Concerned that your favorite grocery store item may be manufactured by liberals or conservatives? Now there’s an app for that…

12 Sep

This is what the culture war has come to…

PURITANISM, wrote H.L. Mencken, is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.” Half a century later, the prissiest Americans are haunted by a different fear: that they may buy cheese made by someone whose opinions they do not share. To help people avoid this calamity, a new app called BuyPartisan reveals whether any given product is made by Republicans or Democrats.

Using an iPhone’s camera, it scans the barcode and reports back on the ideology (as measured by donations to political parties) of the directors and staff of the company in question. Obsessive partisans can then demonstrate their commitment to diversity by boycotting firms with which they disagree. “We vote every day with our wallets,” trills an advert.

Latte-sipping, iPad-toting liberals will be relieved to hear that the directors of Starbucks donated five times as much to Democrats as to Republicans; those of Apple gave 30 times as much. But not all political loyalties are as predictable. For example, the directors of the Quinoa Corporation, which sells “organic gluten-free quinoa pasta” to the NPR-listening classes, donate almost entirely to the Republican Party. For some consumers, that will spoil the taste. Or would, if it were possible to make quinoa taste worse.

BuyPartisan’s maker, Spend Consciously, was founded by a former Capitol Hill staffer, Matthew Colbert. He is cagey about whether he is a Democrat or a Republican, but hopes that the app will eventually include data on things like how firms treat their employees. It has caused a stir in Washington, where political junkies have had fun testing whether their favourite snacks are red or blue. But will it affect American shopping habits?

For shoppers with jobs, children and limited spare time, probably not. A mother with a baby strapped to her chest in a Safeway supermarket in Washington explains why. The idea of scanning every sausage or toilet roll for its political affiliation is “just crazy”, she says. “If I want to eat gummy bears, I will eat gummy bears. I don’t care if they’re Republican.” For some products, there is no obvious alternative. Democrats whose cars run out of petrol, for example, will probably fill up at the nearest petrol station, even though oil firms donate mostly to Republicans.

Republicans and Democrats do have different shopping habits, observes Vishal Singh, an academic who studies marketing at NYU Stern. Republicans tend to drink more American beers; Democrats more foreign and craft brews. In Republican-voting districts Cracker Barrel, a southern-themed restaurant, is common; upscale Whole Foods shops cluster in Democratic areas. But this mostly reflects the different lives Democrats and Republicans lead. Southern food is popular, unsurprisingly, in the South, which is heavily Republican. Costly groceries are popular with affluent urbanites, who tend to be Democrats.

Some firms are straightforwardly politicised. On September 8th religious conservatives mourned the death of Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick Fil-A, whose son’s public opposition to gay marriage prompted boycotts of the family’s fried-chicken joints. But most firms are just trying to make a buck, and most shoppers are just looking for dinner.

Ugh. Shouldn’t we all just aim for finding who will provide the best goods / services at the best prices?

And moreover, just because someone donates to a particular political party, doesn’t necessarily tell you what their particular ideology is; after all, parties are big tents; for instance, Democrats include both liberal, bicoastal urban prog types, and more conservative Dixiecrats; while Republicans include both social conservatives and libertine libertarians, and ‘crunchy con’ Eastern Orthodox ‘organic’ food enthusiasts like Rod Dreher… I think an app that tells you which side of the Prop. 8 campaign a Californian CEO donated to would give you a better idea of whether or not they mesh ideologically with what you believe – if that’s really important.

It tends to be the Left who thinks and acts upon that whole ‘the personal is political’ mindset; e.g. only hardcore leftists would be ‘vegansexuals‘; I really can’t see any rightists caring about that sort of thing to quite the same obsessive degree. I like certain Ben & Jerry’s ice creams; I don’t care that they’re prog hippies; if I want their ice cream, I’ll buy some! Same with craft beers.

That said, we live in a time when progs will boycott a small, independent restaurant if the manager has donated to or vocally supported Prop. 8 and the like; while I might wish we trads would all take the high road and demonstrate a better way to live, I can’t really blame anyone of our ilk who decide that they don’t want to patronize businesses owned by those who fundamentally disagree with us; if they can do it, no reason why our side can’t, either. Turnabout is fair play, as they say…

Still, it’s sad that it’s come to this. And I do think a case can be made that there’s a difference between a company whose owners / excecutives vocally and loudly support a particular party or cause, and one whose owners / directors quietly, without press conferences, go about supporting in their free time whatever parties or causes they find themselves sympathetic towards; I’m less inclined to get worked up about the latter group than I am about the former, even if I disagree with them.

It’s analogous to those of our ilk who want to only patronize Christian businesses. Okay, but count me out. I don’t care if my car mechanic is a Christian or not; I want good workmanship for a reasonable price; I don’t see why I need to care about whether or not he or she is a believer. Why should I?

Ditto political affiliations and ideologies.

Because ultimately, if we’re going to be that petty, why not just separate into different nations entirely? That’s the ultimate extrapolatio ad absurdum, if you will, of the hyper-partisan position; why bother to even live in the same country as people with whom you both fundamentally disagree AND won’t do business with because of how much you care about such things? Just create Tradlandia and Proglandia, and be done with it, already! Sheesh.

*Update: I have expanded in the comments about my beliefs and practices, in this regard. In brief, I’ve already indicated, in posts about decidedly pro-gay companies, that we might well want to take our business elsewhere, and I’m not contradicting myself in what I wrote above, IMO. See my comments below for more.


Posted by on September 12, 2014 in America, The Kulturkampf


33 responses to “Concerned that your favorite grocery store item may be manufactured by liberals or conservatives? Now there’s an app for that…

  1. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Reblogged this on Will S.' Culture War Blog.

  2. electricangel

    September 12, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    It’s analogous to those of our ilk who want to only patronize Christian businesses. Okay, but count me out. I don’t care if my car mechanic is a Christian or not; I want good workmanship for a reasonable price; I don’t see why I need to care about whether or not he or she is a believer. Why should I?

    Spoken like a man who has never driven a car possessed by Satan.

    Will, the economic view of life, so derived from Calvinism, is directly at odds with the communitarian view. It finds expression in the absurd statements of some economists that it is more efficient for women in the West to go to work, and adopt children of 3rd world mothers who cannot do the highly complex work required in the Modern economy. Using your logic, why shouldn’t we flood the USA (and Canada) with millions of low-cost immigrants to undercut the wages of the lower end of society that cannot compete for high-IQ jobs? It’s simply good workmanship for a reasonable price.

    That kind of society recalls the Machiguenga. We don’t want to live there.

  3. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    EA, it’s not that I don’t have an appreciation of the value of community, or that I espouse a purely utilitarian ethic as regards matters economic, but it just strikes me as odd to apply the criteria, “Is he / she one of us?” whenever one goes to buy something. Because at the end of the day, everyone in our local geographical community IS part of that kind of community; our church community is another kind of community, and so on. If I buy something from a local businessman of any stripe, he will no doubt spend money elsewhere in the community, and everyone will benefit.

    Thus, you see, I actually do believe in interconnectedness and communitarianism, in a way that someone who merely seeks to see if someone is part of their ‘team’ before deciding to give them their business, does not.

  4. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    And I don’t see that my POV in this regards is at odds with my desire to preserve ethnic and cultural homogeneity, as much as possible. My ideal society is one in which everyone is alike enough in the ways in which it counts to be able to easily tolerate the differences that remain, and live comfortably with them. 🙂

  5. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    I’m not talking about buying widgets from a company whose owner is known to fund terrorism; of course I wouldn’t. I already said I distinguish between those who vocally announce what sorts of charities / other organizations / lobby groups they support, and those who keep such things to themselves.

    And forget my perhaps inconsistent stance as regards Ben & Jerry’s, who we know fund liberal causes. I’ll grant that may be a somewhat less principled position.

    But the case of people boycotting Heinz Ketchup, on the basis of John Kerry’s wife being part of the Heinz family, and instead buying other brands, which may not be as good or as cheap, just because they’re not connected to some prominent liberal, just strikes me as absurd.

    There were people who did that, back in that election. Some conservatives even started their own, pro-Bush ketchups; one was called ‘W’ ketchup; another ‘Bush Country’ ketchup. I don’t even know if they’re both still around; I think one of them may be but not the other; I did once try looking for their websites some years after the fact.

    No, I will use morality as a guide in my purchases; I don’t want to buy North Korean quasi-slave-labour produced products, if any became available.

    But by the same token, I’m not going to automatically boycott goods from the People’s Republic of China, if we’re not willing to, at the political level, as whole countries, refuse to do business with them. Why should I?

  6. Chillingworth

    September 12, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    “A mother with a baby strapped to her chest in a Safeway supermarket in Washington explains why. The idea of scanning every sausage or toilet roll for its political affiliation is ‘just crazy’, she says.”

    I scanned her with the app. It says she’s a conservative.

  7. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 3:50 pm


  8. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    The thing is this: if we are refusing to buy an item made by someone who votes for a different party, just on that basis, and the other side is doing the same, and so we’re increasingly splitting ourselves into two distinct tribes, are we having a civil society any more?

  9. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    I have, many times here, highlighted companies that are aggressively pro-homo, going after their dollars; recently I highlighted DirecTV, and previously, Burger King, beer companies, etc.

    And in those posts, I have often indicated my disappointment, and my belief that we do well to consider whether or not we wish to keep giving such companies our business, if there are other equally good companies providing the same goods and services, which we know are NOT funding progressive causes.

    Anyone who knows this site, will know I have argued thus.

    I’m not being inconsistent here.

    All I’m saying, is that I don’t think it’s helpful, in the long run, to be obsessive about one’s every economic interaction; e.g. to the point where you don’t want to hire your neighbour’s teenage daughter to babysit your young children because you know your neighbour has voted Democrat at least once, based on a sign on his lawn.

    Do we really want to have that kind of society?

    Where people can’t be friends with anyone of different views, and have normal, day-to-day positive interactions with each other?

    I don’t.

    And that’s all I’m saying here.

  10. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I have also said, would we boycott a gas station whose convenience stores stock Playboy magazine, just because we wish they wouldn’t sell porn? Or would we fill up, buy milk or bread from the store if we need some, a can of Coke, whatever, and simply ignore the fact they have some dealings we disapprove of?

    What if every gas station in town sells porn in their convenience stores? Would we drive to the next town to gas up? Would we buy gasoline wholesale and keep it in our own fuel storage tanks?

    How far should we take such principles?

  11. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Everyone should of course use their conscience as their guide.

    I just question the wisdom of taking it to extremes – as per my gas station convenience store example.

    Another example I have previously invoked: what about businesses open on Sundays? Would we only patronize, on the other days of the week, businesses that remain closed on Sundays? Or would we simply not shop on Sunday, and visit the same businesses that do open on Sundays, on other days of the week?

    That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about, here.

  12. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    All that said, I did note that I can well understand if some react to what progs are doing, in their desire to see everyone from the now former CEO of Mozilla to a small restaurant manager brought down, because of their political views, by behaving likewise in turn.

    I just don’t want to go there, myself.

    And I lament the loss of our civil society, the kind we used to have, where we didn’t obsess to this degree (where we now have an app to advise us about positions taken that might not even otherwise be widely known, an app which many people will no doubt now use…).

  13. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    I wasn’t just responding to you; I was further expanding on what I meant, in an endeavour to clarify my position, for the benefit of anyone reading.

    Think what you will; that’s your prerogative.

  14. Eric

    September 12, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    I’m with you on this one: I typically don’t boycott businesses unless they are in-your-face about their Leftist values.

    Like it or not, America has become such a politically-correct police state that many businesses would face serious consequences from the ‘tolerant’ progs if they deviate one iota from the party line. I’ve mentioned before how most restaurants and cafes here in Seattle advertise as ‘gay friendly.’ That’s because the ones who don’t get singled out by the Gay Mafia for special attention that no sane businessman wants. When our last mayor requested that businesses display Gun-Free Zone signs ‘voluntarily’; people who put up pro-2nd Amendment signs were forced to take them down because their landlords were getting anonymous threats.

    Every gun store in Seattle has left town because they couldn’t afford the insurance premiums caused by vandalism and other problems which were rife.

    It’s easy for people who’ve never had businesses to tell everyone else to ‘take a stand’. These prog ‘activists’ have been known to stalk people and their families and commit other acts of terror. I had heard that one business owner here —who opposed the recent minimum wage hike—his wife found her car in the driveway with all four of the tires slashed.

    And the media is totally in sympathy with this kind of ‘activism’ so none of their despicable acts get reported. The police typically don’t do anything either, because they’re afraid of the progs as well.

    The point being here, you don’t always know if the business is on the same side or not.

    • Will S.

      September 12, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      Ugh. What an awful place to be a trad…

  15. Eric

    September 12, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    $5 spent on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream isn’t going to result in a Leftist takeover; and neither will NOT spending $5 prevent one. A few years ago, some neocon pundit tried to boycott Ben & Jerry’s and their sales actually went UP because every Libtard ran out to buy some just to prove a point.

    Until people start boycotting the US media and academic establishments, nothing will change because those morons are fueling the Liberalist takeover more than anybody else. Since that’s not likely to happen, there’s no point in going after an odd business here and there.

  16. Will S.

    September 12, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    @ Eric: Indeed, re: boycotts of businesses, I have made the point that boycotts often fail, while buycotts, supporting businesses that are either neutral (far as we know) or pro-tradition, works far better: witness the huge turnout for Chick-fil-A in response to the progs’ boycott of them…

  17. Eric

    September 13, 2014 at 12:29 am

    I think within another couple of years, there won’t be any trads left within the Seattle City limits. Most of the ones I know have left already and the rest of us are planning on going. Just to show what benefits Progressivism brings to a city: there has been an explosive immigration of homeless bums (now we have the 3rd largest population of them in the country); welfare recipients, and political extremists of various stripes into town during the past year or so.

    While I agree that buycotts are more effective, the Libtards learned with Chick-fil-A that boycotts don’t work; so they’ve sunk to even dirtier tactics like forcing out CEOs and media smear campaigns. I’m afraid in the long run, that these kinds of things are just going to escalate.

    • Will S.

      September 13, 2014 at 12:34 am

      Alas, no doubt they will.

  18. infowarrior1

    September 13, 2014 at 12:45 am

    @Will S.

    Then the progs leave the place they ruined go to red states and vote in the same policies that cause ruination. Well if I may propose that they not leave the bed they made so as to make them lie in it. They should not be able escape the consequences of their actions.

    • Will S.

      September 13, 2014 at 12:48 am

      But in a free country, how do you stop them from moving?

      • infowarrior1

        September 13, 2014 at 12:49 am

        If I were a dictator. That is.

      • Will S.

        September 13, 2014 at 1:05 am

        @ infowarrior1: “If I were a dictator. That is.”

        “It’s unfortunate but same mindset leads to possibly being stuck with people making crap. Or missing out on serious quality.”

        Right! That’s precisely why one shouldn’t automatically, unthinkingly, unhesitatingly always necessarily go with one’s own ilk. Because if people do, then those producing don’t have incentive to do as good a job, as cheaply, as their would-be competitors (since they have a captive market) – and you can end up with what happened in the Soviet Union when something similar happened, when the State controlled business, and prevented real choices: they got shortages, and when goods were available, often they were expensive, shoddily made goods of poor workmanship; moldy bread on grocery store shelves, etc. I’m not saying the situation would be exactly the same, or even anywhere near as bad, but there could be similar problems arising with a lack of real competition to keep everyone ‘in line’, so to speak, doing the best they can at their work, and trying to keep their costs down and prices competitive.

        The free market isn’t perfect, but overall, it tends to work fairly well. And it works best with real competition, which you get if everyone is competing for everyone else’s business

        “Well there are things we can do that make it hard for progs. And hence cause them to voluntarily emmigrate.”

        When they’re in power, and you’re not a dictator? 😉

        Seriously, though; what can we do to make it hard for them, given the status quo? They control society. We do not.

  19. infowarrior1

    September 13, 2014 at 12:50 am

    @Will S.
    “It’s analogous to those of our ilk who want to only patronize Christian businesses. Okay, but count me out. I don’t care if my car mechanic is a Christian or not; I want good workmanship for a reasonable price; I don’t see why I need to care about whether or not he or she is a believer. Why should I?”

    It’s unfortunate but same mindset leads to possibly being stuck with people making crap. Or missing out on serious quality.

  20. infowarrior1

    September 13, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Well there are things we can do that make it hard for progs. And hence cause them to voluntarily emmigrate.

  21. James and the Giant Peach

    September 13, 2014 at 2:09 am

    The problem with playing party lines in buying stuff, is that anybody can say they are whoever they want.

    I recall Will there was a conservative politician you linked that played the position of a conservative Christian who wanted to preserve traditional marriage, and then he went and committed adultery with one of his workers despite being a friend to the husband of the woman he cheated with.

    Or that band member claiming he was Christian, but turns out he was actually atheist and labeled himself Christian specifically to sell music to the Christian demographic.

    Likewise people can say they are a “Christian brand” or “Conservative brand” but really evil people regardless. Trusting someone because they say they are Christian or conservative, or buying something from a company because they say they are Christian or conservative is stupid because half the time the people claiming they are Christian or conservative are JUST as sinful as those evil liberals.

    You need to have a balance between in group preference and competition. Have too much competition only, and your in group loses its identity and home. Have too much in group preference, you have people hi-jacking your group under the guise of a passionate member, and doing what he wants with it.

    • Will S.

      September 13, 2014 at 2:13 am

      Excellent points, all, James. I agree completely!

  22. infowarrior1

    September 13, 2014 at 7:18 am

    The trick is to have a competitive cooperation. That is while Christians work together they also compete in order that they might reach excellence. Having read a history book about the ”triumph of christianity” by Rodney Stark. There is evidence that the Roman Catholic Church which before the reformation was effectively a monopoly did not expend much effort in evangelizing Europe. The church was lazy and corrupt and Christianity only remained limited to the upper classes.

    However with the reformation both churches are energized to excellence and the Roman Catholic church and the Protestant church flourished and Christianity spread with much vigor.

    There is also evidence that a mission with a monopoly will not try as hard or be as good then when 2 missions are competing. With each mission being spurred on to excellence.

  23. Will S.

    September 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

    That makes sense, intuitively.

  24. Cecil henry

    September 13, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    ‘Shouldnt we just find who has the best goods’:

    In a free society yes that would be ideal.

    Here’s the issue: Citizens have no real means to have their political and racial interests represented today at the ballot or though the theft they called taxation.

    The only real freedom and input we have is with our wallets at the store. ITs the ONLY place where the ‘elites’ or anyone else really has to listen— or they lose our MONEY.

    So yeah, I want a means to have influence on this– because I sure as hell don;t have it politically or socially.

  25. Will S.

    September 13, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    That also makes sense.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s