For the 2017 Super Bowl, Budweiser ran a commercial celebrating the history of the United States as an immigrant nation — and quickly cued a shitstorm of anti-immigrant rhetoric.
The result? An impassioned call for a boycott over, in one disgruntled Twitter user's words, "Lefty political BS."
But "Born the Hard Way" isn't about politics. It's about Adolphus Busch, the co-founder of Anheuser-Busch who emigrated from Germany in the 19th century. The ad depicts Busch's journey to America, one marked by hardship and overt hostility. "You're not wanted here," one man yells at Busch in the ad. "Go back home!"
Ultimately, the ad is an American Dream narrative. But when it debuted Tuesday, days after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and suspending immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries and another enabling the construction of a border wall with Mexico, the parallels felt particularly apt.
The ad's preview could have been a teachable moment, but the far right wasn't ready for the message.
Some dragged Budweiser for its support of "illegal immigrants":
Others defended Busch, saying he immigrated legally while today's problem is undocumented individuals:
Some made the ad about Trump:
And some made the commercial about terrorism:
Still others betrayed what's frequently the real motivator behind anti-immigrant sentiment: Islamophobia.
Budweiser representatives told Adweek that the spot was not intended as a political statement against Trump's policies, with the planning stage alone taking eight months. The brand said it wanted the ad to speak to the country's history — which is unfortunately one of xenophobia.
While "Born the Hard Way" does alter the facts of Busch's biography, as NPR reported, the anti-immigrant sentiment — in this case anti-German — is historically authentic. German ancestry now comprises the ethnic majority in the United States, but as historian Maureen Ogle told NPR, when Germans first began coming over, their cultural customs were regarded as an affront to the country's "moral character." Sound familiar?