Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Fast Food Nation

I was at the First Congregational Church for a presentation by Eric Schlosser last night. He's finishing up his tour promoting Chew on This, a book for children about the history and impact of "fast fooding" in America.

Calling it "fast fooding" is sort of an inside family joke: in Bhutan we'd sometimes see signs for "Fooding and Lodging" (a normal usage in India). However, the long term health effects of marketing junk food to children are no laughing matter. Childhood obesity and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions in the USA.

I bought a copy for Tara, which Eric kindly autographed. Tara is already into it, finding it cram packed with interesting facts. She plans to make it the basis for a speech she's to deliver on Friday at her school.

Should teachers and students be free to question media campaigns in class? I'd say that's the mark of a free society. If you've been intimidated into never questioning slick PR, you're not free.

Mad Magazine, produced on Madison Avenue in the heart of New York's advertising district, was an early pioneer in this regard. Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders was another. If a democracy is to withstand the test of time, it needs a strong counter-culture to keep questioning its integrity. Democracy's enemies traditionally use "national security concerns" as their chief means of suppressing internal dissent.

The USA's politicians tend to be quietly respectful of capitalism's invisible army of child and adult psychologists. Their media campaigns use the same clever tricks the artificial corporate personages use to inspire loyalty to their brands.