Monday, October 02, 2006

Hyman Causes an Intellectual Flabbalanche

In a recent editorial, Mark Hyman bemoans the efforts of “activists” to hold food companies responsible for the ill effects of their products on the national waistline.

Hyman sets up the issue in terms of a conflict between those who blame companies for America’s obesity and those who champion “personal responsibility.”

But that’s a classic example of a false dilemma. One can be all for personal accountability when it comes to food choices and still be for sensible regulations on the food industry, particularly those corporations (such as the fast food industry) that, like Big Tobacco, create products that harm their customers when that product is used as directed. (Morgan Spurlock, in his film Supersize Me, dramatically shows that if one ate at McDonald’s at each meal—exactly what the company would love for its customers to do—you can end up seriously ill in less than a month.)

In fact, it’s sometimes necessary to have regulations in order for customers to practice personal responsibility.

Hyman mocks the push for “requirements that all restaurant menus include nutritional information.” But how else are customers to make an informed decision unless they have the facts about the food in front of them? When we buy food at the store, the packaging has nutritional information on it. Why not at restaurants?

Again, Spurlock’s movie is a good example of the problem. Even at McDonald’s, which claims to have nutritional information available, it’s often difficult or impossible for customers to actually find it. Often, the employees themselves don’t even know where it is.

Demanding personal accountability but opposing giving individuals the tools they need to make informed decisions is hypocritical. Accountability is a two-way street.

Advocates of “personal responsibility” often bridle at the suggestion that we should hold corporations responsible as well. In Hyman’s case, I guess that’s not surprising. Sinclair has been serving up the journalistic version of fast food for several years now, increasing the intellectual flab of its audience.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 4.27


At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nice post.

Yes, how the hell can American's make informed decisions about many things when, under multiple never-saw-a-business-it-did-not-like Republicans have systematically reduced the ability of Americans to be widely informed. Republican decisions to reduce public awareness (of food content or other matters) is always argued on the basis of helping business. Thus, the republicans are the party of spending.

The most obvious example to me is the loss of the Fairness Doctrine, which held sway for over 50 years. Under Reagan, it was gotten rid of in 1987, opening the floodgates of one-sided, corporate-leaning talk radio.

The Fairness Doctrine never required stations to provide equal time, but merely the opportunity for opposing opinions to be aired.

Gee, how awful was THAT? To provide Americans with access to a diversity of opinions? Now, partisans just tune into either Bill O'Reilly (or the over-20 other right wing talk shows) or Air America. Whadda we get: more and taller intellectual walls, a reduced ability to listen to others, and a more decrepit society.


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