While some of you were at work, taking care of the kids, or chillaxin’ this past vacation, Dan set out on mission: to find some elusive CT-based brews that were just sent from the brewery, namely two from Woodbridge-based New England Brewing Company. During this time they not only released bottles of their Imperial Stout Trooper, but also one of Beer Advocate’s most highly-rated Double IPAs, Gandhi-Bot.
Around this time we heard about a group of people in India filing a petition for New England Brewing to change the name of Gandhi-Bot. At first, the petition could only be found mentioned on a few sites and didn’t seem like a major problem, but last week protesters of Gandhi-Bot turned up the heat by flooding New England Brewing Company’s Facebook page with objections, threats of lawsuits, repeatedly mentioning Mahatma Gandhi’s name, pleas for change, and even a few vague, violent threats.
Most of the comments have disappeared by now, but the impact grew exponentially. New England Brewing Company issued a statement on their Facebook page, apologizing to Indian people who are offended by the label. They explained that their intent in using Gandhi (portrayed as a robot) was out of respect, even citing that Gandhi’s granddaughter and grandson saw the label and “expressed their admiration.” This triggered more comments from protesters, saying that an apology was not enough, that they still wanted the name changed. And, in turn, the interaction between fans of New England Brewing and protesters hit a fever pitch, sparking NEBCO to ask people to respect others and end the fighting.
From here, websites and news organizations began to cover the story with vaguely familiar headlines such as “Connecticut Brewery Apoligizes for use of Gandhi on Beer.” It even got so big that Conan O’Brien talked about it the other night in his monologue. From a distance, we weren’t sure what to say, how to react, or even if we should write about this. We certainly didn’t want to add any more fuel to the fire, but we felt that most of the reporting that we read was very one-sided. And, while we aren’t official, card-carrying journalists, we felt that it was important to share the different sides of the issue so that people could actually make up their own minds.
Why People Want Gandhi-Bot Changed
As you probably know, Mahatmi Gandhi is known as The Father of India, and there’s good reason for that. He unified his people against an oppressive government, but did it like few others had done before: without violence. His brand of civil-disobedience would later go on to inspire other people to make great change in the world such as Martin Luther King Jr. The people from India threatening a lawsuit against New England Brewing Company say that it is illegal in their country to defame a leader, especially someone of such high importance as Gandhi.
In addition, Gandhi was a strong supporter of prohibition. He, and others in India, believed that liquor was the reason for so many problems in society. It lead to fighting, it lead to poverty, and it lead to the decline of civility and the cohesiveness of society. So, for many who see Gandhi on the label of this NEBCo brew, they feel that this is quite the contradiction in beliefs and values. Protesters can’t help but wonder, how could a company use someone they admire and revere, who was so adamantly against the use of alcohol, to sell beer?
Why People Want Gandhi-Bot to Stay
Supporters of New England Brewing Company and the Gandhi-Bot name/logo believe that there is nothing to be insulted about or offended by. NEBCO meant no harm, and was actually trying to pay homage to Gandhi. And many think that we need to be careful about where to draw the line in terms of censorship or giving into threats. Do we allow others to dictate what we do, such as the group of hackers trying to stop The Interview from being shown? Or, do we stop all potentially offensive names for beers from being put out like Sweet Baby Jesus, Even More Jesus, or even a beer made just for the Führer: Birra Dalla Storia Hitler?
Whatever you might think about the use of Gandhi on NEBCo’s ever-popular beer, one thing is clear: New England Brewing Company is getting a lot of free publicity. Now, granted it’s not the best kind of press, but even Donald Trump says that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Honestly, though, most people in CT that we talk to selfishly don’t want NEBCo to become even more popular because that will mean 8 hour lines at the brewery rather than 4 or now only a .25% chance of getting their beer at the store rather than a 25% chance.
For now, New England Brewing Company will continue canning Gandhi-Bot and will have it at the brewery for growler fills. This isn’t NEBCo’s first brush with controversy, though, after they received a cease-and-desist letter from none other than George Lucas. He did not appreciate NEBCO’s use of the Imperial Storm Trooper image on their beer and sent a letter to the CT brewery.
Put on a fake nose and glasses, Groucho Marx style. If only all problems were that easy to fix. In the meantime, NEBCO has stated on their social media accounts that they are working on the best way to amend this unfortunate situation, so keep an eye out for that.