- Hollis Johnson
- #BoycottStarbucks is trending after a conspiracy theory emerged that the chain’s holiday cups featured the hands of a lesbian couple.
- BuzzFeed News and other publications promoted and created the theory based on little evidence.
- Now, homophobic people are actually threatening to boycott Starbucks.
People are freaking out over a Starbucks boycott that has essentially been invented by the media.
Last week, BuzzFeed News published an article with the headline “Is Starbucks’ New Holiday Cup Totally Gay?”
The article was based on an ad campaign that came out in late October and featured what appears to be one lesbian couple – among other couples – and fewer than 10 tweets, most of them extremely tongue-in-cheek. Last week, Business Insider could only find a single tweet -with zero likes and retweets – that expressed negative sentiments about what BuzzFeed News called the holiday cup’s “gay agenda.”
The author additionally cited a “gay BuzzFeed colleague” who said, “I can attest to the lesbianism of The Hands.”
All in all, the article created a lesbian hand conspiracy out of nothing – complete with an over-the-top image of a Starbucks holiday cup with “GAY?” written on it in purple, capital letters.
We interpreted the article as either a tone-deaf attempt at satire that used queer people as a punchline, or an offensive article by a news publication attempting to incite anger over an inclusive ad.
The BuzzFeed reporter who wrote the article did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Other publications quickly picked up on the story and wrote it as straight news.
Fox News published an article titled “Starbucks holiday cup causes social media buzz over mystery hands” late last week. On Monday, Salon published “War on Christmas 2017: Fox News asks if Starbucks holiday cups are pushing a ‘gay agenda'” (Conservative media site The Blaze and BuzzFeed News asked if the cups are pushing a “gay agenda” – Fox only used the term in a direct quote from BuzzFeed’s article.)
Even The New York Times weighed in, publishing an article on Monday that also questioned if the cups are a sign of “a gay agenda.”
With the increased media coverage – much of it from left-leaning and “progressive” publications – more people began talking about the cups on social media. Again, there was a single negative tweet about cups prior to BuzzFeed News’ story.
- Twitter Rebelocracy
- Twitter CoachBachicha
- Twitter themayorofoc
- Twitter McDuder1987
While some people are actually unhappy about the cups, those who don’t care or see the issue as a joke seem to outnumber boycotters. The bulk of the response has continued to be joking and tongue-in-cheek, and mocking people for being offended.
- Twitter TigerClawmedy
- Twitter LaraTaylor23
- Twitter StevenLeeF
It is a similar issue to the last big Starbucks holiday cup boycott, when the chain debuted a minimalist red cup in 2015. American evangelist and internet personality Joshua Feuerstein posted a video on Facebook saying that Starbucks “removed Christmas from their cups,” and that in protest, Christians should ask baristas to write “Merry Christmas” on their cups.
While the video immediately went viral, most people who appeared to be part of Feuerstein’s social media movement were, in fact, attacking the man. However, their involvement merely served to make the #MerryChristmasStarbucks hashtag more prominent, making it a topic of discussion for most major publications, late-night talk show hosts, and even Donald Trump, then a presidential candidate.
A similar thing is happening here. BuzzFeed News published an article saying the cups could be “totally gay” based on a handful of tweets and an inclusive ad campaign. This article was aggregated by several other news publications, which created enough of a narrative that backlash finally emerged.
However, there was no outrage until it was manufactured by the media. Now, homophobic people have a new reason to boycott Starbucks, a company that has worked to push progressive workplace policies and promote LGBT rights – the real reason some people on the right were already boycotting the chain.