Britain’s miserablist and moralising newspaper calls for the return of prohibition – but for men only.
As we entered 2020, many people – us included – expressed a hope, as forlorn as it might be, that we might see a revival of the Roaring Twenties, the 20th Century’s era of excess, pleasure-seeking and innovation. What better way to say goodbye to a decade of financial, political, sexual and social austerity than to throw caution to the wind and live for kicks once more?
Unfortunately, yet depressingly predictably, The Guardian – Britain’s bastion of miserablism and middle-class victimhood – has decided that the aspect of 1920 that we should be reviving is prohibition. Wanting to turn a Dry January into a Dry Forever, Guardian columnist Moira Donegan – a fine Irish drinking name if ever we heard one – has declared that alcohol should be banned. But the twist – though regular Guardian readers won’t find it to be much of a twist at all – is that Donegan is not advocating prohibition for all. Oh no. Her hot take, posed as ‘a thought experiment’, is simple: “Should men, really, be allowed to drink alcohol?”
Donegan’s argument is simple, like many a simpleton argument is. Men are responsible for most domestic violence, domestic violence is frequently fueled by alcohol, therefore, men should be banned from drinking alcohol. We could pick away at this all night – the message that violent men are somehow not responsible for their actions, but were instead led astray by the demon drink is a somewhat dubious one – should a violent alcoholic be let off for his assaults because of his addiction? It’s also not an argument that is borne out by the facts, namely that alcohol might loosen inhibitions but doesn’t cause behaviour – violent drunk men are simply violent men full stop, and if you take away the booze, they are still going to find excuses to lash out at others, be they partners or strangers on the street.
Donegan’s argument that men are somehow not responsible for their actions when drunk goes against everything we’ve been told in recent years – that no matter how much you have drunk, you are still responsible if you assault, rape or murder someone,. The booze is not a mitigating factor. Yet now, it seems, it is – after all, Donegan’s argument seems to be that if we take away the booze, we’ll somehow stop the violence.
Donegan’s argument – and I accept that this is as much clickbait as anything, which is why we’re not linking to it – feels like old school temperance wrapped up in feminist clothing. American prohibition and the temperance movement elsewhere was a largely female and Christian driven attack on immorality and wanton pleasure, one that had a wider (and sometimes valid) social reformation at its heart, but ultimately appealed to that most basic of instincts – the desire to deny to others pleasures that you personally disapprove of. The demands of the temperant were simple – take away the booze and allow the newly sober man to become a God-fearing, productive member of society. Well, we know how that ended, with an explosion of criminality and illicit booze flooded speakeasies and gave way to more violence than legal alcohol could have ever caused. But the anti-booze campaign has been at full force for some years now, with various concerned bodies that have the ear of government pushing for tighter controls, plain packaging, minimum pricing and other restrictions, based on the questionable science that any level of alcohol is dangerous. None have quite gone the whole hog and demanded an outright ban, though it’s clearly their end game. Laughably ludicrous newspaper columns are often the first blow in a wider campaign, a toe in the water than is designed to soften up public opinion by creating an artificial groundswell of concern. Dry January, pitched as a healthy start to the year, is an anti-alcohol campaign aimed at promoting the normalisation of not drinking and the demonisation of even moderate drinking is pushed forward.
Donegan’s suggestion – that a prohibition should be applied only to men – is a tailor-made reboot of an old religious argument for the keenly intersectional Guardian reader, though the suggestion that women will restrict their alcohol consumption to the occasional sherry and never, ever misbehave or become violent when in their cups is one that a quick Saturday night stroll through any town centre in Britain could show the folly of in no time. That women will, without exception, be civilised drinkers whereas men – all men, even those who might just enjoy a quick half after work or maybe a glass of wine with a meal – are uncontrollable brutes who must be denied life’s little pleasures because of the behaviour of a small majority is extraordinarily bigoted. We would rightly condemn any attempts to stop women drinking ‘for their own good’ because they might do things that they later regret, and we’re equally appalled when someone tars all Muslims with the same brush as Islamist terrorists or makes some other blanket statement about a group of society based on the actions of that group’s worst members. Why, then, is a major newspaper – even as ‘thought experiment’ – running a piece like this? It’s enough to drive you to drink.