Monday, January 11, 2010

How About the Facts, all the Corny Facts...?

My friend sent me links to both the real ads, sponsored by the corn industry, and these spoofs, which make the point pretty well. What point? That some facts presented as all the facts is in fact a misrepresentation of fact. Take the example of Nazi-ism. (Always a good one for every logical extreme, I know.) Watch with caution, and take with a dose of salty common sense:

Real Ad:


(i wonder if they made the popsicle change colors on purpose)

As I'm learning, nutrition is NOT just about the calories!!


R. Greg said...

In defense of corn syrup, let me make a few observations... first off, it's not corn syrup itself that makes people fat or unhealthy, it's chronic overindulgence coupled with a lack of activity. If you indulge now and then it won't kill your diet as your body, when in good health, won't keep the extra nutrients/calories/etc that it doesn't need! It's chronic overindulgence that's at issue, and that's an individual lifestyle choice that, corn syrup or no, will lead to being overweight.

Second, the primary alternative to Corn Syrup involves artificial sweeteners. This is in part because Sugar is not as shelf stable. While I'm not an alarmist about artificial sweeteners, there's just as much reason to question their use as there is Corn Syrup!

Thirdly, the New York Times ran a piece ( on Corn Syrup vs Sugar and reports there are no studies proving decisively one way or the other on which is 'healthier.' Here's another good article from MSNBC:

Finally... and this is on a more personal note. The last ad is not only asinine, it's quite offensive, but not for the reasons you may be thinking. The Nazis were actually among the first to prosyletize Natural Food diets, seeing vegetarianism as an ideal. Further, Nazism required complete subjugation of a society to state rule. Banning Corn Syrup is yet another intrusion by the state into the private lives of individual citizens. Finally, it's a 'Reductio ad Hitlerum,' one of the most offensive logical fallacies around.

Anyway, interesting nontheless!

Eowyn's Heir said...

Hey Greg-

I tend to agree with you about both artificial sweetners and refined sugar. Both are over-used by our culture which loves to have sweets (and other indulgences) 'round the clock, all the time, whenever we want, and however much we want. The ideal would be to go beyond reducing our intake of HFCS and instead re-embrace whole, seasonal foods in their optimal forms (as opposed to the over-refined and thus tasteless, nutritionally void packaged "food" we usually eat). As far as banning corn syrup goes, I'm not for banning anything-- the spoof is showing the fallacies inherent in a "factual" ad sponsored by those whom the content benefits, otherwise known as "propaganda." The Nazis did propaganda pretty well.

Eowyn's Heir said...

oh-- and I LOVED the point in the first spoof about how it's quite difficult to get HFCF in moderation, even if you are trying to be active. It's in SO MUCH!!

Ryan Szrama said...

Greg, I believe you're looking for Godwin's Law. ; )

Wakenda said...

First off, the packaged "Over processed" "Tasteless" food is part of what has contributed to the health and longer life expectancies of many countries around the world as "seasonal" foods are really only possible in the naturally ripened state about 20 miles from their starting point. Otherwise they are picked before full ripeness. That means fewer nutrients.

For poorer individuals and poorer nations, corn syrup in food is the least of their financial and health concerns. As it is a cheaper alternative domestically to sugar, it actually allows for them to enjoy a wider variety of certain foods. Example, while maybe not as ‘healthly’ as fresh, canned peaches are better than no fruit at all.

As a personal note, I'm severely disturbed by anyone making blanket statements concerning nutrition. To blame an industry instead of giving individuals the benefit of the doubt in their ability to make competent decisions is condescending and arrogant. In that vain, I refuse to fault the Corn industry for what you call “propaganda” and yet I will fault anyone who applies that term to the corn industry and not to the Anti-Corn Syrup lobby for similar advertisements showing the ‘other half’ of the facts. Propaganda is a very loaded word, not to be thrown around without full understanding of it’s connotation and consequence. Especially in an argument in any way involving emotionally charged issues such as Nazism.

In our childhood, our parents faced this debate concerning the evils of sugar. As a result, it is much harder to find food without artificial sweeteners than it is to find those without corn syrup. It was later shown that the 'evils' were overindulgence and inactivity in prosperous societies, but artificial sweeteners remain. The corn syrup debate is a similar diet evil phase.

That said, I think you missed Greg's point about Nazism calling for 'natural food' diets. It truly was a poor illustration for the spoof as Nazism didn't like refined sugar either. Additionally, it confuses a diet choice with a moral issue. The spoof was correct in part of it’s description of the Nazi society; however, it missed the part of the moral imperatives involved in that order. There is no moral imperative to using or not using corn syrup unless you count the further limitation of choice for sweetener in a free society through taxation. Ironic that that’s what the Corn industry is fighting against.

Eowyn's Heir said...

all the same, it's something to consider. :)

Jacqui O. said...

Read the disclaimer on the Nazi video, folks:

Frustrated by the misleading HFCS commercials, the Table decided to make a spoof of them.

DISCLAIMER: This picture involves a subject which may discourage some viewers. We do not support hate groups of any kind. This video is purely satirical.

Before you throw down your Godwin flags, consider this...

"In general, as a thread grows, the probability of someone mentioning 'anything' approaches one. This is pretty damn obvious - and it would even include sex and death, too. Where I come from, we call this arithmetic."
~Dave Crook~

Did I mention this is satire?


The video admitted to being a Reductio ad Hitlerum before you guys pointed it out. All you need is a good sense of humor to appreciate a spoof ad that is clever enough to anticipate retorts from the intelligentsia.

And now for my own "propaganda": EET MOR STEVIA! =) (And no, I am not affiliated with Chick-fil-A or the European Stevia Association or any other food Fuehrers).

Go Christina! Rise above the madness!

R. Greg said...

They authors/filmmakers of the second 'spoof' are trying to demonstrate that the message of the first ad is applicable to anything. This could be done with any variety of topics without needing to resort to the emotional appeal of pulling Nazis into the mix. To pick a few, why not go with marijuana, inhaling gasoline fumes, playing in traffic, etc. Each of those would provide a more humorous way of lampooning the 'okay in small doses' argument.

Moving on, this is the exact argument we as Christians use when describing why we drink alcoholic beverages or perform any number of other mildly self-destructive behaviors. It's not bad if you drink in moderation. It's not bad if you eat cheesecake in moderation. It's not bad if you smoke in moderation. The fact is that the Corn Syrup ad is 100% accurate, but the groups aligned against it (like those against Sugar or Carbs in the past) can't say that.

That they knew their video was a case of Reductio ad Hitlerum (a specialized case of ad hominem attacks) and went ahead with it anyway shows a real shallowness of character that should be disturbing to anyone with any level of intellectual honesty. Put another way, if the video needed such a disclaimer, maybe they should have thought of a different way to make their point. That they didn't, or that they couldn't make their point without using such an emotional sucker punch, tells me that they know their trying to sway people through emotion instead of argument. This is a Bad Thing and should be called out wherever it's seen.

Wakenda said...

The video posted here has no such disclaimer attached to it. Maybe at it's original site, but it is not here to which I am responding.

As for being oversensitive, maybe it is those who are making corn syrup into the enemy who are over sensitive and that is why they needed to resort to such shock-value topics. My husband and I laid out logical arguments, and your response is to say lighten up it's only satire. Maybe, just maybe, we've hit a nerve. Beyond that, I'm sorry if what you consider to be our lack of a sense of humor offends you and hope that your support of your sweetener of choice is based on research and not comic value.

As for madness, is it mad to point out logical errors in something claiming to illustrate the importance of showing both sides of an issue, or is it madness to ignore logic for emotional shock value and supposed wit.

Jacqui O. said...

This is my last comment about this, just because I'm afraid it is getting out of hand and I don't think we should risk hurting people's feelings over what I maintain is a innocuous--if overly silly--video.

First of all, the disclaimer is on YouTube. Simply click on the YouTube logo on the bottom right of the video and you can watch it there, disclaimer and all.

Secondly, just like when Jonathan Swift suggested that the solution to poverty is the consumption of poor babies (see "A Modest Proposal"), the now-infamous "spoof video #2" is making a ridiculous comparison between the HFCS industry and Nazism for the purpose of pointing out human folly via absurdity.

I seriously doubt that the creators of said video really think that the HFCS business is evil. In fact, I'm willing to bet that they'd agree that HFCS is another one of those "mildly self-destructive" things that may be okay in moderation.

Sure, the HFCS industry didn't disclose all of the data in their advertising, but what industry does (especially those who make products that aren't entirely good for us)? If the filmmakers had compared HFCS to alcohol, then that would have made much more sense. But that wasn't their goal. Their goal was to prove that you could compare just about anything to just about anything else...including two very different things as HFCS and Nazism. In fact, the brilliance of the video is that it simultaneously makes fun of the original HFCS ad while also poking fun at certain people who have a problem with the original ad by exposing baseless arguments against the industry as being preposterous.

I'll admit it's pretty low on the taste scale. However, as someone of Jewish descent, I am not offended by the contents of the video because I refuse to take it too seriously. It wasn't meant to be over-analyzed. It's an intentionally B-movie-type-video, meant for cheap laughs and eye rolls, not emotional sucker punches or a real change in opinion about HFCS.

Both of your arguments are logical, which makes sense when you are confronting a logical entity. But a satire of that nature was not created in a logical fashion and thus cannot be approached in such a manner. Most reasonable people (myself included) would agree with you: real opinions about sweeteners or anything else should be based on facts, as with spoof video #1.

That's what I believe, anyway.

Eowyn's Heir said...

Thanks everyone for all your input! Glad that people are watching, reading and thinking. That's always the goal of this blog. Greg & Kendi, you've done a good job of expressing views in protest of the spoof. Obviously, I disagree with you because I posted it in the first place... so no need to go further into that. As I said in the blog, I think that the spoofs both do a good job of showing that certain "facts" can be manipulated to reveal or conceal information and be just as misleading as outright lies. Jacqui, I think you have presented tasteful responses to the protests raised here. Kendi, in all fairness, it isn't really "fair" to take someone's response to your protests as a sign that they must be overly sensitive about the topic ("maybe we've hit a nerve"). If people respond to your response, maybe they just disagree. Just as you did when you first responded.