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(((≠))) @ThomasHCrown
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We laugh now, but that's because years of blood, fire, and national division are behind us. Gather 'round, millennials, as I tell you of our Second Civil War, fought for lower reasons than the first but no less real:

The Cola Wars.
It began with a triumph. For years, no one had doubted the Coca-Cola Hegemony's absolute dominance of the American soda market.
RC Cola was consigned to being a regional power at most. Pepsi had been battered by years of suboptimal strategy and the fact that it tastes like cough medicine.
But then, seeing the Senate locked and the House essentially under Coke's control, Pepsi did what the American left did decades before and found a way around the system.
It was called, insidiously, the Pepsi Challenge.

Oh, it seemed harmless enough. People with embarrassing haircuts would try "blind" taste tests of the two sodas and "be surprised" on camera by the "discovery" that Pepsi tasted better.
Engineered by one of Pepsi's up-and-coming young generals, John Sculley -- yes, the man who almost singlehandedly nearly destroyed Apple in the 1980s, more on that to follow -- it was actually a terrible form of brainwashing for Carter voters and sympathizers.
As with the first Civil War, background events combined to make these events inevitable. Rising sugar prices drove a chemical engineer at RC Cola to develop high-fructose corn syrup, thus making all soda taste worse and driving fat people to blame someone new for their fatness.
The Seventies made everyone hate everything.
Coca-Cola grew too soft, too complacent, and too other things.
But what made all of this truly possible was the election of James Earl Carter to the presidency, a man uniquely unqualified to do more than rearrange the weekly tennis doubles matches, a man who could never figure out why people dislike a busybody know-it-all.
A lot of people now treat the election of Donald Trump as a black swan event, a fit of madness brought on by his opponent and some other set of factors on which no one can agree, but there's a precedent.
Carter, who had been an ardent segregationist until the instant he decided he wanted to be President, was a genial idiot who benefited from the fact that he faced a man who tried to tame inflation with lapel buttons.
Though no one knew it at the time (in my defense, I was four months old), Carter, despite being from Georgia, was sympathetic to the Pepsi Cause.
Carter, taking time from personally arranging match times and pairings in the White House tennis matches, took the time to personally select Executive workers to "participate" in the Pepsi Challenge.
The death toll was in the thousands.
Most were post-hoc retroactively assigned to the GSA, where no one would expect to hear from them for centuries at least, thus perpetrating one of the largest coverups since the alien assassination of John F. Kennedy's clone in Dallas 1963.
Those smiling faces, captured just before their death-agonies on grainy 35 mm film, were subtle cues to Carter voters that Pepsi was A-OK.
So Americans, fresh off of swilling Robitussin or gargling Vicks VapoRub, and hearing family members say, "TRY PEPSI IT'S GOOD JIMMY CARTER LIKES PEPSI DON'T YOU WANNA BE A PEPSI TOO" and not even recognizing the insidious cross-jingle, tried it.
It was a form of madness, but it was only the opening salvo.
People would sit back and laugh at their TVs as people with embarrassing haircuts talked about the Cola Wars, thinking the whole thing was a marketing ploy.

It wasn't.
On remote battlefields, places where humans never lived and places like random streets in Philadelphia where no one in his right mind would live, the real war began.
Coca-Cola's army numbered in the hundreds of thousands of marketing executives, all in these really unpleasant bell-bottomed suits. They faced off against Pepsi's, swelled by the off-the-books marketing mercenaries in equally unattractive polyester.
I would know. I received a field promotion and left the 3rd Mello Yello for the 5th Mello Yello Company.
The war had become that desperate by 1980.
Most of those brave young men, some too young to grow facial hair in a way they wouldn't shake their heads at and try to forget a decade later, had never picked up a soda pump in their lives.
Pepsi made advance after advance, locking down some of the same aliens who had killed JFK's clone and getting them to endorse Pepsi products.

But perhaps the greatest blow to Coke's fortunes -- and what would finally save them -- came from the New Coke debacle.
Stung by the fact that the humans had gone so mad as to enjoy Pepsi products and actually like Diet Coke, Coca-Cola reinvented its formula to taste like cough syrup, figuring, Hey, give them what they want.
Coca-Cola's market share plummeted, so badly they had to do this.
Yet what nearly killed Coca-Cola forced Americans to wake up and realize THEY HAD BEEN VOLUNTARILY CONSUMING PEPSI. As if from a fever dream, Americans suddenly said, Wow, that's really dumb.
Ronald Reagan, having vanquished Jimmy Carter electorally and in a little-known steel cage death match -- the scars of which left Carter's brain even more damaged, despite Reagan's refusal of the coup-de-grace -- ended the Pepsi Challenge Program in the Executive.
As with the first Civil War, a terrible price had been paid, albeit to end a much lesser evil. There was never a full accounting of the dead, but poison still seeped into American society.
Corporate America, largely run by morons despite what strange people on both sides of the political spectrum think, assumed that Pepsi executives must be brilliant even without massive government help.
Pepsi marketing executives soon took over the top spot at Fortune 500 companies as if they had clue one what they were doing, and drove them into the ground.
Mothers, wives, sons and daughters, knowing only that their children had obtained a B.A. in Business with a specialization in marketing; or, worse, had B.A.s in Marketing, and had gone off to work for a soda company, never knew their loves ones' bones mouldered miles away.
The shock waves rippled through the caffeinated citrus drink market, then the lemon-lime soda market, and finally the orange soda market, for decades.
Coke's victory had been final, but the cost stays with us today.

That is why @LeonHWolf and so many others can incredulously ask how anyone could prefer Pepsi: Because they know how many died so that we could comfortably enjoy Coke, and sometimes Mexican Coke, today.
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