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We’ve crossed the three-year mark of the worst years for freedom in our lifetimes. What do we see? Something I’ve expected since the entire fiasco of lockdowns began. I wrongly assumed it would begin immediately.
It waited three years but it is finally here; a full-on revolt against all the forces that broke the world. The patterns are all around us, from the triumph of conscious nostalgia in art, music, and fashion to the rise of consumer and producer intentionality in economic life.
The message is the same in all cases: we will no longer let the ruling elites of the world control us. We will find meaning and truth in the Before Times.
Consider the situation with Bud Light, an episode that is anything but trivial. A top ad executive made a grave and tone-deaf error in judgment by enabling a clownish fake-trans person as a spokesperson for a beer that previously carried with it a cultural messaging of real America. The executive’s purpose in pushing the ad campaign was to upgrade the ideological sensibility of the brand.
It did not work. She and her superior are on leave and silenced. The company badly mishandled public relations by deploying that conventional corporate strategy of aloof and bloodless press releases about coming together and so on.
The enormous error kicked off a consumer, distributor, and wholesaler revolt for the ages, one that is still ongoing and even intensifying. In the latest news, they are actually giving it away. True story.
Anheuser-Busch is giving away cases for free to every employee of the company’s wholesalers, suggesting that the value of the brand in some respects has dropped to zero.
They have obviously embarked on a big ad campaign that attempts to reverse the damage but every new release merely opens up the company again to jeers and insults. There are testimonials of even Bud Light truck drivers dealing with angry passersby.
And the sales data is now confirmed: an incredible 21 percent drop in sales of Bud Light and a proportional increase in other brands. The revolt is affecting all brands owned by the company, not just Bud Light.
The revolt has been confirmed in the several occasions I’ve had to talk with retailers and bar owners, who generally cannot stand the topic but say they are sitting on vast surpluses of the beer and don’t plan to order more for a long time. People are posting pictures of deep discounts and even rebates for the product at stores but there it sits.
I’ve even heard from an agricultural supplier to Anheuser-Busch—an earnest farmer of the old school—who has canceled all contracts with the company. Thus has the consumer revolt even bled into a producer revolt.
Remember that two weeks ago, all respectable commentators in the mainstream media said that this would end soon, that this was merely “conservative activists” drumming up some kind of frenzy on the marching orders from “right-wing influencers.”
Not so much. This is real, and it shows the genuine power that people have once they set their minds to it.
You can say that all of this is overwrought. This was just one out-of-touch ad executive who made a minor error. It was just one can and one communication, not even a campaign or an ad. It just caught fire because the recipient posted a grotesque celebration on TikTok. And that’s true but it is missing the core point of the symbolism here.
For three years, regular people have been told to obey their masters on all things. Stay home. No house parties, no gatherings, no fun. Believe what you hear. You have no real rights. The elites know best and you know nothing. Anything that contradicts the pronouncements of the ruling class is disinformation. They built cages for everyone.
The public anger at this stage of history is now palpable and looking for ways to express itself. In this way, the boycott of Bud Light is not really about this one beer or one company but symbolizes something much more profound: a mass rejection of the entire model of the few ruling over the many. It’s a way of saying: we will no longer put up with your attempts to dictate to us and reconstruct our lives and values.
This revolt is evident in many sectors of life today.
Consider how unusual this is. The usual pattern following huge social upheavals of war and depression is to look forward to the future with optimism and hope. That was the tendency after World War I and II. The styles of the 1920s were fresh and fun and the art, architecture, and modes of living in the 1950s were consciously about the new and the rejection of the old. The mood was to rally around future possibilities and technologies.
The post-lockdown world, however, is dominated entirely by nostalgia for the past and a longing to recapture the values and ways that were stolen from us.
Consider some evidence.
Springtide Research has documented a huge surge in religious belief and practice among young people. “Staggering numbers say they’re depressed, stressed, and lonely—though for young people of faith, religion and spirituality provide healing and hope …. More young people now trust the government less. Faith communities, by comparison, are now more trustworthy according to young people.”
The pandemic response involved compulsory suppression of not just religious practice but the arts and music performance too. Now that it is over, what is thriving? On Broadway, the time-tested classics are back and even new releases are soaked with nostalgia for what has been lost. The top-earning movies of 2022 are mostly retrospectives, re-releases, sequels, remakes, or elaborations of past hits.
In the symphony halls today, it’s the same. Look at the lineup: it’s almost entirely the masters of old.
In January I tried to get tickets for a New York Philharmonic performance of Mahler’s 9th Symphony this month. Composed between 1908 and 1909, it is a deeply contemplative and exceedingly painful look back at the Belle Époque with an undertone of the end times. It is also very long and difficult. I figured attendance would be sparse. Nope: sold out five months in advance. I resorted to friends of friends to get tickets.
This is really unusual, a strong sign of the times.
And what was the theme of the Met Gala this year? It was the work of Karl Lagerfeld, and what made the headlines was his oldest and strongest designs that he made for Chanel, which themselves were dripping in retrospective celebrations of the past. The smash hit was Nicole Kidman wearing a 20-year old dress that itself is reminiscent of the 1880s.
Spotify reports that among its strongest streaming performers are the throwbacks of Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, and the Beatles. It’s not unusual today to encounter people in their 20s who know more about 1970s music than people who are in their 40s. This is partially a reflection of the changed economics of streaming in which older genres enjoy an advantage like never before. But it also represents a deep cultural longing to get back what we’ve lost.
Once you see it, you can’t unsee it: vintage fashion, vinyl records, Polaroid cameras, legacy video games, the love of “throwback” photos and videos on all social media venues. Think of all the people you know who have left the cities for the countryside, seeking peace, connection to nature, and family unity. It’s all about the desire to connect with the past, find truth in the familiar, and reject the artificiality of the managerial elites that so badly failed us.
Of course this revolt expresses itself in politics. We still live with democratic forms around us and people are intent on using every bit of power they have to influence the future. This accounts for the huge surge of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. among Democrats—something absolutely no one would have predicted a year ago. This is the perfect symbol of our times: nostalgia combined with the fury of revolt.
I was trying to think of episodes in history when culture consciously attempted a recapturing of lost styles and ways in the course of a massive revolt against prevailing elites. So far as I can tell, the last time we experienced this was the late 18th century with the revival of classical architecture, learning, and music. This was also the age of the great revolutions, both American and French. This is what our times most reflect. It is all about the search for meaning in the context of rejecting the lies and plans of the contemporary gods that failed.
So, yes, this is about much more than Bud Light. That’s only a symbol and a point of action. There’s far more going on beneath the surface.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.