Satire is dead. Have a burger.

One of my satirical and musical heroes, the great Tom Lehrer, was famously quoted as saying that political satire died the day Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

I am having something of a similar moment today.

This time last week I was reading in the British Medical Journal that 17% – around a sixth – of the colossal US spend on healthcare was accounted for by diseases resulting from obesity. [Original report here – pay to read full version]

Obesity is also, of course, a major source of health problems, and health expenditure, in the UK.

And you do not have to watch Jamie Oliver’s TV shows to understand that changes in our diet, and the inexorable rise of high-calorie convenience foods, play a role in this.

But Fear Not – our new Government Has A Plan.

It must, indeed, be a cunning and subtle one.

For how else to explain that the people who are going to be “helping” with the Govt’s new anti-obesity public health strategy are apparently to be McDonald’s, KFC, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo.

I am delighted that these major retail concerns, who sell such excellent, nutritious, refreshing and health-giving food and beverage products, are to put their undoubted expertise to use in making as much money selling us processed food as they possibly can helping us eat a healthier diet.

Alternatively, you might consider the following words:

“fox” “chicken coop” “in charge of”


11 Responses to “Satire is dead. Have a burger.”

  1. drphilyerboots Says:

    It is complely daft. Diageo know nothing about obesity, they should be in charge of the anti-alcohol campaign.

  2. brainduck Says:

    Wow… thanks for the heads up.

  3. Tweets that mention Satire is dead. Have a burger. « Dr Aust’s Spleen -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jamieworld and Dr Aust, Dr Aust. Dr Aust said: Satire is dead. Have a burger.: […]

  4. Helen Says:

    Right. Stop the planet. I’m getting off now. Any sane planets anywhere in the vicinity?

  5. World Spinner Says:

    Satire is dead. Have a burger. « Dr Aust's Spleen…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  6. Zeno Says:

    When Cameron talks about Big Society, he means BIG Society.

  7. draust Says:

    Dr Phil

    Yes, you would think so, wouldn’t you?

    Actually, though, the “satire is dead” effect – as in “nothing you can make up can be more surreal than the reality” – is at work with alcohol too.

    The overall consultation this is part of – on what Lansley and his advisers are apparently calling “social responsibility networks” – also includes one specifically on alcohol. In another satire-is-dead moment, that one is chaired by the head of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (!). I would be rather, errm, surprised if Diageo weren’t represented there too, as well as on the overall strategy panel (or whatever).

    There is an accompanying longer article about all this on the Guardian website, written by Felicity Lawrence, who does features on health/lifestyle topics. Talking of alcohol, it includes a pertinent quote from Sir Ian Gilmore.

    Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the leading liver specialist and until recently president of the Royal College of Physicians, said he was very concerned by the emphasis on voluntary partnerships with industry. A member of the alcohol responsibility deal network, Gilmore said he had decided to co-operate, but he doubted whether there could be “a meaningful convergence between the interests of industry and public health since the priority of the drinks industry was to make money for shareholders while public health demanded a cut in consumption”.

  8. Nico Says:

    This is absolutely shocking, but in a way it is good news, after the second twitter joke trial I thought irony was dead in the UK. Glad to see the government keeps it alive. /end sarcasm

    It is interesting to see that the government wants to reduce obesity but they just scrapped Cycling England. To deal with the obesity crisis we need a double-pronged strategy of healthier food and increased physical activity. That means standards for school dinners (kindly scrapped by Ms Thatcher), legislation on portion size (and especially drinks) in restaurants, clear labels on supermarket food on the calorie intake side.

    On the calorie expenditure, British people are among the most inactive in Europe. Start with the children by encouraging sport in school, but also activities for everyone like cycling – completely ignored by the current minister for transport – and free swimming was scrapped in the cuts bonfire. In the long term this will cost money in healthcare, and lives.

    In none of this do I see the companies mentioned in your post having a positive effect, except maybe the supermarkets on labelling and the gyms association in increasing activity. And even with those the conflict of interest is acute.

  9. David Cruise (no relation, honest) Says:

    I’m not entirely sure that this is the end of the world as we know it, much less the end of satire.

    I can’t help but fail to see what’s so unhealthy about McDonald’s (for example). From what I can gather from calorie content, nutritional values etc. a Big Mac seems to be about as ideal a meal as you could want.

    We all saw how Morgan Spurlock gained weight on a McDonald’s only diet. He was eating the equivalent of NINE Big Macs per day from a vegetarian diet, of course he’s going gain weight. Many university science-project type experiments have been done where participants eat at McDonald’s three times a day, the difference being they didn’t force it down their throat to the point of vomiting. They kept perfect health.

    I’m not sure what the ruckus about this story really is about. If it were a campaign of road safety nobody would bat an eyelid if Volvo, Mercedes, Nissan etc. were participating.

  10. draust Says:

    Apologies, David

    Completely forgot about your comment, which deserves a response.

    A Big Mac itself is not all that bad, agreed. If you ate one with a salad, or maybe a baked potato, and a glass of water, it would make a passable meal. Of course, it is rather more likely most people (especially the young) will eat it with a large order of fries (heavy on the oil, heavy on the salt) and a large sugar-loaded soda. I imagine McDonalds make a lot of money out of selling the fries and soda, which should have pretty minimal production costs.

    The food industry, unfortunately, has form on things like food labelling. They do not like labels which warn people about what is in the food (notably levels of fat and salt) in ways people can actually grasp. The most notable recent example of this was the so-called “Traffic Light” labelling scheme, which was backed by real studies, preferred by consumers, and universally backed by the public health people, the charities dealing with things like obesity and diabetes, and the UK Food Standards Agency (which is a bit like the food bit of the US FDA). But it was killed by the European Union, an act widely understood to be after determined lobbying from the food industry.

    One analogy is that no-one would consider for a minute giving the tobacco companies a say in setting reasonable exposure standards for second-hand tobacco smoke – or basing the standards on the industry’s research.

    I don’t think the road safety analogy quite holds, either. The interest of the car industry is to sell cars. They may make the cars safer to drive in, as that helps them sell them, and protects them from lawsuits if someone is killed in a crash. But would you give them a voice in pedestrian safety? There is the famous example of bullbars on cars (especially SUVs), which are largely ornamental but which present an added danger to pedestrians who get hit by a car with the bars. There had to be legislation to ban metal ones – the motor industry did not take them off voluntarily.

  11. Fox…Chicken Coop.. Contd « Dr Aust’s Spleen Says:

    […] Dr Aust’s Spleen A grumpy scientist writes « Satire is dead. Have a burger. […]

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