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Booze Lobby Targets Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong

We’re usually stoked to see Billie Joe Armstrong, a perennial Spin fave, gracing the pages of the New York Times. After all, his Green Day side project, Foxboro Hot Tubs, is tearing up the Southwest right now. But a mug shot of Billie Joe is utilized by a full-page ad in today’s Times sponsored by a Capitol Hill lobbyist group for the alcohol industry. The message: Tougher laws for “hard-core drunk drivers” like Billie Joe, less restrictions for those partaking in “moderate and responsible drinking prior to driving.” Billie Joe’s DUI arrest in 2003 is certainly indefensible, but to juxtapose his mistakes with the legitimization of casual drunk driving is just, well, irresponsible.

First, a bit more detail about the ad (click here to view it). The headline reads, “Ignition Interlocks, A good idea for them,” referring to mug shots of Armstrong, actor Kiefer Sutherland, and now-retired NFL quarterback Steve McNair, all of whom have DUI arrests on their records. Below the three mug shots, the ad reads, “A bad idea for us,” and then displays photos of a bride and groom toasting at their wedding, some co-workers drinking after work, and some fellas having beers and burgers at a pub.

The ad copy goes on to say that the efforts of “activists” to put ignition interlocks (i.e. in-car breathalyzers) into every car in America “means the end of moderate and responsible drinking prior to driving: no more champagne toasts at weddings, no more wine with dinner, no more beer at ballgames.”

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Billie Joe driving around five years ago with a 0.18 blood alcohol content level isn’t excusable. In fact, it’s pretty awful, and he should (and probably does) thank some entity daily that he didn’t slaughter anyone that night. But the line being drawn in this ad is ridiculous, particularly because the most abusive drinking I usually see occurs at, um, weddings and ballgames. When is the champagne toast the sole drinking opportunity at a wedding, and how frequently is the word “beer” used in its singular form at the stadium?

To be as succinct as possible, which scares you least: a one-time offender rock star like Billie Joe, herds of drunk college buddies driving home from weddings every weekend across the country, or a pissed off (and piss drunk) fan leaving the ballpark after a loss? They’re all guilty, for sure, but in this argument, I’d take the craftsman of American Idiot before any other American idiots.