Friday, February 11, 2005

Getting drunk on Stalin

[Cross-posted at Crash Landing: Original post, Update]

8 Feb: The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission caved under pressure from the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and will no longer offer wines with Stalin's mug on the label. Apparently, for Ukrainians in Manitoba, the image of Stalin on a bench with Churchill and Roosevelt was enough to kill their buzz.

The civil liberties association, however, must have been drunk when they figured that pressuring a government agency to put the kibosh on this wine was consistent with their mandate of upholding things like, oh, freedom of speech, say. Or expression. I suppose this just means that we have a new liberty--freedom from looking at a Communist dictator.

Update 11 Feb: Okay, so I emailed the person on the UCCLA's press release about their successful campaign to have wines featuring Stalin's mug removed from Manitoba liquor stores. They name a Diana Soroka. It turns out that she's not from the UCCLA, but the communications manager of the gov liquor command & control agency, (or whatever). "I was not aware," she says, "that they had put my name on their news release until the release was sent to me by a member of the media."

Sneaky bastards. Still, Soroka was nice enough to pretend like I had asked her qua MLCC. To wit, here's what I wrote:

"I applaud the fact that Stalin's face won't be on wines any longer. I consider Stalin to be one of the worst monsters of the 20th century. Still, I'm curious why you decided to pursue this issue as the civil liberties association? Shouldn't you be defending the wine producers right to place whatever image they'd like on the bottle on the grounds of freedom of speech/expression?"

She says that this issue struck a chord with Ukrainians and others in the community and that they have "heard from people in other parts of Canada and the US thanking us for removing the wine from our shelves." Well that's great. Good on you.

As for stifling liberty: "While we recognize the winery's right to place whatever image they choose on their wine labels," wrote Soroka, "we also have the right to sell or not sell any beverage alcohol product that we feel may offend our customers. These particular wines were brought in to appeal to our Ukrainian customers. As these customers indicated to us that they were offended by the label, we chose to remove the product from our shelves."

Holy shit. Are you telling me that the motivation has something to do with what customers might want? (And if I say I'm skeptical, would that make me a jerk?) And, well, as the monopoly provider of these wines, no niche market can develop for those of us who like to collect bottles of wine with swine on them.

That still leaves this question: What is a civil liberties association doing trying to get a product pulled from the shelves for having a picture of a jackass on it? I've sent the UCCLA an email. I'll post any response I might get as soon. (Developing...)

This, by the way, is the second time I've taken issue with a purported civil liberties association in Canada. The first time had to do with Bountiful, British Columbia, where a bunch of fundamentalist Mormons practice polygamy. The BC civil liberties association went ahead and urged the BC attorney general's office to investigate and press charges against the Mormon's for statutory rape and related "liberties" violations (but, please note, not for the polygamy thing...).

Of course, the attorney general had no choice but to pursue the polygamy business as well as soon as the BCCLA made enough of a stink to get other groups to clamor on about all those wives. Yeah, I'm jealous too (but I didn't call the feds). You can read my story on that here (PDF).

(Note: I let Soroka know that I intended to use her questions for blogging purposes.)


Anonymous Peter M said...

Does anyone else see the irony in that the banned wine was a UKRAINIAN brand?

7:47 p.m.  
Blogger P. M. Jaworski said...

It's interesting you point that out, Peter, I hadn't noticed until you mentioned it. It just makes this whole think a touch more pathetic.

9:54 a.m.  

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