In a particularly ugly display of shameless greed and naked propaganda, the Marin Institute is using summer scare tactics to fuel their fund-raising efforts. Essentially their reasoning goes as follows. The summer advertising for sweet, malt-based beverages that come in colorful packages — like Four Loko, Jooce, Sparks, Blast, etc. — is “targeting” your children and must be stopped. Because underage kids like things that are sweet and colorful, therefore it’s “shameless youth exploitation.” Send us your money today.
But their basic premise, that alcohol companies are “targeting” underage kids, is as absurd as it is insulting. No alcohol company wants to break the law, it’s simply not good for business. They make the beer. They advertise the beer. Someone else, in the majority of cases, sells the beer to the consumer. As long as manufacturers are not responsible for selling their wares, they can’t really be held accountable for who manages to get a hold of them. Is it a problem? In some instances … maybe, but making your product attractive or using color is not a crime.
The fact is, the drinks that have the Marin Institute up in arms probably do appeal more to younger people, young “adults” from 21-29, ballpark. But they’re allowed to drink them. The fact that someone who’s 20 also finds an ad for one of them attractive and likes bright colors, and maybe even wants to break the law and drink one, does not mean that the alcohol company intended that to happen. It’s a by-product of human nature. People want what they can’t have, kids especially so. I have to wonder how these people who incessantly complain managed to reach adulthood with such blatant ignorance of how it felt to be a kid? Did they simply forget their own childhood, or did they have it surgically removed? How did people who claim to be so committed to protecting children lose the ability to empathize with them and understand what it means to be a teenager? Isn’t a good parent considered one who can connect with their kids and relate to what they’re going through, the pressures and challenges? Yet these anti-alcohol arguments seem blissfully ignorant of how teenagers are struggling with becoming adults and are constantly trying adult behaviors that in many cases they’re not ready for yet. That’s one of the defining features of being a teenager, yet somehow it’s always the alcohol company’s fault. Instead of all this brouhaha, wouldn’t it just be easier to talk to your kids, instead of wasting all your energy creating a bogey monster?
R-rated movies advertise on TV, billboards, buses, etc. Kids see hundreds of movie ads a year for movies they aren’t allowed to go to a theater and watch. Are the film companies “targeting” kids just because some youth might like an ad for one of the movies, too? I don’t want my kids drinking soda pop, which I consider very unhealthy for them, but I’m not about to picket for the removal of soft drink ads from places where my kids might see them. I just talk to my kids, tell them why I don’t like soda and why I think they shouldn’t drink it.
Marin Institute top gun Bruce Lee Livingston’s only support in the two e-mail and Twitter missives he’s sent out over the last two days is this. “My preteen kids even know these brands.” Well, how scientific. My preteens, ages 9 and 6, have no idea about any of those brands. I asked each of them if they’d ever heard the names of the brands, listed them one by one. They’ve never heard of any of them. Not one. They had no idea what I was talking about, and I’m in the beer business. They see beer in the house constantly. To them it’s no big deal. They know it’s not for them, just Daddy’s work. Are my kids special? Well, of course I like to think so, but no; they’re just average kids. I’ve taken no extraordinary steps to shield them from the world. And yet for them the “danger” of these drinks is what I think it must be for most kids … a tempest in a teapot.
And that, I think, is the insulting part. I’m a father. Many brewers I know are parents. So are the distributors, the salespeople, the marketers, the retailers, the check-out clerks at the grocery store. We’re all parents, too. We love our kids no less than than anti-alcohol fanatics. Yet I feel like I should start growing horns any minute the way they paint the alcohol industry. They make it sound like we hate kids, just want to get them drunk so we can make a buck. It’s downright insulting. It pisses me off but good.
In the end, it’s just another way to scare people into donating money. Fear is a great motivator. Facts just get in the way. Here’s one of the tweets from the Marin Institute, tweeted yesterday:
Did you know that your kids were being targeted by Big Alcohol this summer? Help us to stop them now! http://t.co/1Jt5mKI
The link, naturally, takes you not to any facts backing up that outrageous claim, but to a page where you can donate money to them. The donation page has the following headline. “You can protect our kids and communities from Big Alcohol’s harmful practices.” How, one has to wonder, they’re planning on battling this imagined scourge is never detailed, but that’s not important. What’s important is “your support and helping in the struggle to keep Big Alcohol responsible for our children’s health and safety.” When exactly alcohol companies became responsible for my kids’ “health and safety,” or why they should be, is yet another of life’s great mysteries. Better you should send money to the Marin Institute than bother taking responsibility for your kids and your own parenting.
The clear inference in their message is that alcohol companies don’t care about your kids. They only want your money. What I find deeply obnoxious, and not a little disingenuous, about that is that it is exactly what the Marin Institute’s summer scare campaign is all about: money. This campaign is exclusively about fleecing the faithful and lining their coffers. And what better way to raise money than to invoke that most dangerous of beasts, the bogeyman of beer! Be afraid, be very afraid.