Friday, 22 January 2010

The real history of binge-drinking


The BBC has struggled to find a way of promoting the temperance movement today, so it has resorted to a little quiz...


It's not actually a quiz about 'binge-drinking history'. It's a quiz about alcohol control with such leading questions as this:




If you want to swot up on the history of binge-drinking, I thoroughly recommend Virginia Berridge's article  'The normalisation of binge drinking? An historical and cross cultural investigation with implications for action' (available as a PDF). But if you can't be bothered, here's the first line which tells you gives you the gist:

Binge drinking is nothing new in British society and has not always attracted disapproval.

Binge drinking is, of course, what we used to call simply 'drinking'. Berridge shows how the use of the more scary-sounding 'binge-drinking' has spread in a short period of time, first by the media:




And then by politicians:



The time-lag between the term being used by The Times and it being used in Parliament indicates that the moral panic over binge-drinking is largely an invention of the media. In his article 'Binge drinking and moral panics: historical parallels?', Peter Borsay compares today's feeding frenzy with that of the early-18th century 'Gin Crisis', and concludes:

Both are driven by pressure groups and an expanding media industry, focus primarily on the role of women, are urban based, and are underpinned by public perceptions of government complacency and an element of xenophobia.

Both could be categorized as a form of 'moral panic', that is, an event constructed in the media that draws its power not primarily from its inherent features but from its capacity to mediate a package of wider social anxieties.

There is nothing new under the sun. It's just a pity there aren't a few more historians in Parliament. Or at the BBC for that matter.



8 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

The current use of the term "binge-drinking" is a classic example of weasel words. A "binge" used to mean "drunk for days", or at the very least starting at 11 am and not finishing until closing time. Now, as you say, it is simply used to refer to three pints of Stella in a session – something that,to many people, is simply normal drinking.

Anonymous said...

"Binge drinking has escalated and become a problem" simply equates to "the propaganda machine has turned up the heat against alcohol as it did against tobacco" and "don't you see more of it, 'binge drinking' that is, in all the headline 'news' and mainstream media outlets" - all part of the "conspiracy" of sorts - whoever's behind all this manufacturing of a "problem" where there was none - and the compliance of incompetent fake-journalists who sieg-heil to whoever is sitting far up high and deep in the background funding these sort of mass-propaganda social engineering schemes we've become innundated with.

I just hope there is some truth and freedom in the future left, from which vantage point we are able to look back and recognize the current times for what they actually are - pre-fascist prohibition of all sorts on the pathway to whatever genuine fascism the ruling elite seems to have in plan for us sleeping minions who haven't turned up the heat and fought back loudly enough yet to put it in its place and out of our personal lives, where it has no place if it were to be a free and not controlled society.

Like a freight train, it is rolling down the tracks again, this time against alcohol, same as it was against tobacco.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see some statistics on the prevalence of alcohol use amongst women over the past few decades. No, I'm not suggesting that women (fill in objection here).

Perception counts, though. People tend to have a different reaction to seeing a 22 year old woman drunk in the street than a 22 year old male. It seems that the pictures in the news are always of women. Certainly there are men drunk too. Why aren't they photographing the men?

The liberalization of women over the decades is a wonderful thing, but with it comes a resistance to acknowledging that while we perceive women as social equals to men, it obviously doesn't mean that we perceive women in the same way we perceive men. The photogs know that, and that's why they take pictures of the women.

Anonymous said...

From my vantage point as a student in the seventies and now as an academic, I would say that drinking among male students has declined and that the general increase (until 2005) in alcohol consumption is largely due to women drinking and much of that by the middle classes drinking quietly at home. I can honestly say I had a very bad hangover every Saturday for three years and the antics of sports teams at university made today's binge drinkers look like amateurs. Imagine the reaction today if a main road were blocked by people lying down on their backs and sequentially walking on top of a row of stomachs. This and far worse regularly happened among the 3 or 4% lucky enough to go to university back then.

Anonymous said...

Yes, first tobacco and now alcohol, with the same people advising the Government. Martin Mckee even has a blog in which he details every move of his snout through the public health trough. Another week, another country's affairs we pay him to meddle in.

Dark Lochnagar said...

This talk of 'binge-drinking' is a load of shite. 'Binge-drinking' is when someone goes 'off the rails' and drinks solid for days on end. I knew a guy up north who used to do that on occassion and he drowned in 6 inches of water when he turned his car over in a pond, pished out his brain. That's 'binge-drinking', not having 6 pints per night on a Friday and Saturday.

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