At another on-line venue, I spent the past weekend making the case for beer as a beverage just as suitable as wine for pairing with fine food, and arguing that if a “top table” seeks to maintain its status, stocking inferior alcoholic beverages ideally should lead to the loss of a half-star in the ratings game.
The furies of the uncomprehending were unleashed, and so it goes, although it must be confessed that my protégé Shawn Vest at Charlestown Pizza Company took more hits per square byte than the Curmudgeon.
During the course of this discussion, I was asked in a private mail to explain why I detest Budweiser and its corporate creator. The following rant, excerpted from a piece I wrote ten years ago, provides a mild-manner encapsulation of the answer to this question.
Attention, Bud drinkers: You might want to pull out now and head over to Budweiser.com for Bud Bowl previews.
To millions of Americans, it is an article of faith beyond any question that Anheuser-Busch exists somewhere in a rarefied utopia of patriotic, mythological symbols that include Ozzie, Harriet, apple pie, baseball when Kennesaw Mountain Landis called the shots, Abraham Lincoln, Manifest Destiny and eagerly scoring with a nubile cheerleader in the frigid back seat of a ‘57 Chevy parked by a barn following the homecoming basketball game … and being utterly unrepentant about it during Sunday School the following morning.
Millions effortlessly accept this image of Anheuser-Busch, one that is enforced by the incessant, digitally-enhanced clatter of the brewer’s public relations and marketing mega-machine, one whose expenditures exceed the gross national product of most Third World nations, and which contributes mightily to the price of a “beer” that is filled to the brim with rice, fermented in a couple of hours, lagered for less than the two weeks meekly accepted by entry level American workers as the duration of their paid vacations until they’ve somehow managed to avoid termination for ten to fifteen years, and finally elevated to the status of reigning religious trademark icon for little other reason than a cacophony of advertising so unapologetically venal and patronizingly pervasive that Josef Goebbels surely spins in his grave at the recognition that his notion of the Big Lie has been so brutally corrupted by these robber barons of the buzz biz.
However, in a perverse and backhanded sort of way, perhaps Anheuser-Busch does indeed symbolize the so-called American Dream, in the sense that the idealized, sanitized American Dream is a tricky coin with two radically different sides. On one side the familiar platitudes are arrayed: purple mountain majesty, pursuit of happiness, we the people, the amber waves of grain, and so on.
On the other side, uncomfortable realities intrude, and by dawn’s early light we see the malignant, slimy, exploitative underbelly: The glorification of ends achieved by any means, the corruption engendered by power for the sake of power, the cancerous ideology of growth for the sake of growth.
To be sure, Anheuser-Busch isn’t the only company that rose to a position of prominence by destroying its competitors, by bribing, by threatening, by extorting, by fixing prices, and by caring not one jot about the destruction — and the utterly vapid sterility — left in its bullying and arrogant wake. Not the only one … but the best example that we have in the world of American beer, which A-B dominates like a mutant Godzilla.
Of course, the ultimate irony is that the vise-grip of A-B’s market share is perpetually tightened by the brand loyalty of those who aren’t able, or interested, or willing, to try and look past the shameless propaganda blitzkrieg to glimpse the savage realities — the exceedingly relevant truths — that lurk beneath the motifs of Americana that are exalted and perpetuated by the company’s public relations machine.
Which Bud’s for you?
All I want to know is this: How many of the people — the common people, just plain folks, the silent majority, the man in the street — who lift Budweiser to their lips in a daily ritual of patriotic affirmation are using the Busch family’s alcoholic soda pop as a medicinal salve; a few cold beers to wash away the frustration of another long working day caught in the tentacles of regimented, corporate America, at the mercy of tyrannical multinational corporations who can buy and sell them a billion times over, chew them up, spit them out, run rampant, fill the pockets of upper management even as the individual is being down sized into a taco-slinging, minimum-wage nonentity … and yes, that would be the very same sort of bloated, multinational corporation that has created the blessed, nearly frozen medicine, the aluminum-clad balm, and has done so by way of a cynical agro-industrial process, and now the drinker is angrily slamming the fragile can to the unsuspecting surface of the bar top in a fit of impassioned rage at the economic injustice of the evil multinational corporations without ever grasping that the product in his hand is part and parcel of it, a bulwark against the intrusion of craft-anything, and inexorably woven into the fabric of the evil that he so loudly detests.
The cure is the disease … but just try making the point to someone who is convinced that the eagle on the dollar bill is the same one on the Anheuser-Busch logo, and that both cozily nest in the nostrils of George Washington’s nose on the face of Mt. Rushmore.
As H. L. Mencken said, “Human beings never welcome the news that something they have long cherished is untrue: they almost always reply to that news by reviling its promulgator.”
I’ll consider myself reviled.