Hey White Claw, look how easy it is to disavow far-right extremism!
Plus: new VinePair gig, 'How to Kill A City,' wine fill levels, and more!
Welcome to Fingers, a newsletter by me, Dave Infante, about drinking culture, being online, and beyond. If you haven’t already, please sign up for future dispatches, OK?
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The word is out: I’ve signed on with VinePair, a beverage industry outlet, as a writer-at-large covering the beer industry. You may recall VinePair as the publication that had me expand my bar-tab Venmo essay into this reported piece about media, mutual aid, and alcohol. After that story ran, we got to talking, hashed out what this would look like, and, well, now we’re here.
But Dave, you cry with chagrin, whatever does this mean for Fingers? Worry not, dear reader! Fingers will continue apace. The plan, as it stands right now, is for me to publish two columns about the beer business for VinePair each month. But there’s so much weird and stupid shit happening in the beverage industry, and in my head, too, so I still intend to bang out unhinged blogs, author interviews, and the occasional reportage here at Ye Olde Boozeletter.
I’m also planning on publishing reporting tidbits that don’t make it into my VinePair pieces—the “murdered darlings” on the proverbial cutting-room floor—here in Fingers, as well as extended Q/As and other stuff that isn’t a good fit for the column. The show goes on!
Truthfully, I feel like I kind of owe Fingers for this gig—and by extension, you, too. If not for all you Friends of Fingers reading, forwarding, and tweeting about my #content here, my piece may not have caught VinePair’s editorial eye in the first place. So, thank you to Fingers Nation for always holding me down.
A quick note on tipping and pitching the Fingers ed
Speaking of holding me down: SEND TIPS! My inbox is open and ready for tales of malfeasance, decay, and fraud at any and all levels of the American alcohol supply chain. Does antifa have a hard seltzer of choice? Is an out-of-control pedal pub wreaking havoc on your neighborhood? Are you a hazecan mule’s girlfriend at the end of your fucking rope? Email email@example.com at all hours, and let’s talk.
REMINDER: all tips will be considered on-the-record by default. If you want to chat off-the-record, tell me that before you dump a bunch of hot goss in my lap that you didn’t actually want published. Going off the record is so easy, here’s how it works:
You: Dave, you’re my favorite journalist in the world, and also handsome and 6’1” with a full head of hair. Can we talk off-the-record?
Me: Hell yeah I am, and hell yeah we can. What ya got?
You: Thanks. Alright, I haven’t been able to confirm this 100% but I’m pretty sure that pee is stored in the balls.
Me: Shit, this is primo. What would it take to get you on-the-record about this?
You: If you can find another source willing to corroborate that the balls are where pee is stored, I’ll put my name on it too.
That’s it. As long as we both agree to go off the record, we’re off-the-record! If one of us does not, then we’re not! Simple, right? And yet, you’d be absolutely shocked at how many professional PR types don’t understand how this works. On that note, PR types reading this, take note:
Guess how many pitches I’ve gotten for new hard kombucha brands since this announcement? Hint: it’s not zero! Please, stop it! OK, that’s enough about my new gig for now. Keep your dial tuned to this here newsletter for more developments on that front. Onward!
Hey White Claw, look how easy it is to disavow far-right extremism!
I’m going to open with a tweet not about White Claw, but rather about AXE Body Spray and last week’s far-right siege on the U.S. Capitol. This will make more sense in a minute, I promise:
But first, let’s take a quick detour to the long-ago times of May 2020, when I published a story with MEL Magazine about White Claw’s popularity with gun-toting anti-establishmentarian online types that would soon be introduced to the American mainstream as boogaloo bois.
This was my first introduction to both this extremist community, and White Claw’s place in it. The brand declined to comment for that story, and I admit I sympathized with the PR flack’s predicament at the time. After all, it’s not like White Claw was actively marketing to paramilitary white supremacist types; the hard seltzer brand’s totem-like status in that world appeared to be the result of its broad availability & appeal, not some deeper fascistic dog whistle.
And yet, in the months since that piece ran, White Claw has not taken opportunities to publicly disavow the far-right groups that love its titular flavored malt beverage. In October 2020, at a rally in Oregon, Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio shouted out the brand in an All Gas No Brakes video from the event that’s been viewed over 2.5M times. Again, I requested comment from White Claw, to be included in Fingers’ piece on the incident. Again, they ignored me, and I felt a whole lot less sympathy.
If it seems unfair to expect an FMB brand to come out with a full-throated disavowal of the militant extremists who appear to have taken a liking to its product, you’re not alone. I got a few comments after publishing that piece (hed: “Does White Claw have a white supremacy problem?” lol) to that effect: What are they supposed to do about it, man? Doubt they’re happy about it.
To which I say: it’s not like their only option is to say nothing! Remember back in 2017, in the wake of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when all those neo-Nazi chuds were photographed/videoed marching through the streets with burning Tiki torches? The patio paraphernalia purveyor that manufactures those backyard burners, Lamplight Farms, issued a statement condemning that use of their products with the quickness. Here’s the New York Times piece from August 2017:
Tiki, which is owned by the Wisconsin-based Lamplight Farms, denounced the white nationalists in a Facebook post on Aug. 12. “We do not support their message or the use of our products in this way,” it said. “Our products are designed to enhance backyard gatherings and to help family and friends connect with each other at home in their yard.”
Not the strongest disavowal, but hey—this was early in the Trump administration, when a lot of people (this writer included!) were still trying to figure out what the fuck was going on. Plus it’s not like this is the sort of press-release boilerplate kicking around on a homegoods brand’s marketing department share drive. At least they gave it a shot!
But as Christopher Walken once sagely told Joe Dirt: The past is past, the future is now. In 2021, we know who these paramilitary, anti-establishmentarian, white-supremacist groups are, we know what they want, and we know what they’re willing to do to get it. If anyone—individuals, or #Brands—was surprised by the insurrectionist siege at the Capitol last week, it’s because they’ve been ignoring reality for the past few years.
In the case of White Claw, I know they’ve been ignoring it because they’ve been ignoring me when I bring it to their attention. And I’m not the only one:
I wish it wasn’t unusual for companies to pro-actively condemn heavily armed, anti-democratic insurrectionist fans of their products. But it still seems to be a be a bridge too far for White Claw. Which, finally, brings us back to the tweet up top. Last week, AXE Body Spray (basically the White Claw of aerosol teen colognes) decided to cross the bridge that the hard seltzer brand, to this point, still won’t:
Mike DeBonis @mikedebonisLeft by the mob: a lonely can of Axe body spray https://t.co/wy2bU3fWgH
As Ryan Broderick of Garbage Day (who brought this to my attention) said, “Axe, welcome to the resistance.” White Claw, we’re waiting.
Gentrification homesick blues: a mini-Fingers review of How to Kill a City
In mid-December, Big Technology’s Alex Kantrowitz published data from LinkedIn showing where newly remote-only tech workers were going as they fled pandemic restrictions, cramped apartments, and high costs-of-living in hubs like New York City and San Francisco. The results, Kantrowitz reported, undercut what he described as the popular “narrative” that the tech brain drain was creating a brain gain (do people say this?) in Miami and Austin. From Big Technology (emphasis mine):
The key beneficiaries of this year’s tech migration are less buzzy cities like Madison, Wisconsin; Richmond, Virginia; and Sacramento, California. These places don’t get much play in the news, but they’re attracting tech talent at significantly higher rates than they were last year. Austin, conversely, is gaining tech workers more slowly.
In the spirit of undercutting narratives, though, consider: what if the residents of the cities on the receiving end of an influx of highly paid tech workers don’t actually stand to benefit from this “migration” much at all? After all, trading a $3,500/month Nob Hill studio for a same-price 3br/2ba house with a yard in Richmond’s Fan District is a good deal for an untethered “digital nomad” (hurrrk) with a fat Silicon Valley salary. But for a wage-earning Richmond have-not beyond the gleaming, impermeable walls of the information economy who’s struggling to meet mortgage payments on pandemic-slashed hours, the migration might appear more like an invasion of the haves.
That’s right folks! I’m talking about gentrification again, and I’m specifically talking about it the way author & journalist P.E. Moskowitz does in their probing, infuriating, and at-times hopeful 2018 work on the matter, How To Kill A City. The book was reported and published in the half-decade prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but its exploration of the forces that drive gentrification (and displacement, the iron fist to gentrification’s velvet glove) is both remarkably prescient and refreshingly precise. Moskowitz leans on first-person reportage in four cities (their hometown, NYC, plus SF, New Orleans, and Detroit) to hammer home that gentrification is a series of policy choices, rather than cultural phenomena.
In other words, by the time third-wave coffee shops and spin studios—and of course, craft breweries—show up in an “up-and-coming” neighborhood, they argue, the die (ahem) has long since been cast.
In 200-ish pages, Moskowitz lays out how the federal government routed tax revenues away from cities and into suburbs to further the project of racial housing segregation in the back half of the 20th century, forcing city councils, community boards, and regional planning commissions to embrace the neoliberal notion that cities must be run like corporations to survive. This is dumb for a bunch of reasons, none more obvious than the fact that people don’t want to live inside corporations. (Besides a few futurist perverts and VC-humping bootlickers, I guess, and the Venn diagram of those two is really more of a circle anyway.)
Now, to shore up a tax base willfully decimated by decades of redlining, white flight, etc. (something Jason Diamond’s book, The Sprawl, examines at length), modern American cities cater to the whims of capital rather than the will of people. Developers are courted; tax breaks are offered; neighborhood opposition is silenced. Then:
These cities are remade as high-rent Potemkin villages approximating whatever some double-Windsor-wearing dipshit believes “the next Brooklyn” should look like;
The things that made them appealing places to live in the first place—the people, the small businesses, the colloquialisms—are priced out;
And in come the hordes, borne on wings of start-up capital and Allbirds.
This process was happening before the pandemic; 10 months into it, and we’re seeing it hit warp speed. So if the “municipal winners of 2020’s voluntary tech-xodus” discourse makes you feel weird for reasons you aren’t quite able to articulate, or even if you’re just seeking a more nuanced explanation than “late capitalism, lol” to the hot-button subject of American gentrification, read How to Kill A City. 7.5/10, Fingers recommends.
Here are a pair of helpful tweets about wine fill levels
Wine is often maligned in this country for being unapproachable on account of its class affiliations with Old World landowners, its Anglo-unfamiliar lingua franca, and its intimidating breadth of flavor, provenance, and etiquette. Which is why I love this tweet so much: simple, straightforward, educational, and, with the inclusion of Snoop Dogg’s red blend (a collaboration with commodity workhorse label 19 Crimes), decidedly attainable. Plus a light dunk! Folks, we love to see it.
Extra points to user @__TheMagician for following up with all the haters and losers who accused her of inaccuracy after her initial tweet took off:
Providing additional materials for further study, lightly flexing on the ignorant, all while affirming that the people must remain “free to drink the wine however [they] damn want to”? Brava! brava!
The bottom shelf
I wrote a year-end recap of stuff I’ve learned about newsletters/Substack/etc. since launching Fingers in May 2020. I originally published it on LinkedIn (lmao, I know) because I figured that’s where that sort of thing belonged, but if you’re interested, I’ve also published it right here.
Big thanks to the indefatigable Andrew Genung, publisher of the indispensable F&B newsletter Family Meal, for picking up my tweet about joining VinePair and treating it like an actual media item. (And shouting out Fingers in the process, what a guy!) Family Meal is a must-read for anyone trying to keep track of all the forces reshaping the hospitality landscape; I’m a paying subscriber, and you should be, too.