Passing the Shout test

When you name your publication The Shout, you or your readers probably shouldn’t be surprised when your content becomes all sound and fury and essentially SHOUTY.

The Shout, for the vast majority of Aussies who don’t know, is an alcohol industry online trade rag. Its stock in trade is advertising and marketing dressed up as news. If a pub or hotel is up for sale, if there’s a new craft beer on the market, or a new appointment at an alcohol company, you’ll probably find it on The Shout.

Of late, The Shout has also filled its online column inches with the musings of Fergus Taylor, Executive Director of the alcohol industry mouthpiece, Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA). Announcing Fergus’ appointment in April last year, ABA Chairman Giuseppe Minissale promised Fergus would be “loud and proud…” and that the industry “wouldn’t be on the back foot anymore”.

There’s no question Fergus has the ‘loud’ part down pat. The alcohol industry’s latest attack dog, is well and truly off the leash. In a news post on The Shout on Monday 3 July, ABA hits out at FARE’s alcohol marketing claims, Fergus again takes aim at the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), and in particular, comments made by FARE’s Chief Executive at a recent Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summit.

Read enough of these posts on The Shout and you’ll soon detect a pattern. It’s not particularly hard when the headlines barely change from week to week. Here’s another headline from May this year. ABA hits out at FARE for ‘wasting public funds’. Watch this space to see who the ABA hits out at next week. I’m going to take a wild guess that it will be FARE. Or it might be my colleagues across the Nullabor at the McCusker Centre, who sometimes seem to get up the nose of these flakes.

And it’s not just ABA’s headlines repeating. Angry, accusatory, and a total absence of logic and coherence. And all-in on the Trump-school of thought that to simply state something is to make it real.

Public health advocates are well familiar with the scream test, the concept that the louder alcohol and tobacco companies scream the more impact a public health measure will likely have, and the more effective a public health advocate is becoming in realising those goals.

It is a well-recognised prescription of denying the evidence, pedalling false narratives, and threats and intimidation.

So the creation of Alcohol Beverages Australia and its aggressive posturing, comes as no surprise.

It’s a direct response to the successful work of public health advocates, researchers, academics, doctors and surgeons and community members in highlighting the very real, and negative impact of alcohol harm in Australia.

And as much as the ABA, and the alcohol industry more broadly, may not like it, that genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

Australians today have a much greater awareness and understanding of the harm from alcohol.

Australians acknowledge the tragedy of the 5,500 lives lost every year and the more than 157,000 people that are hospitalised.

And they recognise those harms extend far beyond the harms to the individual drinker and impact our families and communities more widely.

No amount of bluster about declining rates of alcohol consumption by under-age drinkers negates public health’s arguments that the alcohol industry targets young people with their marketing in its relentless campaign to recruit new drinkers.

If you’re truly interested in a wrap up of the Mumbrella Sports and Marketing Summit, can I suggest you check out this post on Mumbrella. And if you’d really like more information on FARE’s campaign for #BoozeFreeSport, head over to here.

Meanwhile, FARE will continue to fearlessly advocate for the evidence-based alcohol harm reduction measures that will save lives, reduce chronic disease and injury and keep communities and families safe.  Regardless of the alcohol industry’s noisy protestations and the latest Shout from Fergus.

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Michael Thorn

Michael is the Chief Executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), and tweets from @MichaelTThorn.

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