Apologies as Commodities
A huge multi-national company like Starbucks is inextricably plugged into the system of global capitalism and, as such, is complicit in all the forms of oppression that this system engenders or heightens. But in the age of branding, corporations aren’t just business entities. Our view of ourselves as discerning consumers leads to a corresponding desire for a personal, meaningful relationship with the products and services that keep our all-consuming egos aloft.
By pretending to make peace with its critics, Starbucks successfully props up the lie that there’s any peace to be made. To fill out this equation, brands take on an anthropomorphic life of their own. Because of our need to engage with them on a personal level, brands are understood as possessing their own distinctive personalities, inclinations, voices, vibes, and yes, politics, in the same way an individual would.
I'm not sure there's much I could add to this article that hasn't already been said in greater detail by Peter Coffin, but you should definitely add this article to your reading list. Under neoliberal capitalism, even apologies are commodities to be marketed and sold.
Put another way: the a la carte politics practiced by brands stems directly from the kind of politics we currently allow people to get away with. In fact, the careful assemblage of an unruffled worldview—a touch of Black Lives Matter here, a burst of #MeToo solidarity there—is almost always more socially acceptable than actually digging into structural concerns and demanding greater accountability. And armed with brand-style memes and hashtags, we’re then unloosed to practice a cost-free politics of personal consumption, without ever really rocking the boat or challenging people subscribing to rival worldviews in any substantive way.
Some time back, I bemoaned that somehow the political issue of the day was over whether or not to buy a fast-food chicken sandwich from a homophobic restaurant chain. The current political environment is precisely what happens when even political opinons are commodities in the “marketplace of ideas.”
Brand on the Run by Nathaniel Friedman and Jesse Einhorn