The day after I left on vacation (I just spent 10 days in Asheville, NC) I received a frightening press release with the latest propaganda from my neighbors at the Marin Institute. This is the sort of thing I might expect on April 1 or even possibly Halloween, but they’ve taken things up yet another notch in their fight against alcohol.
It starts out with the same nonsense about the recent mergers in the big beer world that resulted in their being two large beer companies accounting for 80% of the American beer market. Ooh, scary. Except that this didn’t just suddenly happen. In 1984, when there were only 44 breweries in the entire country (today there are over 1,500), the top six accounted for 92% of the market. This is a meaningless statistic. That it’s the lead to so many recent stories gives you some idea of how this is being driven by propaganda in an effort to further an anti-alcohol agenda. From Jim Cramer to Joseph A. Califano, Jr. to junk medical “science” and all the way back to the Big Kahuna Looney, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this is the all-out war against alcohol run amuck once more.
You can read the whole nonsensical press release, with their breathless worrying over a “drastic shift in U.S. beer market ownership to this powerful duo of global corporations” and that these “two global corporations sole interest is increasing profits.” Not to mention they’re “troubled that in its rush to approve these mega mergers, the Department of Justice put beer profits above the public interest.” There’s simply nothing new in the press release nor the report itself that hasn’t been addressed before both by these groups and the media at large. This is fake news at its most deadly. It’s almost too ridiculous to merit further comment.
But the most telling comment comes in the summary of the full report at page three, where they make this farcical statement: “Beer remains the cheapest and most widely used drug in America.” Uh, if you want to play that game, It’s fairly likely the hypocrites who wrote that nonsense start their alcohol bashing day with coffee or tea, containing what has to actually be the most widely used drug in the world, including America: caffeine.
The full quote is from page 11, under the heading the “Race to the Bottom.”
Beer is not harmless. Indeed, beer is the most commonly abused drug in the United States, and the most popular drug among youth. Beer should be treated as the drug it is, with stringent guidelines applied when addressing alcohol industry-related issues such as taxation, trade, distribution, production, and corporate structure and industry operations.
In fact that section concerns beer being too cheap and yet these people’s recent fulminations is all about the big beer companies announcing they were going to raise their prices. There’s just no pleasing some people.
The always insightful Harry Schuhmacher, who publishes Beer Business Daily, had a similar reaction.
But here’s where [the report] really comes off the rails and delivers the crazy talk that has everybody heated up. From the report: “Beer is not harmless. Indeed, beer is the most commonly abused drug in the United States, and the most popular drug among youth. Beer should be treated as the drug it is…” Whaa? First of all, the source Marin lists for this claim is a press release by Narconon Arrohead, a drug rehabilitation program affiliated with the Church of Scientology. Second, the dubious source doesn’t claim beer is the most commonly abused “drug”, but rather that “alcohol remains the most commonly abused substance in America.” Whatever, I get it, beer is more popular than wine or liquor. Regardless, by that criteria, we would suggest that the coffee, tea, and energy drink industries are starting to feel left out as the leading vehicles for administering the actual most commonly used “drug” in America: caffeine, used daily by over 90% of N. Americans (source is Wikipedia, which while not infallible, is certainly more credible than Scientology, unless you’re Tom Cruise).
Or were they meaning drug as in “narcotic”? If so, I doubt the average voting soccer dad — or President Obama for that matter (who routinely drinks beer on camera) would appreciate his favorite beverage being styled as a narcotic or himself as a drug user, in my opinion. But that and two bucks will get you a Red Bull. (Watch out, it’s full of taurine).
Even if we accept their absurd line of reasoning, a “drug” isn’t bad in and of itself. Aspirin is a drug. Countless drugs help people manage pain or treat and cure their maladies. You could make a case that even sugar is a drug following the definition, from Dictionary.com, that it’s “a chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of disease or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental well-being.” Sugar makes people feel better. Eat too much of it and your health suffers. Ditto overdosing on many drugs. The point is, which I’ve made many times, is that anything can be abused, even things that can be good for you in smaller amounts. The mistake these chuckleheads continually make is saying that something that can be bad if abused is always bad because of the potential is has for there to be negative effects. I doubt they actually believe it but it’s an effective propaganda tool. And let’s not forget what’s behind The Neo-Prohibition Campaign. This report is just the most recent example of their diabolical machinations.
To download the entire report, Big Beer Duopoly, please visit the marininstitute.org website. It makes for entertaining fiction. Unfortunately, it’s subtitled “A Primer for Policymakers and Regulators” and despite its questionable and bogus claims, it’s likely some legislators will actually treat it as a credible source.
Joaquin Murrieta says
Mr. Brooks, I spent my valuable 10 minutes reading your opinion and I am disappointed that I am now agreeing more with the Marin Institute than you. You provide no evidence and no valid arguments to critically take apart Marin’s claims. You almost sound like a conspiracy theorist. So please I want to support you but do better than this at least try.
Well that’s quite strange, because those links all lead to arguments I’ve made over the recent months to the same arguments made here, and I didn’t want to keep repeating myself. If the data about how long there’s been a small number of companies with a disproportionate market share, for example, doesn’t constitute evidence, then I don’t what would. And my colleague’s similar arguments would also be evidence, I’d say, so if you can’t see their validity, perhaps it’s not me after all. And if the link to the report about the RWJF can’t convince you, then I fear it’s not me. Sorry to have wasted your time, I’d give you back your ten minutes if I could.
Jim Dorsch says
What amazes me is that the NBWA has been cozying up to the Marin folks, apparently because they endorse the 3-tier system as a means of controlling alcohol distribution. I wonder what the NBWA’s members plan to do if their new friends achieve their ultimate goal.
This is interesting, since the Marin Institute just released a similar “report” about the evils of the wine industry. This group has “neo-Prohibitionist” written all over it.