Flying Dog’s Jim Caruso – On Freedom Of Expression And The Brewers Association’s New Marketing Code

Last Friday afternoon American Craft Beer received a statement from Frederick, Maryland-based Flying Dog Brewing concerning their decision to exit the Brewers Association. An action they took in opposition to the trade organization’s newly implemented Advertising and Marketing Code, which the brewery sees as infringing on their freedom of expression.

At that same time, we also received a copy of the letter that Flying Dog’s CEO, Jim Caruso sent to the BA’s President and CEO Bob Pease, explaining the brewery’s decision to sever a 26 year relationship. And we found it to be an extremely articulate argument for the importance of free of expression and the dangers of censorship on free enterprise.

American Craft Beer sees issues of censorship and freedom of speech as being of vital importance to our industry. And with that in mind (and the fact that Jim’s a damn good writer), we are sharing some excerpts from his letter that we found particularly resonant…

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Dear Bob

“I write this letter in follow up to our discussions about the Brewers Association’s announcement that it is going to crack down on offensive beer labels.

The BA refers to this crackdown in various ways: a marketing code…an initiative…a policy. Regardless of what you wish to call it, it is an attempt by the BA to censor beer names that offend the sensibilities of some at the BA, primarily by trying to intimidate breweries into censoring themselves.

Self-censorship may seem less awful than direct censorship, but bullying people into self-censorship is a particularly vicious tyranny of silence.”

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“The insurmountable problem with what the BA is attempting to do is that the term “offensive” is not definable in any objective way or with any precision. Offensive to whom? Everyone finds something offensive. So who decides what might be offensive to the tens of millions of craft beer drinkers? You? No one can.”

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“Offensiveness is entirely subjective and depends on many factors including context and tone as well as an individual’s unique life experiences.”

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“Governmental approval should be sufficient for the BA. Instead the BA is appointing itself as the guardian for consumers.”

 “We believe in free markets, consumer choice, and – most of all – that consumers are sovereign and that the freedom to choose is their right.”

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“Free enterprise cannot exist without free expression.”

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You can read the complete termination announcement that CEO Jim Caruso sent to the Brewers Association’s President and CEO Bob Pease HERE

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Banner image credit: Competitive Enterprise Institute

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