DEBUNK THE JUNK – July 26, 2004

“Statements of alarm by newscasters and glorification of wannabe experts are two telltale tricks of the fear mongers trade………..others [include]: the use of poignant anecdotes in place of scientific evidence, the christening of isolated incidents as trends, depictions of entire categories of people as innately dangerous……..If journalists would curtail such practices, there would be fewer anxious and misinformed Americans.”  –  Barry Glassner, “The Culture of Fear:  Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


E-mail from Greg in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />South Carolina and my response………..


Just read day one of Soso Whaley's McDonald's Adventure and was very interested in seeing how her adventure would turn out.  Although I do believe that some people's use of McDonald's is harmless, we need to keep a corporation this of this stature in check.  Their targeting of children via commercial's and now through school funding is very questionable.  Food and beverage companies are now signing contracts with school districts to advertise in every area of the school imaginable, even the restrooms.


Whaley's experiment is valid as long as exercise is used as a constant.  To say that in 49 years of eating McDonald's caused no ill health effects is like saying that living in a town that has radiant water causes no ill effects. Soso, make sure you're checking your cholesterol and blood pressure, too.  Also, do you think children pick the same so called healthy menu items off a McDonald's menu as you would?  Do you think McDonald's really cares?                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Soso Responds:



I would like to start by addressing your statement that McDonald’s is marketing to children.  Good parenting means setting the limits for the child.  Observe parents and their kids placing orders at McDonald ' s—you might notice a few arguments taking place, but compromise inevitably occurs.   For the most part parents are actively involved in the choices their children make.  Of course,  once children reach a certain age, they’re pretty much on their own to make good or bad lifestyle decisions.  That’s when a little family discussion about advertisers and advertising techniques can be helpful .  I was careful to plant the seeds of skepticism in my son at an early age.


Instead of a knee jerk, politically correct reaction at the very mention of the name McDonald ' s ,  consider for a moment what the quick service restaurant has to offer both children and adults.  The menu is nothing more than the same food that might be offered at a barbecue or picnic; hamburgers, chicken dishes, salads, desserts, a variety of drinks.  Viewed in that way, this food takes on a less sinister face. 


You complain about McDonald ' s and other fast food establishments’ advertising in the schools; however, this practice is prevalent everywhere.  Prohibiting advertising at schools does not mean that you are eliminating these messages entirely.  At school, at the mall, what’s the difference ?  Teach kids to understand the function of advertising in our society and arm them with critical thinking skills ;  don’t shield them from life.  Besides,  I don’t necessarily see the anti-McDonald ' s groups stepping up to the plate to provide funds for schools that are desperately in need of dollars .  They seem to be more interested in spreading their propaganda than in helping schools out financially.


What truly aggravates me as a parent is the targeting of children by animal rights groups such as PeTA.  This group’s members stand outside elementary schools to distribute their anti-meat and anti-dairy playing cards to unsuspecting children  and disrupt holiday performances of the Nutcracker by passing out anti-fur comic books that tell kids “your mommy is a killer” if she wears fur.  As far as I’m concerned, as long as PeTA can infiltrate our schools with their anti-animal messages, then McDonalds has my blessing to continue with their advertising campaigns along with the rest of the corporations, including “green non-profit” corporations that regularly target children as potential future donors. 


As for your concern about my cholesterol,  mine dropped from 237 to 197.  Imagine that, a drop of 40 points simply by lowering my calorie count during a 30 – day period.  I’m doing very well physically and mentally.  As a matter of fact, I challenge people to keep up with me—my energy is fantastic and I’ve been traveling quite a bit while I finish my film.  As for my blood pressure, it’s always been well within acceptable limits, even when I was over 200 pounds a couple of years ago.  This refusal on the part of some groups to accept the fact that each one of us is a unique individual speaks volumes about their motives  


I don’t expect to convince you that my eating at McDonald ' s is no more harmful than eating at home, a 5 star restaurant, a vegan café ,  or the local tavern.  Your inappropriate comparison of McDonald ' s food with “radiant water” is a bit over the top.  If your intention is to create a fear of radiation, allow me to point out that radiation is everywhere.  Steven Milloy of went into the US Capitol Building and measured the radiation coming from all the stone statues and marble structures.  The results indicated that there is more radiation in the Capitol than in the areas surrounding nuclear power plants!  I'm not trying to scare my readers but I think it's important that we talk about these things with a good dose of pragmatism, not fear of the unknown.