The nasty attacks on “Woke-a-Cola”

Coca-Cola is as much a part of my Southern upbringing as SEC football, Elvis, pecan pie, collard greens and grits.

The brand was so potent when I was growing up that it was synonymous with soda pop itself. We talked about going to get a Coke even when what we actually pulled out of the cooler was a Barq’s root beer or a Nehi orange.

Coke was “it,” “the pause that refreshes,” “the real thing.”

But if you’ve watched any sponsored TV lately, especially around evening news time, you know that Coca-Cola is a horrible company, its signature product a toxic waste.

Or so says Consumers’ Research, an outfit that you should not confuse with Consumer Reports, although they probably don’t mind if you do. It’s a right-wing advocacy group that’s been buying TV spots all over the country, including in Georgia, Coca-Cola’s home state, to run some of the nastiest attack ads I’ve ever seen. Targets also include Nike and American Airlines.

The anti-Coke spot running almost daily on Georgia TV stations accuses the company of attempting to distract people from its “dismal” business failures, kissing up to repressive regimes and selling to teenagers “despite the obesity crisis.”

The words “Stop poisoning our children” appear on screen at the end.

The funny thing about the appearance of this spot is that Coca-Cola has been around since 1886. While pretty much everybody knows now that consuming sugary beverages — not just Coke but Pepsi, Yoo-hoo, 7 Up, even our beloved homemade sweet tea — can lead to cavities and diabetes, Coke only recently started to outrage the watchdogs at Consumers’ Research.

That’s because what actually annoys them isn’t obesity or the health and well-being of foreign workers but, rather, that Coke is, in their view, too socially conscious. Coke is woke.

They’re gunning for Coca-Cola because the company’s CEO, James Quincey, supposedly lied about Georgia’s new voting laws. Quincey denounced the new measures as restrictive and regressive. Never mind that his assessment is shared by both of Georgia’s new U.S. Senators, most election experts and millions of Georgia voters. To Consumers’ Research and Trumpist megaphones like Fox News and Breitbart, it’s a “falsehood” that must be challenged just like that lie that Joe Biden won the Presidency fair and square.

Consumers’ Research is thus spending a bundle to smear one of the most philanthropically generous companies in the world, an iconic Georgia business that donates money to everything from the American Red Cross to the Peabody Awards to youth baseball teams.

It’s a vicious, brazenly deceitful campaign that demonstrates just how shameless the Trumpist Right remains. Nothing is sacred to these guys but their god Don.

If Gerber or Marie Callender were to speak out against state laws that in effect will make it harder for poor Americans and minorities to vote, we’d probably be seeing spots attacking motherhood and apple pie.

I’m not naïve. Coca-Cola is a huge international corporation and no more without sin than Royal Dutch Shell or Volkswagen. I know its signature product isn’t particularly good for my teeth or my blood sugar. Still, I drink a bottle or can once in a while, partly because we have a history, partly because I still like the taste. And I plan to drink Cokes more often until Consumers’ Research stops running those spots and lying about disingenuous laws designed to address nonexistent voter fraud.

I’d also like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. That used to mean I was idealistic, kindhearted, even Christian. Now I guess it just means I’ve drunk the Woke-a-Cola.

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Noel Holston

Noel Holston

Writer, reader, photographer, horticulturist, international music icon. Lives in the South. Email Noel at nholstonga@gmail.com