Reeder: Lisa Madigan’s selective PC crackdown leaves bitter taste
By Scott Reeder email@example.com July 15, 2013 9:20PM
Updated: August 17, 2013 6:35AM
Lisa Madigan is at it again.
Illinois’ attorney general is trying to keep the world safe from coffee mugs and, apparently, from goofy parodies.
It seems she doesn’t like a coffee cup marketed by Urban Outfitters that looks sort of like a prescription drug bottle.
The mug is bright orange like a medicine bottle and has an Rx-type label on it. The prescribing physician is “Dr. Harold Feelgood.” The dosage instructions are “Drink one mug by mouth, repeat until awake and alert.” And the quantity is “12 ounces of black gold.”
I first saw one of these mugs in the hands of a co-worker and found it mildly amusing.
I miss my caffeine. I gave it up seven months ago for health reasons and find myself longing for it every morning. A good jolt of caffeine can really get you going.
And that’s the humor behind the mug. Most caffeine users enjoy its mild stimulation properties. Those of us who have quit find ourselves jonesing for another fix.
So imagine my surprise when I learned that Madigan recently signed a letter along with 21 other state attorneys general calling for Urban Outfitters to quit selling the mug.
Here is an excerpt from the letter: “As you may be aware, there is a national health crisis related to the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs. As attorneys general, we have prosecuted and engaged in outreach to stop this epidemic. We are actively engaged in a campaign of environmental change to educate the public that abuse of prescription drugs is not safe simply because the medication originated from a doctor.
“By putting these highly recognizable labels on your products you are undermining our efforts. These products demean the thousands of deaths that occur each month in the United States from accidental overdoses.”
Looks like Madigan and her attorney general cohorts are calling out the parody police. She doesn’t think this satirical novelty is particularly funny, so she’s using the full weight of her office to stifle it.
Don’t get me wrong, drug abuse is a pernicious problem in our society. I’ve had too many friends ravaged by this affliction. But I fail to see how a silly coffee mug contributes to the problem.
And in a free society, should government be weighing in on what jokes are funny and which aren’t? That smacks of totalitarianism. After all, we are a free people. We ought to be able to laugh at what we think is amusing and spend our money in the manner we see fit without interference from government.
Humor lies in the eye of the beholder. I couldn’t help but wonder what would constitute approved humor in the world Madigan would have us live in.
Then I remembered a cartoon I saw in New Yorker magazine. The cartoonist, Pat Byrnes, drew an office worker with a methamphetamine lab set up on his desk, telling a co-worker with a cup of java that “Meth doesn’t upset my stomach the way coffee does.”
In the rigidly politically correct world that Madigan inhabits, if equating coffee consumption to prescription drug abuse is bad, then a parody linking it to meth addiction must be horrible.
I asked Madigan if she saw a distinction between the parody that she condemned Urban Outfitters for and the one that Pat Byrnes produced.
Here’s a portion of her office’s response: “(We’ve) taken action to stop efforts to normalize the use of dangerous drugs that are addictive and cause the deaths of far too many children and adults every year.
“As a result, we have challenged the promotion and sale of products such as Kool Mix cigarettes, Pot Suckers, Cocaine energy drink and Meth Coffee. ... We have joined with other concerned attorneys general to question the marketing of products that make light of prescription drug abuse.”
Fair enough. It would appear that Madigan really doesn’t like these kinds of parodies, which she believes trivialize substance abuse.
So will Madigan be sending cartoonist Byrnes a cease-and-desist letter any time soon? Probably not — he’s her husband.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist-in-residence at the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group that supports the free market and limited government.