My Salon column this week is about 2016: Obama’s America and the point of seeing political documentaries in theaters when they’re easy to get online:
It’s the same logic behind Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. When a group of people feel their values are under attack, they want to find some way to all come out in public and visibly demonstrate their support. And so you go out and buy a chicken sandwich, or pay to see an anti-Obama movie, and it leaves a mark with a kind of legitimacy that YouTube views or blog comments just don’t have. More specifically, they become news events, and succeed in generating media coverage, which is what is supposedly missing in the first place. Boost the box office numbers enough, or create long enough lines outside a fast-food place, and the press will be enticed to write a story about the power of your political values, thus demonstrating to the other side that you will not be cowed. In an age when we’re told to buy certain kinds of coffee as a way of demonstrating our ideological commitments, it’s not surprising that these sorts of consumer actions are being seen, and used, as political speech.