Agree with the message or not, the online disparagement of the Montauk Brewing Company long after it posted online support for the Black Lives Matter movement has been deeply disappointing. A Facebook group purportedly outraged that a beer producer would agree with what it initially called an anti-American terrorist organization popped up about two weeks ago and quickly grew to more than 28,000 “members.” Who these so-called members are and whether they are as senselessly racist as they appear to be are probably impossible questions to answer.
Also hard to parse is how many are South Fork residents, Montauk Brewing customers, or even Americans. It has crossed our minds to wonder if some among the 28,000 would-be foes of the beer company are Russian or other foreign “bots” trying to amplify civil divisions, as they did in the run-up to the 2016 election.
Unfortunately, the Facebook group frames the situation as us-versus-them, pitting police against antiracist activists, as do many on the far right. This false comparison makes about as much sense as saying that every cop is bad and every activist wants to burn everything to the ground. Neither is true. Imitating calls to defund the police, the Facebook group wants to “defund” Montauk Brewing by boycotting its products. Not surprisingly, this has spawned a backlash to the backlash, with supporters of Black Lives Matter vowing to buy its beers and ales early and often.
All this raises a question about civility and whether people with different views can talk about their respective ideas without falling headlong into a bitterness trap. Politics has always been a heated subject, but the vein-popping anger of the last decade or so feels new.
Perhaps what is new is social media’s pervasiveness, which has given people who used to be isolated on the reactionary fringes an easy way to feel a part of something with a few clicks on a keyboard. It is a pity that they have shown obvious pleasure in attacking a small business for taking advantage of one of the most fundamental rights of citizenship: the right to speak out.