It seems to happen every year at this time of the season; Santa Claus comes out and neo-prohibitionists can’t help themselves in believing that he belongs to them exclusively. The latest salvo is from Join Together who wrongly targets MillerCoors for sponsoring the Running of the Santas, a charity event taking place in several cities on the East Coast. That these events are raising money to fight pediatric cancer is mentioned, but the events are nonetheless characterized as “binge drinking events.” The Running of the Santas wesbite characterizes the events as “a national pub crawl scheduled for December 13th across 25 cities.”
Santa’s too busy these days to be dragged into this. So let’s get MillerCoors’ attention: file a consumer complaint with the Beer Institute and copy the Federal Trade Commission.
Yes, by all means let’s undermine an effort to raise money to combat children with cancer if it’s done in a way we don’t like. I just want to scream epithets at these people and try to shake them loose from their myopia so they’ll focus on something bigger than themselves and something bigger than a few young people having a pub crawl to raise money for a worthy cause. Surely, there must be more important issues these people could spend their time pursuing?
One thing that really galls me is Join Together’s characterization that the charities being helped out by these events are only doing so “ostensibly,” that is “outwardly appearing as such” as if it was a front of some kind. If you can look at the two specific charities — Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Ellie Koerner Leukemia Fund — and not be touched by the sadness of these childrens’ stories and moved to action, then by all means sign up to be a member of Join Together.
The Running of the Santas breaks no laws, and in fact looks like a pretty fun event for those with an open mind. The organization describes the events thusly:
The Running of the Santas is an annual bar tour. What started with 40 Santas in Philadelphia has turned into a national phenomenon. The goal is to raise money for a local charity while getting a lot of Santas together for one big party. In Philadelphia, over 5,000 Santas are expected at the event in 2008. Live bands, great beer specials, a Hottest Santa Contest, and a short “RUN” (two blocks) is what makes the Running of the Santas something special.
If I were twenty years younger, I’d certainly participate. What doesn’t sound fun about that? Oh wait, I forgot, some people think they own the idea of Santa Claus and believe it can only be shown one way. In fact, one of the bludgeons Join Together is attempting to use is the following.
But the beer industry’s own voluntary advertising and marketing code (Guideline #3) explicitly bans the depiction of Santa Claus in beer marketing materials. And though the events are aimed at adults, many of them start in daylight or early evening hours — when children may well spot St. Nick dashing through the snow … getting drunk.
Holy crap, first of all they’re right about one thing. The Advertising and Marketing Code Guidelines on the Beer Institute’s website really does say that. It’s right there at 3b. “Beer advertising and marketing materials should not depict Santa Claus.” That has to be the stupidest rule they’ve ever agreed to. But let’s get back to that later.
The rule says the “depiction of Santa Claus in beer marketing materials” is banned for the beer companies. Running of the Santas is not a beer company. That Coors is a sponsor is an entirely different matter. They’re sponsoring an event, not advertising or marketing a beer using Santa Claus. Join Together obviously hates the idea of Santa being used in an event involved with alcohol, but they can’t complain to the event itself since they’re not doing anything illegal, so instead they turn their attention to someone they can try to intimidate.
A stooge from the neo-prohibitionist Center for Science in the Public Interest, George Hacker, is quoted. “How realistic is it to let the beer industry’s lobbyists write and enforce the rules if not even Santa is safe? Besides, everyone knows Santa prefers milk — skim, actually.” Dude, leave the jokes to the professionals. These beer advertising guidelines don’t even come close to applying in this situation. You just want to rail against this, reality and logic be damned.
If you want to get technical about is, Saint Nicholas (who we call Santa Claus, among other names) is the patron saint of brewers, for fucksakes. According to many different churches and denominations, St. Nick counts brewers among his many, many occupations, afflictions and places for whom he’s the patron saint. For more about this, see my earlier post from December 6, St. Nicholas’ Feast Day. So it’s not at all out of line that Santa Claus would drink beer. In many other countries, because of this, Santa Claus is often used on beer labels. Only here in the U.S. is this considered a taboo.
Beyond their bullshit pretense that Coors is violating an advertising guideline, Join Together and the CSPI are simply out for publicity. The CSPI already filed a complaint with the Beer Institute and Anheuser-Busch withdrew their support from an event in Atlanta. It’s the threat of bad press that has beer companies spooked, not any violation of the guidelines. These neo-prohibitionists know how they can manipulate the facts to get favorable treatment in the press. Using Santa Claus to garner sympathy for their cause is becoming the neo-prohibitionists holiday gift to society each year, an opportunity to use dishonesty and propaganda in a most unsavory fashion.
This notion that Santa Claus can’t be associated with anything having to do with adults just fries my bacon. The spirit of Christmas is not restricted to children. When Join Together asserts that “children may well spot St. Nick dashing through the snow … getting drunk” I can’t help but think simply “so what?” I’m so tired of some elements of our society that are constantly worried that children might see something that’s adult in nature and believing we have to create a sanitized world where there’s no possibility of that ever happening. Like it or not, this is a world for everybody, not just children, and we can’t create a world that’s only for kids and expect that adults can live full, mature, adult lives. They’ve been trying that on television for years now, making every show appropriate for a fifth grader. And guess what, most of the shows on network television suck, especially the ones that embrace that lowest-common denominator ethos. Personally, I don’t want to live in a child’s world, and I really don’t understand why neo-prohibitionists do, either, but then I really don’t get where they’re coming from at all.
Another disaster of their efforts is that these charity events specifically draw in younger people to participate. People under 30 statistically give less money to charities (though they give as much of their time as other age groups). That the neo-prohibitionist groups are targeting these events suggests to me that they care more about their agenda than kids with cancer. And the (perhaps) unintended consequence of their actions is that less money will be raised to fund research into pediatric cancer. And they think MillerCoors deserves a lump of coal this Christmas?