24 May Drowning in Bud Light
We have always believed that one of the greatest failings of the “leaders” in American business and markets is their ignorance of history. Or, as we note on the “about us” page at our website:
The Political Forum Institute believes that the contemporary approach to American business, markets, and economy largely ignores the history and philosophy that underpin American and Western culture and drive current events. There has never been a greater need for deeper understanding and informed discussion of the interconnection of capital markets, government, and culture in society.
If, for example, the people who run InBev/Anheuser-Busch or Target had come to us and said “fellas, let us tell you what we’re about to do,” we would have asked them to wait a minute, to let us tell them a story, and then to do a little light reading.
The story – which is one we’ve told countless times before – goes something like this:
On May 5, 1789, King Louis XVI of France called to order a meeting of the Estates-General, an archaic advisory body that had last met in 1614. The body was comprised of the three “estates” of French society: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. The purpose behind this meeting was to get some sort of public approval for addressing the nation’s bankruptcy. The problem – for King Louis, for his nobles, and for many generations of men and women to come – was that the Third Estate had changed considerably over years, with the emergence of a growing middle class that had become increasingly important to French society and incredibly unhappy about its lack of influence within the government.
A few weeks into the session, some members of the nobility joined with some of the commoners to form a majority and to insist that voting would be tallied by group rather than by numbers. In response, the rest of the commoners – the Third Estate – walked out of the assembly and met together with a few members of both the nobility and the clergy at a nearby tennis court. There they formed their own organization, called the “National Assembly,” and swore an oath, fashioned after America’s Declaration of Independence, declaring their intention to stick together until a constitution was written and agreed to by the King.
The King, for his part, sent troops to surround the National Assembly and to compel the remaining members of the Estates General to join it. This newly constituted National Constituent Assembly demanded that the King remove the troops, but was denied. Over the course of the next few days, tensions in and around the Court at Versailles simmered. On July 11, King Louis dismissed his popular Finance Minister Jacques Necker, and the simmering boiled over into open hostilities. The next day, a stuttering and unsuccessful lawyer mounted a table outside the Café du Foy at the Palais Royale at delivered a cri de Coeur, described as follows by Thomas Carlyle, arguably the most dramatic and compelling chronicler of the French Revolution:
But see Camille Desmoulins, from the Cafe de Foy, rushing out, sibylline in face; his hair streaming, in each hand a pistol! He springs to a table: the Police satellites are eyeing him; alive they shall not take him, not they alive him alive. This time he speaks without stammering: —Friends, shall we die like hunted hares? Like sheep hounded into their pinfold; bleating for mercy, where is no mercy, but only a whetted knife? The hour is come; the supreme hour of Frenchman and Man; when Oppressors are to try conclusions with Oppressed; and the word is, swift Death, or Deliverance forever. Let such hour be well-come! Us, meseems, one cry only befits: To Arms! Let universal Paris, universal France, as with the throat of the whirlwind, sound only: To arms! —”To arms!” yell responsive the innumerable voices: like one great innumerable voices: like one great voice, as of a Demon yelling from the air: for all faces wax fire-eyed, all hearts burn up into madness. In such, or fitter words, does Camille evoke the Elemental Powers, in this great moment . . . Camille descends from his table, “stifled with embraces, wetted with tears;” has a bit of green riband handed him; sticks it in his hat. And now to Curtius’ Image-shop there; to the Boulevards; to the four winds; and rest not till France be on fire!
Two days later, the masses famously/infamously stormed the Bastille, and thereby officially started the French Revolution.
The leaders of the French Revolution were radicals, fanatics who intended to destroy the old order and to begin the world anew. Steeped in the ideas of such philosophers as Voltaire, Jean-Jacque Rousseau, and Denis Diderot, these proto-Leftists sought to establish a new, unprecedented order based exclusively on “science and reason.” Over the first three years of the Revolution, the National Assembly did, indeed, thoroughly destroy the old order. The Assembly abolished feudalism and embraced a declaration of the “Rights of Man” that provided every citizen with a license to react to any perceived infringement on his or her “rights” by any person or any governmental body with force if necessary. It seized the property and took over the management of the Church. It then issued a paper currency backed by the confiscated Church assets. Predictably, the currency proved to be worthless and, as such, promoted inflation and exacerbated the existing civil discord. Finally, on September 3, 1791, the Assembly adopted a constitution that retained the monarchy but vested virtually all power in a new Legislative Assembly.
One would think that this would be the end of it, but of course, it wasn’t. For while it is easy to destroy the old order, it is not so easy to create a new one. As it turned out, the Assembly could assign its new order all the power it wanted, but it didn’t have the ability to make that power a reality, to turn its new constitution into the law of the land.
The largest factions within the Revolution were frustrated, seeing the new constitution as a betrayal. The largest of these frustrated factions was the Jacobin Club, which dominated the Paris Commune and was, therefore, the de facto ruling body of the city of Paris. By the middle of 1792, the Jacobin Club had decided that it could no longer support the Assembly or the new constitution. Why, they asked, after having overthrown one despotic regime should they tolerate a new one? They stormed the Hȏtel de Ville, where the King and the Queen were housed, and seized and imprisoned them. Over the next several weeks, the Jacobins dissolved the Assembly, declared the establishment of a Republic, and established something called the National Convention to rule the country on behalf of “the people.”
The Jacobins also arrested and murdered scores of royalty and clergy, which their nominal leader, Georges Danton justified, declaring: “These priests, these nobles are not guilty, but they must die, because they are out of place, interfere with the movement of things, and will stand in the way of the future.” Three months later, they established the Orwellian-named “Committee for Public Safety” and began attempting to restore order.
Within a few months, the Jacobin-led Committee had decided that strong action was needed to preserve the Revolution, and so it launched what would become known as “the Reign of Terror.” Unfortunately for Danton, the Committee was overseen by one of his chief rivals within the Jacobin Club, a man named Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre. During this period, Robespierre “protected” the Revolution by slaughtering some 40,000 French men, women, and children, at least 16,000 of whom were guillotined. On April 5, Robespierre turned his attention to his fellow Jacobins whom he saw as a threat. Danton himself was labeled insufficiently revolutionary and was beheaded alongside the man who sparked the storming of the Bastille, the aforementioned Camille Desmoulins. The Revolution had evolved. It was no longer a mere political upheaval, but had become a full-blown religious mass movement, which Tocqueville described as follows:
No previous political upheaval, however violent, had aroused such passionate enthusiasm, for the ideal that the French revolution set before it was not merely a change in the French social system but nothing short of a regeneration of the whole human race. It created an atmosphere of missionary fervor and, indeed, assumed all the aspects of a religious revival — much to the consternation of contemporary observers. It would perhaps be truer to say that it developed into a species of religion, if a significantly imperfect one, since it was without a God, without a ritual or promise of a future life. Nevertheless, this strange religion has, like Islam, overrun the whole world with it apostles, militants, and martyrs.
To make a long story short, the revolution continued to evolve. Just three months after Danton’s murder, Rousseau himself was guillotined, and the Committee of Public Safety was replaced by the Directory. The Directory turned its assaults against the Jacobins in the White Terror. The Jacobins took control of the Directory two years later. And eventually, everyone was deposed (and some murdered) when Napoleon Bonaparte launched his coup in 1799.
Over the span of 10 years, the French Revolution not only devolved into mass murder and quasi-religious radicalism, it turned on itself repeatedly. As the French journalist and Royalist Jacques Mallet du Pan famously put it, “like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children.”
The material we would have suggested our friendly, neighborhood corporate titans read would have been a handful of selections from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Specimens of the Table Talk, from which comes our favorite quote on the French Revolution and the “spirits” it called forth:
Necker, you remember, asked the people to come and help him against the aristocracy. The people came fast enough at his bidding; but, somehow or other, they would not go away when they had done their work. I hope Lord Grey will not see himself or his friends in the woeful case of the conjuror, who, with infinite zeal and pains, called up the devils to do something for him. They came at the word, thronging about him, grinning, and howling, and dancing, and whisking their long tails in diabolic glee; but when they asked him what he wanted of them the poor wretch, frightened out of his wits, could only stammer forth, – “I pray you, my friends, be gone down again!” At which the devils, with one voice, replied –
“Yes! Yes! We’ll go down! We’ll go down! But we’ll take you with us to swim or to drown!”
As you may have heard, last week, InBev/Anheuser Busch learned that it is going to lose its perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. This comes even after Bud Light infamously tried to destroy the company’s public image by being “more inclusive” and partnering with trans-influencer Dylan Mulvaney. In fact, it comes specifically because of that partnership:
The nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group is taking action against Anheuser-Busch over its handling of the conservative backlash to transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, accusing the multinational beer company of caving to political pressure.
In a May 9 letter shared exclusively with USA TODAY, the Human Rights Campaign informed the Bud Light maker that it has suspended its Corporate Equality Index score – a tool that scores companies on their policies for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees….
Eric Bloem, HRC’s senior director, programs and corporate advocacy, said Anheuser-Busch backtracking on support for the LGBTQ community in the face of anti-trans and hate-filled rhetoric sends the message to employees, shareholders and customers that it does not stand up for the values of diversity, equity and inclusion it espouses.
You can apply whichever French Revolution metaphor you wish, the Revolution eating its own, or the devils who, once called forth, will go down but only if they take you with them, swim or drown. It really doesn’t matter. The point – and the result – is the same: when you lie down with revolutionaries, you wake up…dead…or something.
We suspect that the nice folks at Target will learn the same lesson – the hard way. Target, of course, is reeling from the revelations that it sells…well…weird stuff and is already getting hammered by some of the usual suspects for pulling some of that weird stuff off its shelves. And it’s only going to get worse.
All of the people involved here could have saved themselves a LOT of trouble if they’d just bothered to pay attention in history class – or if they had taken history classes.
There really is nothing new under the sun, after all. They should have known better.