19:49 GMT +317 October 2019
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    A Starbucks coffee cup with Stop Calling Cops! written on the side sits on a table as police monitor protestors demonstrating inside a Center City Starbucks, where two black men were arrested, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S., April 16, 2018.

    Viral Starbucks Hoax Distracts from Issue of ‘Criminality of Being Black' in US

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    On Thursday it was confirmed that a coupon offering everyone a free Starbucks drink as a way to stop Russian trolls from further dividing the nation was, indeed, fake.

    The false coupon says, "We here at Starbucks are very sorry to hear about people being tricked into believing a hoax perpetrated by Russian internet trolls that offered coupons entitling people of color to free coffee. Starbucks is a company that employs and serves people from all backgrounds and we feel that the best way to bridge a gap is to start a dialog."

    It concluded that the coupon would allow all customers a free beverage in addition to getting 50 percent off all food items.

    "We cannot let the racial division stoked by Russian internet trolls divide our country any longer."

    ​Speaking to Radio Sputnik's By Any Means Necessary, organizer Aurellia Williams suggested that the fake coupons prove that netizens will do just about anything to get attention and go viral.

    "What's so annoying about the internet… is people will do anything to get retweets or likes and people will do anything to go viral and it's really annoying… as well as harmful because it's so hard to tell what's real and what's not," she told show hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon. "Not even trying to get into the whole ‘fake news conversation,' but it's just false information flooding the internet for fun. I really don't understand it, especially people who are talking about a sensitive situation."

    "By spreading false information of this coupon that kind of alleviates some of the tension, but then creates more on top of it… it really doesn't make sense to me. It just compounds the situation, but it also gives more air time to the wrong discussion," she continued.

    "People don't need to be talking about this fake coupon, people need to be talking about how it's not 1957 and two black men should be able to stand in a Starbucks without the police being called on them."

    At the end of the day, Williams stressed that "it kind of just takes away from the severity of the situation because it becomes so memeable that people don't take it seriously."

    "Just because it has to do with Starbucks doesn't mean that we need to dismiss it… this is part of a broader conversation of the inherent criminality of being black and in public. That's what we need to focus on," she said.

    But we shouldn't just kick the culture of memes to the side, Williams urged, noting that they also have the power to make politics more accessible to people.

    "I think it depends on your kind of academic opinion, because for me, I think memes… people can talk about larger political issues in a way that everyone can access it," she suggested. "People are having deep political conversations and analysis through memes… I know it sounds funny, but since the dawn of time people have used art and other forms of media to express themselves" [on politics].

    "There's no difference between posters that came out in the 40s that were like political cartoons and memes today… I think the format just changed."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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