(I apologize for the lateness of this one. I had total laptop
problems on a trip in Canada (my problem, not Canada's!), and was not
able to post anything to the Web as I was planning. Good trip, though,
and you'll see it soon at Cold Hard Football Facts and The Latest.)
Print The Truth"
There is a story by the late Anthony Boucherby that title. A
small town newspaper editor is granted a wish by an itinerant typesetter
late one night, and in a fit of indignation over events of the day, the
editor points to the motto on the newspaper's front page: "We Print
The Truth." And he tells the typesetter -- who was evidently more
than just a roving craftsman -- that all he wants is for that to always
Little by little, he finds that his innocuous wish has been
granted, though not in any way he'd imagined. An innocent typo
reveals that indeed, anything this particular newspaper prints is
the truth. Things change, people remember things differently once
they're reported in the paper, and the editor comes to realize what a
powerful gift he has been granted. But not long after he begins to use
the power for good, he learns the truth of Lord
Acton's epigram. He warps the acts of the people around him, he
begins to believe he can change the world, just by printing things he
knows are not true, and making them true by the act of printing
I read that story when I was in my early teens, and it's stuck
with me. So much so that when I was involved in a discussion about
the media machinations of the anti-alcohol interests, "We Print The
Truth" came back to me. It was a discussion on the Brewers'
Association Forum about the legal drinking age, and I was responding to
another brewer's post about an ad he'd seen during the Olympics:
I just saw an ad during the Olympics in which a major U.S. brewer
vows to win the "fight" against underage drinking. While
I understand that it behooves the brewing industry to promote
responsible alcohol consumption, is it wise to use such aggressive
terms, especially when referring to something as dubious as America's
high drinking age?
The high drinking age in the U.S. is unique (in the western
world), controversial and of doubtful utility. Many statistics can
be cited showing that treating our young adults like children has done
little (if anything) to limit their alcohol consumption. Furthermore,
at the age of 18 one can get married, own property, work, pay taxes, and
go to war (and a whole lot more).
Heck, one is even allowed to drive in NYC traffic at 18! We
treat 18 year-olds as adults in every way except for allowing them legal
access to alcohol.
Is it wise to be pandering to the neoprohibitionists by running
ads that declare there is a war on "underage" drinking? An
argument can be made that we should not actively seek to change drinking
age legislation; it would seem too selfish. But can't we elect to
keep our mouths shut?
My response was that keeping our mouths shut was how we wound
up with "alcohol and other drugs" on the lips and minds of
everyone in the country. We let the neo-drys set the terms of the debate
("Alcohol is a drug, and therefore..."), we let the neo-drys
set the conditions of the debate (any attempts by the alcohol industry
to promote responsible drinking are self-serving and suspect), we let
the neo-drys set the very subject of the debate ("Age 21 Law [is]
Not Open For Debate" screams
the Marin Institute). Well, guess what? If we let them set the
terms, conditions, and subject of the debate...there is no debate.
Their latest bastardization of the truth is the message that
brewers don't want nutritional labels on their beers. The industry
doesn't want it, they say, but consumers demand it. Does everyone forget
that the ATF fined Bert Grant for putting a nutritional label on
his beer back in the early 1990s? The truth is that there are
regulations against such labels, but CSPI and groups like it want
to force a nutritional label of their own design on the industry as part
of their attrition campaign of constantly making new demands that
require new labels and new lawyers and new spending. It's not about
labels. It's about costing the industry money any way they can, and
making the industry look bad every time they can.
By keeping consistently on-message, by constantly going on the
attack, by equating the alcohol industry with baby-killers and
greed-monsters, the anti-alcohol conglomerate of researchers,
publicists, fundraisers, and hatemongers have become the editor in
"We Print The Truth." They flood the news desks of
newspapers and television and radio stations with their crafted press
releases every week, every day, and because the only thing the
alcohol industry ever puts out (besides tons of announcements about new
products, and new ad campaigns, and new sponsorships) is news of how
they're contributing to responsible drinking campaigns -- which the neo-drys
spit on and smear -- what the anti-alcohol groups say, unchallenged,
becomes what the public reads, sees, hears...and believes.
Not on my watch. I'm just one guy, but e-mail makes me
mighty. I've got a couple of Google
Alerts going that bring me booze news from around the world, and
when some neo-dry spouts off another misrepresentation, I gin up an
e-mail with the real truth, in courteous but disbelieving
language, and fire it off to the editor in question. Lots of them get
published. I get e-mails back from readers; one of them's even invited
me to stop in for a beer if I'm ever in her neck of the woods.
And the truth is out there. Among the great responses on the
legal drinking age/alcohol as drug issue from brewers both on the Forum and off was one from Garrett Oliver,
brewer at Brooklyn Brewery and noted speaker for beer. Garrett took
on the whole "Alcohol and other drugs" proposition quite
neatly. I asked him if I could use it, and his response was "please
do use it, and often!"
So here it is:
Obviously, this is a large question, but I wish to dispute your
assertion that alcohol is a drug. It is not. Beverage alcohol is food.
The difference is that a drug has no caloric value and cannot be
metabolized by the body for energy. Alcohol has lots of caloric value
(unfortunately) and unused calories can be stored as fat. This does not
meet the pharmacological definition of a drug. However, like many foods,
in moderation, it is good for your health. And like other foods,
overindulgence can lead to poor health or even death. This is true even
If you think this is semantics, it isn't. Alcoholic beverages are
a fundamental part of human society, and to claim that we are making
drugs when in fact we are making food is a dangerous mistake. The
logical extension, of course, is that we are drug pushers. As far as I'm
concerned, I'm essentially a chef, not a drug dealer. Drug dealers don't
do cheese tastings, last I checked.
Feel free to paste that right into your next letter to the editor.
And then that newspaper will be able to say, We Print The Truth.
One paper at a time is how we have to fight this for now. What we need
is an honest, non-spin-doctored institute with real integrity to
present the opposing viewpoint. At this point, I'm sorry to say that the
Beer Institute, the Wine Institute, and the Distilled Spirits Council
are all too scared of the power of the anti-alcohol conglomerate to
stand up to it. They try to appease it instead of meeting it with facts,
or sponsoring research of their own. Until that day, though, it's going
to be me against the neo-drys. Care to join me? We'll Print The