The anti-alcohol Marin Institute had a little item in one of their e-mail missives a few days ago, reporting on the news that Anheuser-Busch InBev announced that they would be lowering the alcohol content of their Tilt from 12% a.b.v. to 8%. You’d think that the anti-alcohol groups that have been whining about these drinks to high heaven would be at least be a little pleased that the beer company has bowed to their pressure. You would, however, be wrong. That’s because the fanatical nature of the politics they’re peddling can never, ever be satisfied until there is no more alcohol to be sold, despite their insistence that they’re not neo-prohibitionists. Nothing any alcohol company ever does will be viewed as anything but wrong, no matter how well-meaning. My favorite example is still when A-B canned water and sent it to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The Marin Institute even complained about that because Bud had the temerity to put their logo on the cans and send out a press release. Of course, they complained about that in their own press release, but when they do it it’s apparently for a higher purpose.
The subtitle of the Marin Institute’s article was “Color Us Unimpressed,” and that’s them in a nutshell, as far as I can see. Nothing that any alcohol company does will ever impress them, short of voluntarily giving up and shutting down their business. Apparently that’s what being a “watchdog” means. The way they operate, “watchdog” has come to mean complain about absolutely everything the companies you’re watching do, no matter what it might be. Personally, I can’t remember a kind word the Marin Institute, or any other similar group, has ever said about a company that makes an alcoholic beverage. You’d think a self-avowed “observer” would be able to separate the good from the bad, but when by definition anything an alcohol company does is bad then I guess there’s nothing left to praise.
So I don’t understand why we even bother trying to appease them. It never works. It never, ever will work. Can we please stop playing into their hands by trying to be reasonable when such a strategy can never work? The anti-alcohol groups represent a minority of the population. The majority is like you and me, and enjoys a drink now and again and manages to do so responsibly, in moderation and while maintaining a job and a place in society. There are people who can’t handle drinking, but let’s stop those extreme examples from being the only ones cited. Let’s start pushing more positive stories. There are children who get their hands on alcohol, but it’s no different than when we were all underage, and most of us didn’t turn out too badly as a result. Reasonable steps should be taken to keep kids away from anything that society deems unsuitable for them, but when we get fanatical about it — as is most definitely the case with alcohol — all we do is ruin society for everybody, the adults included. It’s madness.
The whole rationale for the fanatical dislike of high alcohol malt-based beverages is that they’re, as the Marin Institute puts it; “sweet, fruit-flavored kid-friendly swill.” Well so what? People under 21 are still not allowed to buy them. If they manage to do so, that’s an entirely different problem. The fact that young adults ages, say 21 to 29, also like and want to buy “sweet, fruit-flavored kid-friendly swill, in a single-serving container with bright colors and design” should make no difference whatsoever. If it were anything but alcohol, people would recognize how absurd this argument is. The idea that a company can’t make a product that appeals to people who wish to buy it under the theory that it also might appeal to people who aren’t allowed to buy it is utterly absurd.
Soda pop, candy and fast food, all of which are arguably just as bad for kids, market their wares in just such a fashion and few people think twice. Many schools even offer some or all of those foods and drinks at their school, some even accepting legal kick-backs just to keep those products available on school grounds. But that’s okay because it’s not alcohol.
The irony is, I don’t like Tilt, or Joose, or any of the other alcopops, but what I dislike even more is when anti-alcohol crusaders use them as an excuse to assault common sense and to foment fear about all of the dangers that such things set loose upon the world. It’s especially troubling when they use that old tried and true “it’s for the kids” canard. It’s just bullshit. More people need to say so. Today, it’s alcopops. Tomorrow it’s beer with caffeine. The next day it’s everything else they don’t like. And you can bet on one thing. They’ll never, ever be satisfied.