I wasn’t going to write about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation spending $400,000 to manufacture a link between the internet and underage drinking, because it’s such a sad burlesque that it’s virtually meaningless. Essentially, nearly a quarter-million dollars will be used to fund a study conducted by UNC-Chapel Hill to test “how easy it is to order alcohol from the Web,” according to the Raleigh News & Observer. The entire article is opinion, paranoia and propaganda, a fitting take given the study’s results will almost certainly be more of the same.
Throughout it they admit that no one really knows if kids are obtaining much booze over the internet at all. They just don’t know, but boy are they worried. But even if there are a few that manage to get some delivered, it’s pretty clear that it’s not the primary way anyone, kids or adults, obtain beer, wine and liquor. Other normal channels are much more convenient, easy and cheaper, especially for minors. But that’s an old story. It’s easier to create attention and buzz by appealing to peoples’ fears about that series of tubes known as the internet.
As I said, I was going to pass on commenting about how this is simply an attempt to further an agenda, not a meaningful attempt to get at the truth. From the way they’re framing the study from the outset it’s an obvious fait accompli what the results will be. I really didn’t feel like going through the wearisome task of examining how studies like this are used increasingly as tools of propaganda (a trend well-documented in the book Trust Us, We’re Experts by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber). Happily, my friend Tomme (thanks, Amigo) sent me a link to a rebuttal to this rubbish from the wine world. In The Tools of Farce, Tom Wark (writing on his Fermentation Daily Wine Blog) gives an appropriately scathing analysis of exactly what the New Drys are up to. It’s worth a read.
In case you’re curious where the title to this post came from, it’s the title of an Elvis Costello song (I’m a huge Elvis fan) that came to me as I started writing this. This Sad Burlesque was on The Juliet Letters, released in 1993. So I fired up the iPod to give it a listen, only to realize that the lyrics are eerily appropriate to this post, so here they are below.
I write in hopes that by the time you get this letter
We may live to see a change for the better
Or are we so devoted to these wretched selfish motives
When the cold facts and figures all add up
They cannot contradict this sad burlesque
This sad burlesque
With miserable failures making entertainment of our fate
Laughter cannot dignify or elevate
This sad burlesque
Now can they recall being young and idealistic
Before wading knee-deep in hogwash and arithmetic
The pitying smirk
The argument runs like clockwork
Will run down eventually and splutter to a stop
P.S. Well by now you know the worst of it
And we’ve heard all the alibis that they’ve rehearsed
The smug predictions
If it’s not a contradiction
Keep faith in human nature
And have mercy on the creatures in this sad burlesque