Does White Claw have a white supremacy problem?
The leader of President Trump's favorite far-right group seems pretty into the hard seltzer brand
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Ain’t no laws when you’re told to “stand back and stand by” by the US president. Source
A couple weeks ago members of the Proud Boys, a cohort of violent far-right trolls with white supremacist tendencies, infantilizing initiation rituals, and the tacit endorsement of the American president, held a rally in Portland, Oregon. The gathering was ostensibly held “in support President Donald Trump and the police,” and was supposed to draw tens of thousands, but reports from this paramilitary tailgate party in the Rose City indicate that only about 200 of these large adult sons showed up. Not a turnout of which to be proud, boys!
Your Fingers editor caught some headlines about the Proud Boys rally when it happened, but unfortunately our big dumb country is full of right-wing extremists these days, so it wasn’t until All Gas No Brakes host Andrew Callaghan released his video from the event that I realized that White Claw—yes, White Claw—made a cameo in the proceedings. Skip to 0:36 of this dispatch:
That’s Proud Boys’ chairman Enrique Tarrio screaming “WHITE CLAW!!!” and “MANGO WHITE CLAW!!!” into the mic.
It’s demonstrably weird behavior but then again Tarrio runs Latinos for Trump, has appeared in photos with noted Nixonite Mr. Peanut Roger Stone, and—though he identifies as Afro-Cuban—heads up an SPLC-designated extremist organization of self-avowed “Western chauvinists” who occasionally truck with skinheads, so he seems to have a bit of a flair for disorienting self-contradiction.
(There’s a lot of chatter about who actually controls the Proud Boys: it was founded by notorious racist Canadian named Gavin McInnes, who supposedly quit the group a couple years ago. People have accused Tarrio and other non-white far-right leaders of tokenism designed to muddy the white supremacist waters. But I don’t really care to litigate the point because as the LA Times notes, “The absurdity is the point for the Proud Boys.” To wit, McInnes showed up at Walter Reed last week to pay fealty to our big, bed-ridden president while drinking a Budweiser, and wearing a t-shirt covered with that brand’s logo plus a Trump 2020 flag for a cape. None of this has to make any sense to be bad for democracy!)
Back to Tarrio! If you haven’t been following the extremely coveted and prestigious malt-beverage extremism beat lately, it might not seem significant that the leader of the Proud Boys shouted out America’s favorite hard seltzer brand (which still refuses to hire me for some reason) at a celebration of grassroots right-wing violence. But I uh… I think it might be, actually. See, this isn’t the first time the brand has turned up in extremist circles.
Back in May 2020, I reported for MEL Magazine on White Claw’s popularity with gun-rights shitposters from the reddit forum /r/weekendgunnit. Many of the members of that subreddit proudly wore the cartoonish insignia and Hawaiian shirts of the boogaloo movement, and spent the summer roaming American streets heavily armed and trying to spark a second civil war. Here’s your pal Dave at the time:
In certain corners of the gun-owning internet, “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws” functions as a Molon Labe for militant millennial males who are as taken with the hard seltzer’s effervescent low-carb wiles as they are with alt-right lingo and maybe-serious-maybe-not jokes about political violence.
Huh! Sounds extremely familiar, if you ask me! To be fair, White Claw is very popular across the board, so it stands to reason that some extremists enjoy it. And it isn’t the only thing that Proud Boys drink in the AGNB video: you can see members near Tarrio drinking Budweiser.
But the hard seltzer brand’s popularity with the American far-right doesn’t seem entirely chance, either. In the course of reporting the MEL story, I spoke with sociologist Helana Darwin, PhD, who mused about this a bit:
I don't think it's a coincidence that these are mainly white men jumping onto this [trend], and I don't think it's a coincidence that the brand that they've picked up on has the word 'white' in it. By enthusiastically consuming something with the word 'white' in it, it can become a little bit of a dog whistle for white nationalist men who are stockpiling ammunition and guns anyway.
To be clear, she was reacting to redditor boog bois’ infatuation with White Claw when she made that observation, and that was six months ago. But her comment seems eerily prescient now that the Proud Boys’ leader is shouting out the hard seltzer brand at a high-profile rally. Too much of a reach? Who knows! Maybe it’s something, maybe it’s nothing. As the LA Times said, the absurdity is the point.
As for White Claw itself: I’m genuinely interested to hear the brand’s opinion on becoming a (the?) drink of choice for some of the most high-profile far-right extremists in America. I can’t imagine this was in the marketing roadmap when they set out to sell boozy bubble water! White Claw declined several requests for an interview for the MEL piece, and this time around, my email to the same PR rep, as well as a message sent through the contact form on the brand’s site, were unanswered at publication. I’ll update this story if they respond. Stay tuned!
Notorious R.B.G. (Rote Branding Gambit)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently died. Maybe you heard about it briefly before it was swallowed up by one hundred trillion other horrifying news cycles, including the one where Kellyanne Conway’s daughter outed her mom on TikTok for testing positive for the coronavirus. What a time to be alive, etc.
Anyway, here’s a tweet marrying those two storylines that lol’d me pretty good the other day:
Nice tweet Patrick, way to go Patrick. Right after Ginsburg died, I went to Etsy and searched for RBG-themed drinking paraphernalia, because I am a real sicko I guess. I was going to write a whole story about the neoliberal lionization of RBG and how it manifested in the making and selling of useless material goods because our culture is vacant and we express ourselves mostly by consuming shit.
But then I got sidetracked on something else, so instead, here’s a quick rundown of RBG drinking schlock you can buy on Etsy dot com:
$17.99 for a single pint glass! What in the world?! Of course it’s not just beer gear; search “RBG” + “wine” and you’ll be deluged with stuff like this:
There are also more than zero options for RBG cocktail napkins on Etsy, for any fans of the late justice hosting a smart-casual happy hour in the foreseeable future:
If you buy more than $150 of the above, you have to follow Claudia Conway on TikTok. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
The bottom shelf
Bad news out of Minneapolis, where the workers organizing at Surly Brewing Co. lost their union election by a single vote. I briefly followed up with some workers there, and they alleged that the company took some pretty underhanded actions on the day of the election in order to suppress the vote; if that’s the case, it sounds like it worked. I’ll be digging into this a bit more in a future edition, but for now, read my report on why the workers wanted to unionize in the first place, co-published with Welcome to Hell World.
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