Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Banality of Coffee

Juan Valdez
According to a Times story Migros, a Swiss retailer put pictures of Hitler on its “mini-cream containers.” (“For Swiss, Distasteful Jolt With Coffee: Hitler Creamer,” NYT, 10/22/14). The Times quotes Tristan Cerf of Migros as saying, “Usually the labels have pleasant images like trains, landscapes and dogs—nothing polemic that can pose a problem…You cannot put Pol Pot or a terrorist on a milk container. It’s unacceptable.” According to The Times article, this isn’t the first time this kind of mishap has occurred. The writer of the Times piece, Dan Bilefsky, comments, “In the spring, a German furniture chain apologized for selling ceramic mugs with Hitler’s face on them.” Can we say that rather than this being a wake up call about the banality of evil, that it’s a case of the banality of evil providing a wake up call? Or shall we assume that this is just a matter of one manufacturer dealing with the problem of the banality of coffee which has never been a match for NoDoz. Usually people drink coffee for the caffeine so seeing Hitler on a creamer or a mug is naturally going to add to the jolt. Apologies are really not necessary. The idea of putting Hitler’s face on common household goods is likely to keep a lot of people on their feet. It wouldn’t be surprising if stock in Red Bull took a tumble when Migros started to add the faces of Hitler and Mussolini to its creamer. And if its line of Hitler and Mussolini creamers proves successful, it won’t be long before we see other giants of annihilation like Osama bin Laden and even Abu bakr al-Baghdadi on the labels (in place of more beneficent faces like that of Elsie the Cow or that  famous representative of the Columbian coffee bean Juan Valdez). Of course, any creamer maker worth its salt is going to claim, as Migros has done, that it’s all a big mistake.  But that, as they say, goes with the territory. 

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