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  • First Tobacco, Now Food

    Posted by James R. Rummel on October 21st, 2008 (All posts by )

    I was not happy with the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement for many reasons.

    One of my main objections was that the entire premise behind the complaint against the tobacco industry was that they used advertising to control the minds of their customers. It seems extremely obvious that the dangers of using tobacco were well established long before my birth in 1964, yet it was claimed that tens of millions of Americans were too stupid or weak minded to pay attention. Consenting adults in this country could be trusted to choose political leaders in elections, but they were helpless to resist when confronted with a picture of the Marlboro Man.

    One of the most moronic claims by the anti-tobacco crowd was that the cartoon advertising mascot Joe Camel was enslaving the youth of America. It was said that children recognized Joe more readily than they did Mickey Mouse, even though the cigarette ads only ran for 9 years and giant amusement parks featuring the anthropomorphic camel were never constructed. It looked to me to be a blatant attempt to demonize an industry in order to force them to pony up some cash.

    The title of this article is “10 Things the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know”, and it shows that some people figure the same methods used against Big Tobacco will work just fine when applied to the food industry.

    Click on that last link and all the same tricks are on display. Food companies target little kids to advertise unhealthy food. They sponsor studies that obscure the fact that unhealthy food is bad for you. The industry puts pressure on legislators to keep them from passing laws limiting consumer access to fattening and sweet foods. They bankroll front groups which fight anti-obesity laws. And so on.

    This appears to me to be exactly the same tactics used against tobacco companies. They are evil, unconcerned with the health of their customers, and all too willing to employ Jedis working on Madison Avenue to use their powers on the minds of vulnerable little children. (“Broccoli is not what you want to eat! Ice Cream would be much nummier!”)

    The author of the article claims that obesity is a major health concern, and I have no problem with that. But I do object to the idea that people in this country are so stupid that they just can’t figure out that eating unhealthy foods will make you unhealthy.

    How long will it take before state legislatures combine resources to blackmail the food industry into making a huge payment? I figure about ten years on the outside.

    I see the campaign against the tobacco industry, and now the food industry, as an attack on the free market system. Free markets means free choice, which means that individuals have to be allowed to make bad personal choices if that is what they want to do.

    I mean, isn’t that the very basis of American society?

     

    10 Responses to “First Tobacco, Now Food”

    1. Hermit Says:

      This article was a breath of fresh air (no pun intended), and you summed it up well when you wrote:

      “I see the campaign against the tobacco industry, and now the food industry, as an attack on the free market system. Free markets means free choice, which means that individuals have to be allowed to make bad personal choices if that is what they want to do.”

      The last thing free people need are keepers to slap their hands if they dare to reach for a smoke or a Big Mac. I think many in this country have forgotten what freedom is – as well as what it isn’t. Freedom isn’t safe. Its very exercise is always fraught with risk. It requires much of those who embrace it – courage, for one, and a strong sense of personal responsibility (with the understanding that any consequences for one’s actions and decisions are one’s own),

      Government appears to be trying to construct an elaborate cage for us to dwell in . Personnaly, I’d rather have freedom. I’d rather take my chances (and lumps, where applicable) outside that cage.

    2. Dan from Madison Says:

      It boils down to an attack on deep pockets. If those bringing the lawsuits on fast food and other companies were truly serious about improving the health of obese individuals, they would not only go after the large companies, but the products themselves. Potato chips, ice cream, this list goes on and on. Why not sue grocery stores that have horrible things for sale such as cookies, fried pork rinds and pasteurized processed cheese food?

      So in the end, it is all about money – the health of Americans is only a secondary concern (if it is a concern at all).

      Speaking anecdotally, I see just as many people smoking as ever. So much for that settlement money. Here in Wisconsin we had to use our settlement money for more pressing issues, like not letting the state go bankrupt. So much for that “smoking education” thought that our attorneys initially had.

    3. Hermit Says:

      Ah, I should have used spellcheck! Sorry about that… was in a bit of a hurry.

    4. James R. Rummel Says:

      “Ah, I should have used spellcheck! Sorry about that… was in a bit of a hurry.”

      That is quite all right, Hermit. Your meaning clearly shone through.

      James

    5. sol vason Says:

      What they are saying, essentially, is that the Earth will be a better planet if people would just stop eating. Perhaps we can start with the lawyers, next the politicians, then …

    6. Shannon Love Says:

      Both the Tobacco settlement and this argument evolve out articulate intellectuals (AI) intuitive belief in the power of speech to completely control human behavior.

      AI’s believe strongly in the power of speech because they base their claim to power and status on their ability to solve problems like crime, war, environmental protect etc on their ability to use persuasive communication to alter peoples behavior. For them to consider their claim valid, they must believe that mere act of communicating with a person becomes a form of control. They must also believe themselves uniquely resistant to such control (otherwise, why bother putting articulate intellectuals in charge?).

      It follows therefore, that anyone communicating to ordinary people who are not articulate intellectuals must be exerting power and control over those people. Advertisement becomes a form of assault that justifies the use of violence (usually by the state) in response.

      Like a lot of ideas on the left, it simultaneously exalts the articulate intellectual, insults the ordinary person and justifies the use of state of violence for the benefit of the articulate intellectual.

      You can usually shut them up by pointing out that if their claim is true, the social conservatives must be correct that sexual imagery in popular culture in essence “forces” people into destructive sex lives.

    7. Lexington Green Says:

      “Both the Tobacco settlement and this argument evolve out articulate intellectuals (AI) intuitive belief in the power of speech to completely control human behavior.”

      On worked in a lower-rung capacity on that settlement. It evolved out of clever plaintiffs’ counsel seeing an opportunity and running with it. It also evolved out of the self-interest of the tobacco companies. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to delve deeper and figure out why there was a settlement and why it was perceived as mutually beneficial by the defendants, the states and by contingency counsel — and ask yourself if those guys all liked it enough to do it, who was the loser?

    8. Ginny Says:

      The myth of advertising’s power is an argument linked at A&L: The Hyped Panic Over War of the Worlds (from their sister pub – Chronicle of Higher Ed.)

      One of my daughters was forced to watch “Supersize Me” in a nutrition class; not surprisingly the kids thought it was a stupid venture – even teenagers well aware of peer pressure realized it was possible to say no to a complete stranger through a drive-through window.

      I’m not saying obesity isn’t a problem – I have spent my life erratically fighting it. But given the short time so many parts of the world have had the luxury of that worry, can’t we assume we’ll adjust – our bodies will make us? Policing foods is likely to set off all sorts of unintended consequences. A bunch of guys fresh from a football field can handle those big macs – and process them into muscle. Having seen the “food pyramid” morph drastically in my life time, I’d as soon trust a well-tuned body’s instincts than any expert spokesman for whatever screwy idea is “in” this year.

      These people want to corral us and make us eat alike – well, hell, of course, they want us to think alike. A lot of useful experimentation and the practical results of diversity are lost in such a narrow & joyless world.

    9. Obloodyhell Says:

      > The author of the article claims that obesity is a major health concern, and I have no problem with that.

      I do. Most of the increased “obesity” stats comes from lowering the bar on the definition of “obese” in the last couple decades.

      And if kids are really having more health issues, then the solution is probably more PE at schools, not less. Funny how few are calling for THAT.

      And if adults are really having a major problem with it, why is life expectancy still going “up”?

    10. Mike Drew Says:

      The problem with your arguement is that you have to assume that people are capable of making their own decision and should be held responsible for that decision. Our liberal social society has allowed people for years to blame the evil company for their witty commercials or good looking sponsors. Its great that these ivy-leaguer illuminati are so tolerant to our ignorance. On a side note, just watch “SuperSize me” and that will help end our dependence on the La Big Mac! I also agree that kids need PE/Gym/Recess back at school…no wonder they are suffering from weight gains, ADHD, and other preventable or normal conditions.