The back page of the first section of yesterday’s New York Times had one of the most cynical, manipulative ads I have ever seen. From The Center for Consumer Freedom, the headline reads in ultra big letters: YOU ARE TOO STUPID, with junk or junky food standing in for several letters:
- A donut standing in for the O of YOU
- A slice of pepperoni pizza for the A of ARE
- A cheeseburger followed by the bird’s eye view of a can of soda—circle of aluminum with tab—for the two O’s of TOO
- A chocolate chip cookie eaten into the shape of a U and an ice cream cone with a scoop of chocolate for the U and I of STUPID.
The ad continued: “(YOU ARE TOO STUPID) …to make good personal decisions about food and beverages. The New York Department of Health/Hype has used your tax dollars to launch an advertising campaign to demonize soda.”
The ad goes on to rage against food cops, closing with, “It’s your food. It’s your drink. It’s your freedom,” and then sends you to ConsumerFreedom.com.
Oh yes, there’s a lovely photo of a family of four at the table, in shape and as white as can be, about to dig into a big pizza in an unidentifiable location that has restaurant lighting. All have extra large sodas by their side.
This ad is about as slimy as it gets. It disregards the fact that bad nutrition, overeating and the obesity that they cause have been tied to a vast range of ailments and an enormous increase in health care costs. The ad lauds the importance of choice as overriding all other concerns the way that any organization does that is trying to avoid regulation or taxation of its product or service. It’s same the tactic tobacco companies took in attacking ”no smoking” ordinances, even injecting an almost mystical desire for freedom into their advertising, especially to women. Could automobile makers have once raged against stoplights or mandatory automobile insurance?
Worst of all, like the promulgators of the “brother’s myth” and creationism, this ad tells people lies that they want to hear.
And if lies and distortions are ice, then this ad is just the tip of a giant iceberg called The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).
The CCF mission statement says that it’s “a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices.”
On its home page, we see links to articles and “studies,” all in one way or another communicating that people can eat or drink whatever they damn please and it’s nobody’s business and besides, it’s all healthy for them, which is why government regulation is bad. Some examples:
- A section on obesity attempts to prove that being morbidly overweight is not bad for your health, including a white paper that supposedly refutes Center for Disease Control mortality statistics. This is for real! I did not make it up.
- A home page article refutes the “bad publicity” that high fructose corn syrup has gotten for adding empty calories to virtually all processed foods.
- Another home page article reviews a recent book that attacks locavores, which is a movement dedicated to improving the quality of food consumed while using less energy by stressing the eating of locally-grown fresh foods.
- A part of the Food & Drink section focuses on the benefits of genetically modified food.
Lurking within virtually every article on the CCF website is the ideological subtext that a corporation would never sell you anything that was bad for you.
Who would contribute to an organization that is the nutritional and health equivalent of those that fight the idea that our globe is warming because of human activity? I don’t know because there is no information about the organization, its board of directors or its executive director. The boilerplate in news releases and other material gives only a hint of who is behind this outrage:
“The Center for Consumer Freedom is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supported by restaurants, food companies, and individual consumers together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.”