Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Against Ivan Barleycorn

January 21st, 2010 · No Comments


More than we might care to admit, cultures are defined by their attitudes toward alcohol consumption. And so it makes sense that amateur anthropologists can learn a lot by paying attention not only to consumption habits, but to the psychological tactics that societies use to scare folks away from Demon Rum.

Those tactics are on display in this engrossing gallery of public service ads from the National Institutes of Health. Take, for example, the brutal earnestness of Dutch anti-drinking ads, which hint at a society that recognizes the centrality of alcohol to youthful social life, but also recognizes the substance’s dangers. That approach is a far cry from the more comical one favored in France, or the Scandinavian habit of making the sermon all about the kids.

In terms of sheer beauty, though, nothing can compete with the Soviet anti-drinking PSAs from the 1920s. Our inability to grok the Cyrillic alphabet obviously affects our processing of the poster above, which apparently warns against the impact that the overconsumption of vodka can have on a tippler’s financial fortunes. But upon first seeing the ad, we actually thought it was advertising a brand of absinthe that promised to release one from worldly cares. The artistry certainly makes it a lot more ambiguous than this.

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