Here’s a curious artifact from the 1842 Temperance Almanac, and a great example of why the prohibitionists were as nutty then was they are today. They saw, and see, evil and vice everywhere, with any single one not unto itself, but instead having to lead to more ruin and debauchery. While today we know that smoking isn’t the best choice you can make, in the mid-1800s it was considered a fairly benign pursuit, and in fact remained so well into my lifetime. I recall staying up with my psychotic stepfather, a chain-smoker, to watch the last television commercial air before midnight on New Year’s Day when they became forbidden on January 2, 1971. I’ve never been a cigarette smoker, though I used to enjoy the occasional cigar from time to time. The one thing I dislike more than smoking is obnoxious non-smokers, especially ex-smokers. But even the most ardent anti-tobacco advocate would have to admit that puffing on a pipe will not with absolute certainty lead to drinking alcohol. There’s no causation. That some people do both is, at best, a coincidence brought upon by the obvious fact that many people smoke (especially in 1842) and many people drink. But there are surely enough examples in everyone’s own experience to render such a blanket statement untenable. But for prohibitionists, it gets even weirder.
So, as Sigmund Freud would later say, “sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.” Just don’t expect a prohibitionist to believe it. Instead, if you smoke a pipe, you won’t be able to help yourself, it will cause you to drink and get drunk. According to 1842 prohibitionist logic, “smoking induces intoxication” — meaning it will actually “bring about, produce, or cause” you to drink. But that’s not where it ends, get drunk and that in turn “induces bile,” which is “a bitter, alkaline, yellow or greenish liquid, secreted by the liver, that aids in absorption and digestion, especially of fats.” That, in turn, “induces jaundice” — “yellow discoloration of the skin, whites of the eyes, etc., due to an increase of bile pigments in the blood, often symptomatic of certain diseases, as hepatitis” followed inevitably and inexplicably by “dropsy,” which is “an infectious disease of fishes, characterized by a swollen, spongelike body and protruding scales, caused by a variety of the bacterium Pseudomonas punctata.” Yeah, that seems likely. But wait, it gets even worse. That fish disease you can’t help but contract “terminates in death.” So definitely enjoy that tobacco. Or as they conclude. “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” I’m willing to bet you can find modern prohibitionists who still believe it’s true, or that at least once you take a drink your life is over and can only fall into abject ruin.
You may recall that earlier this year was also the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. So I was goofing around this morning and modified Lincoln’s famous speech as a toast to the end of prohibition, which I titled “Four Score and Seven Beers Ago.” A score, to save you from checking Dictionary.com is 20 years, which is how long ago the 21st Amendment was ratified. Enjoy.
Four score and seven beers ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, the end of prohibition, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are entitled to a beer.
Now we are engaged in a great social war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met in a great brewery of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of this kettle, as a final resting place for the malt who here gave its life that that beer might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should toast this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this beer. The brave malt, hops and yeast, who fermented here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add more hops or filter it. The world will little note, nor long remember what beer we drank here, but it can never forget what they brewed here. It is for us the drinkers, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished beer which they who brewed here have thus far made with noble hops. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task of drinking more beer — that from these honored beers we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of hops — that we here highly resolve that these bottles shall not have been emptied in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom to drink beer — and that this beer of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Don’t read too much into it, again I was just goofing around with the words. I suppose it could be used as a toast if you were at a brewery, but otherwise, it’s just a little spoof, nothing more.
So join me in bridging time and drinking a toast to prohibition’s end, 80 years later, and, of course, stay wet, my friends. Happy Repeal Day.
Today’s infographic, since today is the day in 1933 when the 21st Amendment passed, repealing Prohibition, is one I’ve posted before, entitled Prohibition Did What?! It goes in to many of the effects that Prohibition had on the country, none of them particularly positive.
Wednesday’s ad is another for Rheingold Beer, this one from 1955, and features Miss Rheingold from that year, Nancy Woodruff. In this ad, she’s out caroling and brought a buddy along to hold the lamp so she could read the music in the cold winter night. He looks like he’s paying attention to the music, but she appears to be looking at us, while ignoring the book of Christmas carols she’s holding. Maybe she has them all memorized?
Here’s another great example of the circle jerk nature of prohibitionist groups. This is, I’m finding, the standard operating procedure for most, if not all, of them. They decide what they’re opposed to, in this case alcohol, and then they commission — that is pay for — research that they claim proves their point. Tobacco companies are the classic example, insofar as they funded lots of studies showing how safe smoking was despite independent research revealing just the opposite. How the “study” is framed is one of the many troubling aspects of how they do this. Assumptions are made that all alcohol is bad and that people who consume it will abuse it and be a burden on society, causing innumerable harms to themselves and others. That’s a persistent theme that permeates much of the so-called scientific literature, there’s hardly a whiff of impartiality if you look deeply enough into it.
A pointed example I recall, outside the alcohol world, is the Meese Commission Report which was directed by then-President Ronald Reagan to find a link between pornography and criminal or anti-social behavior. The important difference between this, and the earlier commission by Johnson/Nixon which resulted in the 1970 Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, is that from an impartial starting point that report found no such link. In fact, the 1970 commission “recommended against any restrictions for adults” and overall “the report found that obscenity and pornography were not important social problems, that there was no evidence that exposure to such material was harmful to individuals, and that current legal and policy initiatives were more likely to create problems than solve them.” Regardless of your feelings about pornography, what’s significant is that Reagan’s mandate to Meese was not to see if there was causation between pornography and violence, but was instead he was tasked with finding one. That was the goal of the report, to find a link to please Reagan’s base on the religious right who weren’t happy with the results of the 1970 report. And that’s how I feel about GAPA and the countless quasi-scientific prohibitionist organizations and their “studies.” They are, by design, looking for trouble, and so naturally they find it everywhere they look.
So once they’ve manufactured and/or exaggerated the problem, the next step is to get the research published in quasi-scientific journals, in some cases one owned or funded by the same organizations. Then they send out press releases claiming their position has been scientifically proven. They usually neglect to mention that they themselves created the “science” they’re touting because it’s more effective if it appears to be objective. Unfortunately, it rarely is, but such is the state of journalism today that press releases are more often reprinted verbatim without any fact-checking or even questioning the content. It’s apparently enough if it simply has a credible-sounding “scientific” journal name attached to it. Once you’ve got enough of these “studies” you can then hold a conference of like-minded individuals where you can present your findings.
So in October of this year, the “Global Alcohol Policy Conference” was held in South Korea. It was hosted by a group I wasn’t familiar with; the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA), but which appears to be more of a loose organization of national prohibitionist groups that was formed in 2000 to share information and hold annual conferences. Although I don’t know many of the international groups, the people from the U.S. make it clear who’s invited to the party. GAPA board members include George Hacker, who runs the notorious prohibitionist Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI); Thomas F. Babor, the author of Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity: Research and Public Policy (an anti-alcohol handbook) and David Jernigan, who’s the Director of the also notoriously anti-alcohol Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Jerigan was also the author of this travesty: Bud Blamed In Absurd E.R. Visit Study.
Here’s where the circle gets tighter and more insular. There are sixteen board members for GAPA. At the recent Global Alcohol Policy Conference, there were eight speakers on the program. Of those eight, six are also board members of GAPA. Similarly, GAPA is divided into regions. The North American region includes four member organizations: CSPI (Centre for Science in the Public Interest), The Marin Institute (now known as Alcohol Justice), The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth and the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, created by the collaboration of the AMA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. If you’re a regular reader here you’ll no doubt recognize those groups as being prohibitionist to their core.
Looking over the program for the conference, the topics all revolve around the negative aspects of alcohol, the harms, the addicts, the too-low taxation and regulation. Reading over the titles, it’s hard not to leave with the impression that it’s about how to bring down alcohol completely. I couldn’t find one positive word about drinking, which seems incongruous to my life experience and literally just about every person I know. Surely, they could find some balance to their efforts, but instead it feels punitive, divisive and almost mean-spirited. Some of the speeches given during the conference are available for download, while others — most, really — give you an error message when trying to download: “Applicants sponsored by alcohol manufacturers are not allowed.” How did they know? What don’t they want people in the alcohol industry to know about regarding what they’re saying or doing?
Another glimpse into prohibitionists worldwide comes from GAPA’s internal magazine, The Globe. In the latest issue, Issue 3 2013 they tackle such horrible behavior by alcohol companies as donating water to disaster relief with the overall theme of “Beware of the Alcohol Industry Bearing Gifts.”
I recall the Marin Institute similarly whining when Anheuser-Busch canned water and sent it to Haiti after the devastating earthquake there, a story I detailed in Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished.
So how was the conference portrayed in the news online? Upstreaming Alcohol Policy reported that an “important theme running through the conference was the role of the global alcohol industry in maintaining and intensifying alcohol-related harm through its tactics and practices.” In other words, we’re all evil and wish your family harm, a persistent theme in all prohibitionist propaganda. Corporations & Health Watch agreed and went even further, reporting that “Dr. Thomas Babor of the University of Connecticut, for example, stressed reasons to doubt the sincerity of the global alcohol industry in its insistence to be part of the solution to alcohol problems.” Yes, we want everybody binge-drinking all the time, every day. There’s nothing better for the alcohol industry than drunk people killing themselves and others, especially when we all have families and want them in harm’s way, too. I’m so sick of this one, where alcohol is criticized for advertising or wanting to sell more products because that, they claim, is “clearly to increase overall consumption — a strategy which is inimical to public health and public safety.” Every alcohol corporation, at least under U.S. law, is like every corporation, beholden to shareholders and must do what they can to increase the share price, in other words increase the business. It’s the law. There’s plenty of corporate behavior I’m not wild about, but at least I understand it. If you want corporations to act differently, change their charters; change the law governing them. But stop making it sound like they’d kill their mothers for a dime. Stop painting them, and all of us in the alcohol industry, as evil. We’re just not.
Their conclusion was that “reducing the global burden of alcohol-related harm will require advocates to effectively counter that industry influence – through reliance on the best science, savvy media advocacy, and robust grassroots organization.” The black humor and irony in that is that the science they’re referring to is anything but the “best” — or evidence-based, as they often phrase it. “Savvy media advocacy” means propaganda which I find usually contains falsehoods and exaggerations, at best. And “robust grassroots organization” means, more often than not, groups funded by large, wealthy prohibitionist groups like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or others.
The overall impression I have from watching these groups for over twenty years is that they’re so shamelessly dishonest in their actions and their rhetoric that I can’t really understand how they can claim the high moral ground that’s so inherent in their position. They set up the argument as a David vs. Goliath situation which is laughably wrong. Does “big alcohol” have a lot of money. Sure, but so does the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and most of the others. They’ve been spending their money influencing politicians, spreading their message and trying to persuade others to their way of thinking. Does that sound like the same thing that they accuse alcohol manufacturers of doing? It should, because they’re doing exactly the same thing, and have been since at least 1933, when Prohibition ended. The only real difference is they claim to be doing it for righteous reasons and believe those of us who enjoy drinking a beer or even making or selling it, are the spawn of satan. The problem with that is that we’re not. We’re ordinary people, often with many of the same set of beliefs as the prohibitionists. Contrary to the propaganda, we beerists love our friends and families, have our own faith, are civic-minded and contribute to our community and society at large. We’re regular people who also enjoy drinking beer. Period. It’s only through the lens of prohibitionists that we appear any different. And until that cycle is broken and prohibitionists stop creating self-fulfilling propaganda, we’ll never solve any of the real problems that some individuals have with alcohol.
Today’s infographic is an overview of drinking laws in the United States created by Medical Insurance.org, although the website no longer seems to work. To be fair, it appears to be from around 2007, and shows an interesting quartet of U.S. maps illustrating different aspects of alcohol laws followed by a list of control state info and sale hours by state.
Tuesday’s ad is for Rheingold Beer, from 1944, and features Miss Rheingold from that year, Jane House. It looks like she’s wearing a tree skirt for a dress and best I can figure she’d essentially holding up a sign (or perhaps a calendar?) saying “Seasons Greetings,” which is also the tagline for the ad. Seasons Greetings? Isn’t this ad over fifty years before the wingnuts started claiming there was a war on Christmas if you didn’t say Merry Christmas? Where was Bill O’Reilly when this was going down? Seasons Greetings everybody.