It’s a free speech issue, but not a First Amendment one. Still, a censorship battle has been been brewing for a while and now it’s come to a head: Flying Dog Brewery has just terminated its Brewers Association membership. And why? According to Craft Business Daily and confirmed by Jim Caruso, Flying Dog’s CEO:
“When Brewers Association president Bob Pease announced plans to crack down on offensive beer labels earlier this year [see Craft Business Daily, 4-12-2017], we had a hunch (as did most people) that this new initiative would not sit well with the people at Flying Dog Brewery . . . . Flying Dog ended its relationship with the BA at the start of last month. The departure, as predicted, is in response to the BA’s recent tweak to the language in its Marketing and Advertising code [see here].
In a prepared statement for Craft Business Daily, Mr. Caruso stated: “The BA’s new Marketing and Advertising Code is nothing more than a blatant attempt to bully and intimidate craft brewers into self-censorship and to only create labels that are acceptable to the management and directors of the BA. By contrast, Flying Dog believes that consumers are intelligent enough to decide for themselves what choices are right for them: What books to read, movies to watch, music to listen to, or beers to consume (and whether or not they like the labeling).”
According to Craft Business Daily (and confirmed by Mr. Caruso):
“When Flying Dog first started barking at the BA over the announcement, Bob Pease allegedly tried to keep the relationship in tact by assuring the brewery that the BA has ‘no issue with any Flying Dog brand.’ But Bob’s claim ‘entirely missed the point,’ Jim said, and appears to have set the brewery off even more. After announcing its intention to part ways with the BA on June 1st, Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso penned a six-page letter to Bob that made Flying Dog’s position clear: ‘On principle, Flying Dog will never contribute to, support, or in any way sanction any organization that is so averse to freedom of expression that it actively engages in any form of censorship. “Everybody finds something offensive,’ Jim continued. ‘That’s just part of life. People have the right to choose what they like and to reject what they find offensive. To us, the BA’s anti-free expression stance is offensive, and we are exercising our freedom to choose by rejecting the BA,’ Jim wrote.”
Flying Dog’s statement ended with this: “Flying Dog is contributing to the 1st Amendment Society an amount equal to double the tens of thousands of dollars it has spent on its BA membership and BA-related events annually.”
Invitation to respond
Mr. Bob Pease, CEO of the Brewers Association, has been invited to respond to Flying Dog’s comments.
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- Among other free speech events, Flying Dog has sponsored some First Amendment Salons.
- Disclosure: I know Mr. Caurso and have been invited to some of Flying Dog’s free-speech events.