Before Prohibition became a reality, the prohibitionists used shameless propaganda to advance their cause, and it became increasingly absurd as time went on. When the temperance movement began in the 1830s, it was primarily against hard liquor, and beer was thought of as a drink of moderation, which by comparison it was. But over time, the movement became more and more intolerant of not just all alcohol, but many other things, such as coffee, pickles, pie, sugar, tea, and even meat. Abstinence itself became a goal. It became entirely fanatical, and in many cases was backed by religious factions and led by preachers. This transition is chronicled nicely in Jessica Warner’s “All or Nothing: A Short History of Abstinence in America.”
So by 1915, when this piece of propaganda was published, the prohibitionists were in the full flower of absurdity. It’s from a temperance program by evangelist Thomas F. Hubbard, published by the Wagoner Printing Company of Galesburg, Illinois. It’s showing how you could destroy the life of your son by being an “indulgent mother,” leading them down the path (or stairs) to “a drunkard’s grave.” So remember; never, ever be nice to your children. Just look what might happen.
See if you can follow the logic. If you allow your son to have a little food between meals, a.k.a. “a snack,” it will undoubtedly make him ill, causing you to ease his pain by giving him — gasp — medicine and “soothing syrups.” That, in turn, will undoubtedly lead you to let him eat too many pickles and pork (it’s always bacon’s fault) and “Mexicanized Dishes and pepper sauces,” you know … spices! But once he’s got a taste for flavor, he won’t be so easily satisfied anymore. Hot foods and the “other white meat” will, of course, lead your son to an indulgent life of rich pastry and candy, damn the luck. He’ll want to wash down all those sweet confectionaries with “tea, coffee and coca” (sic). And you know that can’t be good. It’s a slippery slope from there. He’ll then want to drink “sodas, pop and ginger ale.” After that, your son will need to relax with a cigarette or other tobacco. What else could he possibly want? He had no choice, really. You can’t really blame him. After soda pop, everyone needs to light up. It’s only natural. And once you begin smoking, you can’t really help but start gambling. It’s inevitable. Once you light up that ciggie, playing cards, throwing dice and picking up a pool cue can’t be far behind. It just can’t be helped. And you know what every gambler on the face of the Earth does, right? You got it: drink “liquor and strong drink.” And he can’t just drink it on occasion, but he keeps on drinking it, never stopping until he reaches “a drunkard’s grave.” And all because you gave him some Goldfish or Cheez-Its between meals. It’s so obvious. One unbroken chain from snacking to death, with no possible way to break the cycle. It’s like walking down the stairs. Gravity takes over and you can’t help but keep taking each successive step until you have one foot in the grave.
It is, of course, completely absurd, but one has to assume prohibitionists really believed it, just as some people today actually believe that one drink makes someone an alcoholic. And while I can’t imagine today’s anti-alcohol groups rising to this level of evangelical disinformation, they are, sad to say, moving in that direction. Alcohol Justice, for example (who insist they’re not neo-prohibitionists), has hardened their position of late and now takes the position that there are no safe levels of moderate drinking. They no longer take issue with whether one drink, or two drinks or however many drinks is appropriate for moderate consumption. They’re now proselytizing that zero is the only number of drinks that will keep you from falling into a life of ruin and becoming a burden on society, costing the teetotalers many millions of dollars. Total abstinence is now the only way to save yourself. That sure sounds like history repeating itself to me. With MADD, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and many others turning toward this position and using increasingly absurdist propaganda, often in the form of “pseudo-scientific studies,” to further their agenda how long can it be before we see this sort of thing in the present. So remember mothers, keep beating your children and never indulge them anything, no matter how much pain they’re in or how much pleasure it might give them. Compassion and love are for sissies. If you want to keep your son out of the drunkard’s grave, you’ll need to crack the whip. After all, it’s for their own good. I’m sure the neo-prohibitionists would approve.