I've watched in fascination as the Starbucks Red Cups Controversy has unfolded. By now you've probably heard the story, some Christians were upset when Starbucks unveiled this year's holiday cup: a plain red ombre cup with no decorations. Despite the fact that the cup is red and green (from the Starbucks logo) which almost everyone knows is distinctively Christmas-y, the new cup was considered an assault on Christmas, therefore we should be offended because... Jesus. Right. Then we had a lot of people respond pointing out how ridiculous it is to get upset over a paper cup, how there are actually real problems in the world, and how Starbucks usually doesn't feature anything distinctively Christmas on their holiday cups anyway. And finally, the latest development in this saga is that some are now questioning whether there ever really were people legitimately upset over the cups in the first place, or is this a marketing ploy by Starbucks or a conspiracy from the media to make Christians look like idiots?
Here's what I think. First, the beauty of social media is that we can go back to when this controversy started and see that there really were people upset over the cups who most likely are not shills of Starbucks (unless you think Glenn Beck is secretly employed by Starbucks, in which case you definitely are a die-hard conspiracy theorist). Second, is the media milking this? Maybe, but only to the degree that the media milks everything because of course the media loves a good story. The more attention a story gets, the more page views, the more advertising revenue. But no, I don't believe this is a conspiracy against Christians (more on that below) or a conspiracy to help give Starbucks free advertising. The real reason why this story has gone so viral is because it's such an obvious target. It's so easy to make funny memes attacking the stupidity of complaining about a cup or serious memes pointing out the very real problems in our world today that dwarf the pettiness of whining over not having a Baby Jesus snowman on your coffee cup. I have seen a lot of great responses, all from everyday people like you and me, just average citizen sharing their thoughts. This story has gone viral largely because we the people have responded in a viral way. And that's a good thing! It's great that the voices of reasons are banding together to shout down the insanity of those complaining about a paper cup.
But Bristol Palin claims that media coverage has hyped the Starbucks story and "is just another attempt by the LEFT to make Christians look stupid." She also claims that those who are upset with Starbucks are "one small group." Based on these statements, I'm guessing that Palin did not do any research on the origins and evolution of this Starbucks frenzy. Let's look at some numbers. Bristol Palin is a public figure who had her own reality television show on Lifetime and appeared on Dancing with the Stars (making it to the finals and taking third place). Her Facebook page has almost 458,000 fans. The man who started this Starbucks-hates-Christmas cup circus is Joshua Feuerstein, a former pastor who has become a social media celebrity due to his inflammatory far right wing posts and video rants. He has nearly 1.88 MILLION Facebook fans. Do the math. That's almost quadruple the number of Facebook fans that Palin has. It is Feuerstein's Facebook page that Palin refers to as "one small group." But somehow this man posts an anti-Starbucks video to his "small group" of fans, who then repost it over half a million times, resulting it in being viewed over 15 MILLION times in just six days. Then he claims that as a result of his initial video/post, "tens of thousands Christians invaded Starbucks" to express their displeasure with the alleged removal of Christmas from Starbucks stores:
Glenn Beck - who in case you're wondering, has almost 3.25 million Facebook fans - has also posted against Starbucks using the hashtags #stopthepcmaddness #standforCHRIST #merryCHRISTmasstarbucks. In his post, he linked to an article praising Feuerstein for his plot to get baristas to write Merry Christmas on cups but pointed out, "While this is cute to do this, don't forget he just gave them his money to write on the cup. Who wins?!" Feuerstein playfully commented that Beck was slamming him, to which Beck responded that he was not and he thinks Feuerstein is "clever":
So, we have an internet figure with a fairly large following and a very well-known, mainstream conservative figure both posting against Starbucks. Collectively, they could have over 5 million Facebook followers (though there's no way of knowing how many of their fans overlap). There is also the conservative news site Chicks on the Right which has posted against Starbucks twice since the controversy started (here and here) as well as Right Wing News which posted an article titled Christians Livid After Starbucks Releases Unusual Holiday Cups, on November 5, the day the story first broke and before it was a trending story on social media. Yesterday, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump chimed in to suggest that maybe we boycott Starbucks and actor Rob Lowe tweeted this:
Between their program to have baristas lecture me about race and now their removal of "Merry Christmas" I'm officially over @Starbucks #done— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) November 10, 2015
Yet, Palin wants to blame the LEFT media for hyping anti-Starbucks outrage?! That's called deflection. Here's a novel thought: why don't we blame the people who are actually voicing outrage against Starbucks? And instead of blaming the media for reporting on the negative behavior of these individuals, we could blame the religious people for actually engaging in this negative behavior. We could blame Feuerstein and Beck for using their substantial platforms to complain about an issue that makes Christians look stupid. We could even take it a step further and blame the people who give Feuerstein a platform (by the way, the left wing media didn't make almost 2 million people like this dude's page). Some of these individuals who "like" him are my own Facebook friends (ah yes there is no privacy with Facebook). So for all of you who "like" Mr. Feuerstein... congratulations, you have helped make a lunatic a mouthpiece for Christianity.
So is the rage over red cups real? Yes, it is real. I doubt Joshua Feuerstein's claim is true that "tens of thousands" are invading Starbucks to demand that the baristas write "Merry Christmas" on their cups, but we can thank him, not the liberal media, for posting that lie. Regardless of the exact numbers, we know that it is true that there are enough high-profile conservatives who are complaining about this to warrant the excellent response we've seen over the last few days.