We've swallowed Guinness festival hook, line and sinker


How could we have been taken in by this level of corporate manipulation?

WATCH CAREFULLY as I rip two apparently unrelated stories from the week’s headlines and develop an insecure, pompous rant about the preponderance of herd thinking and the power of the corporate machine.

Tom Cruise’s lawyers have sent an angry letter to Vanity Fair objecting to the publication’s suggestions that the Church of Scientology controlled their client’s love life. What do we care? We’re all wearing stick-on orange beards, drinking ourselves insensible and muttering to the unthreatening, Clarkson-friendly sounds of Mumford & Sons.

Thursday was Arthur’s Day. All hail the made-up national festival that’s been diverting the easily indoctrinated since ye olden times of 2009.

Okay, making up an entire religion and flogging it to the vulnerable rich is a more terrifyingly impressive achievement than inventing a bogus day of celebration. But the sheer speed with which this Arthur’s Day twaddle has swept across the nation (and the world) will surely cause the late L Ron Hubbard – founder of Scientology – to throb enviously within his current body. This is evil genius at its most proficient.

As you will probably be aware, Arthur’s Day began life as a somewhat overheated, but harmless, celebration of an admirable product’s 250th anniversary. On September 24th, 2009, the corporate entity that now owns Guinness – not actually headed by a cat lover named Ernst Stavro Blofeld – hosted a day of boozing, singing and other stout-inspired revelry. At 17.59 (a reference to the year of the brew’s launch), we were all required to spread a Guinness bar mat upon the pavement, kneel in the direction of St James’s Gate and incant the phrase “Guinness is good for you” until our lips frothed. (I may have made some of this up.) Various bands played. Large felt hats were worn.

It was all a wee bit vulgar. But it would be hard to begrudge DrinkCo Industries its decision to honour such a singular beverage. Anyway, it was over as soon as it had begun.

When DrinkCo announced that the event would reoccur 12 months later, even the most cynical wiseacres found themselves questioning the evidence of their own ears. They can’t be serious. This was akin to hearing that, happy with the millennium celebrations, the government has decided to launch a new century every year. Did you enjoy the Charles Dickens bicentennial a few months ago? Well, we’re having another one in 2013.

Surely nobody was going to fall for this. A corporate monster was attempting to launch it own annual social celebration. We were used to such beasts renaming our sports stadiums and plastering their logos across arts festivals. But this business of cordoning off an entire day for corporate exploitation was taking things to totalitarian levels. Kim Jong-il would have thought twice before behaving so vaingloriously. The Irish are independent-minded people. They would not obey.

It is true that – situated six months from St Patrick’s Day – the new national holiday is like the old event with all the nasty bits excised. You can go to the pub and vomit on passing tourists, but you don’t have to visit your awful family, you don’t have to watch people parading in papier-mâché heads and you don’t have to cringe as the Taoiseach grovels for shamrocks in Washington. One must also acknowledge that a portion of the takings goes to a charitable fund set up in Arthur Guinness’s name. It is, moreover, nice that somebody is making an effort to lure punters away from the six-pack and into public houses.

Yeah, fine. But, for all that, surely nobody was going to fall for this level of corporate manipulation. Where will it end? Coca-Cola Day? Nurofen Day? Cillit Bang Day? Maybe if I stand on the street with a turnip on a stick I can persuade people to celebrate Turnip on a Stick Day.

Well, if you attempted to walk through Dublin – or several other occupied cities – on September 23rd, 2010, you will recall how resistant the population turned out to be. Across the capital, acts such as Westlife, The Script and Snow Patrol filled the air with cosy, unthreatening school-run pabulum. Pubs heaved with sedated acolytes. Boozed-up students made the kerb their pillow for the first (but not last) time. I drank pints of any beer other than Guinness.

Do what I tell you and stop doing what you’re told.

In an early episode of The Simpsons, Costingtons, the local department store, attempted to boost sales by inventing a celebration called Love Day. The citizens of Springfield went for it. That was nothing. DrinkCo has actually named our new national day after its thick, tangy brew. The people who write The Simpsons presumably thought that scenario a little too unlikely. Yet here we are. Product worship has its own holy day.

You were an amateur, L Ron Hubbard.

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