Masked—no pun intended—by all of the political angst on the Right, there is a blooming and powerful cultural revolution underway. It is manifested in several areas, bringing to mind Andrew Breitbart’s famous warning that “politics is downstream of culture.” If I am correctly interpreting these signals; it means that while both the Right and Left are battling over a meaningless after-the-fact impeachment trial and whether installed President Joe Biden can sign enough executive orders fast enough, the ground slowly may be shifting beneath our feet. This is seen in a few stories...
STORY NUMBER ONE:
There has been an amazing development on Wall Street, or, more appropriately, in the vape-filled backrooms of subreddit called WallStreetBets (WSB). It began with a floundering company called GameStop, long known to video gamers as the best source to acquire the latest hard copy games, like “Halo” and “Call of Duty” among others. As gaming increasingly spread on-line, GameStop began to sink. Its stock dropped to $20 a share, and as one gamer noted, the retailer was “on its last legs even before [the China Virus].” (*NOTE: Because the Biden administration has decreed that we cannot say “China Virus,” I will always use that term for COVID). At any rate, in stepped WSB to mess with the heads of the hedge fund guys (all, I am told, referred to as “Boomers” regardless of their age).
WSB consists of a subreddit dedicated to making trades—sometimes for profit, often in jest, or as a game for bragging rights. It consists of everyday Deplorables, smelly hillbillies, or more likely, nerded but cynical educated geeks with time on their hands. They refer to their gains as “tendies” (chicken tenders) or “nuggies” (nuggets); they call their opponents/competitors “autists” or “retards.” They are anything but politically correct.
For a moment, put a pin in our discussion, and recall that just a few years ago,in August 2014, gamers rebelled against growing wokedom among feminists in the industry. Simply put, the males were sick and tired of unrealistic insertions of females everywhere in the games, whether honestly depicted or warranted or not. Feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian and game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu claimed, naturally, “sexual harassment.” Gamers disparaged the political Social Justice Warrior (SJW) intrusions into old-fashioned gaming. They were right. The affair culminated with the rise of the “Sad Puppies” groups in the 2015 Hugo Awards for science fiction writing that sought to protect the gamer brand from SJW corruption. No matter how much Wikipedia or the Washington Post sought to mischaracterize the episode as one of “harassment,” in the end, the gamers refused to be bullied by the SJW feminist crowd. Score one for freedom.
Back to WSB: with its sinking stock, Gamestock was a prime target for analysts to “short” sell, meaning they would borrow shares today, sell them immediately at, say, $20, then repay them in, say, a month when they hoped the price would fall to $10. That would leave a nice profit of $10 per share in a month. Not bad. WSB got involved with its two million members (described as “like 4Chan found a Bloomberg terminal”). In what my anonymous gamer source labeled “the collective power of the neckbeards,” WSB began to buy GameStop and drive the price up.
In no small amounts. They soon drove the stock up by double, to $41 a share. The hedgies started panicking, needing to “cover their shorts.” Not only did establishment investors Tweet and otherwise seek to drive the price back down, but they put out YouTube videos as to why the stock was a “failing, mall-based retailer.” Which, of course, was true—except the fundamental principle of all financial instruments, including money and stocks, is that they are worth what the public thinks they are worth. No more, no less.
Under pressure from WSB, the hedgies scrambled. They attempted to manipulate media, publish articles, and Melvin Capital, the worst offender, even attempted a smear campaign against WSB, to no avail. Today, Melvin Capital closed out its short positions in GameStop—a victory for “the collective power of the neckbeards,” according to my anonymous source.
STORY NUMBER TWO:
On December 4, “FrontOfficeSports” published an article that touted the advertising in forthcoming Super Bowl spots as being woke.
It was going to “address issues pertaining to social justice and the pandemic.” According to Bill Oberlander, of the “purpose-driven ad agency OBERLAND (wait, aren’t all ad agencies “purpose-driven? I thought the purpose was profit. But I digress.), “It’s going to be ‘Black Lives Matter,’ it’s going to be [China Virus] . . .” Really? How’d that work out for ya?
A few days ago, the New York Post told a totally different story: “Big Super Bowl Advertisers Bow Out Amid Struggle with Tone.” Tone? We don’t need no stinkin’ tone. In fact, Hyundai, Olay, Little Caesars, Ford, and Coke have all decided that it might be wise not to offend 75 million Trump voters by preaching to them. Now Oberlander sings a different song: “The country is so divided and split right down the middle that I don’t think that there’s a commercial that will appease both sides.” (Note: “appease,” not “appeal to.”) Rob Schwartz, chief executive officer of ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, said, “Every client conversation I’ve had these days is about who is going to be offended by this ad . . . There’s a lot of discussion about risk mitigation. What that tends to do is that it makes things very bland and not effective or it forces you to look at universal topics like hope or humor.”
The wake-up call was the 2019 Super Bowl ad by Gillette called “The Best a Man Can Get” that portrayed men as bullies, misogynists, and, in general, snakes. Pepsi tried an ad with Kendall Jenner. Both bombed. Gillette took a significant business hit. One poster on Free Republic named “DoodleBob” summarized this succinctly: “This brake-tapping reversal on woke adverts is them blinking.”
Indeed. As I have argued, they “blinked” on January 6, Patriot Day, when they were unceremoniously chased out of what they thought was “their” Capitol building. That Deplorable revolt, resulting in the Flight of the Squidpickles, was not the beginning of this bubbling dissatisfaction with the elites in business, Hollywood, advertising, sports, or politics. Rather, it was a manifestation of it. We are just beginning to see a bubbling shift from a political orientation in activism to a social backlash that has only started to come to a boil.
Larry Schweikart is the co-author with Michael Allen of the New York Times #1 bestseller, A Patriot’s History of the United States, author of Reagan: The American President, and the founder of the Wild World of History, a history curriculum website with full U.S. and World history curricula for grades 9-12 including teacher guides, student workbooks, maps, tests/answer keys and high quality video lessons for every unit (www.wildworldofhistory.com).