5 Things That Would REALLY Happen At The Pepsi Protest

By James O Malley on at

Pepsi is in hot water this morning - which will make it way less refreshing - as it has made possibly the most poorly conceived advert in recent times. In the ad, young, attractive protesters are seen protesting an ambiguous cause - presumably sugar taxes - before one protester, played by model Kendall Jenner, offers one of the policemen a Pepsi.

In a beautiful moment in which neoliberalism finally managed to appropriate literally everything, the cop accepts the Pepsi - and presumably both sides went off to peacefully drink refreshing sugary drinks together in peace.

Needless to say, the reaction online hasn't been good. But weirdly, the people complaining haven't spotted the most annoying thing. Yes, it's trite and offensive to attempt to appropriate, say, the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice causes. But more importantly, it gets protests wrong.

Here's 5 things that would REALLY happen at the Pepsi Protest.

1) The SWP Would Turn Up And Try To Make It About Them

The first thing that happens at any protest, whatever the topic, is that there will be a red gazebo setup with a table under it selling newspapers that look like they're from the 1980s. That's right - it's the Socialist Workers Party. Or the Workers Front For Socialism. Or the People's Front of Judea. Or another hard-left faction. Whoever it is, veteran protesters who spend more time demonstrating than you do seeing your loved ones will be there to subtly undermine whatever reasonable cause you're supporting. And annoyingly, whatever the topic, they'll still bang on about how Tony Blair is apparently a war criminal.

2) A Thousand Misfired Chants

Pic credit: fibonacciblue on Flickr.

What do we want? A memorable slogan to chant! When do we want it? Now! Wielding the megaphone is harder than it looks, as for every chant that succeeds and does whip the crowd up, hundreds will just start and end with one man awkwardly repeating it, only for no one to respond.

Keep your chanting simple, folks!

3) Protesters Would Be Kettled For Hours

The implication from the advert is that protests are fun, and easy to do. Heck, someone brought some Pepsi in a cooler with ice! But all it takes is one dickhead to get slightly aggressive and before you know it, you're stuck in the middle of a police kettle, surrounded by armoured police with batons. And you're not allowed to leave for hours - even if you need the toilet. So don't drink too much Pepsi, just in case.

4) People Would Complain the BBC Isn't Covering It Even Though It Is

"Why isn't the BBC covering this?" is the cry of deluded bores everywhere. The fact is that the BBC does cover large protests, but protesters seem uniquely immune to realising this. It might not be the top story - but they will nearly always feature protests on the website and in news bulletins. The problem is that "why won't the BBC cover this?" implies a conspiracy, simultaneously making your cause sound way cooler, and making the stakes sound much bigger as you're going up against the entire establishment working against you. But in reality, it is bollocks - it is just a nice, lazy meme to share.

5) It Wouldn't Change Anything

No doubt there is a big issue at stake in the Pepsi protest (one banner reads "join the conversation", whatever that means), but despite all of those young people taking to streets, it's very unlikely that protests will directly affect that much change. They're unrepresentative of the public at large (by definition they will only attract the most hardcore supporters), so are actually really uninteresting events for outsiders.

Where they are useful though is in terms of building identity amongst protesters - and building internally. If you want to whip up more activists into a cause, a protest can be a good way of activating casuals as they will feel part of something larger. This is a good thing, as it could have second-order impact such as by creating more activists willing to knock on doors during election campaigns or get engaged in the policy making process.

So no doubt that after the protest Kendall Jenner and the other protesters will feel even more passionately about the Pepsi cause. But as for the protest itself? Sorry Pepsi, it looks like the sugar tax is here to stay for a while yet.


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