I just read this, saying that McDonald's is donating $2,000,000 to the Scripps Institute to fund scientific research to help solve America's childhood obesity epidemic.
I'd love to salute their generosity, I really would. I would love to be moved by such a benevolent gift to such a noble cause. But, sentimental sap though I be, I simply can't see this as anything other than a relatively small gift to help a company whose PR has been sagging, especially in the wake of documentary "hit job" Supersize Me (one of the many pieces of leftist propaganda in my movie collection).
Simply put, McDonald's shilling for childhood obesity research is as dishonest as big tobacco leading campaigns to inform consumers of the health risks of smoking. McDonald's, after all, was the company who perfected market directly to children, using an over-sized hypnotic clown to pair their product with the immature desires of children who can't distinguish between advertising and entertainment.
When I think of my own childhood obsession with McDonald's, which forced my parents and grandparents to consume far too many items of dubious nutritious and culinary value, I remember a more recent incident involving my oldest nephew, Josh. One day Josh approached his father, my twin brother Tom, and said "Daddy, did you know that Papa Johns has the best pizza in the whole world!"
To which Tom, somewhere between mildly amused and incredulous, replied something like, "Really, Josh? Where did you hear that?"
Josh, armed with the certainty of youth, said, "I heard it on the TV, so it must be true!"
Josh got a long lecture on the difference between programming - particularly news programming - and advertisements. He's still struggling to understand that just because someone says something is true, that doesn't mean that what they say really is true, especially if they're trying to sell you something.
But, of course, it is easy to dupe people, and it is especially easy to dupe children. And McDonald's has made an nearly uncountable pile of loot using cartoonish characters to blur the line in children's minds between advertising and programming. In doing so they have made the life of many a parent far more difficult by creating an artificial desire for their product in the minds of children - a desire based less on the merits (and especially demerits) of their product, and more on the pair of that product with lovable lush figures.
Of course, while they count their dough (pardon the bad pun) we count the pounds added to our collective waistlines, and more troublingly the waistlines of our children. This is not to say that McDonald's is solely or even primarily to blame for the epidemics of obesity and childhood obesity in our culture. But it is to say that they participate in it, and profit from it.
If they fund an honest study, it will probably tell them a number of things which we already know. What you eat matters, and what they serve is not fit to be eaten. Sure, the epidemic of obesity and childhood obesity is more complicated than that, but certain aspects of it are simple, and simply put, they are part of the problem. They don't need to put $2,000,000 into the hands of researchers to find that out.
The bigger question is, as it become undeniable that the fast food industry in general and McDonald's (as the symbol of our fast food culture) in particular are helping to make Americans the fattest people on the planet, what are they going to do about it? Because a $2,000,000 PR job isn't going to be nearly enough.
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