A Timeline Of The Alt-Right’s Strange Starbucks Obsession

On Monday, it was revealed that alt-right trolls were planning another bigoted anti-Starbucks, anti-refugee, anti-immigration stunt. This time, they were working on luring undocumented immigrants to Starbucks on August 11th, with the promise of deep discounts. “All undocumented Americans will receive any item on the Starbucks menu 40 percent off,” the fake ad read. The plan was to identify those who were undocumented and then wait for ICE to swoop in and capture them (though it was unclear why anyone thought ICE officers would spend the day camping out at a coffee joint).

This ploy is disgusting and bizarre, but it also marks an ongoing theme: The alt-right’s seemingly all-consuming and deeply weird obsession with Starbucks.

On the surface, conservative Starbucks hate follows a certain line of logic. Starbucks, even as it’s worked itself deeply into the fabric of everyday America, has been relatively liberal for a giant multinational corporation. But as this timeline breaks down, there’s something else going on here. While Starbucks has always had bizarre conspiracy theories surrounding it, since the 2015 holiday season it’s become a sort of bizarre fixation in the alt-right mind:

November 1, 2015

Starbucks releases an innocuous red cup for the holiday, and many conservatives, for no explicable reason, completely lose their minds at the urging of a social media prosperity gospel pastor. Starbucks’ design choice turns into a bizarre political sideshow thanks to media manipulation and the now yearly hysteria over cashiers offering holiday greetings.

November 10, 2015

Donald Trump is angry about the red cups at Starbucks, yet remains oddly silent about the Starbucks on the property that bears his name. Meanwhile, the man behind the red cup controversy, Joshua Feuerstein, gets humiliated on national television.

April 4, 2016

Scott Baio is angry his barista won’t call him Trump.

April 6, 2016

Florida Governor Rick Scott gets cursed out by a woman in Starbucks. Scott, being a powerful figure who understands that vocal and harsh criticism is part of the job, releases an attack ad about the incident.

November 1, 2016

Starbucks introduces a new, green holiday cup, in an effort to calm everyone the hell down about their old holiday cups. The company brings back red cups with designs just a few days later. They were always planned, but this exercise taught the company that people will complain about literally anything.

November 18, 2016

Trump supporters begin angrily demanding their barista say “Trump” out loud, as a supposed response to people saying their names are Hillary, or perhaps Starbucks’ liberal policies, or maybe because one guy was supposedly denied service. The motives are unclear.

January 30, 2017

Alt-righters attempt to start a #BoycottStarbucks hashtag on Twitter, only to discover nobody particularly cares that they won’t be buying their coffee from an international conglomerate that rakes in billions every year.


February 3, 2017

Alt-righters change tactics and demand Starbucks hire veterans before they hire refugees. The problem, as they quickly discover, is that Starbucks has had a much-lauded veteran hiring policy for years. The alt-right’s outrage is quickly overwhelmed by angry Starbucks employees tweeting about the program.

June 6, 2017

A man goes on a racist rant outside a Chicago Starbucks, calling a Black man a “slave.”

June 25, 2017

Trump supporters hold a “sit-in” at a North Carolina Starbucks that allegedly made fun of a woman wearing a Trump T-shirt. Oddly, they bought coffee while protesting.

August 7th

The aforementioned alt-right plan to get undocumented people to Starbucks is outed by ThinkProgress, among others. In its coverage, ThinkProgress explains that this particular stunt is influenced by the often debunked myth that immigrants are “freeloaders on U.S. society.”

From Think Progress:

In actuality, the country’s 11 million undocumented population contributes an estimated $11.74 billion in state and local taxes, according to a March 2017 Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy report. A 2016 national survey of DREAMers, who have been able to receive temporary work authorization and deportation relief under an Obama-era program, found that more than 40 percent began work at their first job, which increases their taxable revenue.

It’s also worth noting that this show of bigotry isn’t likely to work. Undocumented immigrants, who have been on high alert since Trump was elected to the presidency, are not about to fall for something so incredibly blatant that it could hardly be considered a trap. Instead, this campaign is just another reminder of how much hatred flows out of the alt-right.

To be fair, Starbucks has certainly had its run-ins with the other end of political spectrum, but what makes their history with the alt-right so bizarre, is how involved this group on the fringes of the political spectrum is in the company’s machinations. If they aren’t patrons, then they’re certainly invested enough to care how Starbucks handles and reacts to political events.

Perhaps the real threat to these groups is Starbucks’ utter indifference to their rage. The goal seems to be to get Starbucks to kowtow to them (or at least validate their existence). Instead, the chain enjoys steadily growing profits — remindinge on the alt-right that they’re simply not as important as they want to be.