RBF's triumphant return

Posted by: | September 11, 2008 | 27 Comments

As you were wandering about campus this week, you might have noticed people strutting about in army fatigues, bright red shirts, and megaphones shouting vaguely about fun, beer, parties, beer, campus life, beer, politics, and beer. These are not drunk Russians left over from the soviet era. Nay, these are the members of the Radical Beer Faction, UBC’s oldest political group. Back when the AMS elections ran with parties (called slates) RBF ran a full slate of joke candidates, ranging from fairies to fire hydrants. These days, RBF is an AMS club, focusing on fighting what they have termed the “war on fun” on campus. This “war,” being waged upon students by the “axis of boring” of the UNA, RCMP, and university administration, has allegedly reduced the number of parties on campus due to restricted liquor licences, and bitchier neighbours. For the RBF’s lobbying document, click here.

RBF VP politburo “Scary” Mike Kushnir recently had a nice little interview on the CBC radio drive-home show On the Coast explaining the Faction and the its activities at UBC. Have a listen.


Mike is a pretty eloquent guy. For the response from the RCMP and a shout-out from Grant Lawrence, CBC radio 3 host of awesomeness, here is part 2 of the segment.

If nothing else, RBF has built itself a kickass brand with Soviet-style iconography, enthusiastic membership, and a great message: the way we party is political. Take a look at some of Tim’s old posts here, and here to see why. The issue of beer gardens and how students party on campus actually does relate to the fundamental issue of students’ social and political engagement with fellow students. Props to the Ubyssey for harnessing the energy of this group in a by-weekly RBF column, which will be paired with a column from another active campus group, Students for a Democratic Society.


27 Comments so far

  1. Blake Frederick on September 11, 2008 4:06 am

    Maayan – the video doesn’t seem to be working.

  2. maayan kreitzman on September 11, 2008 5:45 am

    my bad – apparently youtube rejected it because it was too long. I’ll fix it tomorrow. Sorry about that.

  3. Durgan on September 11, 2008 6:11 am

    RBF – As a member of SDS I was pretty choked to see this group appear. It is not a real activist group per se, but a parody of one. Note the trademark image: a parody of the raised fist of social justice. They have also used images of Che’ and plays on words like guerilla’ as props for jokes.

    This is another sign that UBC, and maybe BC in general, is not ready for a real radical student movement. The re-appropriation of revolutionary iconic imagery in order to promote the banal everyday acts of drunken mass conformity. For members of the RBF “radical” refers to skateboard tricks and guitar solos, or maybe a good run of shots in ‘beer pong.’

    Its upsetting because to many students “radical” and “guerilla” still hold their true revolutionary meaning. SDS, and the Wreath Underground are for instance truly radical organizations. And guerilla gardening and guerilla architecture strategies have actually been enacted at Trek Park.

    Now, I am pretty stoked about the group. I find their worldview incredibly naive, and it is just a matter of time before some knuckle dragging RCMP bust some heads at an RBF function. After witnessing cop violence at knoll aid I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and when it happens I hope no one is seriously injured. What I am looking forward to is the chance for an empathetic understanding on the part of the students who witness and undergo it with other violently oppressed persons and populations. Clearly, there is none of that happening now.

  4. Mike Thicke on September 11, 2008 1:46 pm

    As long as the RBF doesn’t become merely a covert way of attacking SDS, I think we should welcome their activities. Being able to laugh at ourselves occasionally is surely a sign of a healthy movement.

  5. twilightcity on September 11, 2008 3:58 pm

    Notwithstanding the opinions of some of our individual members – whose opinions do not necessarily represent the views of the RBF – we have never put down the SDS. Unfortunately, SDS-affiliated groups have not returned the favour: the Knoll newspaper called the RBF an impediment to progressive change and a tool of the status quo in their 2008 AUS elections issue.

    Indeed, the RBF stands for many things that both the activist movement on campus and students at large hold dear: affordable housing, an approachable and accountable RCMP, an open university administration, ample student poster space and, of course, a liberal liquor policy.

    In any case, the RBF has been a part of UBC since 1991. It did not just “appear.” The RBF is a true aspect of local student innovation: we are 100% home-grown and exist only on the UBC campus.

    Check our our lobby document on our website – radicalbeer.ca, then click on “advocacy” – you can find out exactly what our – very serious – political goals are for the University.

    Our raison d’ĂȘtre is not “drunken mass conformity”. We are fighting for a healthy student life that fosters all kinds of student movement that incorporate the values of freedom of speech, respect, dignity and democracy.

    Mr. Durgan, perhaps you have not been at UBC as long as I have, but there have been fundamental changes here since I arrived in 2001, and – from the student perspective – they have overwhelmingly not been positive. I invite you to see behind our satire – admittedly, there is a lot – and think about why we do what we do.

    – scary mike.

  6. maayan kreitzman on September 11, 2008 3:59 pm

    Wait Ed, you’re stoked about RBF so that the RCMP has a chancce to “bust some heads” and the maligned students will suubsequently transform themselves into real radicals?
    What tosh.

    RBF is a political and social group that focuses on campus life and liqor policy. Maybe those aren’t real revolutionary issues or whatever, but they’re important to students. And who cares what iconography they use? The line RBF walks between parody and seriousness is what makes it fun and effective.

  7. Erin on September 11, 2008 6:29 pm

    Listen Ed, why all the hate? RBF loves you. RBF loves SDS. So where is your "empathetic understanding"?

    I have a challenge for you Ed, check out one of our events. Come by frAUSh and the RBF afterparty on Friday. I can't promise you any radical gardening or radical Wreath Underground-esque vandalism, but you will see people meeting and sharing ideas and trying to improve their communities. After that, if you still think we are about nothing more than "drunken mass conformity" you can choose to continue to misunderstand and misrepresent us.

    <3, Rennie

  8. maayan kreitzman on September 11, 2008 7:09 pm

    Should be working now. Sorry about that.

    So I was actually at AMS council last night for the first time in forever, and there was a really decent discussion about all this. Here’s a few interesting points:

    -Since one of the main arguments on restriciting “special ocassions licences” (SOLs) often cited by the RCMP is that they were supposedly meant for things like weddings (not monthly beer gardens), council speaker Dave Tompkins suggested that the AMS lobby the government for a new category of SOL to be created particularly for university environments.
    -BoG rep Bijan, and VP academic Alex highlighted the importance of writing formal complaints or letters to the RCMP when there’s conduct issues. Very few complaints get written up even though these issues are anecdotally widespread. Alex is putting together a pamphlet of some sort to guide people through the process.
    -Notices found by the Ubyssey posted up around the neighborhoods by the RCMP are actively soliciting noise complaints from residents of the neighborhoods. The RCMP are building up the file – for whom or what? not clear.

  9. Laura Rodgers on September 12, 2008 8:53 am

    Nothing plays into the hands of “mass conformity” or RCMP tyranny like different student groups with common aims yelling at each other.

  10. Ashley on September 12, 2008 3:03 pm

    I’m sorry, Ed, so the existence of say the Rhinoceros Party should prove that Canada isn’t ready for real political parties? And that’s not even a good analogy, because RBF does stand for real and decent political ideals.

  11. Sonja on September 12, 2008 5:21 pm

    Ed: The condescending tone you’re adopting towards the RBF really doesn’t help you. Implying that members of a certain group are [drunks who conform to masses] only further deepens the rift between two political groups who actually share a lot of the same agenda. And pardon me for being blunt, but taking into account that Trek Park has been destroyed 30-40 times, you should realize that the SDS is not in a position where it can afford to create more campus “enemies”, for lack of a better word. There already exists an air of resentment towards the SDS amongst many university students, even politically apathetic ones, and spewing malice towards other groups, as I’ve said before, does not help your cause at all.

    There are close to 44,000 students on campus. There is _so_ much potential for co-operation that exists right there. RBF and SDS share at least one common value: civil liberties. There are likely more. Focus on these. If all you do is dwell on petty differences (like the themes other groups use to spread their message), you are wasting an opportunity to create what could be a powerful campus partnership, which I think is a grand shame.

    – Sonja

  12. Sonja on September 12, 2008 5:30 pm

    To further emphasize my point: I think the SDS will have to make a choice between alienating all who don’t agree with every nuance of its arguably quite radical political agenda, or including those who share at least some similar ideals with the intention of working towards common goals. Tuum est.

    Hint: think about which approach is more likely to further your cause.

  13. Patrick Meehan on September 13, 2008 7:53 am

    Also, can we all please stop saying there was police violence at Knoll Aid? It’s just silly.

  14. Durgan on September 13, 2008 9:51 pm

    Okay, okay; well, one of the things I’m trying to say is that the RCMP are a bunch of thugs, especially the UBC detachment. With the appearance of large RBF events its just a matter of time until there is more (yes, more) cop violence this year. Although I am sorry about the head-busting tosh, that was almost uncalled for, I really don’t want to see any more or hear about other students being victimized by cops on campus.

    I’m not trying to eschew malicious intent though, I’m just expressing some outrage about how the RBF goes about their ‘branding’ for lack of a better word. It comes across as disrespectful. Also; having beer drinking as a primary mission. Incidences of violence (rape, assault, homicide, suicide) are all significantly correlated with booze drinking. HIstorically it is part of the downfall of countless indigenous pops at the hands of the white colonial powers that this university is so emblematic of. Finally it is a distraction away from the real problems faced by so many students here and elsewhere.

    Also; scary Mike; just what are the opinions of some of your members? I wonder if any of them are involved with the hate-group like activities of whoever has repeatedly destroyed the dome. And I suppose Sonja here would have people who have been threatened with violence just sit down and shut up or they’ll get more of the same? Un-believable.

    Whatever. I am glad RBF is going strong. It is impossible to see what effects more drunken parties will have on an exploding campus – with btw closer to 50,000 students around. It is going off around here and something is going to snap this year.

    Anyway; Maayan, I’m sorry I missed the beer garden last night. I heard it a mile away. I’ll take a raincheck on the challenge though if I may. So far though, especially how it has progressed, lens support to the assessment that RBF is an impediment to progressive change and definitely a reinforcer of the status quo. Although I also see some potential, like Mike, for some effective political activity and community building. So; more power to you.

  15. Mike Thicke on September 14, 2008 6:15 am

    I’ll start by agreeing with you somewhat Ed. Excessive drinking and young students’ alcohol obsessions are problematic. I’m not very familiar with how RBF runs events, but I would very much like them live up to Mike’s rhetoric about teaching responsible drinking. That’s a first step in demonstrating that UBC can be a responsible social environment without “help” from the RCMP, university Administration, etc.

    But I mean come on, a raised fist holding a beer mug? That’s good stuff. We don’t have to read it as insulting or belittling.

    I know there have been some issues with vandalizing stuff in Trek Park, but we shouldn’t hold the RBF-as-such accountable to actions of its members if they are acting on their own, just as the SDS shouldn’t be accountable for any random stupidity of its members. If there is a pattern where the membership of the RBF is largely composed of people who are hostile to other student groups, then I think the RBF will have to examine why that is, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

    In my experience the RBF’s brand of humor has always been quite intelligent and enjoyable. They have never struck me as a negative influence on campus.

  16. Hokeydino on September 15, 2008 6:14 am

    Also, what Maayan didn’t mention about the past AMS meeting is that RBF has been extremely responsible at their beer gardens. They hand out those “make your drink your best friend” buttons, there have been no RCMP scuffles of any kind; not one RBF beer garden has been shut down by the cops, and no one has been taken to the hospital or anything of that nature. People don’t come necessarily for the beer…they could get that cheaply anywhere on campus. People come because they believe in RBF’s mandate and well…they’re pretty popular.
    I am so proud of RBF. They’re membership base is astounding. They have become the syringe of “student engagement” that is pumping into the veins of this weak campus (as Tyler has said.
    ~Helaine Boyd

  17. Patrick Meehan on September 15, 2008 6:35 am

    It should also be noted that the RBF’s first event of the night involved no drinking.

    It’s not just a group of boozers, its a group of people that want to exercise their right to peacefully gather, for whatever reason they want.

    And Ed, please dont compare the RBF to genocidal actions. Its hugely disrespectful to the members of the RBF who just want to create enjoyable events and to the peoples who were actually discriminated and harmed that you evoke.

    You should be more respectful of other cultures and not abuse their suffering for your own political ends.

    Frankly, I’m shocked you would so belittle the suffering of other cultures by comparing it to people getting together and having a beer.

    I guess you have to walk a mile first, coming from a family that has experienced acts of racism over the last century, while stil serving the country, I might have a bit me perspective on the topic. I would never purport to compare my family experience with that of the first nations, but it does give me perspective enough to not try to.

  18. twilightcity on September 15, 2008 3:20 pm

    Mr. Durgan, I am not the keeper of my brothers and sisters in the RBF. It would be profoundly inappropriate for me to opine on what their individual thoughts may be beyond that they are supporters of a fair liquor policy and against prohibitionism. With a membership list of over 600, it would also be nigh-well impossible for me to do so.

    Our logo is not disrespectful at all. If anything, it is an homage to progressive movements throughout the twentieth century that looked to challenge oppression.

    Now, Mr. Durgan, I appreciate that you have softened your stance against us somewhat, but I take particular – and personal – offence to how you would link us with rape, assault, homicide and suicide. If beer drinking were our primary mission, we would not go to such extreme lengths to tend to our patrons’ and members’ safety. As an example, we provided a way home for an intoxicated individual on Friday night who would have surely crashed his bike on the way…and we were not even serving alcohol that evening, nor was he even one of our patrons!

    The fact of the matter is that alcohol has been a part of social encounters for millennia in all parts of the globe, from ancient Egypt to pre-Columbian Central- and South-America. It is not the social evil that tends to be a prevailing trend in public policy discussions. Take a look, for example, at France: restrictions on alcohol are much lighter, yet you will be hard-pressed to find anything approaching the Granville Street circus on a Saturday night. The more society tightens its grip on alcohol, the more it becomes fetishized; hence the prevailing (and incorrect) idea in Canada that drinking is – or should be – about getting drunk.

    In brief, we hold what was possibly the biggest dry party in UBC history, we make sure people have a safe way home, we have responsible drinking as a tenet of our constitution, anyone serving alcohol is licensed (with no exceptions) and we even take care of people for whom we are neither legally nor morally responsible. We are not a so-called “drinking club” as you would have it, and we take what we do very seriously.

    You are correct: there are plenty of social problems relating to alcohol. However, these problems all stem from the abuse of alcohol, not its use. We do not support excessive drinking, period.

    You are glaringly wrong on one point: that we distract from the true problems faced by students at UBC. We are working towards a campus where freedom of speech is defended, campus stewardship is encouraged and the principle of personal liberty is respected, not through confrontation, but through dialogue and successful negotiation. Furthermore, the alcohol policy on campus is – in fact – a very serious issue, one that many students take serious concern.

    You have obviously not taken my suggestion of looking past our satire. I would ask of you then that you learn some respect, stay quiet on issues you know nearly nothing about and keep your hurtful opinions to yourself.

    That being said, the RBF would love to work with the SDS in the coming months: I would really enjoy working on tackling issues where we find common ground.

    Please feel free to contact me anytime at rbf.ubc@gmail.com.

    – scary.

  19. Mavaddat on September 19, 2008 10:10 am

    I have enjoyed the discussion here. However, I just wanted to respond to Mike’s suggestion to “learn some respect, stay quiet on issues you know nearly nothing about and keep your hurtful opinions to yourself”.

    This reminds of Lincoln’s maxim: “‘Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

    But I think both of these are wrong imperatives. For if truth is our concern (and not what others think of us), then surely it is better to speak freely and be thought a fool, than to keep silent and remain one. After all, Mike, consider if Ed hadn’t given his opinion, then you wouldn’t have been able to correct his perspective, and it would have remained skewed.

  20. Ashley on September 19, 2008 3:01 pm

    I’m pretty confident Ed’s opinion remains skewed.

  21. Steven_K on September 19, 2008 5:58 pm

    I think the RBF is great! Uni is about a bit of partying in addition to being angry at the man and drowning in schoolwork. They have also been very active in drawing attention to the outrageous behaviour of the RCMP at UBC. Kudos!

  22. Mark on September 20, 2008 3:58 pm

    For anyone who went on to listen to the RCMP sergeant’s response to the first interview, he said something very, very interesting: the number of parties that he can manage on campus is limited by the manpower he has available to him. If the RBF really wants to enable more partying at UBC they should talk to the RCMP detachment about increasing available manpower for party management through responsible and accountable community volunteers.

  23. Yonnnnnnnnaaaayyyyy!!!!! on September 20, 2008 9:56 pm

    Finally got the time to listen to the interview.

    “Well I can’t speak prior to when I arrived but there was never a seargent before that could actually dedicate the time to look and do the research and direct the younger members to ‘this is what we’re supposed to be enforcing under special occasion licences'”

    Sounds like Dan needs to get back to his research.

    1) He misrepresents the amount of paperwork involved in getting and SOL. There are actually up to five steps (department head, faculty dean, classroom services, RCMP, liquor store), not just the two he mentions. The whole process takes a minimum of two weeks and you have to take it to all those places yourself.

    2) The officer also claims that they are simply enforcing the rules imposed by BC liquor laws. Both UBC and the RCMP have made some additional rules that are theirs and theirs alone, such as minimum pricing.

    3) In response to the last comment by mark, my last event had about ~100 people and they sent 5 squad cars. What shortage?

  24. Irony on September 21, 2008 11:06 pm

    I am not entirely sure of the religious readership of this blog, but I can see that there are definitely more friends of the RBF than of the SDS in this comment section, and this ninja is not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

    This is not a pissing contest, and there should not be sides taken when it comes to student involvement and activism. Why must there be a polarization of those who want to make a difference and those who want to have fun? Last time I checked, university was about both.

    To quote an RBF executive, “people who take themselves too seriously are douche bags, and we’re here to get the job done, and have some fun along the way”. I think this was really well put, and without showing too much bias, I have to commend the RBF for taking campus by the horns and giving it a little shake. While their tactics may not be traditionally radical, like breaking window, spray-painting Coke machines, and yelling at the mayor, they are doing what they can, and getting a lot of support along the way.

    While I can understand certain commenters’ dislike of the RBF’s imagery and “branding”, this ninja would like to note that we live in a generation of branding, and of satire. Besides the gay marriage debacle, there has not been a serious civil rights issue in Canada since before the majority of campus were born. This has left many apathetic, disenchanted, and prone to propaganda more so than others.

    The epic growth and use of sites like Facebook and YouTube is testament to the short attention spans, social tendencies, and general involvement levels of our generation. While the RBF does not mean to belittle or demean the efforts of the original SDS, or the other civil liberties movements, it is simply trying to go about things a little differently, and is that so bad?

    The image of Che, in particular, is so mass produced and used to so many different ends, that its true meaning had been muddled long before the RBF came along. Mao and Stalin and recognizable single party dictators, and the RBF’s signs depict them being punched by their fists. While using psuedo-military propagada, they are trying to bring a laugh, and attract the attention of otherwise ignorant, uncaring students.

    The goals of the SDS and the RBF are relatively similar. While the RBF does not think that things are so terribly bad that a real revolution is necessary, they recognize that remaining silent is not an option, and they are speaking out in their own way.

    All namby-pamby rhetoric aside, personal attacks are uncouth and juvenile, especially from those who are almost old enough to be the father of the majority of campus.

    Ninja Out.

  25. Durgan on September 25, 2008 7:43 am

    We’re also missing the important points about alcohol. This is a deadly drug that is more highly correlated with violent crimes like rape, suicide, and homicide than any other. It is one of the only drugs that can kill you from withdrawal symptoms. It leads to siezure disorders and dementia in its late stages. Adolescent and post-adolescent drinking patterns highly predict lifetime drinking patterns. Simple facts.

    Besides explicitly promoting substance use, RBF differs from SDS in its overall shallow theoretical considerations. SDS was founded by the best, most rigorously scholarly writers on the campus. If RBF can even be said to have a fundamental philosophical position it seems about as deep as its use of pop-culture iconography: utterly bereft of meaning and oblivious of any scholarly validation. Instead it relies on a sort of common sense canadian redneck logic. Or sometimes a kind sophisticated rhetoric, that can only be acquired deep in the empire’s soft white underbelly also known as UBC’s arts faculty, that still smells of spoiled suburban kid whininess. I don’t know where their former hippy-yuppy sellout parents went wrong, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t bang any of them, at least not in the eighties.

    Tuum Est, but are you?

  26. Eddie on September 25, 2008 11:46 pm

    Durgan, is there an emoticon for “whatever”?

    EddiE Z.

  27. Ashley on September 26, 2008 4:22 am

    You are the penultimate party pooper, Ed.

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