It’s obvious that social media is driven in no small part by outrage — both genuine and embellished — because people like to be pissed off and complain about the world. We all do it. While most of the time this fury-fueled catharsis doesn’t venture beyond merely talking about the outrage on Facebook, sometimes social media users will decide that it warrants a call to action in the form of privileged yuppie hashtag activism.
You could see the latest one coming a mile away. On Sunday, Burger King revealed it was in talks to purchase the Canada-based Tim Hortons coffee and donut chain, and on Tuesday it became a done deal. Acquiring Tim Hortons will allow Burger King to move its headquarters to Canada, thereby engaging in a corporate inversion. As the Wall Street Journalexplains,
By moving to a lower-tax jurisdiction, inversion deals enable companies to save money on foreign earnings and cash stowed abroad, and in some cases lower their overall corporate rate. Even though many of the headline-grabbing inversion deals of late have involved European companies, Canada has also been the focal point for a number of them, given its proximity and similarity to the U.S. Canada’s federal corporate tax rate was lowered to 15% in 2012.
The U.S. corporate tax rate is 35%.
Cue the outrage, spearheaded by none other than… Joe Scarborough? “They’ll keep their money, and we all will have to pay their taxes,” he said on Monday’s Morning Joe. “So you know what I’m going to do so I can afford to pay Burger King’s taxes? I’m just not going to ever go to Burger King again, and I think a lot of Americans should not ever go to Burger King again.”
It’s an understandable sentiment, and one that was trending Tuesday morning on twitter in the form of a #BoycottBurgerKing hashtag, which is the first #BoycottBurgerKing campaign since the one just last month launched by homophobes over its gay pride Whopper.
But the truth is Burger King’s corporate inversion is just the latest by a U.S. company in a slew of them, especially by pharmaceutical companies: Endo International, Perrigo, Actavis, Alkermes, Valeant, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, and others have availed themselves of inversion, (which you can blame Congress for). It just happens to be the case that Burger King is a name that most Americans — and most yuppies — recognize. So it’s an easy target for ridicule and hashtivism, unlike those other companies, even though millions of Americans use their over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Partially, it comes down to awareness. Even a child, for example, can identify a Burger King product, if not by the food itself, then by the wrapper it comes in. Pharmaceuticals are a different story. The company is not the brand. Thus, to boycott these companies, yuppies would first have to find out just what exactly they produce, and that takes like, effort.
More crucially, a restaurant is a simple thing boycott. A Whopper is far from a necessity. In fact, it’s not very good for you. So boycotting a specific company’s greasy burgers is hardly a great trial. It’s not like refusing to use a certain medication because it’s produced by a company that left the country or did something else yuppies find unsavory. After all, yuppies need that medicine, and what’s the fun in boycotting something you need?
Furthermore, I imagine that the yuppies clamoring for a Burger King boycott eat it so infrequently, that when they drop #BoycottBurgerKing on twitter and Facebook, it’s not so much a grandiose and self-indulgent announcement of a personal sacrifice as a grandiose and self-indulgent admonition to whoever comes across it.
Funnily enough, Walgreen’s appeared it was going to invert in July, but even that big corporate name wasn’t enough to draw much ire on the internet, except for Daily Kos. Ultimately the company’s board said it didn’t feel comfortable with inversion.
Why no calls on twitter to boycott Walgreen’s when it appeared as if the company was going to move its headquarters abroad? Because Yuppies aren’t going to stop shopping at Walgreen’s and Duane Reade; because that would be too damn inconvenient.
One of the next major inversions could come from the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, whose CEO said last month the company was pursuing acquisition options and that inversion could be part a deal. If that happens, you won’t see nearly as many yuppie calls to boycott all of these products. This is because most yuppies probably couldn’t name a Pfizer brand. Besides, yuppies need the company’s medications or will as they get older, especially Norvasc for all that high blood pressure they got from tweeting.
Or maybe I’ll be proved wrong and these yuppie hashtivists will call for a Pfizer boycott after all. I just hope they can find a suitable alternative to Xanax to treat their next outrage-induced hyperventilation.