Friday, April 22, 2011

Going Loko Over "Blast"

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday, when this Huffington Post article caught my eye.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is joining a chorus of state and city officials calling for Pabst Blue Ribbon to reduce the alcohol content in Blast by Colt 45, a high-alcohol malt beverage being promoted by Snoop Dog.

Madigan made the request in a letter to Pabst Thursday, according to a release from her office. She also expressed concern over the product being marketed to minors.

Officials in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Guam, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Washington, and the San Francisco city attorney have all spoken out against the beverage, and some groups have accused Pabst of targeting African American youths specifically.
Apparently I'm a little late to the party. I hadn't even heard of Blast until seeing this article. But since I'm typically the only rational one around (hush...), let me offer my unsolicited thoughts.

First, I think the sheer number of states and politicians chiming in on this "problem" can only mean one thing: it's election season. 2012 is sure to be a hotly-contested, fiercely-debated election year, and the piranhas are swarming on any slow-moving, meaty cow of an issue that comes wading into Shit Creek. Mix that with the media industry's underlying desire to scare you into watching/reading what they have to say, and you get this type of "news". All of the fear-mongering cliches are there. "Targeting African American youths" [And where was all of the concern when alcohol first got thrown at inner city kids, back in the 70s and 80s? Or, for that matter, tobacco? Or a little something called crack?]. "Marketed to minors". "The 'brightly colored cans and fruit flavors' will attract underage drinkers to the 'binge-in-a-can.'" "Blast will kick down the front door of your home, stab you in the gut, and rape your children in front of your dying eyes!"

Okay, I may have made up that last one. Of course, I haven't checked Fox News for their take on the topic yet, so... You could also point to the notion that Snoop's endorsement is an attempt to target youths as preposterous, since Snoop's biggest fanbase at this point in his career are people in their early 30s. Sixteen-year-olds today look at Snoop the same way I look at Smokey Robinson.

Second, the part about bright colors and fruit flavors is particularly laughable. When Four Loko was laying waste to the life of everyone in the nation under the age of 25 six months ago (seriously, if you were one of the people feeding the hype about the "dangers" of Loko back then, you've got to feel like an idiot right now; if you don't, then you probably also think Sarah Palin's just a good ol' folksy, plain-speakin' gal who waves to Russia every morning), the media and moralists focused their harrumphs on the fact that the cans contained caffeine, not that they're brightly colored and come in a rainbow of fruit flavors. The FDA enacted bans on caffeinated alcoholic drinks, but not fruity ones. And now that the makers of Loko have removed the caffeine and put the very same bright colors and fruit flavors back on the shelves of stores, no one has so much as batted an eyelash. Hey, why bother being "concerned" about something if there's no ratings or prospective votes involved, right? And Loko certainly wasn't the first fruit-flavored alcohol. Remember St. Ides Special Brew? Or wine coolers? Or *gasp*

And then you have what might be the most outlandish shovelful from the pile behind the bull. Madigan states that, "A product like this only serves to glamorize alcohol abuse and promote binge drinking, threatening the safety of those consuming it." *sigh* Let's get a few things straight here:

  1. Products don't "glamorize alcohol abuse" or "promote binge drinking". True alcohol abuse is a guy working on his third half gallon of cheap gin at 2 pm while burning his kids with a cigarette and polishing his NRA member's license. Doesn't exactly sound like a Super Bowl halftime ad to me. And no matter what uptight parents groups try to tell you, getting drunk with your buddies on a Friday night isn't binge drinking. If every few days you treat alcohol like a bulimic treats the Pizza Hut lunch buffet, then yes, you're a binge drinker. And you need help. If you drink two and a half Four Lokos and then go out to the bar with 15 of your friends and happen to fall asleep while you're there? Not a binge drinker. Still sad? Perhaps (and fuck you). But not a binge drinker.
  2. Blast does not threaten anyone's life. The FDA, as easily bowed by rabble-roused public pressure as they may be, does have something to say about whether or not a liquid sold for human consumption has the power to kill you. It's the same reason you don't see bottles of Mountain Dew "Antifreeze Rush" behind the glass doors at your local convenience stores. The fact of the matter is, the person pouring the alcohol down your throat—which, 9 out of 10 times is you—is what determines whether or not that drink will harm you. Knowing your limits, or knowing if you have a problem that prevents you from knowing your limits, is the only real safeguard you need once a beverage has passed the FDA's primary screening. If the formula gets from the FDA's labs to your lips—without being contaminated by a third party somewhere along the line—and you die from it? Well, your family may not want to hear it, but your death is officially a suicide. There's simply no one to blame but yourself.
Ah, personal accountability...wouldn't that be something? But maybe that's too much work for you. If so, then feel relieved that there are always people like Lisa Madigan, people who are more than willing to let their foolhardy political greed be your babysitter.

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