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Coca Cola and the “America the Beautiful” brouhaha

Here in the US the brouhaha de la semaine concerns a Coca Cola ad broadcast during the Super Bowl:

It features American girls singing “America the Beautiful” in English, Spanish, Keres Pueblo, Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese French, and Hebrew.

While many found it heartwarming, you’ll never guess whom it upset:

Conservative talk radio is criticizing a Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad that featured multiple languages, with Rush Limbaugh joking it might be a ploy from Republican leaders on immigration reform.
“I thought maybe the Republican leadership was behind the Coke commercial … when I saw it,” Limbaugh said in an apparent reference to immigration reform. “I said, ‘Whoa, who got hold of this advertising campaign?’ The Republican leadership’s gotta be doing this.”

Limbaugh has been highly critical of GOP leaders for signaling they want to move on immigration reform this year, saying it would be “suicide” for the party.

The popular firebrand said if Coke is interested in appealing to different languages, they should go further than the ad.

“If you are convinced that the best way to sell Coca-Cola to Americans is to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ in multiple languages, then why don’t you produce the product with labels printed in 10 different languages?” Limbaugh said. “Every market gets 10 different label versions of Coke. You get 10 Diet Coke labels, 10 more for Sprite and so on, and if you run out of shelf space, just go buy more shelf space and load ‘em up.”

Another popular conservative radio voice, Glenn Beck, also criticized the ad, calling it divisive and politicized amid the immigration debate. On his show Monday, Beck said he got a tweet from a viewer asking what he thought of the spot.

“I said, ‘Why? You need that to divide us politically?’ Because that’s all this ad is,” Beck said. “It’s an in your face — and if you don’t like, if you’re offended by it, then you’re a racist. If you do like it, well then you’re for immigration, that’s what it is. You’re for progress. That’s all this is, is to divide people.”

And there was this charming tweet from Fox News’s Todd Starnes:

In fairness, the outrage (faux or otherwise) was not universal on the Right.

And of course it’s wonderfully ironic that the original English words to “America the Beautiful” which the conservatives so patriotically defended against the foreign incursion were written by a patriotic socialist lesbian.

Apparently the folks at Coca Cola were not terribly bothered by the uproar, since an extended version of the ad will appear during the broadcast of the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony.

I’m inclined to agree with Roland Dodds’s take at But I am a Liberal:

For Christ’s sake, Coke sells fizzy water packed with corn syrup. The only reason they make a “political statement” is to generate more buzz which keeps their brand name in the public discussion. We have let these soulless, nationless, capitalists frame the entire debate in a way that benefits them and their financial interests. We treat them as if they are part of our social fabric, a representation of our culture as a whole, when they are nothing more than massive companies intended to sell us goods they know we don’t need. You might enjoy a cola from time-to-time, but don’t buy some soda company’s line that they are part of our nation.


This Coke ad from 1979 featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive tackle “Mean Joe” Greene seemed to touch a lot of hearts– and apparently still does, judging by the number of YouTube views. It may have even played a role in helping to bridge the racial divide in the US– perhaps more than a thousand speeches:

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