Booze companies are not your friends
The Big Alcohol bucks funding GOP's agenda, Soviet anti-vodka propaganda + more!
SCENE: Fingers Academy of Drinking Studies, an extremely unaccredited booze media watchdog institute that operates out of a cluster of unclaimed shipping containers behind the Port of Newark’s beer import warehouse. Think Trump University, but slightly less real. In the teacher’s lounge—also a crate—Dean of Posting/boozeletter editor emeritus Dinfontay (one name, McLovin-style) takes a big slug of PBR Hard Coffee and taps the steel grille of an aging public-address microphone. The system crackles to life over the din of forklifts and rolling chassis. The morning announcements are about to begin.
Good morning, Fingers fam! This is your fearless Fingers Academy Dean of Posting with a quick reminder: booze corporations have never been, are not currently, and never will be your friends! We talk about this all the time here at F.A.D.S., but it bears repeating. Beverage alcohol firms want you to drink things for money, and you have money and also want to drink things. That’s tight! But it’s a transaction, not a mutual affinity, so until proven otherwise, assume that’s where your shared values end.
F.A.D.S.’ Dean of Posting pauses the announcement to drag on a Camel Crush cigarette that he hasn’t even activated the menthol pod in, which of course defeats the whole purpose. He stares off into the distance, swishing the now-lukewarm coffee-adjacent malt beverage around in its can. A seagull screeching overhead breaks his reverie, and he returns to the mic to resume his bulletin.
I mean it! No matter how heartwarming and/or kneeslapping their commercials are, no matter how many good tweets they do about eating ass, no matter how many gallons of river water they’re going to clean for every 12-pack of hard seltzer you buy. These companies exist to maximize shareholder returns. OK? If the best way to do that aligns with your politics, great, because they’re gonna do it. If the best way to do that is the exact opposite of your politics, tough shit, because they’re still gonna do it!
Dean Dinfontay finishes the PBR and tosses the can towards a recycling bin full of PakTech handles. He opens 13 year-old MacBook. The ancient turbine whirs, blending with the rising thrum of the shipping activity beyond the corrugated steel walls of the crate. F.A.D.S.’ baldest, mnost-cirrhosed, and least-qualified faculty member sighs and cracks his knuckles. Then, he begins to post…
Anheuser-Busch InBev and Diageo North America are the United States’ largest beer and spirits companies respectively, churning out thousands of alcoholic beverages like Shock Top Twisted Pretzel Wheat, Captain Morgan Cannon Blast, and also products that people actually drink on purpose. According to a new report from the accountability newsletter Popular Information, these behemoth booze firms are also two of of the biggest corporate donors funding the Republican Party’s sweeping state-level assaults on voting rights and abortion access. Very cool!
Here’s how your beer/hard seltzer/Crown Royal Peach money indirectly underwrites the Grand Old Party’s ghoulish goals, per journalists Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria:
In 2021, Republican-controlled state legislatures imposed a bevy of radical policies on millions of Americans. This was especially pronounced in two areas: abortion and voting rights. […] None of this would be possible without the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) […] numerous corporations that publicly declare their commitment to women's equality and voting rights donated large sums to the RSLC in 2021.
The RSLC provides boots-on-the-ground support and financial backing to help Republicans capture state legislatures. They’ve been disturbingly efficient: as of writing, 66 of the 99 legislative chambers across the country are under GOP control. The money that ABI ($65,000) and Diageo ($50,000) sent to the group over the past year helps right-wing politicians in their blood quest to consolidate power and secure minority rule, and stands in contradiction with the progressive postures both firms have publicly touted in recent years.
Neither company responded to Popular Information’s requests for commenton their contributions, which are documented in a 10,000+ page year-end filing that the RSLC submitted to the IRS.
Whatever, you say. Corporations are gonna corporation. It’s true! Whether that makes a difference in your future drink selections is completely up to you, and given the market power firms like ABI and Diageo have, you should be under no illusion that boycotting their brands will affect their political contribution strategies. It absolutely won’t!(Neither should you assume that independent, local, “craft” booze makers are innately more politically progressive than their macro counterparts, because they absolutely aren’t!)
Still, corporate donations like these are important to to keep in mind next time you see Budweiser or Bulleit wrapped in the flag or pedestaled as inviolable American cultural totems. ABI and Diageo, like all big beverage alcohol companies, invest millions of dollars every year figuring out new marketing maneuvers to incept you with goodwill and fellow-feeling towards their brands. Whatever secondary social or emotional significance the products hold in your life, they are first and foremost for sale. And as is so often the case, the companies that sell them them are using your money to fund a vision of the country’s future that you may find… well, tough to swallow.
SCENE: At F.A.D.S., Dean Dinfontay closes his wheezing MacBook, pours himself a mid-morning dollop of Smooj, and leans back in his chair. Around him, the teacher’s lounge comes alive with colleagues. As the scene fades, cut to an overhead shot of the dean’s laptop. On the edge of its scuffed aluminum cover, we can see a small sticker. “How do you do, legal drinkers?” it reads.
- Fin -
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☭ In Soviet Russia, vodka drinks *you*
A guy named Stu Nugent, who bills himself as “the enfant terrible of the sex toy industry” (lol, hell yeah), posted a fairly long thread on Twitter the other day showcasing some truly spectacular Soviet-era anti-alcohol public service announcements. They’re all very cool! I want to frame a few of them for my office/F.A.D.S. teacher’s lounge (which are both real to an equal extent, that extent being “not at all”) which is more than I can say for literally any American PSA about alcoholism that I’ve ever seen. Which is your favorite? I like 1977’s “don’t drink your life away.”
🧾 The Settle-Up
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Typically when Popular Information (which is great, I subscribe to it and you should too!) calls out corporations for throwing money at the political party intent on sweeping the leg of American democracy, they do some standard-issue both-sides-ing about how they contribute to parties and will never agree with every politician on every issue. It’s as predictable as it is rote and insulting!
Consumer-led boycotts deliver mixed results; even against high-profile, publicly traded targets—which tend to be more fearful of a falling stock price than a ding in sales revenue—they have to be prolonged to work. Even the Coors boycott, a three-decade effort brought by a coalition of labor unions and activists from the Black, Chicano, and LGBTQ+ communities over allegations of workplace discrimination and the eponymous family’s ultra-conservative political views, had only moderate success. “I would hesitate to say it really harms the company broadly because it adapts over time,” Dr. Allyson Brantley, Ph.D., author of a book on the subject, Brewing a Boycott, told me last year.