthotic velcro shoes, watch out.
Outcome: One possibility is that Nike will drop Colin Kaepernick from its ad campaign, and that every Nike executive will be court-martialed for treason and executed by firing squad at dawn by a rogue group of flag-loving QAnon supporters within the U.S. military. Another possibility is that absolutely nothing will happen and people will continue to wear Nikes because they are comfortable, stylish, and sold at a reasonable price point.