thinkers

How plastic straws became the latest victim in culture wars

To spite the liberals, conservatives in the US are posting photos of themselves drinking out of plastic straws

By Luke O’Neil
17:09 August 9, 2018
altxt

Typically a young woman posting a photo of herself posing with a gun to social media wouldn’t be all that surprising in 2018 America. A show of political defiance, photos like these have become commonplace in the ongoing debate about gun control in the country. But in one such photo posted to Twitter this past week, it’s the accessory that went with the gun that stood out. Not a box of ammunition or a shooting target, but a drinking straw. Welcome to the latest front in America’s never-ending culture war, where possession of a tool of mass refreshment is now a form of protest.

In the photo, posted by Alana Mastrangelo, a writer and political activist known for provocative Twitter stunts, she spelled out her intent.

“Hey, GOVERNMENT, you can’t take my AR-15, so what makes you think you can take my plastic straw?” she wrote. “I don’t need your permission, you are subordinate to me, and that’s the world you’re stuck living in.”

The post, one of a number Mastrangelo published to Twitter over the next few days, including one where she brandishes a clutch of straws like a fan, has become something of a trend among the Right, particularly young conservative women. Others, like former Pussycat Doll turned second amendment provocateur Kaya Jones and Townhall Editor and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich have joined in on the action as well.

“Conservatives Are Now Drinking From Plastic Straws to Own the Libs” noted New York Magazine’s The Cut.

Like any such attempt to performatively spite liberals, turning the possession of straws into a subversive political action here is part goofy joke, part sincere expression of conviction, and part attempt to inflame the passions of the fishing-trip-avatar-dads who make up their audience, but most importantly a finger in the eye of the Left.

The straw pride movement comes amid a flurry of fearmongering from the news media on the Right. This time it’s not Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama coming to steal your guns, but the liberal bogeyman who doesn’t want you to enjoy an ice cold beverage.

Although, in fairness to the Right, straw bans are in fact quickly taking shape around the United States, including in multiple cities in California and Seattle among others, as well as at companies like Starbucks and Disney.

“It’s all a bunch of moral preening,” Mike Slater a commentator on Fox & Friends explained last Saturday, in a line of thinking typical among the Right on the issue. “This idea that we are holier than thou ... It’s not going to make any difference in the environment, but it does a wonderful job of making people feel better about themselves.”

While the dismissal of any sort of conservation efforts from the Right is to be expected, in truth, the efficacy of a straw ban is a bit muddied. “Banning plastic straws won’t save the ocean. But we should do it anyway,” wrote Vox last week. A common statistic that was reported on widely earlier this summer, that Americans use 500 million straws a day, was actually based on a — it probably doesn’t need to be clarified — not entirely scientific report by a nine-year-old boy.

Regardless, any honest person might conclude that Perhaps we shouldn’t be producing so much waste? is a reasonable question to ask, but to be clear none of the critics of the straw ban actually care about the real environmental outcomes, they care that so-called liberal elites are telling them they can’t do something. In this case that would be true, as many, like Chelsea Clinton, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Tom Brady, among others, have joined the protest against single use straws.

Nothing angers the American right so much as trying to make their lives somewhat better. So the response here, wielding straws like some sort of contraband, is just the latest attempt to spite the liberals, or “own the libs” as its called in Twitter parlance.

What that means is a series of goofy stunts meant as performative displays of spite, whatever you might call the opposite of virtue-signalling. Vice-signalling perhaps. Think truck drivers modifying their vehicles so they blow out large billowing clouds of exhaust for no other purpose than saying screw you to environmentalists, for one example.

As with any good attempt to own the liberals en masse, this one is also confused, because the straw ban isn’t even something that a consensus on the Left is behind. In fact, the actual Leftist position on straws, particularly from advocates for disability rights, is that the ban is misguided.

— Guardian News & Media Ltd

Luke O’Neil is a noted columnist.

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