The real reason leftists are so upset about the Pepsi ad is that it puts all their purely performative, feelgood protest actions on blast.
Of course, this is hardly the first time an ostensibly anticapitalist movement has been effortlessly recuperated by capitalism. My personal favorite has to be the AXE Peace advert from 2014, which took antiwar imagery from the preceding decade and offered it back up in the form of a body-spray. Wells Fargo sponsored a Black Lives Matter event last year in which it even praised the Black Panthers, but then rejected a custom-designed debit card featuring a fist and the text “Black Lives Are Important.” This despite the fact the banking company was just sued for racial bias in denying loans to black and Latino families.
Love it or hate it, one must give the devil its due: Global capitalism has proved far more resilient than either its harshest critics or most fervent champions ever expected. You have to admire its perverse ability to incorporate everything that purports to oppose it into itself while also adding a price-tag.
“Communism is not radical,” the Marxist poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht once told his friend, the critic Walter Benjamin. “It is capitalism that is radical.” Here Brecht probably had in mind the remark Lenin made some twenty years earlier, urging communists to be “as radical as reality itself.” The reality to which he implicitly referred to was none other than that of capitalism. And perhaps he’s right — we’re still much too harmless.
“Realistic dissidence is the trademark of anyone who has a new idea in business.” — Theodor Adorno, The Culture Industry