Just when we think State censorship is a thing of the yesteryear, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission has gone and thrown a grenade down the ol’ rabbit hole with its ban of Flying Dog Brewery’s best-selling micro-brew, “Raging Bitch.” First amendment rights are once more being bent over the table and fucked, as Flying Dog Brewery, with the support of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, filed suit in U.S. District Court on Friday with this ludicrous attempt at state censorship.
Designed by renowned British artist Ralph Steadman− Hunter Thompson’s Gonzo Artist− Raging Bitch’s label is the focal point of the ban, while the suit seeks to recover damages from the loss of sales under the statewide ban, which the Commission issued based on its members’ personal distaste for Raging Bitch’s labeling.
The nonsense all began in 2009, when the Maryland micro-brewery applied for a license to sell the beer in the state of Michigan, and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission prohibited the sale of Raging Bitch, under the claim that the beer’s label is “detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”
Really? “This is not a test; this is the Emergency Broadcast System informing you to beware of liberal, strange and weird illustrations appearing on beer labels that may be gateways for narcotic use and all sorts of strange sex.”
While Michigan struggles to survive the active departure of nearly all its citizens, a dying automobile industry, and yea might as well mention obesity; it appeases citizens to know that the Liquor Control Commission is watching our back.
“Regrettably, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and its members have taken it upon themselves to control not merely alcoholic beverages, but speech as well,” said Flying Dog’s Attorney Alan Gura of Washington, D.C. “The defendants arbitrarily imposed their personal tastes in banning Raging Bitch, clearly violating Flying Dog’s First Amendment right to free expression.”
The filing of the case was announced by Gura and Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso at Crunchy’s, a craft beer pub near the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing, in March
Raging Bitch, a Belgian-Style India Pale Ale, was created to celebrate the brewery’s 20th anniversary in 2010. Raging Bitch was an instant hit, and went on to be named one of the “Top Ten New Beers in America in 2010” by Modern Brewery Age, and is now their #1 best-selling beer. Gonzo artist Ralph Steadman’s Raging Bitch label depicts a female dog drawn in the inimitable style for which Steadman has been internationally celebrated for half a century.
After learning of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s obvious distaste for his art, Steadman said, “Freedom of speech and artistic expression is as fundamental to our being as the alphabet itself. I thought censorship went out with D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ about 50 years ago! So if you are feeling a strong itch to drink Raging Bitch, just do it and get on with life.”
Michiganders appreciate their fine brew, while the same can be said for creative and punctual artistic expression in the form of a label. Damn the man once more. I don’t think it needs to be said, but, don’t we have bigger fish to fry? This incident proposes a bit of a dilemma for this Michigander: obviously speech must remain free so the first reaction is to sue the pants off of them; but as the thought resonates it becomes clear that an out-of-state brewery being awarded large sums of money paid out by our state government probably isn’t the answer either.
Long live H.S.T.