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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kali-Ma Becomes an International Incident

Okay, this is getting way out of hand:
Strongly objecting to a US company launching a beer brand named after Goddess Kali, a demand was made in Rajya Sabha [a legislative body sort of halfway between the Senate and House of Lords] today that US Ambassador to India should be summoned and asked to apologise for it.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) said it is a serious and sensitive issue that a Portland-based company Burnside Brewing has launched a product titled Kali-Ma beer, hurting the sentiments of Indians... 
"Summon US Ambassador to India... and make him apologise for this," he said condemning the act and demanded a statement from External Affairs Minister.

The way I read this is that certain Indian politicians have a larger beef with the way Hindu gods are used by American companies generally--not this case in particular:

Earlier also a picture of Goddess Laxmi was displayed in a toilet... picture of God was put on bra... Lord Ganesha was displayed as a sex object in a talk show," he said demanding India to take up the issue with US.
The whole thing counts as a social issue in India.  The BJP is the Hindu nationalist party, sort of like the GOP if the GOP were made up exclusively of Christian conservatives.  In other words, pique over American insensitivity is smack-dab in the center of their wheelhouse.  Think what Rick Santorum might do with a racy picture of Mary on a bottle of beer.

I feel for Burnside, who had every reason to believe their release of a single-batch beer to the citizens of a city 7,000 miles from India would go unnoticed.  Nothing that can be politicized escapes notice of the all-seeing eye of Google, though.  For what it's worth, there's a bit of a backlash against the backlash on Twitter.  For what it's also worth, second edition: I still haven't heard a peep of complaint from anyone who isn't using exploiting apparently faux outrage over the incident.  Anyone?


  1. So, the BJP is like the GOP - if the GOP was something completely different?

  2. It could be worse; someone could have threatened to sue them for a billion dollars, like the Lost Coast Indica IPA controversy a few years back.

  3. So, the BJP is like the GOP - if the GOP was something completely different?.

    Ah, no. The GOP has three factions: religious conservatives, neocons, and business interests. If it were just the former, they would be very close.

  4. While it looks like the BJP is taking this all together too far, I think the original incident is a testament to good business and good community relations in a pluralist society. No lawmen were involved. Burnside used religious imagry that it didn't think offensive. When someone with a better view of what is and is not offensive for the goup brought clarity, Burnside responded appropriately.

    Furthermore, if bad beer is about packaging, why do we care so much? Liberals, conservatives, libertarians, atheists, Christians, and all sorts of other people love good beer. Why some people think we need to engage in ideological battles in this forum is a mystery to me. None of us wants to be rude to someone else, why cannot we all just drink our beer in peace?

  5. My rule is if the first thing that you notice about the beer is branding, then don't drink the beer. The smaller breweries in town should really take a look at what the bigger ones are doing. Full Sail, Ninkasi, Deschultes, etc., are all doing a great job of having a strong, noticeable brand without the brand oveshadowing the beer.

  6. Burnside already managed to display their insensitivity to 50% of the human population in their logo, so I'm not exactly shocked that they managed to offend another sixth of the planet.

  7. Doesn't offing Bin Laden count for anything?