Comment of the Day: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

There is an Ethics Alarms post “going viral” right now, at least as viral as any post on an ethics blog is likely to go. For two weeks now, my post at the end of July about how the “urban legends” site Snopes had descended into  dishonest, spinning, fact-distorting partisan/ left “factchecking” hackery has lapped all others here, and been shared to record levels on Facebook (nearing 11,000 shares) and Reddit.

This is nice, of course. It has brought a few (though not many) new commenters to the blog, and presumably more readers who stayed to peruse other topics. It has made August 2016, usually a fairly dead month, the most heavily trafficked month in Ethics Alarms annals. The post alerted some people to why Snopes is untrustworthy, though not, apparently, the Washington Post, which cited it as authority just a few days ago. It also prompted, on Reddit and Facebook, several thousand smug “this is not news, I’ve known this for years” comments. Where were your blog post, jerks?

The post’s wide circulation through the web also made me aware that a conspiracy theory holding that Democrats and the Hillary Corrupted maintain a team of attack commenters who go to blogs and attempt to muddy the waters when the truth about Clinton threatens to break through the denial dam might be accurate. I have received four or five almost identical comments on that post attempting to deny my dissection of Snopes’ pathetic attempt to prove that Hillary didn’t defend a child rapist, didn’t discredit his young victim in the process, didn’t know he was guilty when she did it, and didn’t laugh about the case in a recorded interview. None of the four commenters  read all of my post, which echoed a previous one in pointing out, as I always do, that a lawyer defending a criminal is not unethical, that the attacks on Hillary for doing so were ignorant and unfair, and that Hillary Clinton has nothing to apologize for in this case. Never mind: all four of these commenters ( and some others which never made it onto the blog) shifted into similar boilerplate language claiming I was attacking her too,  and preceded to repeat Snopes’ dishonest “factchecking” as if the documentation of its falsity I presented in the post didn’t exist.

Nonetheless, the Snopes revelation was not the Ethics Alarms post I would have chosen to “go viral.” There have been many essay in the last six year that I was, and am, especially proud of and believe were original, perceptive and important, and that have been barely read by anyone, never linked to or shared, and that have had all the impact of a shell thrown into the surf. How I wish my warning to the Republican Party , for example, urging it not to permit Donald Trump to participate in the primaries, had received similar attention. Not a single editorial board or pundit saw the peril looming, or at least  they didn’t write or talk about it if they did, because having The Donald spouting his inanities would be good copy and “fun.”

One such post dates back to the first full year of Ethics Alarms: The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit, from August 2010. In six years, it has amassed about the same number of views that the Snopes piece amassed in half a month. Yet the topic, how mouthwash manufacturers profit significantly by hiding the widespread use of their product by alcoholics who use mouthwash to conceal their destructive disease from family members and co-workers, is barely mentioned  on the web—a few places, and almost all of them since the post. Still, Congress hasn’t held hearings, regulatory agencies haven’t noticed, and the products still carry warnings that fool non-alcoholics into believing that the stuff is poison, so nobody drinks it. Lives could be saved, marriages rescued, and endangered businesses might survive, if what I wrote was generally known

I’ve done the original research and put the problem out there. At least I’ve tried, and I will continue to write about the problem, which I have learned about first hand.

My efforts  haven’t been completely futile. I have received some gratifying comments and off-site e-mails from family members who read the article, discovered that a loved one was secret drinker, and got them help. I have also received a few responses that confirmed my work, though none quite like this one from new reader Dave, an alcoholic himself.

Here is his remarkable and  cryptic  Comment of the Day on the post, The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit. Is it intentional irony? Is it sarcasm? Is it support, in the form of criticism? You decide:

Halfway through your article I decided it would be a good idea to go to shoppers and grab myself a bottle. I’d been so triggered today, only being a week sober prior. It’s great, you know, the mouthwash deception as you call it. I spend roughly $3.50 on a bottle of Life brand yellow mouthwash and it gets me radically twisted, with zero hangover. So not only does it make it easier for me to be a functioning alcoholic based on its inexpensiveness and zero hangover qualities, it is also amazingly convenient in that within 10 minutes I have three different 24 hour grocery stores I can go to in order to get a bottle.

Alcoholism is a shitty disease, believe me, I have lost much at the expense of it.

I am not trying to come off here as if it is something desirable. I am more saying, in the misery that is alcoholism, at least this is some sort of a seeming oasis. Because why should I go broke from alcoholism, why should I be forced to break into businesses and do all sorts of crazy things in order to get a drink, because the liquor stores are closed? This addiction is bad enough, why do there have to be all the fucking hoops to jump through, these tight operating parameters to be met? I still want to have a life.

I have to meet the challenges that the rest of you do. Job security, financial security, family life. We all know this shit is hard to begin with. So this fucking guy’s idea, or at least encompassed within it, is to shutdown the mouthwash drinking trade. Get the fuck out of here. Ya know, I appreciate where you are coming from, it’s just your approach is all wrong. if you want to help people and make a dent in this monster, exposing the truth about mouthwash truly isn’t the way to do it.

I have a friend, who is a fellow alcoholic, and his father works for Johnson and Johnson, so he has a few boxes of name brand Listerine at home. The company gives them to his  father to hand out to potential customers of course.  Once the father realized the son was an alcoholic , he had them  all removed from the house.  Not because the son was drinking them, because he wasn’t— it wasn’t until he met me later on in AA that he became aware that drinking mouthwash was an option, because I informed him. So then why did the father do it? Because he is upper management, and yes they are aware, as you say.

And knowing that corporations are evil in today’s world does not qualify someone to be some sort of paranoid conspiracy theorist, it merely shows that they are living in the real world. The ignorance is really from the ones who think this world is some sort of ethical and just place. I am not being cynical or bitter in this statement. Do your research, educate yourself on what’s up, dig. Dig to find the truth.

I’m out.


13 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

  1. If I may go off-topic on the can of worms you presented: When are you going to write a full post doing statistical analysis of your site and traffic trends? I’d love to know some details on full monthly traffic, how many new monthly comments are on posts more than 30 days old, etc.

  2. that have been barely read by anyone, never linked to or shared, and that have had all the impact of a shell thrown into the surf.

    (1) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sometimes there’s just nothing — that means NOTHING MORE — to say.

    (2) I was A Constant Reader for nearly a year before I took the plunge.

    (3) If they can predict a tsunami by knowing the pattern of ripples, the Butterfly Effect is probably a valid theory as well. Remember that next time you flap* your wings.

    *I wrote “flutter” first but that image was so incongruous …..

  3. Is there still a story here? Isn’t it Dealing with an Alcoholic 101 to throw out all the mouthwash? We had to do that with a family member. The bigger problem is that to limit access to any alcohol, you have to take away all money and access to transportation.

    • 1. If throwing out all the mouthwash is a first step, then that is a well-informed support group. Most people believe that mouthwash isn’t drinkable—hence the original post. I’ve done a lot of research on this. Most people don’t think anyone drink the stuff. Alcoholics know the truth, and the manufacturers help the drinkers keep the secret.

      2. Mouthwash is how alcoholics hide the disease, both covering up-liquor breath and keeping little bottles available.

      3. If alcohol mouthwash isn’t sold at all hours at 7-11 and supermarkets, access is a whole lot harder.

      • As Jack said, if throwing out the mouthwash is something people know to do, then that’s a good thing. Not everyone is that well informed, however… I know that back when I first stumbled across the site a year or so back (from popehat’s blog list), and was looking at the archives while deciding if I wanted to be just a lurker or a commentator (and seeing how comments usually went and were handled), it was news to me, and also to my immediate family.

        It’s something every member of the family (myself, my sibling, sibling’s spouse, and both my parents) have since had reason to share with others, when we saw concerning trends in various active and/or recovering alcoholics around our lives. And in each such instance, it has proven to be useful to the family/coworkers of those individuals. Of the seven or so different incidents where it has come up, only one other person had known it was something to watch for. I never bothered to post a thank you about it to Jack in the back archives, because I didn’t see much evidence of such necromancy in the archives of the blog, and didn’t know how it would be received.

        So, I would say that yes, Jack is right, there’s still a story here. And it is unfortunate that it hasn’t gotten as much traction as others have. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t help.

        And thank you, Jack.

        • Thank you for the acknowledgement. What has made ethics so tenuous is its societal labeling as an abstract discipline and largely academic. I have no interest in that kind of ethics. If EA can’t really make a difference now and then, to someone, even a few, if not the larger culture, then it is just an exercise in self-delusion. I wonder sometimes, and the periodic comment like yours literally keeps me going.

      • Well okay then, I stand corrected. I was trying to remember when I first learned about mouthwash, and I honestly can’t pinpoint the date. I do recall throwing out all the mouthwash (and rubbing alcohol) whenever a particular family member came to stay with us, but again, the bigger headache for us had to do with access to stores in general. In an urban area, it is impossible to keep alcoholics away from booze unless you take their wallets — and that strips them of their dignity.

        In any event, I use an alcohol-free brand now. They are supposedly better for you anyway.

          • I don’t think it is as sinister as you are implying. I think most people believe that the brands that taste horrible (a/k/a the ones with alcohol) must do a better job.

            • Spartan, I am certain that it is as sinister as I have suggested. Again, did you read the post? The poison label is a lie. The only people who know it is a lie are the manufacturers and the drinkers, who spend millions on it. I have also received back-channel accounts that confirm my analysis. Retailers also know about this. Why haven’t the alcohol versions been banned? This has been going on for decades. Drunks joke about it…how the caps on the bottles resemble shot glasses.

              • But it is unsafe to drink.

                “Because of the high alcohol content, it is not uncommon for addicts to consume large quantities when regular alcoholic beverages are difficult to find. This is dangerous due to the inclusion of other chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide, methanol and eucalyptus oil. As well, the alcohol itself may cause mouth cancer. As such, excessive mouthwash consumption is a serious issue.”


                This link also references that alcohol helps penetrate oral plaque.

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