People who are on Twitter as much as I am might be getting tired of the “Hold my beer” jokes. (I’m still amused every time, but I’ve seen a few complaints.) On the other hand, if you’re not on social media at all, you might have no idea what “Hold my beer” means.
Allow New York Magazine to explain:
“‘Hold my beer’ — as in, what a college kid might say before he attempts a magnificently stupid stunt — is a joke made for this era. It goes something like this: Two people — or brands, or organizations — are having a conversation. One of them has screwed something up. The other is about to.”
The catchphrase has been popular for months, but, as New York Magazine points out, it’s been getting a “real workout” in the past week. Last Tuesday, Pepsi created a public-relations crisis for itself by airing a highly mockable, tone-deaf ad, in which a wealthy white woman — Kardashian half-sibling Kendall Jenner — abandons a modeling gig to join a group of attractive, diverse young people who are protesting something or other. It’s not really clear what their issue is: They’re carrying signs saying, “Join the conversation.” At the end of the ad, the pro-conversation Jenner approaches a line of police officers, in a moment that recalls last July’s striking photo of Ieshia Evans, a black woman, who stood tall in front of the police in riot gear who were about to arrest her during a protest against police brutality in Louisiana. In the Pepsi commercial, of course, no arrest ensues. Jenner simply hands a can of Pepsi to a police officer, who smiles while the protestors celebrate. At first, Pepsi tried to defend itself from both critics and comedians by saying that it meant well, but it wound up yanking the ad the next day.
Then Twitter started passing around the beers. A few days before the Pepsi misstep, skin-care company Nivea had posted an ad on its Middle East Facebook page declared, “White is purity.” That got a lot more attention after the Pepsi debacle.
Pepsi: We've done it. We've created the most tone-deaf ad of the week. Maybe the year!
Nivea: Hold my beer. pic.twitter.com/jdNfdvqjOg
— Madison M. K. (@4evrmalone) April 5, 2017
Nivea pulled the ad.
Did the corporate missteps stop there? Nope! This Monday, just two weeks after it created a fuss about leggings, United Airlines physically dragged a screaming passenger off a flight, doing him injury in the process.
PEPSI: We made the biggest PR blunder of any major company this year.
UNITED: Hold my beer.
— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) April 10, 2017
Like Pepsi, United initially defended its actions, then — after being crucified in the court of public opinion and on the stock market for beating a passenger bloody — it apologized. In its latest act of atonement, the company has offered to reimburse all passengers who were on the flight.
Despite the mayhem, United executives must have had a few moments of relief yesterday when outrage temporarily refocused on Sean Spicer’s Holocaust denial.
United: We’re having a bad week.
Sean Spicer: Hold my Pepsi.
— Luisa Haynes (@wokeluisa) April 11, 2017
Spicer, the White House press secretary, was explaining Trump’s decision to order a missile strike on Syria in response to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against a rebel-held area. (Many of those killed by the sarin gas were children.) In the course of justifying the strike, Spicer incorrectly said, “You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” — which, of course, is untrue because GAS CHAMBERS. When this was pointed out, he dug himself in deeper by saying, “I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.” Also wrong. As the New York Times reported, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum says 160,000 to 180,000 Jews killed by the Nazis were from Germany. As a bonus, Spicer referred to concentration camps as “Holocaust centers.” Adding insult to injury, Spicer spewed these fallacies on the Jewish holiday of Passover, which the Anne Frank Center pointed out when it demanded Spicer’s firing.
— AnneFrankCenter(US) (@AnneFrankCenter) April 11, 2017
Spicer kept defending his statements until last night, when he finally offered an apology while on air with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer — the son of Holocaust survivors.
Too little, too late. Like Pepsi and United before him, Spicer tried to justify himself before taking note of the public outrage and belatedly apologizing. He’s worse though. Pepsi and United are companies trying to sell us fizzy drinks and uncomfortable flights, respectively. Spicer represents the alleged president of the United States. Former CBS news anchor Dan Rather put it best in this Facebook post:
“It is with sadness that I do not know where to begin. Today in a briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement that is so far beyond the pale, so tone deaf and blind to history and our precarious moment in world affairs, that it is with only a heavy heart that I even bring attention to it. There can be no joy in such incompetence.
In trying to make the case for the Administration’s policy in Syria and vis a vis Russia which is confused to be generous, and wildly chaotic to be more precise, Mr. Spicer said, “We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” He continued, “So you have to, if you are Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country and a regime that you want to align yourself with?” When asked to clarify, Mr. Spicer said, ““I think when you come to sarin gas, he (Hitler) was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.” Mr. Spicer went on to mention “Holocaust centers,” in an apparent reference to the Nazi concentration camps.
This line of rhetoric is so unhinged, so amateurish, so lacking in the context and perspective necessary for statesmanship and diplomacy that I do not see how Mr. Spicer can be allowed to continue in his current position. But in the end, this is less about him and more about an Administration that is inserting itself in a civil war and now is plunging into a drastic reformulation of American foreign policy without any clear sense that they have a plan. When you try to explain such a situation, it is understandable that your words don’t make sense.
A bar, already set low, continues to drop.”
If you don’t follow Dan Rather on Facebook or Twitter, you should, because his commentary is so thoughtful and always on the money. Also, you should check out the videos I took of the speech he gave at the Columbia Spectator annual dinner in January. I’ve been meaning to share these for months, but I’ve been a little busy. I’m sad to say I even put the activist blog I was working on on hold in order to put more time in with my local Indivisible group, for which I’m doing a weekly newsletter of recommended resistance actions. (Please donate to or phone bank for Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the Georgia special election! Last voting day is Tuesday, April 18.)
Anyway, what Dan had to say in January is worth watching — he was funny, humble, and insightful. I have most of his speech spread across several different poorly shot clips. Sorry about the quality — try to ignore the visuals and just listen to his words! Here’s his introduction, which I enjoyed because Dan had high praise for MrB.
A free press, he said, is the “red beating heart of freedom and democracy.”
The bulk of the speech is here. Recalling the Nixon administration, he says. “…once a president sets out to diminish the efforts of a free press his power to do so is so great that resistance is both difficult and essential.”
If you watch/listen to no other clip, don’t skip this one. It’s a hilarious story about iconic anchorman Walter Cronkite.
A belated public thank you goes out to Dan Rather for taking the time to speak to the folks at Spectator about such a crucial topic.