LGBTQIA+ - Amid recent, highly publicized conservative backlash to several corporations partnering with LGBTQ+ artists and activists, two far-right commentators are saying the quiet part loud: Their goal is to make support for the LGBTQ+ community “toxic” to brands.
On Wednesday, Matt Walsh, a host for far-right media outlet The Daily Wire and one of the most virulently anti-trans voices in the country, kicked off a tweet storm about recent calls to boycott brands like Bud Light and Target by explicitly outlining what he says has been the goal from the start.
“The goal is to make ‘pride’ toxic for brands,” Walsh tweeted. “If they decide to shove this garbage in our face, they should now that they’ll pay a price. It won’t be worth whatever they think they’ll gain. First Bud Light and now Target. Our campaign is making progress. Let’s keep going.”
On his own Daily Wire show, host Michael Knowles reiterated Walsh’s point. “This has been the point that has been building for months now, which is we need to make that symbol toxic, the Pride flag symbol, we need to make that toxic,” Knowles said. “We need to have companies think twice about it.”
“Everyone was talking about the Dylan Mulvaney incident as being harmful to the Bud Light brand,” he continued. “That’s true. But more importantly, it was harmful to the Dylan Mulvaney brand. Now, other companies are going to think twice before sponsoring Dylan Mulvaney because they don’t want to lose $6 billion in market cap in two days. That’s what we got to do. And then once we make these things culturally toxic or as we’re making these symbols culturally toxic, we’ve got to bring in the cavalry, we’ve got to come back in with more political force to ban some of this stuff and to say no.”
The Bud Light debacle started in early April, when the beer brand partnered with Mulvaney, a trans influencer and popular target for anti-trans trolls, sending her a one-off commemorative beer can with an image of her face on it. Transphobes both online and in the media quickly called for a boycott of parent company Anheuser-Busch’s products. The corporation’s lackluster response to the backlash drew criticism from the LGBTQ+ community and led the Human Rights Campaign to downgrade Anheuser-Busch’s previous 100 percent rating on the organization’s corporate equality index.
On Wednesday, Walsh also tweeted that, “The Bud Light boycott will prove to be one of the most significant conservative victories of this decade. It was never just about Bud Light. It was about sending a message.”
And it appears that other brands are getting that message. As Pride Month approaches, both the L.A. Dodgers and Target have faced conservative backlash as well. Earlier this month, the Dodgers canceled an appearance by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the team’s upcoming Pride Night event due to outcry from Catholic groups who claimed that the drag activist collective makes a mockery of their religion. That decision led to outcry from the LGBTQ+ community, accusing the Dodgers of caving to right-wing extremism, and the team re-invited The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to the June 16 event last week.
More recently, Target announced that it would be “making adjustments to our plans” for the retailer’s 2023 collection of Pride products in the wake of particularly vicious attacks. Since the retailer unveiled the collection in early May, anti-LGBTQ+ conservatives have begun recording their visits to the store, either to criticize certain items or to harass employees about the displays. Target locations in South Carolina, Arkansas, and Georgia have reportedly relocated their Pride displays to the back of the stores and removed Pride apparel from mannequins to reduce their visibility. A designer who collaborated with the retailer on several of the products in the collection has reportedly been inundated with hateful messages on social media, including death threats. (In a statement, Target noted that its decision regarding the Pride collection was an effort to ensure the safety of its in-store employees.)
As journalist and activist Erin Reed pointed out, the fact that brands like Bud Light and Target caved so quickly to the right’s anti-LGBTQ+ strategy exposes the limits of corporate allyship that some members of the LGBTQ+ community have been decrying for years.
“The way that Bud Light and Target are reacting to the far right angry at including LGBTQ+ people is EXACTLY why many of us have railed against corporate pride,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “If your advocacy consists merely of rainbows that disappear at the first gust of fascist wind, it amounts to net harm.”
Reed went on to call on the LGBTQ+ community to support local organizations and host Pride parades free of corporate sponsorship. “A 100 person Pride parade with no corporate floats is more helpful to your community than a 10,000 one that excludes all but the handpicked queers with companies waving rainbow flags that will just drop us when it’s convenient to them, leaving us to fight for ourselves.”
On The Daily Blast Live, host Erica Cobb accused Target specifically of “performative allyship.”
“This is the reason why everyone is so up in arms about people monetizing saying that they are allies,” she said. “Allyship is not meant to be comfortable. Why is it not meant to be comfortable? Because the people that you are aligning with aren’t comfortable. The whole point of allyship is to join forces, is to amplify minority voices. That means that you are in it with that group regardless. So, if you are going to back down from what you are doing—essentially just monetizing off of LGBTQIA+—that means that you were never about it to begin with.”
(John Russell is a freelance journalist. This article was featured in LGBTQ Nation.)