Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sweet and Lowdown

The effort to stigmatize soda continues apace, with the NY Times unsurprising playing the role of the Amen Chorus. Last week the Times, busy burying the whole ClimateGate fiasco, played the phony Big soda=Big tobacco meme out in the Sunday Week in Review: "Is soda the new tobacco? In their critics’ eyes, producers of sugar-sweetened drinks are acting a lot like the tobacco industry of old: marketing heavily to children, claiming their products are healthy or at worst benign, and lobbying to prevent change. The industry says there are critical differences: in moderate quantities soda isn’t harmful, nor is it addictive."

This is, of course, advocacy journalism at its most tendentious-and the attempts to justify the linkage between deadly tobacco smoke and soda (see this fraudulent chart) reveals the extent to which the health advocates-liberal fascists looking to control what we eat and how we live-will go to enforce their life style views on the rest of us.

And, as for Mark Bittman, the advocate/reporter who penned this piece: "Bittman has previously expounded on the dubious joys of vegetarianism and wanted meat downgraded as a lifestyle choice in a 2008 Week in Review article: "If those trends continue, meat may become a treat rather than a routine. It won't be uncommon, but just as surely as the S.U.V. will yield to the hybrid, the half-pound-a-day meat era will end.”

So, what do we really have in this attempt at comparison? Well, there are certainly no epidemiological studies that demonstrates any causal relationship between obesity and soda consumption. Yes, there is a likelihood that obese folks drink a lot of soda-and other sugared drinks; and fatty deserts; and salty snacks-well, you get the picture.

But there are millions of Americans in labor intensive work-construction workers of all shapes and sizes come to mind-that consume large quantities of soda as they work. It isn't anywhere near deadly to do so; and the effort to conflate soda with tobacco consumption is simply an attempt by health bureaucrats to continue to aggrandize their own power at the expense of our freedom of choice.

Nothing is more representative of this than our own former NYC health commissioner-Mother Tom Frieden: "The model, clearly, is tobacco. Dr. Frieden, who promoted a soda tax when he was a health commissioner, sees further parallels between soda and tobacco: “There are aspects of the food industry that are reminiscent of tobacco — the sowing of doubt where there’s no reasonable doubt, funding of front groups, use of so-called experts, claims that new products which are safer for consumers are available, and the claim that they are not marketing to children.”

This, my friends, is a true bunko artist. Straw men make for flimsy arguments-and the industry attempts to fend off job killing taxes doesn't mean that its product is comparable to tobacco-even if Frieden's arguments had any merit. The fact that certain lobbying tactics might be somehow similar only would mean that, well, there are certain lobbying techniques that are standard operating procedures.

But, in addition, if in fact the correlation between the two products is bogus, than the same tactics that were used by a duplicitous purveyor of a truly dangerous product could be used by others without any degree of invidiousness. The crucial issue lies in the righteousness of the original comparison-and what slick Tom does is deflect attention away from the scientific validity of the comparison in order to create the false impression that there is a far greater degree of similarity than actually exists. Otherwise known as the Big Lie.

And in all of this, we return to the need for the Friedens of the world to usurp our choices while they accumulate personal power. Trying to educate the folks doesn't really do it for Tom: "The problem, says Dr. Frieden, is that, “Obesity is a major health problem that’s getting worse, and it’s clear that exhorting individuals to eat less and exercise more is not going to turn things around.”

And Bittman obligingly concludes his advocacy with: "It may be time to try something a little more forceful." This is the kind of quintessential health fascism that bodes ill for the survival of not only our economy, but the very liberty of our citizens.