Flying Dog Brewery’s “Raging Speech

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 by Shania Heerd

Local Frederick brewing facility Flying Dog Brewery is known for its unique and comical alcohol names that accompany every flavor. Frederick takes pride in its local businesses, and so the beer has become somewhat of a hometown favorite and is currently the largest brewery in Maryland. Recently, however, the brewery has faced a battle with public speech for the name of one of its’ drinks: Raging Bitch.

Flying Dog has been facing a censorship battle for quite some time, beginning in Colorado, where the distillery was born. The fight for censorship went to the United States Court of Appeals when the Michigan Liquor Control Commision banned the beer’s selling in the state. In retaliation, Flying Dog sued the state of Michigan and it was ruled that the banning violated their first amendment right.

Although the battles with the law have been won, the company has been under fire by journalists and locals. Some believe that the name is inappropriate to the public or find it sexist, creating a debate among many: alcohol fans, Frederick residents, and fighters of free speech. According to Flying Dog’s CEO Jim Caruso, free speech is very important to his company and his personal beliefs.

In fact, the brewery has recently terminated its Brewer’s Association membership, a community for breweries across the nation. Some have criticized this as an unwise move that will ruin the distillery’s reputation and send them into economic despair. Others see it as the right move for justice and a call to action in the fight for free speech. Caruso agrees with this, and he gives public speeches for this purpose. On October 18th, Caruso gave a speech at Hood College named “Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee?”

Caruso was introduced by Hood College President Andrea E. Chapdelaine and awarded the President’s Medal for Democracy. The Medal for Democracy represents Hood’s values and one of the four pillars on Alumni Hall. President Chapdelaine states that Caruso received the medal for “his commitment to the democratic principles of our nation by educating the public on critical First Amendment issues.”

Caruso has also won the Lanny Friedlander Prize. According to the Reason’s site, the award “honors an individual who is reshaping the media landscape,” and was awarded to Caruso for his “passionate advocacy of the First Amendment.”

During the presentation at Hood College, CEO Caruso discussed a variety of topics relating to free speech. Beginning with what the first amendment is, Caruso went on to discuss the history of free speech both nationally and globally. He further described the consequences of not having free speech, and why censorship is such a slippery slope.

Caruso said that he has attended many colleges and has found that a lot of schools are not very open to free speech. Murmurs of last year’s debate for free speech surrounding the Hood Republican club were brought up, though Caruso himself praised Hood for their free speech even as a private college that has freedom to restrict. Caruso ties education in with free speech throughout his presentation, asserting that the two go hand in hand, something the crowd agreed upon.

The people attending agreed on many topics, but the problem seemed to rise in Caruso and Flying Dog’s intentions. Caruso announced that while he is political himself and belongs to the Democratic party, he does not believe that his business should be politically affiliated. Many were confused, seeing the fight for free speech as politically inclined.

As Caruso puts it, free speech is not related to either political party. He said “I’ve had a few complaints that people can’t wear their political shirts here at the flying dog. So what?” He states that issue is of “Rights versus values.” Caruso argued that public relations are related to the government and are therefore rights. On the other hand, matters in private owned companies and institutions, such as Hood College or Flying Dog Brewery, are at the discretion of the owner.

A highlight of the presentation was when Caruso said that “Diversity is hard to manage,” to which he referenced America’s past, Hood College’s past and difficulties in its switch to being a co-educational school, and to Flying Dog Brewery’s relationship with the public. He draws that it is hard to run a successful business not catering to everyone without offending anyone. To this, the presentation came to a close, albeit for a Q & A in which those attending discussed their questions and concerns relating to free speech in Frederick and at Hood. A businesswoman attending stated that “It [free speech] is a raging battle soon to hit every private place at one point or another” to which fellow entrepreneurs agreed.

Hood College has established that it too will fight for free speech on campus and aims to be a place where residents can discuss freely and kindly and work together to create an inclusive and civil community.

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