June 26, 2019 | 75° F

EDITORIAL: Anger over green coffee cup spills over

New Starbucks cup receives backlash for ‘political brainwashing’


On Nov. 1, Starbucks released its new seasonal coffee cup design. It’s a green cup and inscribed are all types of people of different shapes, sizes and clothing, and with a white circle imposed onto the people like a spotlight. Shogo Ota, the artist who designed this cup said, the idea behind the cup was simple: using one line to connect people.

“Just drawing everybody together in one line,” Shogo said. “People together. That sounds pretty peaceful to me.”

But in trying to send a message of peace, Starbucks has people conflicted over the new design and vented their rage on the internet. One customer tweeted, “How did the holiday spirit become a political agenda?” Another said, “Screw you. My coffee should NOT (and does NOT) come with political brainwashing.” One analysis went above and beyond, really looking between the lines, and said, “The giant coffee chain is calling this year’s monstrosity the ‘unity’ cup … Hmm, what else is unified … ISIS!!?! The unified caliphate of the Islamic State!”

The seemingly benign green cups have been associated with many controversial topics, from the “war on Christmas” to a copy of the flag of the Arab League.

Although it’s unlikely the cups are intended to be associated with such subjects, the company was certainly political in the type of message it wanted to convey. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said the cup design represents the connections Starbucks has as a community with its partners and customers. Moreover, according to Schultz, it was a reminder of shared values and the intent of people to be good to each other, especially during a divisive period in our country. However, it’s disappointing to see that the notion of unity and peace could be attacked and that the opposite notion of strife and rivalry is perceived as more acceptable that the former. Why has it come to the point that promoting peace and unity is perceived as “political brainwashing?”

But at the end of the day, it’s a mere cup, and it’s probably only a handful and vocal few who harbor outrage for it. There are more pressing issues to worry about than a vessel that holds fluids and the way it’s designed. And there’s no use arguing whether companies are political or not, because companies are inherently political in and of themselves through their internal governances, lobbying and advertisement.

Company executives have inevitably taken a stance on the presidential candidates they support and have political opinions on the issues they care about. Woody Johnson, great grandson of Robert Wood Johnson and founder of Johnson & Johnson, supports Donald Trump. Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO and co-founder of Yelp, supports Hillary Clinton. Also, companies like Chick-Fil-A are known for their anti-gay stance. Facebook and Pandora support Black Lives Matter. Every company and its executives are political. If you don’t like Starbucks or any of these companies for their political ideologies, then don’t buy from them and don’t support them.

Starbucks cup designs will come and go. There will be new designs people like and others that people hate, but it boils down to a futile argument and insignificant issue. Whatever design Starbucks comes up with next will more likely than not have little effect in the world we live in. 

If people really want to take issue with Starbucks cups, then be upset that the product is non-recyclable. The company sells 4 billion cups annually and most of them are never recycled because its paper cups are coated with plastic that prevent liquids from spilling and this same coating hinders the recycling process. At least criticizing Starbucks for its non-recyclable cups can result in the reduction of landfill waste and something fruitful for this planet rather than impotent insurgency for a different and trivial design.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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