Heart-attack pushers Ben & Jerry’s hippie ‘Indian land’ hypocrisy

Way back in the Stone Age, shortly after the woolly mammoths disappeared, I was city editor of an Albany newspaper while Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were mixing up exotic ice cream on stolen land across the border in Vermont.

The ice cream universe back then was basically vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. There was HoJo’s, sure, but you had to drive there, and now these two Long Island expats were marketing high-fat heart attacks in one-pint packages to corner groceries.

And they’d become a local sensation.

But they were looking to expand, and that required publicity, so one day Ben (or maybe Jerry; it was a long time ago) showed up in our city room with a styrofoam cooler packed with dry ice and free samples.

“Tell us about your product research, Jerry (or maybe it was Ben),” we asked.

With guarded words, winks, nods and eyerolls, the secret emerged: The pair hauled felony-weight weed into the countryside, lit up, watched the clouds float by, waited for munchy madness and then improvised.

Thus was inspired, among so many other flavors, Heath Bar Crunch — the concoction that almost killed the partnership.

They had argued bitterly over whether big chunks of candy bar should be folded into the mix, or small chunks.

Imagine the drama.

The company called on people to commit to "returning" land stolen from indigenous people in an Independence Day message.
The company called on people to commit to “returning” land stolen from indigenous people in an Independence Day message.

Eventually the obvious compromise was achieved — both big and little went into the blend, and the Ben & Jerry ice cream empire was born.

Now, maybe some of that was true. Heavy weed use is said to damage the brain — and this might explain Ben & Jerry’s Twitter feed.

But I didn’t believe a word of it, faux hippie schtick that it was. Then again, I was only there for the free ice cream — which was really, really good.

Decades pass, and Ben & Jerry are still belting out the bushwa.

By now, anybody who cares knows all about the obnoxious birthday greeting to America that popped out of the B&J Twitter account a week ago.

“The United States was founded on stolen indigenous land. This Fourth of July, let’s commit to returning it.”

God, it’s all so tiresome.

Land-grabbing humans have been cracking each other over the head since the species evolved. And this includes “indigenous” Americans — who in their day were among the most fearsome land-grabbing head-crackers ever to walk the planet.

And just why contemporary America is to be held exclusively to account for a project begun by the English, French, Spanish and Dutch more than 500 years ago is a mystery.

The United States is not perfect, and can be quite willful that way.

A Native American chief in Vermont claimed that Ben & Jerry's corporate headquarters are actually on "stolen" land.
A Native American chief in Vermont claimed that Ben & Jerry’s corporate headquarters are actually on “stolen” land.
Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

But a relatively youthful country that over the past 80 years crushed one genocidal empire, contributed mightily to the destruction of another and then hot-walked a third to oblivion has nothing for which to apologize. Not in the world we all live in.

Meanwhile, there’s an Indian leader in Vermont who is eyeing the “stolen” land occupied by B&J facilities there — and the fellow is talking compensation.

One would guess he has two chances here — fat and none — because despite the company’s practiced everybody-must-get-stoned vibe, the reality of Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t nearly match its righteous rhetoric.

Let’s be frank: Here’s an enterprise that for going on 50 years now has been peddling clogged arteries, diabetes and morbid obesity along with the Chunky Monkey.

Ben & Jerry's co-founders Ben Cohen (left) and Jerry Greenfield sold their company to Unilever for $326 million.
Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen (left) and Jerry Greenfield sold their company to Unilever for $326 million.
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Nobody’s forcing anybody to eat anything, for sure, but B&J has no grounds for moral preening.

Plus there’s this: Ben and Jerry made themselves a bundle —hell, they created the premium ice cream industry — and God bless’em.

Then they sold out (emphasis on “sold” and “out”) to Unilever — an international conglomerate with a market valuation of $128.6 billion as of Friday — for a cool $326 million in cash and used some of the proceeds to support the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations of 2011.

Can you spell “hypocrite,” boys and girls?

I sure miss my Cherry Garcia — but some sugar highs are just too expensive.

Email: bob@bobmcmanus.nyc

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