The defining feature of modern politics is stupidity. This is an unassailable fact.
It’s not that people are stupider. It’s just that the primary means by which most people experience politics—social media—is stunningly effective at rapidly transmitting the most thoughtless, facile ideas, “controversies,” and punditry to billions of people.
So stupidity abounds. Sean Hannity’s fans smash Keurig machines, sanctimonious broadcasters who were supposedly aghast at half-truths give breathless coverage to Fire and Fury, and we have to seriously debate the semiotics of a cartoon frog that Nazis like.
The BDS movement provides an especially fertile ground for stupidity. I think it is obvious by now that the odds of a program that seeks to economically isolate Israel, an ascendant economic power with strong relationships with world superpowers, cannot succeed. So then the point becomes a game of embarrassment between BDS supporters and its opponents, where the battleground moves to culture wars. The Lorde debacle was one thing. This new skirmish, though, this time with Virgin Atlantic, may take the cake.
Until recently, Virgin Atlantic listed a Palestinian couscous salad on its in-flight menu. “A duo of couscous,” the description reads, “with tomato and cucumber, drizzled with a lemon, mint, and parsley dressing. A salad inspired by the flavours of Palestine.” Sounds delicious. Couscous is a staple of multiple Middle Eastern cuisines, Palestinian among them.
Virgin, however, has been forced to change the name of the salad to just couscous salad after an avalanche of complaints that took issue with the original name. A sampling of tweets regarding the menu item:
#virginatlantic this is the menu I received yesterday nothing like some BDS and delusionment with your salad, last time you get my money #TerroristSympathisers.”
“VIRGIN ATLANTIC. I thought this was an Israeli salad…obviously Branson showing his true colours…Israelis must boycott Virgin and Israel must ask for an explanation. When I complained the stewardess tried to take back the menu from me.”
Sayeth Virgin: “We’d like to reassure all customers that our sole intention was to bring new flavours on board, and never to cause offense through the naming or renaming of the dish.”
This is life now. Multinational corporations have to make decisions usually reserved for diplomats; Virgin Atlantic has to take a stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we get tweets like this:
Marriott International respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. We don’t support separatist groups that subvert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. We sincerely apologize for any actions that may have suggested otherwise.
— Marriott Rewards (@MarriottRewards) January 11, 2018
In the meantime, if you’ve had the couscous salad, please let me know if it’s any good.