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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Out of their minds

The New Drys are, to quote Spike Milligan, out of their tiny little minds with bullshit. They extrapolate policy out of the thinnest tissue, they find evil everywhere they look, they are filled with a holy zeal of righteousness that is frightening at close quarters. But they've really gone over the top now. Check this out. This isn't even about booze or drugs: it's mints.

They're giddy with their success at getting A-B to withdraw Spykes, a nauseating but basically harmless "beer additive," essentially 1 oz. of intensely fruity/spicy 12% malt beverage that you could pour into your Bud Light to jazz it up. The New Drys screamed bloody murder on this. It's fruity and sweet! This supposedly appeals only to teens, not adults. It's small enough to smuggle into a dance! Adults like to carry their booze in large, bulky half kegs. It looks like a bottle of nail polish! Booze should all come in bottles that look the same? All this screaming got people so riled up that A-B withdrew them from the market. I gotta tell ya...I suspect they were withdrawn from the market because they weren't selling worth a damn. But between that, and the tax hike on malternatives in California, the New Drys feel a wave of success coming on, the kind of giddyness they haven't felt since they killed Joe Camel. Which has led them to get hysterical about ... mints.

This is why people have no respect for these idiots. They're really backing a good cause at the heart of it: they want to keep people, often kids, from ruining their lives with alcohol. Look: it happens, it's real, and we do ourselves no favors by pretending it doesn't. But they do themselves no favors by worrying and fussing and screaming about...mints.


Alan said...

Fruity and sweet!?!? It's clearly a campaign aimed at tee-totalin' wee old ladies, trying to wean them off their black tea and dry biscuits and onto the booze! A gateway drug leading to medium brown sherry. The heartless mega-brew bastards.

Anonymous said...

Mints? Is there an article to be read behind this?

'Cause I'm a full-on MINT ADDICT, man.


Bill said...

Well... all it was was an AP clipping attached to an anti-drug site, without commentary, without cheering. No evidence of finding evil everywhere they look; the only folks quoted were cops. Maybe _we're_ the ones who are overreacting.

Respectfully, all the fussing and worrying and screaming and buttons-being-pushed and name-calling here is being done by you. But most of us are complicit -- it's a typical reaction by many of us on beer sites, and we seem to over-react to the "new drys." Are we doing ourselves any favors by reacting this way?

Maybe it's time for us to assess what threat -- if any -- is there. You correctly noted that Spykes was pulled because no one bought it. The "new drys" made noise, but didn't accomplish anything -- consumer demand wasn't there, so the product was pulled. Sin taxes are always a threat, but is the threat caused by legislators looking for easy fixes or by "new drys"?

Rationally and emotionally, I don't see MADD as a threat to my being able to purchase and consume alcohol now or in the future. I don't see "protect our kids at all costs" groups as a threat. I don't see government once again trying to kill a many-tentacled industry and tax base.

So to me, the question becomes "How do we talk with 'new dry' folks?" How do we address their valid concerns, and share ours? For me, a start would be to stop letting them press my buttons, and stop pointing at their reactions as a justification for my behaving the same way. I mean, it's everybody's right to express themselves how they see fit -- we can call them idiots and out of their minds, they can call us whatever. But it doesn't help anything. Someone has to start treating the other with respect and kindness regardless of how the other treats one. Why can't it be us?

Lew Bryson said...


A reasonable objection, but with respect, I get daily mailings from this organization and regular mailings from others (because I signed up for them), and yes, they really are like I describe. There are always new campaigns: change the warning labels on booze (bigger and brighter), stop booze advertising, end happy hours, restrict access to purchase, change ads, more responsible ads, lawsuits charging billions in damages by ads supposedly targeting underage drinkers, alcohol energy drinks. They are often accompanied by a flood of "statistics," which often enough turn out to be baseless, but unfortunately that part of the story never gets the coverage that the scary original claims do.

This one was reported in their daily e-mailing with as much gravity as a pronouncement from the Surgeon General, but as you said: it was just a cop saying mints looked like cocaine. I put that in the same category as demanding that beer websites require proof of 21 ID: ridiculous.

Maybe I suffer from cop syndrome: I see so much of this that I assume everyone in the New Dry movement is that way. But when I've seen them in action -- at legislative hearings, at community meetings, in print -- they are shrill, and they do assume that big companies don't care about killing people, and they do assume that anyone who even asks for discussion of the issue instead of just kowtowing to their cause is misguided at best and more likely evil.

But you're off-base if you think the New Drys have no real effect. They are putting through keg registration laws -- and it's more difficult to purchase kegs for home use, and sales have dropped. They clamored for changing the tax rate for malternatives like Smirnoff Ice in California -- and it's going through (you may not care for them -- I don't -- but it's not something we should cheer for or write off). They are successful at getting increasingly draconian laws on underage drinking put in place -- social host laws, keg registration penalties, party notification laws, all with substantial penalties -- all of which have no appreciable effect on underage drinking, while refusing to consider alternative methods.

Did I get frustrated and call them "idiots" when they seriously reported a story about someone hand-wringing about mints looking like cocaine? Yeah, I did. It's my forum, and I did. When I write a guest column in the newspaper, or a letter to the editor, or testify before the legislature, I don't talk that way. I'm respectful, even when the New Drys are raving and presenting pure fiction as solid fact.

But every now and then, as people who've been on various online forums with me can tell you, I lose it, and can't be nice, and say what's on my mind. I do it here rather than in more solemn conditions.

Anonymous said...

"the only folks quoted were cops."-bill. The only cop quoted is the same idiot who claimed this week that people were ODing on marijuana.

Bill said...

There are groups that have done substantive work towards getting legislation passed, and then there are groups that have had little or no effect on getting legislation they want passed... but can still claim victory when something they want is passed. MADD can legitimately lay claim to having gotten the LDA raised to 21 -- nowhere near full credit, but they got the ball rolling. But I don't think the keg rules or the malternative tax falls into this category: the latter is easy money for legislatures looking hard to raise taxes without pissing people off; the former has all sorts of contributing factors that you've writtten about -- kegs being stolen, kegs being purchased by over 21s for the use of under 21s. It reminds me of Chicago's proposed tax on bottled water -- environmental groups can be happy if it passes and can claim victory, but the reality is that Mayor Daley sees it as easy revenue and that's the driving force. Environmental groups didn't bring this tax about, but they can be happy it passed.

Your first paragraph lists a bunch of things the new drys want to do, but it doesn't look like they're _accomplishing_ anything from that list. Meanwhile, the last 20 years have seen an ever-increasing variety of beer, wine, and spirits for sale, _easing_ of restrictions in buying and selling in many states, a rise in restaurants/bars selling wider varieties of stuff, more brewpubs... maybe you _do_ suffer from cop syndrome in assessing the threat from new drys. Or more likely, in monitoring these groups, you're only exposed to the worst. Ask yourself: are most folks who espouse a political position like the ones who show up at public hearings? Are most members of Amnesty International or Greenpeace or what have you as strident as the publications and alerts that come from those organizations? Do most members of political parties match the language that comes from the DNC or RNC?

My hunch is that many of the folks who support new dry groups are there because their lives were hurt through alcohol abuse: they lost a family member, or a marriage broke up, or a drunk driver wreaked havoc. Stridency could be through grief, or it could be through echoing the political tactics of hundreds of advocacy groups across the political spectrum. Yep, this is your forum, and BA and RB and Beermapping are ours, but they're all public, and when we treat New Drys as idiots, we're doing it where New Drys can read it, and reinforcing any beliefs they have that we're sodden drunken bums upholding alcohol over family, and all our public courtesy will go for naught.

Anonymous said...

‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’