Monday, February 19, 2007

As If Red Sox Fans Needed An Excuse to Drink

I like free speech. I hate government over-regulation. I like beer. I hate the New York Yankees. Based on those four facts, I can say that with regard to the following story, I'm siding with a certain brand-new Red Sox star.
According to the United States Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, watching someone drinking a beer in a Japanese Asahi beer commercial may cause alcoholism in the States! Everyone, cover your eyes immediately before you succumb to the power of the almighty television a language you can't even a commercial you will never see aired in America...because its a friggin Japanese commercial! Why doesn't the U.S. government just skip all this shit and force us right into the 1984-like world in which they really want us to live?

Overreact much? How about gone entirely insane. The government wants to take legal action against Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka who is seen in the Asahi ad consuming beer, a no-no in the States. While it's one thing to enforce the U.S. regulation of not showing the actual consumption of alcohol in advertisements, it's entirely another to foist that law on another country or a person who just happens to now live in the U.S. but made the commercial in another country under an entirely different jurisdiction.

Asserting the government's position, ATTT Bureau Director of Public and Media Affairs Arthur Resnick cited a 1995 bureau ruling to the Boston Herald which finds unacceptable any ad, "which depicts any individual (famous athlete or otherwise) consuming or about to consume an alcoholic beverage prior to or during an athletic activity or event," or an ad that infers drinking alcohol "will enhance athletic prowess, performance at athletic activities or events, health or conditioning."
I tend not to spend too muct time worrying about 1984-like conditions prevailing anywhere outside of university campuses, but this is beyond silly. My guess is that some idiot in the ATTT (a) wants publicity to prove they deserve their funding, (b)is a government bureacrat who has way too much time on his hands, (c) is a Yankee fan, or (d) all of the above.

Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy breaks this down further...
The regulation in question is foolish even as applied to the United States. Consumers should be able to decide for themselves whether or not seeing athletes chugging beer is a good recommendation for the product. While an ad that incorrectly claims that drinking beer "will enhance athletic prowess" may indeed be misleading advertising, an ad that merely portrays an athlete drinking a beer is just ordinary "image advertising" that consumers are more than capable of evaluating for themselves. I am not going to get into technical First Amendment analysis here. But it seems to me that censoring advertising not for false factual claims about the product, but merely for promoting a favorable image of a product that the government disapproves of, is a clear violation of constitutional free speech rights - even if the courts have wrongly concluded otherwise.

What makes the ATTB action against Matsuzaka particularly reprehensible, however, is that the ad in question isn't being aired in the United States. It is a Japanese-language ad that will only be shown in Japan, where ads showing athletes drinking beer are perfectly legal. Not only is the ATTB engaging in censorship of American advertising, it also claims the right to censor ads in a foreign country.
The ad's available on YouTube. Damn, I need a beer.


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