Brand Loyalties

David explains it all to you.

This kind of crap is, as Amy Taub points out, only important to people who believe they have nothing else to worry about. Why waste your time sneering at some “hipster” baby when you can be glad the kid’s just clothed and fed and not running around the halls of Columbine with a machine gun? I mean, talk about needing an artificial thing to get pissed off about.

These aren’t real problems but it does point to one within our general politico-lifestyle discourse, which is that we’ve exchanged values for brand loyalties. People are Republicans the way they drink Coke over Pepsi (shut UP, beverage war enthusiasts, I don’t want to hear it): Not because the party reflects their values or interests, but because the T-shirt is awesome. People voted against John Kerry because he windsurfed. It’s why you can’t have an argument with a brand Republican; they’re not in it for the argument.

Just because I’ve praised efforts in the past to fight this on its own ground (Oliver Willis’s “Brand Democrat” gear and other things, which I love and am going to guy some of soon) doesn’t mean I don’t recognize it as a really lousy trend. It’s not new exactly, nor is it solely a generational thing; Brooks is decidedly not a Gen-Yer, but I see it more and more in kids my little sister’s age, because they’re the ones I talk to about tech gear and toys, this getting incredibly and passionately worked up about PCs versus Macs and the Wii versus whatever the Wii is versus these days. We’ve come to believe that this is important, that this is definitive of who we are. What we buy. What we drink. What we wear.

What our kids wear. What their T-shirts say.

And these are the easy things to get worked up about, the relatable things, the things you don’t have to read much or study much or pay attention much to be able to argue about. This is the safe stuff, the stuff you can talk about while you’re getting your hair cut or with your mother’s friends. Isn’t it disgusting that that baby was wearing a onesie that said, “I Am Not A Drug Mule.” It’s the equivalent of missing white chicks on CNN, and endless coverage of Britney, and columns about Wesley Clark’s choices in sweaters. Soldiers are dying, being mistreated at home, newspapers pick and choose what polls to report as though that’s completely okay, and here comes David Brooks, as usual, telling us not that we’re being amoral sef-indulgent catty little children, not that we need to grow the fuck up, but that a stranger’s baby’s T-shirt is important, and we’re right to be concerned.

Pepsi’s better, my sister says to me when I pull a Diet Coke out of the fridge. “Why?” She can’t tell me, it just is.


5 thoughts on “Brand Loyalties

  1. everybody thinks they do best.
    well, nobody has to do it my way, but i am not gonna change.
    can we still bitch tho?

  2. As the Good Book says, “All we like sheep…” It isn’t about the soda, it is about Group affiliation. If one person in the group does it, everyone must do it. To be in the clic you have to drink the right soda and wear the right clothes. Coke and Pepsi spend phenomenal sums of money to convince you that they are the hip drink and the other is what old foggies drink.
    One memory of my mother was when I visited for the weekend. We went to a local fast-food taco joint (which is where she and my sister went every Friday). She and my younger sister took the tacos and crumbled them up to have a “taco salad”.
    No problem. Then she started insisting that I do likewise. I didn’t care what she did. But it drove her nuts that I didn’t do likewise and ate my taco without crumbling it up.

  3. David Brooks would be incapable of telling us that we’re being “amoral, self-indulgent catty little children” for the simple reason that he’s the poster boy for amoral, self-indulgent catty little children, and he sees nothing wrong with that.

  4. I think we invite by living our own values, and by the content, and type, of discourse. I think we also set an example by better defining the rules of engagement and response. (tall order)

  5. Mmm, Dr Pepper…
    So how can we fix it? How can we slap everyone upside the head and make them actually examine what their *own* beliefs and values are, not the ones that they’ve assumed to fit in.

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