What does so-called news look like presented by the corporate media that benefits the corporate machine? News of dubious distinction that conceals more than it shares with the public.
Any of you hear the recent news all over the corporate media about the Colorado, Iowa teacher who lost 37 lbs. eating only food stuff from McDonald’s? It a piece that on its surface looks like a win-win for fighting obesity in this country and how citizen action has motivated the largest fast food franchise to revise their menu that can accommodate those who want to avoid a high cholesterol, fat-laden diet. Yay!
But hidden in this story are other factors about fast foods we need to be aware of and also what looks like an attempt to exculpate McDonald’s for its very large contribution to poor diets, unhealthy food and obesity in this country.
Embedded in this story is a subtle attack against someone who exposed the practices of McDonald’s that has contributed to this nation’s obesity epidemic along with the inference that McDonald’s food per se is not to be considered nutritionally deficient anymore or even posing any serious health risks.
Corporate news exonerates McDonald’s in ways that makes it looks like it’s simply reporting a factual incident. The failure of this “news” item is its sin of omission, failing to look beyond the surface of the benefits gained by an Iowa high school teacher in his efforts to lose weight or any lesson it attempts to teach younger people about choices.
Back in 2004 Morgan Spurlock made a disturbing documentary called “Super Size Me” that revealed the unhealthy effects of not only eating meals from places like McDonald’s routinely but the way they encourage larger amounts for a few cents more to increase their profits while increasing your waist size.
Spurlock went on a 30 day diet of eating Big Macs and Quarter Pounders along with super-sized fries and soda pops. At the end of 30 days Spurlock was diagnosed by his physician as being not only obese but was an at-risk candidate for heart attacks. His triglycerides were off the charts. Needless to say, McDonald’s came out looking like the non-empathetic, for-profit mega-corporation they are and have since added items to their menu that diminishes this view somewhat. Score one for the little guy.
Now enters John Cisna nine years later, the Iowa school teacher who wanted to demonstrate through a class project that making the right nutritional choices is what matters more than where you eat. So, in a reverse mode of Spurlock’s demonstration of what happens when you don’t make healthy choices eating at McDonald’s, Cisna was able to show that by counting calories and exercising you can eat at McDonald’s and not pose a health risk to yourself.
His students were responsible for assigning no more than 2000 calories for each meal off of the McDonald’s menu.
A sample menu showed him eating an Egg White Delight, a sausage burrito and oatmeal for breakfast. Lunch included a Southwest salad and a Fruit & Yogurt Parfait, while dinner featured a grilled chicken sandwich, a Caesar salad with grilled chicken and small fries. SOURCE
Three months later Cisna had not only lost nearly 40 lbs. but his total cholesterol dropped nearly 80 points to a reasonable 170 and a reduced waist size 4 sizes smaller. Cisna wanted to show his students, and by virtue of his video’s success across the web, how making the right choices will improve your health.
What John Cisna did was admirable but something caught my eye he said that made me a little suspicious of his good intentions and perhaps had a part in the making this story more appealing to the corporate news media than it otherwise would have. For dubious reasons, Cisna accused Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” documentary of engaging in “irresponsible journalism”. WTF? Where did that come from?
Why would anyone be cynical of Spurlock’s documentary, especially someone of Cisna’s bulk who obviously was a fan of the Big Mac at one time. Though Cisna assured us that he wasn’t “a paid spokesman for McDonald’s, though local franchises donated his food” I couldn’t help but feel he was making a political statement of his own to disparage someone who went after a big player in the free-market world.
Cisna’s angst toward Spurlock seems to center around what he considers the failure of “Super Size Me” to illustrate choices for people, especially the young kids who frequent this popular fast food chain. Yet the choices Cisna alludes to were not even available at the time Spurloch made his documentary and only became available for Cisna as a direct result of that popular video. Yet none of the media outlets that ran with this story seem to be aware of that. Talk about your “irresponsible journalism”.
But even still, Cisna’s complaint seems odd when you consider what the only real choice your left with after watching Spurlock ballon in size and risk heart disease after only 1 month of a high calorie, high cholesterol diet purchased under the Golden Arches. Indulge in such foods and you are a prime candidate for diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Avoid such a diet and save your life. No doubt very small children need guidance in what choices they need to make concerning healthy diets but the young people in Cisna’s high school class are surely capable of concluding the choices they are faced with after watching “Super Size Me”
Let me also briefly add here that choices of food are more often based on financial conditions. The food that fast food restaurants serve and that is the cheapest to buy are those high calorie, salt-laden products. The argument that obesity is more related to poverty than simply making bad choices is avoided in the Cisna story. I won’t dwell on it either but for a more informed view on this visit Sandra Kim’s blog, everyday feminism, to catch her article entitled “Is the Childhood Obesity Crisis a Big, Fat Red Herring”.
Now let’s look at how Cisna’s story in the corporate media version, with the small dig at Spurlock, benefits the McDonald’s mega corporation.
This kind of free PR has got to have the executives at McDonald’s elated. Many of them were surely dancing in the corporate office hallways singing the McDonald’s jingle, “I’m lovin’ it!”. Not only was a nemesis of their’s, Morgan Spurlock, chastised publicly but it is likely that they feel their image as part of the obesity epidemic in this country has been softened, allowing them to go about business as usual and hope that other inherent problems with their food won’t make the national tabloids. What inherent problems you might ask?
In Cisna’s 2000 calorie meals there were Southwest salads with white chicken meat and grilled chicken sandwiches. Chicken is popular with dieters because it contains less fat and only slightly less cholesterol. But the chicken most restaurants serve comes from factory farms where chickens never see the light of day, live in cramped conditions, wallow around in their own feces and are injected with antibiotics and growth hormones to get them to the slaughter house quicker than true range-free, organically fed chickens. Too much of this of course can be a bad thing as McDonald’s International found out,
Last year McDonald’s announced plans to severe ties with a major chicken supplier for their restaurants in China who were found to be ingesting excessive amounts of antibiotics in their product. This decision however followed another discovery that McDonald’s had been selling expired chicken products to Chinese consumers. These incidences raised awareness for many of us that much of what passes for nutritional chicken at McDonald’s may come from questionable sources and consist of by-products that could prove harmful for human health.
Chicken from China that one report says “has a dodgy reputation for food safety”, is still a source of chicken for many large food operations including McDonald’s.
(Newser) – The US Department of Agriculture quietly announced on Friday that it had approved four Chinese poultry plants to ship processed chicken into the US. It’s no wonder it tried to sneak that news onto the eve of a long weekend, notes Bloomberg: China has a dodgy reputation for food safety, with repeated outbreaks of avian flu and the New York Times reports that Chinese-made chicken jerky recently killed hundreds of US dogs. So it’s a little worrying that these processing plants will operate without USDA inspectors, and the agency does not require point-of-origin labeling, so American consumers will not know where their chicken comes from. SOURCE
This information however was not part of the “good vibes” edition being telecasted and published by the corporate media to the consumer in the John Cisna story. For this kind of information you have to be plugged in to sources other than the evening news or morning talk shows on network television. Sources that in the words of Paul Harvey will given you the other side of the story. The one that isn’t necessarily corporate friendly.
Check out the Infographics on this at Ragan.com
It isn’t my intent to be “unAmerican” and challenge the virtues of the free markets. The free-markets when applied practically and with some oversight can and do benefit societies in ways that lift millions out of poverty and help provide financial security for working class families. But the free-markets that are found in text books by highly respectable academicians are seldom the ones in play in the real world.
The corporate exploiters who use the idealistic and inspirational stories of entrepreneurship have long since abandoned the principles of market capitalism for strategies that serve only a small handful of people. Incorporated in this strategy is the manipulation of the message that comes from the mouth pieces employed by corporate owned media outlets. Messages like the one that shines a light on only a small aspect of how good things can come from greedy corporate interests without noting that that light only shines because someone challenged the prevailing darkness.
There of course will be those skeptics and free-market advocates who will be inclined to dismiss such criticism as “liberal bias” and as communist attacks on our capitalist institutions. The veracity of the claims won’t be challenged but the attacks on the messenger are intended to discredit any claims that can hurt the corporate image. Sadly, people will buy into this corporate view because it prevents them from changing habits they have become comfortable with. Score a big one for the big guys.