Nicholas Kristof’s Bogus Anti-Beer Crusade
Is there a New York Times columnist as insufferably moralistic, or as neglectful of facts that contradict his argument, as Nicholas Kristof? Last week Kristof mounted yet another of his high-horse save-the-children campaigns, this time against beermasters Anheuser-Busch. Kristof asks readers to join his boycott of the leading brewer for (he says) improperly permitting its output to be sold in large volumes in tiny Whiteclay, Neb., just across the state line from the Oglala Sioux’s Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Though notionally dry, the reservation is in practice wracked with alcoholism.
This state of affairs is not new, but is making headlines because a Nebraska lawyer has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Oglala Sioux tribe against Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and various other defendants. The lawsuit claims $500 million in damages—reparations, really—for letting the malt beverages be sold in places where Pine Ridge residents can so easily get at them.
Unlike Kristof’s column and blog post, the Times’ earlier reporting on the dispute at least makes a few concessions about how the tribe’s alcoholism problem has more complicated origins than the lawsuit would make it seem. For example, it quotes Oglala members who say the unusual Pine Ridge policy of complete alcohol prohibition within its boundaries has been a failure; other reservations, such as the nearby Rosebud, choose to legalize liquor sales, which tends to establish a class of local sellers more interested in staying in the community’s good graces. Kristof by contrast appears to have swallowed the lawsuit’s contentions in one hearty draft. And lawsuit contentions, like beer itself, can be dangerous when over-quaffed by the naive.