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WW1 en de prohibitie in de VS

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Auteur Bericht

Geregistreerd op: 18-3-2006
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BerichtGeplaatst: 27 Mrt 2007 16:16    Onderwerp: WW1 en de prohibitie in de VS Reageer met quote

Het artikel en boek legt een relatie tussen de eerste wereldoorlog en het succes van de prohibition (alcoholverbod)

"It was America's entry into World War I, however, that vanquished Anderson's foes--whether in government or in the city's ethnic communities. He made a naked appeal to patriotism. Anderson claimed, Mr. Lerner writes, that "sober soldiers were safer, healthier, and less likely to divulge wartime secrets"

See beneden voor het hele artikel:

Forbidden Pleasures
How advocates of Prohibition exploited anti-immigrant sentiment.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

It's nearly impossible to read about America's failed attempt to outlaw the sale and consumption of alcohol in the 1920s without drawing parallels to modern "nanny state" regulations. No, we experience nothing as draconian as dryness-by-decree, but smoking restrictions, trans-fat bans and crackdowns on "noise pollution"--to mention only a few of today's more grating attempts to dictate personal conduct--are useful reminders of a hovering paternalism in American life, a killjoy impulse often indulged in the name of public virtue.

In "Dry Manhattan," Michael A. Lerner concentrates on New York City in the Prohibition years. "In its attempt to regulate the private lives of its citizens," he writes, "the federal government had gone to extremes no one had thought possible in a democracy." But generally he avoids the soapbox and just tells the story. Mr. Lerner is not an especially stylish writer; the Roaring Twenties era is more colorfully evoked in Isaiah Wilner's recent "The Man Time Forgot," about the founding of Time magazine. But Mr. Lerner's painstaking research is generously on display in "Dry Manhattan," and without the usual Jazz Age clichťs. Rather, he draws a disturbing portrait of the "dry" movement and how it exploited the country's fear of immigrants, then arriving from Europe in vast numbers.

"When the Progressive and dry movements converged in the 1910s, the xenophobia and nativism of both movements inevitably came to the surface," Mr. Lerner writes. "As the dry lobby gained momentum, it staked its success on its ability to depict foreigners, Catholics, Jews, and city dwellers as threats to everything genuinely American." To buttress his case, Mr. Lerner cites William Johnson of the Anti-Saloon League, who decried Germans because they "eat like gluttons and drink like swine." A pamphlet from the dry-allied Progressives, the author tells us, referred to New York City's Italians as "Dagos, who drink excessively, live in a state of filth and use the knife on slightest provocation."

One of the early lobbyists in the Prohibition cause was the smooth-talking William Anderson from Maryland, who was affiliated with the Anti-Saloon League. He decided in 1914 that the attempt to eliminate alcohol in America would be successful only if New York, the country's financial center and most populous city, could be converted to the cause. When Anderson set up shop in Manhattan, H.L. Mencken, a confirmed "wet," described him as "the vampire and hobgoblin of every bartender's nightmare." In time, Anderson would be disgraced, sent to prison for forgery and embezzlement, but that was long after he'd succeeded in whipping up a frenzy over the immorality of alcohol.

Anderson was more politically savvy than the temperance crusaders who preceded him. It was he who forged an alliance with the Progressives of the age, the men and women who fought to upend the food and drug industries and now wanted--in addition to trying to improve workers' health through sobriety--to break up the brewing and distilling industries ("a parasitic class which has fattened on human weakness," went the trope). Along the way, Anderson demonized New York's already pockmarked and corrupt Tammany Hall political machine, an easy sell to local reformers.

It was America's entry into World War I, however, that vanquished Anderson's foes--whether in government or in the city's ethnic communities. He made a naked appeal to patriotism. Anderson claimed, Mr. Lerner writes, that "sober soldiers were safer, healthier, and less likely to divulge wartime secrets." That Americans were fighting in Europe, where alcohol was legal and plentiful, was irrelevant. The war also stifled German-American and Irish-American resistance to Prohibition, since neither group wanted to appear disloyal.
Soon after passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, Mr. Lerner says, it quickly became clear that the so-called noble experiment was doomed, particularly in New York. The city's police officers often took bribes from owners of retro-fitted saloons and speakeasies; judges resented the backlog of court cases for liquor violations. Contrary to the hopes of reformers, arrests for public intoxication in New York increased during Prohibition, as did hospital admissions for alcoholism.

In the early years of the ban, affluent New Yorkers enjoyed the risk of flirting with crime and relished "slumming" in other parts of the city, such as Harlem, where they'd never been before. The New Yorker magazine, which began publication in 1925, even ran columns called "Lipstick" and "Top Hat" that chronicled the zany behavior at cabarets and after-hours haunts.

Mr. Lerner is at his best when describing the inherent class discrimination of the dry movement. Although the well-off could skirt the law by bribe or influence, the masses of immigrants and working-class citizens could not. Before the ban was enacted, saloons were often the center of immigrant activities, places where foreign-born laborers congregated, catching up with friends, cashing checks, picking up English phrases, and assimilating into the city's working and popular culture while imbibing beer, wine or whiskey.

"As the dry experiment took shape in the early 1920s," Mr. Lerner notes, "the city's Irish, Italian and Eastern European immigrants, its Catholics and Jews, and the masses of other ethnic Americans who populated New York found that the main objective of the dry lobby was to police the habits of the poor, the foreign-born and the working class." Not that it worked particularly well. The neighborhood saloon business simply adapted to the new law: Bars disguised the nature of their business on the street, and some served booze in coffee cups, but much remained unchanged. "One reporter argued that the only discernible difference between these Prohibition-era saloons and their legal predecessors," Mr. Lerner writes, "was that the traditional free pretzels had been replaced by potato chips."

As the decade progressed, Prohibition's failure to accomplish much besides lending an iffy quality to the nation's liquor supplies turned the law into something of a joke. Hollywood glamorized the New York speakeasy demimonde, songwriters penned lyrics lamenting the dry life (as in Irving Berlin's "You Cannot Make Your Shimmy Shake on Tea") and politicians like the sleazy but flamboyant New York Mayor Jimmy Walker openly mocked the "drys."

With the temperance movement waning, its dwindling ranks celebrated Herbert Hoover's 1928 presidential victory over "wet" New York Gov. Al Smith, who was vilified for his Catholicism and smeared as a drunk. But keeping Smith out of the White House hardly meant a temperance revival. The cause was all but lost by the late 1920s, and the stock-market crash of 1929 and the resulting Depression spelled the end of the "noble experiment." When people were concerned with finding a job and buying groceries, it seemed silly, if not cruel, to criminalize liquor. Prohibition was officially repealed in 1933, not a moment too soon.
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