pirate wires #73 // bodegas: the unlikely nexus of american culture, rise of the brodega mindset, and greta thunberg's anti-bro war on nuclear power
The hero we deserve. As the nation prepared for my birthday (which happens, obviously, to coincide with July 4th weekend), a 22-year-old midwestern transplant to New York City made the mistake of posting a jokey, exasperated tiktok about his new neighborhood in the South Bronx, where he couldn’t find a grocery store. He waved his hands around his local bodega — New York City’s answer to the 7-11 — laughed, and declared simply, obviously, casually, that this was not a grocery store. He further made the mistakes of 1) being an attractive gym guy, 2) speaking in a kind of frat boy drawl, and 3) uttering the unforgivable words “Whole Foods.” The internet lost its mind. This was gentrification. This was patriarchy. This was a technically speaking very hot person who made us jealous.
Burn the witch.
A mob formed, and righteous justification for the mob was immediately provided by a TikTok influencer named Dutch, who published a response video about the unknown gym guy to his 1.4 million social justice-obsessed followers (close to a million views by the time he removed the post this morning). The response itself went viral, providing what would become the go-to language invoked by anti-bros for the duration of the mob assault. The problem, Dutch argued, was this foreigner’s attitude. Why wasn’t he integrating into the local “culture,” here insanely defined as shitty stores and dirty streets? And how dare he make fun of the bodegas we rely on (editor’s note: Dutch shops at Trader Joe’s). We can not have some asshole from the Midwest move to our city and complain about the lack of grocery stores, which is an extremely offensive thing to call a problem given the fact that our dearth of grocery stores is, actually, a famously very big problem!
Yes, you read that right. According to Dutch, the transplant’s opinion was correct. It was just the way he said it was offensive.
Perez Hilton, the man who I believe technically invented cyber-bullying (now reduced to the empty carcass of a once-terrifying engagement monster), put the accusation more plainly: this random recent college graduate, improbably propelled to global attention for wondering where he could buy eggs and yogurt, was “racist.” Further tiktoks were unearthed, and the plot thickened. This guy mentioned there was trash on the ground, and a lot of homeless people outside — true but how dare you. This guy made a couple clunky jokes about being an out-of-place straight white guy — true, but only fun for us to laugh about, not you. Within a couple days, the mob found his place of work, and our newly-anointed “Bodega Bro” was fired. Because activists wanted him fired. For talking about a food desert. Which activists agreed was a problem.
Mired as we were in the fraught language of this bodegous war, I couldn’t help but recall another story of bros and bodegas. Back in 2017, a New York City-based startup launched what was essentially a line of vending machines. These were going to change the world etc., in the way every startup, no matter how ambitious (or not) was going to change the world in the mid twenty-teens. As this particular startup’s intention was to sell things you could find in a corner store, and the founders lived in a place where their corner stores were called bodegas, they cutely (WRONG) named their company Bodega. The press backlash was profound.
“Bodega is either the worst named startup of the year, or the most devious” (The Verge). “Fury at ‘Bodega’ tech startup that aims to put corner shops out of business” (the Guardian). “Bodega, an ‘unmanned pantry box,’ has already become America’s most hated startup” (the Washington Post). “Here is Everything Wrong With ‘Bodega,’ the Startup That Destroys Bodegas” (Bloomberg — and hilariously tagged to “JUSTICE”). This was not a vending machine company. This was a well-funded, white assault on minority-owned businesses.
With no pushback from the sort of tech voices that grew up in reaction to the unhinged, activist industry press over the last few years, Bodega — one more time, a vending machine company — was met with almost universal condemnation on the internet, where enormous mobs formed to seethe and rage over the unacceptable acts of “cultural appropriation” and class warfare. The company changed its name, tried to grow out of the controversy, struggled for a while, and eventually shut down.
You do not, under any circumstances, mess with bodegas. Or rather, you do not mess with the word “bodega.” Robbing an actual bodega, on the other hand? I’m leaning in.
Last week, at your local bodega, a woman’s EBT card was declined after she tried to buy a bag of chips for her daughter. The clerk took the chips back, and the woman alerted her boyfriend, who entered the store, jumped behind the counter, and attacked the clerk. Afraid for his life, the clerk pulled out a knife, and stabbed his assailant to death. For this, he was charged with murder and sent to Rikers Island.
Reaction from the Law and Order right was predictably furious. But from the reporters who scorched the bad startup boys on behalf of the working class? From the social media influencers who cost Bodega Bro his job — on behalf of their local bodega guy? From First Lady Jill Biden, who just yesterday invoked bodegas on a stump speech, which were, she argued, an important Hispanic cultural contribution (along with tacos (I swear to God she said this))?
Not a word.
The language of woke justice has never existed in the service of accomplishing something concrete — ending food deserts for example, or helping a poorly-paid local clerk. The purpose of the new linguistic rules are just to be followed. It’s a game of cultural submission: you said the wrong thing, apologize and say the magic words. Tap your head three times. Turn around. Good. Now send me fifty dollars (cash app link in bio), and I’ll absolve you of your sin.
Something I’ve been wondering, though: how many of these activists are even real, and how much of our present culture war is actually — literally — a foreign PSYOP?
Nuke the discourse. A couple weeks back, the cybersecurity firm Mandiant exposed a Chinese disinformation campaign targeting U.S. and Canadian rare earth ventures. According to the Washington Post, CCP agents posed as environmentalists on social media, where they rallied against toxic waste in hopes of shutting down critical domestic processing operations. The purpose of the propaganda is obvious; China mines around 70% of the world’s rare earth metals, and processes close to 90%. The CCP is highly-incentivized to maintain its monopoly, not only for business, but for geopolitical leverage — leverage the state has already attempted to use against its enemies. But much like China’s entire technological infrastructure, this is a strategy its leadership borrowed.
For years, Russia has funded and employed the use of fake environmental organizations to catalyze western opposition to domestic energy production, which makes sense for an authoritarian petrol state. The language of environmental justice, however, is just a single flavor of the broader Russian disinformation strategy, which the Kremlin has employed since the dawn of the Cold War, and courses, among many divisive topics, our country’s entire modern race discourse.
Now listen, my point is not that all woke environmental activists are foreign agents. After all, the entire purpose of Russian and Chinese propaganda is to attract a western audience, and thereby convince us to genuinely hate ourselves. It’s therefore likely many of our loudest activist voices are simply useful idiots for hostile governments abroad. But their stupidity, which now borders the uncanny, does have consequences.
Congrats, girl, you did it.
Last week, after years of exchanging energy security for reliance on Russia resulted in a national crisis, the German Green coalition won a vote in the Bundestag that guaranteed the nation’s last remaining (carbon-free) nuclear plants would nonetheless shut down. It was a battle against nuclear that mirrored a battle of our own, and one we’ve only recently, and temporarily, in small part beaten back. Given Germany is in the middle of an energy crisis, and the German people would prefer not to freeze, the vote also guaranteed the nation perhaps most obsessed with its anti-global warming identity could now burn more (carbon-rich) coal. There is no further denying the environmental movement has decoupled entirely from the fight against global warming.
As Zack Kanter pointed out, it’s always been clear environmentalists were more concerned with combatting nebulous, abstract systems of western oppression than with stopping climate change. This is something the movement’s most famous activists have actually said, out loud, for years:
Mark Lynas @mark_lynasIt's over for nuclear in Germany. The SDP-Green coalition has won a vote in the Bundestag backing more coal burning so that the three remaining nuclear plants can be switched off as planned this year. Climate targets may have to be abandoned as a result. https://t.co/OAmexhAuUR
But while it’s now obvious Greta doesn’t really care about reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, I’m not convinced she really wants to dismantle the western world. “Concerned with” dismantling? Sure. In the same way people with Ukrainian flags in their Twitter bios are concerned with the people of Ukraine. But none of this activism is really about the material world. It’s a massive identity grift for attention online. The broader anti-western stuff hits harder than the global warming stuff, so that’s the vein that people like Greta tap. We are however nonetheless now entering an energy crisis with increasingly a western commitment against its solution.
In this culture of fantasy, no one receives more hostility than people who remind us of what’s real. But sometimes there really is no food in your neighborhood. Sometimes your sidewalks really are covered in trash. Sometimes there really are people sleeping outside, and in such cases it doesn’t really matter that we’re supposed to look the other way. These are the facts of our reality, and they are as unacceptable as they are uncomfortable. The much-loathed joking tone of Bodega Bro was never directed at bodegas, it was directed at us for pretending all this Mad Max shit is normal.
There’s a kind of poetry in a gym bro delivering such truths. A gym bro, after all, is the living embodiment of inputs and outputs: the causality of our own actions (working out, eating well), and their consequences (ridiculous body), which is never a popular thing to face, and especially not in an identity-obsessed age of pretend (soft people, incel adjacent). But if Bodega Bro doesn’t work out and eat well, he won’t be jacked — no matter how many stories we write about body positivity. Therefore, the man works out and eats well.
Bodega Bro — the legend — is really just a meme now, propelled into the pantheon of internet demigods by anonymous shitposters, the reality of his life largely still a thing of mystery. Did he truly not understand what he was doing? Why did he spurn the Red Scare podcast girls, which I would never do (hi, ladies)? And is he in jail right now? Because it seems like he’s in jail right now. But the lessons of Bodega Bro? These are timeless truths, and in all aspects of contemporary life it’s time we embrace the Brodega Mindset.
No grocery stores? That’s stupid. Grocery stores are good, we should build them. Robbing grocery stores? That’s bad. Grocery stores are important, we should protect them.
An energy crisis pairing now with global warming?
Here’s an idea: what if we didn’t shut down the only carbon-free source of power in our country, you idiots, my God, you actual morons?
No consideration for status or appropriateness. No preeminence of “proper words” over actual content. Just the facts. And the bugmen can cry about them on TikTok, but the bugmen aren’t in charge anymore.
Because, at the end of the day, what’s up with all this garbage? We should simply pick it up.