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Inside the anti-woke economy...

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June 02, 2024 | View Online | Sign Up | Shop
Making submarine cables in China

Making submarine cables in China. VCG/VCG via Getty Images



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The wackiest headlines from the week as they would appear in a Classifieds section.


PRO CHILLER: Last Sunday, people gathered in a park in Seoul, South Korea, for the annual space-out competition. The goal is to not have a goal at all, just to vibe silently and not fall asleep.

VENUS EXPLORER: Japan’s space agency has lost communication with the only spacecraft orbiting Venus. It’s a huge blow to anyone trying to understand women.


10,000 HOURS…AND THEN SOME: It wasn’t enough that Malcolm Gladwell convinced everyone’s bosses that they needed to spend 10,000 hours making PowerPoints in order to be really good at it. The author is publishing a sequel to The Tipping Point this fall.

BIOHACKING BANDAGE: A new bandage developed by CalTech can report injury info to your tablet or smartphone and automatically dispense embedded medicine. The bandage’s partner app is modeled like the Domino’s pizza tracker—but for wounds.

For sale

THE BIG CHEEZ: Taco Bell will finally roll out the Big Cheez-It Crunchwrap Supreme and the Cheez-It Tostada nationwide on June 6. Just in time for your drunken walk home from the JoJo Siwa Pride concert.

RETURN TO THE COURT: Nike is bringing back Andrew Agassi’s Nike Air Tech Challenge 2 sneakers this year. Known as “Hot Lava,” the pink, white, and black sneakers are a testament to the country’s love of weird tennis players.—MM




Dept. of Progress

Jessie saying Breaking Bad/AMC via Giphy

Here are some illuminating scientific discoveries from the week to help you live better and maybe even accept that you consider your favorite vlogger to be a personal bestie <3.

Does your fave YouTuber cheer you up more than a loose real-life friend? If yes, you’re not alone, says a new study that suggests people can get more fulfillment out of one-sided—or parasocial—relationships with online or fictional personas vs. two-way relationships with casual acquaintances, like coworkers or neighbors. The University of Essex research team still found strong personal bonds (e.g., a best friend or partner) to be the most fulfilling types of relationships, but throwing a creator like Brittany Broski on the screen also satisfies some emotional needs, which researchers say could be partly because someone you adore but don’t actually know can never personally let you down .

Wastewater from fracking is a surprise lithium gold mine. The in-demand mineral that’s critical to EV batteries and other green energy tech is so abundant in oil drilling byproduct that fracking wastewater from Pennsylvania plants alone could cover 38%–40% of US lithium needs, according to new calculations from the National Energy Technology Laboratory. The researchers—who were “shocked” by their findings, one scientist said—aren’t sure how expensive it would be to implement wastewater lithium extraction at scale. But as global demand for the mineral grows, the research could help the US boost domestic production of lithium and reduce its dependence on exports from Argentina, Chile, and China.

Here’s how your tongue actually works. Have you seen this lingual diagram? Well, it’s not all that accurate, according to a new review of the long-debunked yet still persistent myth that different parts of the tongue detect different tastes. Contrary to how the tongue map is often interpreted, sweet is not only detected on the tip of your tongue, sour is not only detected on the sides, etc. Instead, the scientist who published the diagram in 1901 was trying to show that different areas of the tongue have higher or lower concentrations of taste bud sensors, which is why you can taste sugar all over your tongue, but probably most intensely at the tip, where sweet sensors are most concentrated. In recent decades, umami has been accepted as a fifth taste, and researchers are now working to identify a flavor receptor for fat.—ML




Photo of the week

Scene from Manhattenhenge Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

First, it was the eclipse. Then, it was the northern lights. This Tuesday and Wednesday, the extremely versatile sun was back for an exclusive New York performance of Manhattanhenge, a phrase coined by astrophysicist and The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time star Neil deGrasse Tyson.

It’s the biannual event in May and July when the sunset is positioned perfectly within the city’s east-west streets, allowing people to capture images of the setting celestial wonder between Sweetgreens and Pret A Mangers. Manhattanhenge will be back to provide its jaw-dropping glow while being framed by Fairways and Duane Reades on July 12–13.—DL

Jarrow Formulas



Is an ‘anti-woke’ economy emerging?

woke free site buywokefree

Commentary from Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson isn’t the only cash cow for right-wing media outlet the Daily Wire. The company raked in over $22 million last year from selling “woke-free” shaving gear and merchandise like a “leftist tears” dog bowl, according to Axios.

Accounting for 10% of its revenue, the Daily Wire’s e-commerce business is powered mainly by its Jeremy’s Razors brand. Urging customers to “shave like a man, not a manifesto,” it was launched as a rebuke to Harry’s, which pulled ads from the Daily Wire over political disagreements in 2021.

The success of Jeremy’s Razors and the Daily Wire’s entire e-commerce operation are part of a larger trend of businesses taking a conservative stance to attract customers inclined to boycott Bud Light over a trans influencer’s social media post. By offering an alternative to brands perceived as “woke,” they’re betting that conservative shoppers are prepared to vote with their wallet.

So, let’s check in with some brands deep in the trenches of the culture war and consider whether most customers want to see their toiletries supplier get political.

Conservative economy

Customers on the political right have both morning and evening beverages to choose from:

  • Conservative video-sharing platform Rumble is selling coffee under the brand 1775, vowing that “not a single dollar from your purchase will ever be donated to the woke political agenda.”
  • Ultra Right Beer was born out of the Bud Light backlash, attracting conservatives with gimmicks like a special edition can design that featured Donald Trump’s mugshot.

And there are platforms marketing specifically to conservative consumers. The shopping app PublicSquare features products from businesses that it says “respect traditional American values.” While many featured vendors appear aligned with PublicSquare’s values manifesto, some businesses told the New York Times that they viewed joining the platform as a way to boost sales.

Meanwhile, the site rates companies based on their “wokeness.” It takes into account companies’ marketing and adherence to DEI, so it considers McDonald’s and Lockheed Martin “extremely woke,” while Berkshire Hathaway is labeled “mildly woke.”

Does conservatism sell well?

A recent Axios/Harris Poll found that companies with overt conservative leanings—the Trump Organization, Fox, and Hobby Lobby—were among the few brands that made gains with consumers over the past year. Notably, people who identify as independents warmed up to all three, though Fox and the Trump Organization were still at the bottom of the reputation ranking.

But the hype around conservative shopping might be short-lived.

  • PublicSquare went from ranking ahead of Etsy on the Apple App Store’s free shopping apps chart last summer to falling off the list.
  • There’s also evidence that some brands can quickly start to bounce back from backlash over their left-of-center politics that fuel “anti-woke” sales. Disney’s reputation ranking rose 10 spots in Axios’s reputation ranking this year, despite its spat with conservative Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Plus, basing one’s marketing strategy on ideology might be risky as political preferences can change over time, University of Arizona marketing professor Nooshin Warren told the New York Times.

Products over politics

While some companies are profitably leaning into “anti-woke” sentiment, others are retreating from touchy subjects for fear of alienating customers. Shoppers seem to be getting fed up with brands wading into politics.

  • Last year, only 41% of Americans thought businesses should take a stance on current events, compared with 48% in 2022, per the latest Bentley-Gallup Business in Society Report.
  • While a majority of Democrats (62%) believed businesses ought to be political, only 17% of Republicans thought so, the report found.

Corporate giants like Novo Nordisk and Sony that aren’t known for taking divisive stances have a strong reputation with customers across the political spectrum, according to the Axios/Harris Poll. And customers want a good product regardless of a brand’s politics. That’s probably bad news for Ultra Right Beer, which happens to have a Better Business Bureau rating of 1.21 out of 5, with dozens of customers complaining that their order was never fulfilled. 

Politics is in retreat…in corporate America’s PR as many big brands that were supportive of social causes are now avoiding controversy and focusing on entertaining ads, as exemplified by this year’s apolitical Super Bowl commercials.—SK





Do you have a recommendation you want to share with Brew readers? Submit your best rec here and it may be featured in next week’s list.

Cook: Pair chili-lime shrimp with mango-avocado salsa for an easy summer meal.

Buy: Reef-safe, mineral sunscreen for any skin type that doesn’t leave a white cast.

Read: Piglet, a breakthrough novel by food writer Lottie Hazell.

Stream: Starring Hollywood’s guy-of-the-moment Josh O’Connor, La Chimera has romance, magical realism, and mystery.

Stick: Give your friends the gift of aromatic nostalgia with scratch-and-sniff stickers.

Check: The weather website of all weather websites. Thanks to Steve from Hampshire, UK, for the suggestion.

Pamper your pets: You probably consider your pet a member of your family, so why not feed them like one? Keep your dogs healthy and happy with The Pets Table, a personalized pet food brand from the makers of HelloFresh.*

*A message from our sponsor.




Place to be: The swinger capital of Europe

Bird's eye view of the tip of Cap d'Agde. Mixture of rocks, sunny buildings on a sea background. visuallook/Getty Images

It’s a big world out there. In this section, we’ll teleport you to an interesting location—and hopefully give you travel ideas in the process.

A French town known for swinging has a mayor in hot water for allegedly swapping taxpayer money for a chance to speak with the dead.

Come to Agde for the sandy beaches and couples with flexibility on monogamy; stay for Gilles d’Ettore allegedly funneling taxpayer money to fortune teller Sophia Martinez, who is accused of tricking the 55-year-old into believing she could communicate with his deceased father and other supernatural entities over a four-year period.

  • In what sounds like a rejected Supernatural plot line, she is accused of making phone calls pretending to be an angel who wanted the mayor to do her favors.
  • He allegedly used public funds to send her family on vacations at the request of the voices.

Local businesses renovated her home for free because they were afraid of losing future contracts from the mayor, although they probably could’ve said ghosts wanted them to be paid in full and he would have believed it.

Speaking of showing your ass: Agde is the home of Cap d’Agde, a resort that’s been called the nudist capital of the world. There’s a five-kilometer stretch of beach where nakedness is mandatory, but the rest of the resort is clothing optional. There’s nothing in the brochure about it, but it’s likely frowned upon to pretend to speak to dead relatives of other guests.—DL




Crowd work

Last week, we asked: What is an immediate skip on a wedding playlist? Here are our favorite responses:

  • “‘Timber’...will I sing every word if it plays? Sure. Will I also hate every second? Also yes.”—Olivia from Charlotte, NC
  • “‘Party Rock Anthem’ by LMFAO. I’m still scarred by its 2012 overexposure.”—Matt from Sunnyside, NY
  • “At my wedding, my aunts got so drunk, requested ‘Cotton Eyed Joe,’ and lost their minds, kicking people off the dance floor and trying (and failing) to breakdance. So definitely ‘Cotton Eye Joe.’”—Cary from San Antonio, TX
  • “‘Mr. Brightside.’ Setting aside the fact the lyrics are about jealousy, paranoia, and cheating (not typical wedding thoughts), the dance floor ends up being confused 60-year-olds, 40-year-olds who think they know the lyrics and sing out the wrong words, and drunken 20-year-olds who think they actually discovered The Killers even though the song is played everywhere, all the time.”—David from Charleston, SC
  • “‘The Cha-Cha Slide.’ In today’s wedding market there’s simply not enough dance floor real estate for Uncle Mike to be taking four massive lunges to the right, to the right, to the right, to the right.”—Nolan from Minnesota

This week’s question

What was your high-school prank?

Dan Toomey’s answer to get the juices flowing: We hid watermelons in the ceiling panels of classrooms our sophomore year, but we forgot about them so they were left there over the summer, then a few fell from the ceiling in the fall of junior year.

Share your response here.




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Written by Dave Lozo, Matty Merritt, Molly Liebergall, Cassandra Cassidy, and Sam Klebanov

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