Each year, the four-week season of corporate and political virtue signaling known as “pride month” becomes more aggressive and in-your-face, and those who promote it more insistent that everybody participates. For a while now, it has seemed as if there is no limit to how saturated programming, shelves, and corporate messaging could become with pride imagery each June. However, this year, the pride has come before a fall—at least in stocks.
We’ve all heard of beer brand Bud Light’s blunder several months ago, when they chose to feature transgender celebrity Dylan Mulvaney on commemorative cans. Since then, their parent company, Anheuser-Busch, has lost over $15 billion in market value, leading one former president of sales and distribution to warn that the brand may soon be replaced in stores.
Also, Target’s market cap is down over $13 billion after the company prominently stocked pride merchandise designed by a self-proclaimed Satanist. Apparently, after years of accepting Target’s pride displays and restroom policies, customers have decided this was a bridge too far.
All of this has led to a standoff of sorts, between activists’ groups and customers. LGBT groups like GLAAD and GLSEN have demanded that Target and Anheuser-Busch double down, “reaffirming their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community,” no matter the costs. The Human Rights Campaign warned: “When it comes to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, there is no such thing as neutrality.” But, as Pedro Gonzalez, a politics editor at Chronicles magazine, remarked, this is “the first time in a long time corporations have felt consequences for pushing this stuff on Americans.”
Could all of this mean Americans aren’t as thoroughly converted on these matters as activists assumed?
The growing consumer resistance to LGBT-related messaging comes as a shock to many social commentators. Reacting to the parental backlash against LGBT themes in children’s entertainment, independent journalist Ed Krassenstein lamented: “Nearly half the country becomes outraged if a child sees a drag queen.” And, he thinks this is new: “It seems to me that only now is the country in an uproar whenever a new character, book, or TV show comes out, aimed at kids, featuring LGBTQ themes or characters. Why?”
Perhaps because Americans feel they are no longer allowed to turn on the TV, open social media, shop for clothes, buy groceries, or walk down the street without being assaulted by sexual propaganda … all year round, not just in June. It’s as if a whole segment of the nation is simply unaware that many people feel assaulted, and many others are simply not that interested. And many commentators are just misled (and mislead) on who started this so-called “culture war.”
Back in 2007, in a fascinating tribute to the late founder of the Moral Majority and Liberty University, Jerry Falwell, Sr., in National Review, Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center pointed out that Falwell began his pastoral ministry uninterested in politics. He even preached against political activism, in a way that resembled most American evangelicals and especially the Baptists of his time, who strongly emphasized that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world and doesn’t advance via the weapons of this world.
Falwell changed his views, Cromartie explained, because of a series of decisions by a secularized Supreme Court intent on pushing Christianity out of public life and remaking American values. In a memorable turn of phrase, sociologist Nathan Glazer called the Moral Majority a “defensive offensive.” By 1980, when Falwell stood on stage at Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, political involvement may have seemed like a natural act for evangelicals, but it was an innovation.
Over 40 years later, there may no longer be a “moral majority” in America. However, with Roe v. Wade overturned and this January looking so different than the previous 50, it isn’t exactly true to announce Falwell’s “defensive offensive” was a failure. In a sort of repeat of history, the narrative about this last decade of stunning success for the LGBT movement is wrongly told. There are many who don’t buy it.
So, perhaps a similar backlash against sexual identity politics is brewing. While falling stocks for a couple of companies isn’t exactly a cultural revival, a recent Gallup poll reveals that social conservatism is the highest it’s been in a decade. The societal aggressors behind “pride month” have overplayed their hand, and overestimated the number of Americans who want to join in the celebration every time they go shopping. If they keep pushing, it could be that 40 years from now, June will look different, too.
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