Right-wing trolls are trying to embarrass Starbucks by spreading fake coupons that purport to give black people free coffee — but really contain hidden racial slurs and white supremacist slogans.
The flyers began appearing appearing online in response to Starbucks’ announcement that they’d be closing all stores next week for racial bias training, after two black men were arrested inside a Philadelphia Starbucks where they were waiting for a friend.
“Starbucks values all people of color and we are working on employee sensitivity training” the fake flyers read, some with the accompanying hashtag #FreeBlackCoffee. “The best dialogue starts over a cup of coffee and we’d like to buy you one.”
Baristas are then told to use the discount code 1488, which combines the white nationalist 14 words phrase along with 88, which is an abbreviation for the phrase “Heil Hitler.” The QR code on the flyers also links to a website which translates the code as the n-word.
The fake flyers have spread across the more popular far-right sites online, including Gab and 4chan’s politically incorrect board, and have now made their way over to Twitter. According to ThinkProgress’ Extreme Right tracker there’s been a steady increase in the #starbucks hashtag among far-right accounts, including noted misogynist Roosh V and right-wing commentator Mark Dice.
Gab, naturally, has claimed that the flyers are just harmless memes and that, by extension, it’s your own fault if you’re stupid enough to fall for it. A similar tactic of racism wrapped in (supposedly) transgressive, troll-friendly humor has been seen with spread of posters and stickers declaring “It’s OK to be white” — a “meme” which also originated on 4chan’s politically incorrect board.
But while users on Gab and 4chan might enjoy photo-shopping Starbucks flyers to make them appear as subtly racist as possible, the reality is that their far-right movement is currently floundering. Their leaders have been de-platformed in the case of Richard Spencer, arrested in the case of Matthew Heimbach, or are in hiding in the case of Andrew Anglin.
Meanwhile on Gab and 4chan a fierce and, unsurprisingly, vicious argument has been raging over “optics,” and whether it is wiser for the far-right to engage in “real life activism” — i.e. the type of march seen in Charlottesville — or focus on pushing alt-right propaganda online.
The infighting got so bad that, earlier in April, noted pro-Trump troll Ricky Vaughn had his personal information published on Gab by “pro-white” political candidate Paul Nehlen in a debate over “optics.” The information, later confirmed by the Huffington Post, revealed that Vaughn was Douglass Mackey, a 28-year-old from Vermont who works in New York City. The infighting has continued since, with prominent posters on Gab threatening to de-platform and flag each other’s content.
The far-right still thrives at crude, racist trolling, like with the Starbucks coupons. But their political clout is becoming increasingly precarious.