“Eat well and exercise,” say the sugar-water sultans:
“We have to have discreet and visible ways to demonstrate we care. …We want to put our marketing prowess and muscle behind it,” said Wendy Clark, senior VP-global sparkling brand center at Coca-Cola, to Ad Age.
Yes, “discreet.” Wouldn’t want to set off an actual discussion of the place of soda pop in modern society now, would we?
This weekend, while running on a treadmill, I had the extreme displeasure of watching a half-hour infomercial for a product called the CoreBody Reformer. This is a $265 pile of junk that suggests it will burn away the fat of the obese, via a series of exercises supposedly facilitated by it. Here’s a glimpse:
In the full infomercial, which I (tellingly) can’t seem to find on the internet, there are more extended views of people — women — doing the “CoreBody” exercises. These involve balancing on the contraption’s tube while executing a series of balletic movements against some unspecified amount of resistance. Any guesses as to what percentage of the target audience stands a snowball’s chance in Hell of ever moving like that? Hence, the ubiquitous “results vary” disclaimer in the fine print.
Meanwhile, the real secret to the “success” stories — undoubtedly women paid handsomely to appear as success stories — is not the device and exercises. Also in the fine print at the bottom of the infomercial, you learn that all the “successes” shown in the ad not only posed with their CoreBody Reformers, but “followed the CoreBody Reformer® meal plan.” And guess what? Not only is this rather crucial fact unmentioned in the infomercial, but the details of the “CoreBody Reformer® meal plan” are entirely undisclosed on the product’s website!
One could write a college term paper on the various forms of fraud and theft embodied in this atrocious yet utterly typical scam, not least being the fetishization of the supposed “core” of the body, i.e. the latest variation of the hoary whopper that doing sit-ups will give you a tummy like the models in the ad. One could also note how obesity is such a perfect epidemic for corporate capitalists, a real gold mine. One could ask whether citizens would agree to having the FCC continue granting licenses to broadcasters who use their ethereal desmesnes to air such “paid programming.” One could also ponder the fact that this thing is definitely not small potatoes, in terms of sponsors, as it emanates from the Nautilus, Inc. corporation, which, as it generates over $19,000 in book profits per employee, isn’t big enough to be Fortune 500, but also isn’t close to being a small business.
Suffice, for now, to end with this depressing fact: Consumer Reportsendorses this racket!
The mighty journalistic flagship USA Today carries a story about yet another preposterous effort by medical experts to pretend that the people who run the United States are going to consider making the nation’s built environment friendly to exercise. The delusional proposal in question is, in the credulous description of USA Today, a “comprehensive, wide-ranging strategies outlined in the new U.S. National Physical Activity Plan, which is being released today by an expert panel representing influential health organizations. Among groups involved are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.”
The “comprehensive” plan is, as always, a melange of quarter-measures and rote incantations, none of which, puny as they are, stands a ghost of a chance of getting funded:
• Make sure roadway spending includes money for “complete streets,” accommodating cars, bikes and pedestrians.
• Have doctors assess patients’ physical activity levels at appointments and discuss ways they can meet the activity guidelines.
• Encourage early childhood education programs to have little ones as physically active as possible.
• Provide access to and opportunities for physical activity before and after school.
• Encourage school officials to find ways for children to walk and bike safely to school.
• Provide tax breaks for building owners or employers who provide amenities in workplaces that support active commuting, such as showers in buildings, secure bicycle parking, free bicycles or transit subsidies.
• Increase funding and resources for parks, recreation, fitness and sports programs and facilities in areas of high need.
Of course, for “balance” in its reporting on this piece of hopeless liberal special pleading, USA Today must turn to “conservatives,” who, of course, refuse to admit that any environmental discouragement of health exists in corporate capitalist America.
Cue the blithering clowns of the unintentionally hilarious Cato Institute:
“Most people are overweight not because there isn’t a sidewalk in their neighborhood but because we like to eat and we don’t like to exercise,” says David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C.
And the price of the changes could be high. “Everything costs something,” Boaz says. “Every action has a cost, and when it’s government-involved, whether it’s federal or local, they are generally less efficient with money. This is the elite planning for how the masses should live.”
People are simply getting too fat for the existing rides, including the now satirically named “It’s a Small World”:
“Forty-one years after the whimsical ride debuted at the Anaheim park, Disneyland plans to shutter the attraction in January to give it a much-needed face-lift — and deal with the delicate problem of bottoming-out boats.
“Heavier-than-anticipated loads have been causing the boats to come to a standstill in two different spots, allowing for an extra-long gander at the Canadian Mounties and the Scandinavian geese, said Al Lutz, whose website MiceAge first reported the refurbishment plans.
“Disneyland is well aware of America’s expanding waistlines.
“In recent years, the park has redesigned many of its costumes and started stocking them in larger sizes to accommodate ever-expanding waistlines. Adult men and women are about 25 pounds heavier than they were in 1960, and 65% are considered overweight, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The average weight for men jumped from 166 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002; women average 164 pounds instead of 140.
“Of course, this is a world of fantasy and the perfect place to forget about that diet for a few hours. So when somebody gets booted from the boat, Lutz said, Disneyland ride operators make sure the guests don’t leave disappointed: They hand them a food ticket.”
As I explain in my book, as the system churns on, its normal operation compels all big businesses to extend and refine their marketing operations, which are neither more nor less than history’s most detailed and expensive behavioral-control campaigns.
As this generates an expanding marketing race, it increasingly commercializes and commodifies off-the-job life. Along the way, less capitalist-friendly practices and products give way to more capitalist ones.
One of corporate capitalism’s ultimate (and hence most important) products is soda pop: It preys upon human weaknesses for sugar and caffeine and sensory titillation. It is impossible to make at home or obtain for free. It is mildly addictive. It is highly packagable and marketable.
Soda pop has roughly 150 empty calories per 12-oz serving. In 1900, Americans drank the equivalent of 12 12-oz cans of soda per capita annually. In 1929, they drank 26 cans per person per year. 1949 = 158; 1957 = 200. In 2004? 535 cans of pop per person per year! Soda now far surpasses water as the #1 thing Americans drink. Between 1980 and 2005, its per capita ingestion in the United States increased every single year!
[An Aside: People in the mass media often puzzle over why French people are not as fat as Americans. Is it drinking wine? French mystique? A secret epidemic of French bulimia? Hell, no! It’s the cars and the soda pop, i.e. the unrestricted capitalism, stupid! The French have the Paris Metro and the TGVs and a forest of bikeable and walkable cities. And what was France’s 2004 per capita ingestion of soda pop? Just over 100 cans per person, about 1/5 of the U.S. rate. 400 cans of soda-pop, the number Americans drink over each year and above the French average, contain 60,000 calories. Q.E.D.]
As I like to say, the degree of control our ruling class has over us underlings would make Joseph Stalin purple with jealousy. We in America just simply live under market totalitarianism. Our habits are approaching complete commodification, with outcomes that deserve serious consideration by anybody wondering what kind of basis money makes for a purported civilization…