Sunday, January 3, 2010

Celebrating Alcohol, And Mourning Its Abuse: A Media And Cultural Contradiction

The Journal Sentinel carried Sunday page one frivolity with photos about the annual Polar Bear Plunge, noting that the "pro" it located for an interview fuels up with Jack Daniels each year before 'braving' Lake Michigan cold waters.

OK, don't be a scold about cold-weather fun, you say.

But you read farther into the paper and find stories about 55 drunken driving arrests over New Year's in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties that included four crashes, two injuries and one not-so-funny plunge into Lake Michigan by a drunk driver and her passenger - - in their car.

I had driven (sober) past the area of the accident not five minutes earier. The paper says that deputies, closing off the scene, made several more OWI arrests on the spot.

So I count my lucky stars that I didn't meet one of these irresponsible drivers out on the roads - - not to mention that as I was turning off I-794 to go north on Lincoln Memorial Drive, a deputy was pulling over the motorist directly behind me...

Then the paper carried this story about a fatal snowmobile crash - - alcohol and speed believed to be factors - - and you wonder: Anyone connecting the dots?

The Journal Sentinel has been pounding away about our state's penchant for drunken driving, and has editorially criticized the State Legislature's recent weak effort at amending Wisconsin OWI statutes.

It's interesting that both the conservative blogger/talker Jeff Wagner and I both have taken similar positions.

But my point is that the paper undercuts its news and editorial campaign against excessive drinking on the roads by glorifying the drinking that underlies some of the Polar Plunge participation.

Do we think that those people fortified by alcohol before the plunge had designated drivers?

The story finds one group of plungers who then headed off to a tavern.



The Sconz said...

Only two injuries on New Year's? That's pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Lighten up Jim. These crazy people jumping into Lake Michigan were only having fun and hurt no one else. Treat drunken drivers as criminals.

Wisconsin has a conflict of interest: they collect a huge amt of taxes from every bottle of alcohol and every can of beer. Then they punish users who consume too much.

If that wasnt bad enough, your compatriot, Ed Garvey, recently proposed legalizing all recreational drugs, ostenibly, to put Mexican drug lords out of business. The state would no doubt capitalize on that then deny drug use causes any problems.


James Rowen said...

To g_kid;

I think it's more than a conflict of interest. It's a cultural distortion.

Ask yourself: how many routine events around here are tied to heavy alcohol consumption: Opening day, tailgating, Summerfest...