Dan Mindus at the Center for Consumer Freedom recently published a report entitled Behind the Neo-Prohibition Campaign detailing just how deep the tentacles of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) go in funding neo-prohibitionist groups and campaigns. As someone who pays attention to the interconnectedness of the neo-prohibitionst organizations, I was still floored by what Mindus uncovered. I often take some flack for crying conspiracy concerning these organizations but I feel a certain vindication at just how big a role RWJF actually plays in leading the charge against alcohol.
Here’s an excerpt from the report:
America’s anti-alcohol movement is composed of dozens of overlapping community groups, research institutions, and advocacy organizations, but they are brought together and given direction by one entity: the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Based in Princeton, New Jersey, the RWJF has spent more than $265 million between 1997 and 2002 to tax, vilify, and restrict access to alcoholic beverages. Nearly every study disparaging alcohol in the mass media, every legislative push to limit marketing or increase taxes, and every supposedly “grassroots” anti-alcohol movement was conceived and coordinated at the RWJF’s headquarters. Thanks to this one foundation, the U.S. anti-alcohol movement speaks with one voice.
For the RWJF, it is an article of faith that diminishing per capita consumption across the board can contain the social consequences of alcohol abuse. Therefore, it has engaged in a long-term war to reduce overall drinking by all Americans. The RWJF relentlessly audits its own programs, checking to see if each dollar spent is having the maximum impact on reducing per capita consumption. Over the past 10 years, this blueprint has been refined. Increased taxes, omnipresent roadblocks, and a near total elimination of alcohol marketing are just a few of the tactics the RWJF now employs in its so-called “environmental” approach.
The environmental approach seeks to shift blame from the alcohol abuser to society in general (and to alcohol providers in particular). So the RWJF has turned providers into public enemy number one, burdening them with restrictions and taxes to make their business as difficult and complex as possible. The environmental approach’s message to typical consumers, meanwhile, is that drinking is abnormal and unacceptable. The RWJF seeks to marginalize drinking by driving it underground, away from mainstream culture and public places.
The RWJF funds programs that focus on every conceivable target, at every level from local community groups to state and federal legislation. Every demographic group is targeted: women, children, the middle class, business managers, Hispanics, Blacks, Whites, Native Americans. Every legal means is used: taxation, regulation, litigation. Every PR tactic: grassroots advocacy, paid advertising, press warfare. Every conceivable location: college campuses, sporting events, restaurants, cultural activities, inner cities, residential neighborhoods, and even bars.
The RWJF scored a major victory in 2000 with a federal .08 BAC mandate, and can claim credit for restrictions on alcohol in localities all over the country. But its $265 million has accomplished much more: it has put in place all the elements required for more sweeping change. This includes a vast network of local community organizations, centers for technical support, a compliant press, and a growing body of academic literature critical of even moderate alcohol consumption. The next highly publicized study or angry local movement may now reach the “tipping point” where the RWJF-funded anti-alcohol agenda snowballs into the kind of orchestrated frenzy the tobacco industry knows well.
You can read the entire report in a pdf, and if you care about keeping alcohol legal in the U.S., I’d highly encourage you to do so. The report, Behind the Neo-Prohibition Campaign, is only 28 pages and includes a list of the organizations and people to watch out for.
Here’s another excerpt, listing the main points in the RWJF’s plan of attack:
The Anti-Alcohol Movement’s Game Plan
The RWJF-funded anti-alcohol movement seeks to convince the public of the following propositions:
- The social consequences of alcohol consumption are immense, and require drastic action.
- The vast majority of Americans either abuse alcohol or don’t drink it. The former shouldn’t have access to alcohol, and the latter won’t care if you take it away.
- Responsible drinking is an oxymoron.
- Drinking is not normal, it is not acceptable, and it should be isolated from mainstream culture.
- Adult drinking encourages kids to engage in reckless behavior.
- The alcohol industry “targets” children, abusers, and minorities with “deceptive” advertising.
- Alcohol advertising leads inexorably to abuse.
- Convenient, inexpensive alcohol leads inevitably to its abuse.
- There is no such thing as responsible drinking and driving.
The more the public hears these messages, the more they will tolerate the legislation and regulation of the “environmental approach.” Billboards have been taken down, hours of service have been slashed, roadblocks have been thrown up, legal BAC levels have come down, taxes have been raised, ads in restaurants have been eliminated. It’s only the beginning.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. These folks are committed fanatics. They cannot be reasoned with. They will not bow to logic. They cannot be appeased. They have no qualms about bending the truth or outright fabrication. They will do absolutely anything to advance their misguided cause. They hate me and you, too, if you think drinking beer is okay.