Prohibitionists Pissed Over Deadpool Alcopops

deadpool
I don’t really like malternatives, alcopops, malt-based beverages, or whatever you want to call them. I find them too sweet, the latest overly sweet concoction to take the wine cooler segment of the market. But the one thing I hate more than alcopops in prohibitionists telling me only kids like comic book characters and that if anything appeals to kids in any way, shape or form, then it must be stopped, even if adults happen to like that thing, too. Honestly, it’s a fucked up way to view the world.

It would be pretty hard to miss the news that the latest Marvel Comics film adaptation opens today, and it’s the antihero Deadpool. I just learned, from the sheriff of not-having-fun, Alcohol Justice, that Marvel’s done a collaboration with Mike’s Hard Lemonade and created several flavors with Deadpool on the cans and packaging. Deadpool, the character, has been around since 1991, and while he started out as a villain, he’s become more of a wise-cracking antihero, and as such appeals to young adults and, undoubtedly, precocious teens.

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As a result, the cross-promotion has Alcohol Justice (AJ) screaming bloody murder, accusing everyone involved of actively “threatening” kids. Why? Because “comic books,” of course. If there are comic books, then anything to do with them is about the kids. As the sheriff of AJ claims, “Kids are inherently targeted, PR damage to the brands is substantial, and shareholders should scream for heads to roll.”

For that reason, he’s placing both companies in the “Alcohol Justice Doghouse.” Oh, the humanity! How will they survive their banishment? Here’s a taste of just how out of touch AJ is about this.

A superhero’s mission is to champion good over evil and stand-up for those who can’t defend themselves. Superheroes appeal to many young boys and girls who dream of being one. It’s often reflected in how kids act and dress. But those dreams come crashing down fast when Big Alcohol capitalizes on the popular cartoon imagery of the latest superhero to sell booze.

Obviously, AJ has never before encountered Deadpool. He’s about as much a role model superhero as I am, which is to say not at all. Those values AJ espouses have nothing to do with this film, the character or, frankly, reality. Superman he’s not. He’s not even Spiderman. But what it really comes down to is their unshakeable belief that comic books are only for children. To which I can only say, grow up. Maybe that was true in the beginning or possibly after the Comic Code was instituted insuring family-friendly fare. But it hasn’t been the case since independent comic stores starting popping up in the late 1970s and 80s, creating a market for non-code comics, allowing for a much richer range of stories aimed at all ages. And that’s meant that for several decades there has been sequential art aimed squarely at older kids and even adults. They used to be called “underground comics,” but these are in the mainstream now, and have been for a long time.

I read comics as a kid, of course, but then stopped when I reached my teen years, because in the 1970s there wasn’t much that appealed to me. Most of the comic books were pretty sanitized, with only a few notable exceptions daring to include real current issues and societal problems in their books. But all that changed again in the 1980s when a flurry of creativity created an amazingly mature and complex body of work that was aimed squarely at an older, more mature audience. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore’s The Watchmen and V for Vendetta, or Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, are good examples, to name just a few.

The point that seems lost on AJ is that there are comics that are for children, but there also comics for adults, and everyone in between. Just because something is drawn or animated, doesn’t automatically make it “inherently targeted” at kids. Try Art Spiegelman’s Maus, John Lewis’ March or Joe Sacco’s Palestine and see if you still think comics are only for children.

But here’s where they go off the rails again, where they just make shit up, and create their own reality.

“Though the alcohol industry claims ‘Millennials’ are their target alcopop audience, their promotions and campaigns effectively target youth who are years younger than the minimum legal drinking age,” said [Bruce Lee] Livingston. “As a result of the low prices, wide availability, and marketing tactics like this one by 21st Century Fox & Mike’s Harder Lemonade, alcopops are very popular among underage youth and responsible for a disproportionate share of underage alcohol-related harm.”

So the industry just “claims” they’re marketing to legal adults. Of course, if that weren’t the case they’d be breaking the law, not to mention they’d have an incredibly stupid business model. Don’t you think that if Alcohol Justice could prove actual targeting of underage people, that they’d have tried to put them out of business years ago? This is just propaganda and hyperbole, and not exactly the high moral kind that they so often pretend to be following, usually from atop their very tall horses.

But even if, for the sake of argument, Mike’s was breaking the law, hoping underage teenagers were loitering around their neighborhood convenience store, trying to entice the homeless man living in the alley to buy them some booze, that would not change the fact that kids under 18, and adults under 21, are not allowed to buy alcohol. This is in reality two problems. The first is that AJ believes alcohol companies are actively trying to illegally sell to minors. Given how illegal that is, if they could prove it, they would have by now. The second problem is that even though it’s illegal for minors to buy alcohol, they sometimes still manage to get their hands on it, and they blame the alcohol companies for creating the desire for them. But so what? Seriously, so what?

Before I was sixteen, I definitely wanted to drive a car. I even drove my stepfather’s Corvette around the block when I was 14 or 15. But I still knew I had to wait until I was sixteen before I could get a driver’s license and legally drive. But boy those car ads sure made driving look sexy, and made me want the hot new cars even before I could drive. Maybe we should ban all automobile advertising because it might appeal to kids who don’t have a driver’s license. But, no, we let car companies keep targeting our youth, causing teens to steal cars, go for joyrides and break the law. Obviously, the car advertising is causing the harm, because it appeals to children. Oh, sure, the car manufacturers “claim” that licensed drivers “are their target audience,” but we know better. Just watch how much fun it looks to drive their cars.

So I’m taking my son Porter to see Deadpool tonight, over his Mom’s objection. Not because of the alcopops, of course, but her concerns are because it looks really violent. But Porter loves what he’s seen of the dark humor that’s been shown in the various trailers, and I think he’s old enough. Of course, the film is Rated R, which given that he’s fourteen “requires [an] accompanying parent.” And that’s another reason it’s easy to see that the Deadpool Mike’s are marketing to young adults, 21 and over, since the rating further limits it being seen by minors looking to get buzzed on alcopops. But I’m old and still read comic books. AJ would do well to remember that there are a lot of us, and we drink, too.

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Pizza Hut To Offer Beer Selection

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Last month, The Street reported that the Pizza Hut chain has remodeled several of their 6,000+ restaurants, and “plans to remodel roughly 700 of its U.S. stores a year through 2022 in the new format.” The newly refurbished Pizza Huts will continue to have the company’s ” trademark red and black colors, albeit with deeper hues” and will also “feature wraparound windows, outdoor seating and yes, a drive-thru.”

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All well and good, so far, but so what, you may be asking. Pizza Hut has also added beer and wine service at the remodeled locations, and plans to add alcohol to each refurbished restaurant. Frankly, I didn’t realize they didn’t serve beer already. Pizza and beer are pretty much a perfect pairing, as iconic as peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese and tomato soup. The more I think about it, almost every pizza place I can name also serves beer, both chains and the small mom and pop pizza joints. How many brewpubs serve pizza? Lots of them, with many even specializing in it.

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Why I bring this up is because the wackos at Alcohol Justice tweeted their displeasure at this idea, with this. “Now Pizza Hut wants to sell booze too bit.ly/1PkIwe1 What’s next…wine tastings at Toys-R-Us?” That’s what’s known as a false equivalence, one does not follow from the other. It is, in effect, a bullshit argument. One is a restaurant, and a type of restaurant that typically does carry beer and wine. The other is a toy store. There’s no link whatsoever, nothing that would make this in any way logical. It’s AJ making a mountain out a molehill, as they so often try to do. It’s just absurd.

They idea that a pizza restaurant serving beer and wine is cause for alarm is absolutely laughable. It’s harder to think of one that doesn’t already serve beer then come up with all of those who do. Several times I’ve gone with Porter’s basketball team and his little league baseball team to a Mountain Mike’s or Straw Hat Pizza after a game with the whole team and their parents. Many pizzas are ordered for everyone, with pitchers of beer for the parents. That’s the very definition of family-friendly, with something for everyone. Not once has there been a problem. But in AJ’s worldview, beer at a pizza joint with beer is the same as booze being served at a toy store. But now I’m feeling hungry. I’ve got plenty of beer. I wonder if it’s too late to order from Pizza Hut? They just opened one in our town, and I definitely want to support their decision to upset Alcohol Justice.

Alcohol Advertising And Reality

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Recently the prohibitionist group MADD published a blog post entitled Alcohol Advertisements And Our Kids that’s rife with propaganda, inaccuracies and unfounded statements. Surprised? No, not really. It’s about as self-serving as you’d expect.

It begins by touting proposed “new alcohol advertising guidelines, based on findings by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.” Of course one of the “study’s” authors, David Jernigan, is the Director of the 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. So this is a perfect example of the tactics of modern prohibitionist propaganda. One group does a dodgy “study” and another — in this case MADD — takes it and passes it along as unbiased scientific proof of their agenda. This tactic is leading to a crisis of confidence in journals, which I wrote about previously in The Credibility Crisis Of Science Journals.

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This so-called report, which is actually called The Potential Impact of a “No-Buy” List on Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising on Cable Television. MADD and the propagandist’s claim that they “could dramatically reduce the number of alcohol ads viewed by children – if advertisers follow them,” which is another way of stamping their feet and saying do it our way. This “study” found that “[y]outh were exposed to 15.1 billion noncompliant advertising impressions from 2005 to 2012, mostly on cable television.” But so what? What does that even mean? Fifteen billion is a big number, so it sounds scary. But that’s a total number over eight years, or 2,922 days. Which is about 5.2 million ads each day. Still sounds like a lot. But there are almost 1,800 commercial television stations in the U.S. alone, as of 2014. That’s roughly 2,871 ads per station per day.

But how does that number compare to reality? Over a twenty-four hour period, using an average of 15 minutes of advertising per hour (it varies, though cable tends to be higher than broadcast television) that would be 360 minutes of ads (or 6 hours). Assuming an average of 30 seconds per ad, that would be 720 ads per day, per station. So for all 1800 stations that would be 1.3 million ads per day. TOTAL! Yet this “study” is claiming almost 2,900 “noncompliant advertising impressions” — meaning alcohol ads they don’t like — per station per day and 5.2 million each day. There’s some pretty fuzzy math.

Even if my averages, which seem reasonable from the data I found — from generally reputable online sources — were off by a lot (and I rounded up in the so-called study’s favor in every instance) their numbers seem impossible. And don’t forget my numbers, which are orders of magnitude less than their numbers are for ALL advertising while for the study’s numbers — which they’re claiming are not even all alcohol ads — but all alcohol ads that they consider don’t comply with current advertising guidelines for alcohol. And that those “noncompliant” beer and alcohol ads consist of roughly four times the total of all television advertising. Hmm. So that seems reasonable. Here’s how they claim to come about their numbers.

Data source
Television advertising data for the years 2005–2012 were licensed from Nielsen (The Nielsen Company, New York, NY) for all alcoholic beverage types in Nielsen’s alcohol category (beer, distilled spirits, alcopops or sweetened alcoholic beverages that taste like soda pop and contain malt-based alcohol, and wine). The details of our methods for processing and analyzing Nielsen data have been reported previously (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2010). Briefly, occurrence and audience data were downloaded from Nielsen Monitor-Plus; coded to classify advertisements as product, “responsibility,” or other types of advertisements; standardized regarding brand names and alcohol types according to Impact Databank, a leading alcohol industry marketing research firm; and organized into a Microsoft SQL*SERVER database (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA). This study used data on 2,461,999 alcohol product advertisements on network, cable, and local television from 2005 through 2012, with a particular focus on 1,452,661 (59% of the total) cable television advertisements.

But they also claim that “one in eight alcohol commercials were seen by children. No, make that absorbed by children. Not to mention these occurrences were already not in compliance with the alcohol industry’s previous self-regulatory advertising guidelines.” But let’s break that down. Even if their fantastic numbers were true, how exactly can they claim that the kids actually saw the ads. Kids don’t watch every channel, all the time (nobody does) so unless I’m missing something they seem to be saying all the ads shown are actually seen by these kids, which of course is utter nonsense. But they don’t say just that, they go even farther, saying these kids “absorbed” them. That makes these the most impressive children in the history of mankind, paying such close attention to these commercials, riveted to their televisions, soaking it all up.

Of course, that’s just, at best, opportunities for a kid to see an ad. No child is seeing anywhere near as many ads as their numbers suggest. The window of times when kids watch is probably not twenty-four hours, and they don’t appear to have even taken that into account. No cable company or satellite provider includes all 1800 American commercial stations, more like 500 or so, further greatly reducing the opportunity for so many ads to be actually seen, let alone absorbed.

But we’re not done yet. They defined “underage audience” as “ages 2–20 years as a percentage of the total.” But how many two years old have a clue about what they’re seeing on television apart from purple dinosaurs and Mickey’s Playhouse? At what age do kids even pay attention to ads not for toys or (maybe) fast food? It’s certainly not two, which further erodes the numbers they’re relying on and reporting. No matter where you turn, it doesn’t add up.

Also, in the data source they state that they “used data on 2,461,999 alcohol product advertisements on network, cable, and local television from 2005 through 2012,” adding that they had “a particular focus on 1,452,661 (59% of the total) cable television advertisements.” So why then do they seem surprised and feel the need to point out that their “study” found that the ads kids saw were “mostly on cable television?” If they had “a particular focus” on cable, that would be expected, wouldn’t it?

But MADD’s not done with the spin. They also claim that all of these noncompliant ads (or maybe all the ads) “painted a picture of alcohol as fun and frivolous that children couldn’t help but take in, sending a dangerous and deadly message to our kids. Have no doubt, these ads played a role in shaping attitudes toward drinking and contributed to the number of underage drinkers and underage drunk drivers.”

Horseshit. First of all, beer most definitely can be “fun and frivolous.” Do you really think people would keep drinking if they’re weren’t having a good time? People are not automatically addicted with the first sip of alcohol that touches their lips, despite some prohibitionists actually seeming to believe just that. Undoubtedly, a small minority of people will develop some problem with their own control, no matter the cause. But here’s the thing. Automobile ads show new cars as fun and frivolous, too. But kids aren’t ignoring the fact that they can’t drive until they’re sixteen and going for joyrides or stealing cars as soon as their parents aren’t looking. There’s no epidemic of roving middle school gangs of car thieves taken in by how much fun it looks to drive a car, as shown in the countless television ads for all the shiny new cars. Context matters. The so-called study also ignores parents watching these ads with their parents, who in many cases are probably providing context. My kids are constantly bombarded with beer, and yet there is no confusion in our household that they’re not allowed to drink until they turn 21. We reinforce that, and they understand it.

But looking again at the so-called study as a whole, it’s clear that it’s less a scientific paper and more proselytizing propaganda, with over two-thirds of the text devoted to analysis, discussion and, primarily, their recommendations, meaning their excuse to tell the alcohol industry how they think they should advertise. This is the tactic that prohibitionists used to starting attacking alcohol companies the very minute that prohibition was repealed in 1933. They didn’t go away, they licked their wounds, and then changed their approach. And one of their main objectives was to restrict advertising in order to attack alcohol sales using advertising codes and other laws, usually citing their concern for “the children” to conceal their true purpose. Because we’ve all been watching alcohol advertising since we were kids, too, since almost no one alive today was born (only about 1.5% of today’s population) before prohibition ended. And a majority of us grew into responsible adults, and in fact actual consumption of alcohol has been dropping for decades, meaning at least the advertising hasn’t been turning us all into alcoholic monsters. There are, of course, many other factors, but just in terms of their general argument it makes little sense. And frankly, before prohibition there was no television advertising whatsoever, for the obvious reason there was no commercial television, and yet per capita alcohol consumption before and after prohibition is roughly the same, although it has declined to below pre-prohibition levels ever since 1980. So with or without advertising, overall per capita consumption has been roughly constant.

But as you may have noticed, MADD used the headline “Alcohol Advertisements And Our Kids,” invoking the “it’s for the children” strategy. This is such a textbook case of propaganda it’s quite amazing how much of it is twisted and misleading. After all of that, MADD concludes by selling their own program, the “Power of Parents®, which humorously enough they’ve even trademarked. They want to “help” parents by telling them what propaganda to brainwash their children with, even offering a “parent handbook.” It’s free, if you consider signing up for an endless stream of e-mails filled with more propaganda and pleas for donations exacting no cost to you. Just say know.

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The Credibility Crisis Of Science Journals

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Regular readers will no doubt know how much I hate junk science, especially when it’s used as propaganda by prohibitionist groups to further their agenda. In the ten years since I started the Bulletin (and the 25 years since I’ve been writing about beer) I’ve been watching a growing trend of prohibitionist groups sponsoring questionable “science” and then turning around once they’ve got the conclusion they paid for and trumpeting to the world that science supports their position, which I detailed a couple of years ago Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Propaganda. In some cases, the studies even involved their own staff. I’m sure it was naive to think this is an issue confined to anti-alcohol fanatics, because clearly it’s not. It’s been an education in itself and over the years I’ve gotten much better with How To Spot Bad Science.

The other related issue is that even rigorous studies are often misused as propaganda when they often aren’t as ironclad as the people using them might hope. This practice was detailed in Studies Show Studies Don’t Show Much, which talked about jumping to conclusions too quickly when a study is preliminary, uses a small sample or needs to be reproduced and replicated before anything definitive can be said with certainty. And that, I just learned is a bigger problem for all journal articles, not just the ones I’ve been noticing.

According to Rupert Sheldrake, a British biologist, who writes online at Science Set Free, there is a The Replicability Crisis in Science. By that, he means; “The credibility of science rests on the widespread assumption that results are replicable, and that high standards are maintained by anonymous peer review. These pillars of belief are crumbling. In September 2015, the international scientific journal Nature published a cartoon showing the temple of ‘Robust Science’ in a state of collapse.”

temple-of-science

In recent years, countless studies have been found to be faulty, not reproducible, making them all but useless. As other scientists have relied on them, which used to be a reasonable assumption since the journals are peer-reviewed, the science that’s coming after is equally flawed, because it’s based on bad science. And we’re not just talking about a few. “In 2011, German researchers in the drug company Bayer found in an extensive survey that more than 75% of the published findings could not be validated.” It gets worse. “In 2012, scientists at the American drug company Amgen published the results of a study in which they selected 53 key papers deemed to be ‘landmark’ studies and tried to reproduce them. Only 6 (11%) could be confirmed.”

Why is this happening? Sheldrake has a theory.

Unfortunately, personal advancement in the world of science depends on incentives that encourage these questionable research practices. Professional scientists’ career prospects, promotions and grants depend on the number of papers they have published, the number of times they are cited and the prestige of the journals in which they are published. There are therefore powerful incentives for people to publish eye-catching papers with striking positive results. If other researchers cannot replicate the results, this may not be discovered for years, if it is discovered at all, and meanwhile their careers have advanced and the system perpetuates itself. In the world of business, the criteria for success depend on running a successful business, not on whether business plans are ranked highly by business academics, and whether they are often cited in business journals. But status in the world of science depends on publications in scientific journals, rather than on practical effects in the real world.

Meanwhile, the peer-review system is falling into disrepute. The very fact that so many unreliable papers are published shows that the system is not working effectively, and a recent investigation by the American journal Science revealed some shocking results. A member of Science’s staff wrote a spoof paper, riddled with scientific and statistical errors, and sent 304 versions of it to a range of peer-reviewed journals. It was accepted for publication by more than half of them.

This is apparently enough of a problem that it even has its own Wikipedia page, and is known as the Replication Crisis. And Science News had an article entitled Is redoing scientific research the best way to find truth?

reproducibility_piechart

But it’s hard not to see another culprit. Science News also offered 12 reasons research goes wrong, and included “fraud” at the end, stating that “fraud is responsible for only a tiny fraction of results that can’t be replicated.” I suppose that depends on how you define it, and I think I’d say it might include the type of junk science where somebody is hired to find a specific result rather than find out what the result might be in a specific situation. That’s the type I see more and more in the field of alcohol studies being sponsored by prohibitionist groups.

Prohibitionists and other groups have been perverting science for their own ends for years, using it to hoodwink an unsuspecting public, who still trusts the studies they’re reporting, to promote their agenda. It’s become a common tool of propaganda. This is detailed quite well in the classic book How to Lie with Statistics, but even more forcefully in the later expose Trust Us We’re Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future. It’s unfortunate, but prohibitionist groups aren’t really interested in health or safety. Like almost all non-profits, they’ve become more interested in sustaining themselves, which means raising money has become the real goal. This was revealed with startling clarity at an alcohol policy conference held a couple of years ago, which I reported on in The Neo-Prohibitionist Agenda: Punishment Or Profit. It’s about money. Isn’t it always?

But sadly, science is supposed to be science, and should be free of the entanglements that cloud so many other fields. And once upon a time, I like to kid myself, it probably was. But is it sure seems as corrupt as the rest of the world to me now, and that can’t be good for the present, and especially the future. Because it’s only going to get worse. I’m sure there’s a study somewhere that supports that. And if not, I can always fund my own. Apparently that’s how it’s done.

Beer & Exercise

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Last week, the New York Times had an interesting piece about a pair of studies examining the relationship between exercise and beer, entitled The Close Ties Between Exercise and Beer.

My favorite bit is that in past studies “men and women who qualified as moderate drinkers, meaning they downed about a drink a day, were twice as likely to exercise regularly as teetotalers.” But that was for earlier, apparently less rigorous studies.

The first of the new studies was conducted at Penn State, which used test subjects already enrolled in a different health study, and found consistent results from the earlier studies.

When the researchers collated and compared the data from their volunteers, they found, for the first time, an unequivocal correlation between exercising on any given day and subsequently drinking, especially if someone exercised more than usual. As the scientists write in their study, which was published recently in Health Psychology, “people drank more than usual on the same days that they engaged in more physical activity than usual.”

This relationship held true throughout all seasons of the year and whether someone was a man or a woman, a collegian or a retiree. Age and gender did not affect the results.

Thankfully, the data did not show that exercise incited or exacerbated problem drinking.

The second study was published in Frontiers of Psychiatry — Exercise and Alcohol Consumption: What We Know, What We Need to Know, and Why it is Important — was a review of those previously mentioned previous studies. And the two seem to reinforce one another, coming to the same conclusions. And most worrying of all, at least for the prohibitionists who incessantly decry alcohol, “the available evidence suggests that exercise may encourage people to drink, [but] it does not indicate that this relationship is necessarily worrisome for the vast majority of us. Someone who drinks moderately is unlikely to become a problem drinker as a result of exercise.”

So moderately drink up, and keep working out, apparently both are good for you.

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St. Nicholas: Patron Saint of Brewers

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While St. Nicholas is best known — in America, at least — for wearing red and white and giving presents to Children each December 25, he’s actually the patron saint for a number of professions, places and afflictions. His feast day is not actually Christmas Day, but almost three weeks earlier on December 6. That’s the reason why the holiday beer Samichlaus is brewed each year on this day. The person we associate with Christmas, Santa Claus, was based on Saint Nicholas, who was originally known (and still is in some places) as Bishop Nicholas of Myra.

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Nicholas is the patron saint of brewers, among many others. He’s also the patron saint against imprisonment, against robberies, against robbers. And Nick’s the patron for apothecaries, bakers, barrel makers, boatmen, boot blacks, boys, brewers, brides, captives, children, coopers, dock workers, druggists, fishermen, Greek Catholic Church in America, Greek Catholic Union, grooms, judges, lawsuits lost unjustly, longshoremen, maidens, mariners, merchants, penitent murderers, newlyweds, old maids, parish clerks, paupers, pawnbrokers, perfumeries, perfumers, pharmacists, pilgrims, poor people, prisoners, sailors, scholars, schoolchildren, shoe shiners, spinsters, students, penitent thieves, travellers, University of Paris, unmarried girls, and watermen. Places he’s the patron for are Apulia, Italy; Avolasca, Italy; Bardolino, Italy; Bari, Italy; Cammarata, Sicily, Italy; Cardinale, Italy; Cas Concos, Spain; Creazzo, Italy; Duronia, Italy; Fossalto, Italy; Gagliato, Italy; Greece; La Thuile, Italy; Lecco, Italy; Limerick, Ireland; Liptovský Mikulás, Slovakia; Lorraine; Mazzano Romano, Italy; Mentana, Italy; Miklavž na Dravskem polju, Slovenia; Naples, Italy; Portsmouth, England; Russia; Sassari, Italy; Sicily; Is-Siggiewi, and Malta.

He also has many names around the world, such as Baba Chaghaloo, Father Christmas, Joulupukki, Kanakaloka, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, Papa Noël, Santa Claus, and Weihnachtsmann (“Christmas Man” or “Nikolaus”), to name just a few.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Saint Nicholas (March 15, 270 – December 6, 346) is the common name for Nicholas of Myra, a saint and Bishop of Myra (in Lycia, part of modern-day Turkey). Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and is now commonly identified with Santa Claus. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was the custom in his time. In 1087, his relics were furtively translated to Bari, in southern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nicholas of Bari.

The historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered among Catholic and Orthodox Christians. He is also honoured by various Anglican and Lutheran churches. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, and children, and students in Greece, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro. He is also the patron saint of Barranquilla, Bari, Amsterdam, Beit Jala, and Liverpool. In 1809, the New-York Historical Society convened and retroactively named Sancte Claus the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York City. He was also a patron of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics in Bari. So beloved is Saint Nicholas by Russians, one commonly heard saying is that “if God dies, at least we’ll still have St. Nicholas.”

The American image of Santa Claus in red and white has more to do with marketing than anything else. I wrote about this in The Santa Hypocrisy a couple of years ago when the Shelton Brothers were in hot water from several states who tried to tell them Santa Claus on a beer label threatened the American way of life and especially the impressionable young kiddies who would all be led down the path to underage drinking and alcoholism because Santa was depicted on a beer label. It was an utterly ridiculous position and they ultimately backed down, but it’s indicative of our puritan hang-ups as a culture and our general paternalism where we believe everyone needs to be protected. And in retrospect I can now see how the “institutionalized demonization of alcohol” creates the conditions for such decisions. Remember the message? “Alcohol is evil. No one can be trusted with it.” When that’s the underlying assumption, you create rules for what can and can’t be displayed on a label that are way beyond reason; standards no other products have to follow because they’re not seen as inherently evil.

But before the 20th century and in other parts of the world, Santa Claus was and still is depicted in many different ways and in various colors. Father Christmas, for example, is often seen wearing a green robe, as in the British Isles he’s more associated with nature and the old Celtic religions. The yule log, Christmas tree, wreaths, mistletoe and many other features we take for granted during the holidays do not have direct Christian origins, but were appropriated from pagan religions in order to make the transition to Christianity easier for the masses to make. Personally, I love a green Santa Claus because it reminds me of hops, and a Santa that stands for hops is one I can get behind.
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Few American beer labels show Santa precisely because of our peculiar brand of paternalism and the label laws spawned by our institutionalized demonization of alcohol. Santa’s Private Reserve, from Rogue in Oregon, is one of the few I can think of year after year. Most, not surprisingly, come from abroad, where people take a more reasonable approach to both the holidays and alcohol. There’s the famous Santa’s Butt from Ridgeway Brewing in England, but also Pickled Santa from the Hop Back Brewery and Austria’s Samichlaus is translated as “Santa Claus.”

santa-mugs

Why does it seem like we’re the only uptight nation on Earth when it comes to this silly issue. In Hong Kong, a giant Santa Claus is shown with a mug of beer, and no one seems to be that concerned. Try putting something like that up here, and all hell would break loose. We’re the only country complaining that there’s a “War on Christmas,” as stupid a notion as ever there was one, especially in a nation where those who celebrate Christmas constitute the vast majority.

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The point is if the church can have a patron saint of brewing, why do religious people object to St. Nicholas being on beer labels? Wouldn’t it make perfect sense for brewers to want to place their patron saint on their beer?

Throughout Europe, Monks not only kept alive the method of brewing beer but improved techniques for making it. A Benedictine nun in Germany, Hildegard von Bingen, is most likely responsible for the introduction of hops in beer. Religion and brewing are intertwined throughout history and, in every place except the United States, that continues to be the case. Why? What about our particular religiosity makes us incapable of seeing that and reconciling it? Why is it seemingly acceptable for Santa Claus to be used to sell everything under the sun … except alcohol. Santa sells cigarettes, soda pop, fast food and pretty much everything else with capitalistic glee yet alcohol is the corrupting influence? That’s going too far somehow? Please.

That Santa Claus only appeals to children is usually the rallying cry of the buffoons who complain about this sort of thing, but a survey of pop culture will reveal that St. Nick is used in all manner of adult contexts. Kris Kringle, like the spirit of Christmas itself, belongs to all of us, not just children. There’s no doubt that I love seeing Christmas through the fresh eyes of my children, their innocence and wonder adds a new dimension to my enjoyment of the season. But I loved the holidays as much before I was a father and after I was an adult, too.

That St. Nicholas appeals to wide array of people should be obvious from the huge number of groups and places that consider him their patron. When so many look to him for comfort in such a varied number of ways, how can anyone say what he is or what he isn’t, where he’s appropriate or where he’s not? They can’t of course, despite neo-prohibitionists and our government’s attempts to the contrary. As the patron saint of brewers, Santa Claus is, and ought to be, perfectly at home on a bottle of beer.

There’s also a wealth of information about the real Santa Claus at the Saint Nicholas Center online.

Spinning Statistics … Again

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A few days ago, I wrote that in my mind, Alcohol Justice, as much as any prohibitionist group, had achieved the status of a cult, given their by-any-means-necessary tactics and casual relationship with the truth. Today presented a perfect example of that, in which they took another “study” and bent it and remolded it into the shape they wanted it to be in order to advance their agenda. This morning they tweeted the following:

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And there’s certainly some scary claims in that tweet. “Stunning death rate rise for middle-aged white US men,” which is apparently linked to “alcohol” and also “drug misuse.” Or is that misuse of both drugs and alcohol? It could be read either way, and since you rarely here “alcohol misuse” as a term — it’s almost always “alcohol abuse” — I suspect that it was chosen on purpose to give the impression that it was simply drinking alcohol that leads to this “stunning death rate.” But what does the actual “study” claim? The tweet includes a link, which takes you to an article from November 2 in the New York Times, Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds. But that title is similarly misleading, because once you actually read it, you’ll discover that it’s not all middle-age white men whose risk is increasing, but a specific subgroup within that cohort. That group is increasing overall, but only because the steepest rise is almost entirely coming from less educated men in that group.

The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

I guess that’s statistically significant, but it’s an increase of 0.134%, which doesn’t sound as bad as they’re making it out to be. Later in the article, they say that “[i]n that group, death rates rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education.” Of course, I don’t have a Nobel Prize in Economics, as one of the people who conducted the study does, which the article makes a particular point of pointing out. Despite those honors, they’re as flummoxed by the results as apparently everyone else who’s found it’s such a growing problem for “the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites.” adding. “In middle age, they are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans” and this has been “puzzling demographers in recent years.” Seriously? Let me take a stab at it. The middle class has been eroding for decades, real wages have been stagnating almost as long, people are losing their pension plans, unions are under attack and our government has been co-opted by business interests who have been doing everything possible to keep tax breaks for the wealthy, allow our elections to won by whoever has the most money, and generally make life miserable for every worker below the executive level, the people in the 90%. And which group would you expect that to most affect? I would suggest it’s people in the lower paying jobs, the ones requiring less education, which would go a long way toward explaining why these are the same people drinking themselves into an early grave.

They do finally make some mention of this, but apparently don’t think it was significant enough to “fully account for the effect,” when they earlier cited that middle-aged white men with only a high school diploma have “a more pessimistic outlook among whites about their financial futures.” But doesn’t it seem like one of those “well, duh” moments?

The least educated also had the most financial distress, Dr. Meara and Dr. Skinner noted in their commentary. In the period examined by Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case, the inflation-adjusted income for households headed by a high school graduate fell by 19 percent.

But that can’t be it, they seem to conclude. That wouldn’t cause them to become depressed, which might lead them to drink excessively or take more drugs, is what they’re saying. Why do we continue to go out of our way to insist that the alcohol or drugs, in and of themselves, are the problem, but not the underlying problem or problems that make people reach for them? Remember, the message from Alcohol Justice was that “alcohol and drug misuse” were the link to a “Stunning death rate rise for middle-aged white US men,” but that’s not what the study found, or is even the focus of the article, despite the fact that misleading headline could make you think that was the case, if you didn’t bother to read it. What this study of metadata from the CDC found was that there’s an increase for such men with less education and who abused alcohol, which is very different from what AJ is peddling. And this spin is doubly reinforced by the photo they chose to use with the tweet. It shows two older couples, well-dressed and sipping on champagne. That’s practically the polar opposite of the image one would expect for which group is showing an increase in their risk of death found by the study they’re referring to. And it’s the photo you see first, before you read either the tweet or click on the article. Before you have any facts whatsoever, you’re confronted by this misleading image of well-heeled bubbly revelers.

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But that image holds another secret, and one Alcohol Justice probably doesn’t want you to know about, especially as they’ve started tweeting for donations at this, the giving time of the year. The image is actually taken from an article in the British newspaper, the Telegraph, from early September of this year. That piece, entitled Drinkers ‘subsidising’ non-drinkers by £6.5 billion a year, flies right in the face of one of AJ’s most-cherished propaganda lies, the idea of alcohol harm, that people drinking are a drain on the economy, forcing teetotalers to pay for their excesses and strain public resources. It’s one of AJ’s most common arguments for raising taxes on alcohol, under the notion of a “charge for harm” that they’re so fond of insisting. But the subtitle of the Telegraph article is: “A drain on taxpayers? Drinkers pay their dues three times over, new study claims.”

Far from being a financial burden on taxpayers, people who enjoy alcohol pay the cost of dealing with drink-related social problems almost three times over in tax every year, the analysis by the Institute of Economic Affairs, the free-market think-tank, argues.

The paper calculates that the NHS, police, the criminal justice and welfare systems in England collectively spend £3.9 billion a year dealing with the fallout from excessive alcohol consumption.

But that figure is eclipsed by the £10.4 billion a year it says the Treasury gains in alcohol duty in England.
It argues that taxes on drink could be halved and still leave the Government firmly in profit.

They continue:

Christopher Snowdon, author of the report, said: “It is time to stop pretending that drinkers are a burden on taxpayers.

“Drinkers are taxpayers and they pay billions of pounds more than they cost the NHS, police service and welfare system combined.

“The economic evidence is very clear on this – 40 per cent of the EU’s entire alcohol tax bill is paid by drinkers in Britain and, as this new research shows, teetotallers in England are being subsidised by drinkers to the tune of at least six and a half billion pounds a year.”

So that’s where the photo came from that Alcohol Justice used to accompany a misleading tweet about misstated statistics, linking to a somewhat misleadingly titled article. And this is from the organization that claims to be the “industry watchdog,” forcing me to ask, yet again, who’s watching the watchdog? Because left to their own devices, they obviously aren’t terribly concerned with honesty or truthiness. And that makes it increasingly difficult to have any meaningful discussions with them about alcohol policy or indeed believe anything they say or claim.

Thanksgiving Wishes From The Brookston Beer Bulletin

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I just finished my family’s Thanksgiving feast, enjoyed with a 2015 magnum of Our Special Ale from Anchor Brewing, and finished a piece of peanut butter pie. Boy am I stuffed. Before I’m found drooling on the sofa, watching the Packers game, I wanted to take a moment to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving.

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I’m incredibly thankful that people come here to read what I write, see what I share and drink what I drink. Thank you from the bottom of my pint glass.
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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day is here at last …
     The family’s come from far and near.
The kitchen’s smelling mighty nice;
     And Dad’s got Ballantine on ice.
That’s the beer we like best …
     Deep-brewed to meet the “icebox test.”
We chill the bottles thoroughly …
     Flavor that chill can’t kill, you see!

Priceless. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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The Cult Of Propaganda

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Some of the definitions of a cult, as defined by Dictionary.com, include 1) “an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing,” 2) “a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.,” 3) “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader,” and 4) “any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.” That sure sounds like Alcohol Justice, and many other prohibitionist groups, to me. They hold up the ideal that alcohol is bad, and anyone making it, selling it or saying anything good about it is not only wrong, but evil. They use extremist rhetoric and tactics to advance their agenda and they’re certainly “outside of conventional society” since the majority of people enjoy alcohol from time to time, and without question they use “methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific,” especially the unscientific variety masquerading as science. I don’t know if I’d call Bruce Lee Livingston “a charismatic leader;” he seems like more of an opportunist than an evangelist, but he’s also a “dancer” and a “tennis player,” so who knows? But as far as I can see, they pass the test for being a cult.

So it’s slightly amusing to see that the cult of propaganda, a.k.a. Alcohol Justice, has placed Anheuser-Busch InBev in the AJ Doghouse for the sin of making something that’s “flavored” and “glow-in-the-dark,” which of course means that it must be “youth-attractive,” whatever that means. And if that wasn’t vague enough for you, they helpfully include a link in their tweet to their doghouse explanation entitled “Flavored? Glow-in-the-dark? A-B InBev.” Which by itself seems fairly silly. I’m pretty sure almost everything, with the possible exception of neutral spirits, has a flavor of some kind. Frankly, even the neutral ones taste of something, I mean nobody confuses them with water. But why is glow-in-the-dark such a danger? Lots of things light up at night. What is Sheriff AJ so worried about this time?

In a desperate attempt to gain back young drinkers with tricks children enjoy, A-B InBev is going to dangerous lengths. A-B InBev hopes that its release of Oculto, a new tequila-infused citrus-flavored beer, will lure Millennials back to the A-B InBev stable and brands such as Bud Light.

I’m not sure what led them to declare it was “desperation” that led ABI to make Oculto, but the link tells you everything you need to know. It’s a Fast Company article from March of this year, meaning it took AJ nine months to sound the alarm. In its title, they ask Can AB InBev Seduce Millennials with a New Tequila-Infused Beer?, in which “Vice President of U.S. Marketing Jorn Socquet outlines the strategy behind the brewer’s new brand Oculto, which includes masks and secret messages.”

So who are these Millennials of which they speak? I’m never quite sure where one named generation starts, and another ends, so I took to that series of tubes known as the interwebs. When you Google the term, the immediate answer is “a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000; a Generation Yer.” So that would mean ABI is targeting drinkers who reached adulthood at least 15 years ago. Oh, the horror. But other sources do claim Millennials include people who were born as late as 2000. But regardless to insist that ABI is targeting people below 21, who are legally unable to buy what they’re selling is, as usual, an absurdity. I’m not a fan of Oculto as a type of drink, alcopops, or even many of ABI’s products more generally, but they have enough legal customers not to risk doing something illegal or trying to court underage customers. That AJ continues to insist that they’re doing exactly that strains credulity and exposes them as charlatans who would say or do anything to advance their agenda, whether it make sense or not. But AJ goes on in their delusional way.

With a campaign based on elaborate masks, whispered secrets, and mysterious club parties where new drinkers are indoctrinated into the brand, more brand ambassadors join the Oculto fold. Yes, it does sound like a dangerous cult or hazing ritual.

No, it sounds like a bad idea to pander to young adults’ love of Halloween by co-opting imagery from Mexico’s — and all of South America’s — Day of the Dead celebrations. But if you’re worried about a dangerous cult, you need look no further than a mirror. When you start manufacturing controversy, you’re engaging in your own cult-like behavior. Don’t look behind the curtain, reality is what we say it is.

Like other alcohol brands hoping to appeal to youth and attract those who would otherwise reject beer, A-B InBev is focusing the majority of its Oculto marketing strategy on social media, e.g. Instagram. The label includes a glow-in-the-dark, Day-of-the-Dead-inspired skull that looks and acts like a children’s decoration. While A-B InBev attempts to illuminate the Oculto brand label, the risk of harm to young people inside the bottle glows brightly.

You keep using that word “youth.” I do not think it means what you think it means. AJ acknowledges that it was inspired by the Day of the Dead, but mis-characterizes it as “a children’s decoration.” Have they seen a Day of the Dead celebration? Apparently not, or they’d know better than to accuse a glow-in-the-dark skull as being exclusive;y for children. What is it about something that glows in the dark that makes it “youth-attractive” anyway? That similarly makes absolutely no earthly sense. I love phosphorus gadgets, and our house and outside of it, is filled with them. I’m about as far away from youth as one can get, and I love things that glow in the dark.

Also, the idea that the target for Oculto is to “get” people “who would otherwise reject beer” is ridiculous, and completely misleading and false. Did AJ even read the article they’re using to put ABI in the doghouse? The people who are rejecting beer are drinking “hard booze,” drinks like “whiskey and tequila.” So this is really AJ specifically targeting beer — sigh, again — and not alcohol in general. If they were really worried about kids, or people’s health, they’d be applauding this effort to get young adults to drink something far less potent than hard liquor. Oculto, even at 6% ABV, is still no where near as strong as the weakest tequilas or whiskies. Tequila is usually 80 proof, or 40% ABV, while whiskey is around 40-46% ABV. But ABI’s in the doghouse for trying to get people to drink their weaker offering. How does that make any kind of sense?

Their laughable insistence that anything kids, or even young adults perhaps not quite 21, might find appealing is, by definition, “youth-attractive,” is a canard, and a dangerous one that they use time and time again. There is no division between “youth-attractive” and “adult-attractive.” Such delineations do not exist in the real world. Many things adults like, kids like, too. And many things kids love, adults continue to enjoy, as well. The only people who “put away childish things” as so-called grown-ups are, in my opinion, idiots with a stick up their ass who forgot how to enjoy their one and only life. But they’re just the sort of person who might join a cult, even one trying to rid the world of beer.

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Why The Big Beer Companies Will Fail To Court Women

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Earlier this week, I read in AdAge that Budweiser Pulls Puppies From Super Bowl Ad Plans for the very sensible reason that they weren’t terribly effective. As AdAge notes, “as cute as they are, the puppies apparently don’t sell beer.”

I also read in Bloomberg that ABI was going to shift their advertising focus away from the male-dominated imagery that they’ve employed for decades, objectifying and alienating one-half of the world’s consumers, in an effort to win over female beer drinkers. “‘Objectification of women is going away,’ said Jorn Socquet, AB InBev’s vice president of marketing for the U.S.” in the Bloomberg article, What ‘Gender Friendly’ Ads Look Like to Big Beer.

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That strategy has created a demographic where only about one-quarter of women drink their beer, yet when they were riding high they didn’t seem to care at all how they treated the mothers, aunts, sisters, wives and girlfriends of the people who bought their beer. Despite loud and vocal criticism of those practices for years and years, only now that their sales are slipping have they seemed to have noticed and decided they should “win back women.” To do this, they’re going to air an ad during the Super Bowl “built around the idea that coming together over a frosty Bud Light can help solve the world’s problems, including unequal pay.”

But can one ad, or even a series of ads, undo decades of tone deaf ads that were, and continue to be, downright awful to women? And it’s not like things have gotten much better in the more enlightened 21st century. If anything, attacks on women have increased in politics, business and in the media.

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As The Atlantic wonders, Are TV Ads Getting More Sexist? and Business Insider notes that These Modern Ads Are Even More Sexist Than Their ‘Mad Men’ Era Counterparts. And more specific to beer, Vinepair makes a compelling case that 13 Sexist Beer Ads Show How Little Has Changed Since the 1950s. There’s an entire Tumblr devoted to Bad Beer Ads for Women. There’s no shortage of material to show that it’s not really gotten any better in my lifetime.

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But if corporations are people, they are people with convenient Alzheimer’s Disease. They’ll undoubtedly try to convince women that they’ve had this change of heart because it’s right thing to do (and even though it might be) but the truth is that it only has to do with profit. They’ll hope that no one will remember how bad, and how consistently sexist, their ads have been for decades upon decades, right up to the present day.

Fortune magazine weighed in with their take on the new plan, with how Beer Companies Are Courting Women, and here’s how you know that they don’t really get it and it will fail.

In order to win over women, the beer companies are designing more colorful packaging and creating sweeter drinks, like the Bud Lite Lime-A-Rita. But taste isn’t necessarily the problem — MillerCoors and AB InBev are focusing on the social aspect of beer, too.

I love how the big brewers always think that changing up the packaging is the way to woo customers. The idea that women will only respond to “more colorful packaging” and only want “sweeter drinks” is laughably naive and almost criminally insulting. And this is, remember, them trying to “court women,” a similarly insulting turn of phrase. How many times have we seen beer companies try fruitier, sweeter beers and pink packaging to entice women? How often has it worked? The now defunct Beer West magazine had a good overview of such failed attempts in Have You Really Come A Long Way, Baby? How beer is(n’t) marketed to women.

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To illustrate that it’s not just Anheuser-Busch InBev wearing blinders, MillerCoors’ senior marketing insights director Britt Dougherty opined that they’re “going through a feminization of culture” as a way of saying the days of “airing ads that objectify women” are over. I’ll believe it when I see it. I suspect that as soon as this doesn’t prove as successful as they want, they’ll return to the tried and true male-oriented advertising that’s been their bread and butter my entire lifetime.

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Sexism, perhaps more than any of the destructive -isms, makes no sense to me. I’m male, and it makes no sense. Why do so many men feel they have to keep down women? Every one of us has a female mother. Most of us have sisters, aunts, and daughters. Why would we ever want to keep them from succeeding? I know there’s at least some religious reasons for it, but even that can’t account for all of it. Why would you voluntarily keep you mother, wife or daughter from being able to climb as high as they want to in life? Why would you harass, objectify or otherwise insult every other female, just because they’re female? I honestly don’t understand it. How can you hate your mother? How can you hate your wife? How can you hate your daughters? Because hatred toward some women, by using sexism, objectification and other insults, is hatred toward all women, your own family included.

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And yet it seems to be rampant, and growing, in our society. It should be a thing of the past, a relic, but as Gamergate makes abundantly clear, there are males in our society who hate women to the point that they want to do them actual physical harm for saying things they don’t like, disagree with or just having an opinion. That seems nuts, but perhaps more confusing is that we don’t do more to put a stop to it as a society. Can there really be enough men who are deaf and blind to what’s happening, or do they secretly agree with them or just not give a shit so long as they’re on top of the perceived hierarchy? I have a daughter who I want to grow up in a world where she can do whatever she wants, follow every opportunity available to her and live her life to the fullest, exactly the same as her brother, my son, is able to do. And as it stands now, that seems like it’s too much for society to bear, that true gender equality remains as elusive as the end of racism. Why the fuck should that be the case? If we can’t even erase it from the beer industry, which ought to know better, what chance have we for the wider world? So while I think this is the right step for the big beer companies, they haven’t shown themselves to take any action except ones that help their bottom line. And while that is to be expected (being a problem with the institution of corporations) you’d like to think that even male executives have women in their lives that would make such decisions increasingly difficult, yet so far that remarkably hasn’t been the case.

Maybe if we celebrated our similarities — like enjoying beer — instead of pandering to our differences, that would be a good start. So yeah, let’s keep sexism out of beer advertising, out of beer culture and out of the breweries themselves. We’re all just people, beer-loving people.

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