Filed under: First Amendment Issues
Coffee, Donuts and Weed
by Paul Krassner
The irony of the Silly Season in America is that those who contribute to it seem to lack a sense of humor. Here are a couple of cases in point.
The folks at Dunkin’ Donuts figured they had made a smart move when they hired Rachael Ray–the host of “30 Minute Meals” on the Food Network plus her own syndicated daytime talk show–to hold a cup of iced coffee in their TV commercials and online ads. Simple enough idea, huh?
But a conservative website, Little Green Footballs, compared the fringed black-and-white scarf Ray was wearing to those typically worn by Muslim extremists.
Next came right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin, asserted that the scarf did in fact resemble a keffiyeh, which, Malkin wrote, “has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad. Popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant (and not-so-ignorant) fashion designers, celebrities, and left-wing icons.”
Suddenly Dunkin’ Donuts was bombarded with so many calls from reporters seeking a comment that they chickened out and decided to pull the ad, explaining that “the possibility of misperception detracted from its original intention to promote our iced coffee.” Laughter had been replaced by fear.
Now everybody wanted to get in the act. A YouTube video titled “Rachael Ray Is a Terrorist” made fun of the controversy, complete with a narrator admitting, “Yes, because when I look at Rachael Ray, I think 9/11.” [Editor’s note: There are so many Rachel Ray is a Terrorist videos on YouTube, we can’t choose just one!]
And on MSNBC’s nightly news show, Countdown, Keith Olbermann labeled Dunkin’ Donuts as the “Worst Person in the World.” He said, “They were as weak as their decaf,” and called for public punishment of the chain. “How about this? How about the rest of us boycott Dunkin’ Donuts for giving into fascists like Michelle Malkin? And for giving weight to perhaps the most absurd idea the lunatic fringers have ever belched forth–that there are terrorist scarves. Terrorist scarves! Dunkin’ Donuts–time to stop buying the donuts.”
Rachel Ray will soon present her new recipe for Al Qaediced Coffee.
The other example of severe silliness concerns a town in California called Weed–populaltion, 3,000–named after Abner Weed, who was a state senator a century ago. A small brewery there has been placing a slogan, “Try Legal Weed,” on the bottle caps of its beer. Just a harmless joke, right?
Not to the tunnel-vision of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. They perceive those three little words to be an invitation to smoke marijuana. So they sent a warning to Vaune Dillmann, the 61-year-old owner of the Mt. Shasta Brewing Company. If he didn’t cease and desist, he could be risking fines or sanctions. This threat could conceivably ruin his livelihood.
“This is ludicruous, bizarre,” said Dillman, “like meeting Big Brother face to face. Forget freedom of speech and the First Amendment. They are the regulatory gods, a judge and jury all rolled into one. This is a life or death issue for my business.”
A spokesperson for the agency tried to justify its position: “We consider it to be a drug reference, and find it to be false and misleading to the consumer in terms of what may or may not be the properties contained within that product.”
The mayor of Weed complained, “It’s just plain goofy to me the federal government is making so much of a fuss over this. I can sort of understand their point, but it all seems a little overboard.”
Under a headline, “Government Is Keeping Us Safe From Bottle Caps,” the Record Searchlight, editorialized: “Let’s get real. Anyone old enough to legally buy a six-pack is mature enough not to be dragged into a life of drug-addled debauchery by a message on the bottle cap.”
Gas stations sell T-shirts that say “High on Weed”–the town is at an elevation of 3,500 feet–and a placard on the way out of town states, “Temporarily Out of Weed.” Dillman’s bottled brews include Shastafarian Porter and Mountain High. His “Try Legal Weed” slogan has already appeared on more than 400,000 beer bottle caps. He recently bought another 400,000, and if they can’t be used, he’ll be out $10,000.
Wait till the government finds out about “This Bud’s For You.”