Tuesday, September 14, 2010

High Fructose Orwell Juice

Browsing my Facebook friends' status updates earlier today, I saw that one friend asked the food industry if they thought we, the consumer, were going to be fooled by their changing the name of high fructose corn syrup to "corn sugar."

Now, I'm sick with the flu. I have hacked and vomited so many times that my every abdominal muscle is killing me. I'm exhausted, not so "high on life" at the moment, and keep watching true crime shows on cable. So, all I keep thinking is "Yes ... Oh, God. Yes."

I confess, I haven't really gotten into the science behind the high fructose backlash. The stuff kinda creeps me out. I mean, anything that can be made that cheaply, become anything you want it to become, taste like anything you want it to taste, and be in just about everything bad for you, can't be good. I'm not alone in this. Face it, the stuff does have a bad rep--deserved, or not--and a name change can only do the Satan sap good.

There are several reasons I think this can work. ValuJet was getting slammed for its plane crash in the Everglades back in the mid-90s and the FAA started exposing the airline's shady safety record. They changed  their name to AirTran, and it was like the whole nightmare went away. And have you ever seen the list of chemicals they've allowed to list under "Natural Flavors"?

Madison Ave. is full of nothing but marketing eeeeeevil geniuses. They twist and contort our images of ourselves, took a country of plenty and turned it into a nation of perpetual need, and have turned our native tongue on its head, wringing out all meaning.

Just take the notion of saving, if you will. Saving one's money is a very simple idea. You just don't spend it. You put it away. If you put it in a bank, your savings will accrue interest. Saving is not only a prudent act of frugality, saving can also be a sensible way to earn money for the future.

Now, as a consumer society, we have pretty much thrown in the towel on the "evils" of spending. After all, we don't manufacture shit anymore. Spending's all we've got. Wasn't that why Bush and Giuliani urged us to spend our way to freedom after 9/11?

I mean, sure, we still admonish people to not spend beyond their means--to not kill oneself keeping up with the Joneses--to not be spendthrifts--to not worship Mammon. You get the idea. But let's face it, we Americans love our stuff. The more stuff the better. Hell, we'll even risk bankruptcy and foreclosure to get more stuff. Our politicians will mortgage away our nation's entire future. We just gotta have it!

You've got to imagine, though, since our current consumer society wasn't born until the turn of the last century, that this probably wasn't always the case. You gotta figure it took some doing to convince an insecure nation used to financial uncertainty to spend needlessly. Of course, turning our wants into needs is what marketeers do best.

And I've often wondered if morphing the very idea of saving wasn't also a weapon in their arsenal. With every sale, savvy marketeers convince us that we're not actually spending money at all. No. In fact, we are saving money. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, up to seventy percent savings!

But think about it: spending money and saving money are actually diametrically opposed notions. It is absolutely impossible for one to save money by spending it. At any given sale, at every given sale where you have purchased something, you have never saved a single dime. The only thing you have done is spent less money than you normally would have. And if the sale prompted you to buy something that you weren't planning to buy in the first place, you actually spent more money than you normally would have.

The marketeers, however, have this idea of saving by spending so ingrained in our consumerist psyche, we don't even recognize the contradiction. When you came back from that sale, a few dollars poorer, you probably bragged to all that would hear about all the money you actually saved (though both your checking and savings accounts would argue vociferously against such proclamations).

But you wouldn't be alone. It's a pet peeve of mine, and I occasionally still do it. And there will be a bunch of people who read this and have no idea what I'm talking about, will probably think I'm talking out of my sphincter, and may just tell me to go blow something out of that same orifice.

However, I'm thinking, when the marketing industry has successfully convinced us that pork is white meat, that we need bottled water over tap (though we've discovered that a lot of them simply bottle our own tap water for a fee), and that we can save money by actually spending it, why won't they be able to convince us that "corn sugar" is in no way related to that nasty old high fructose corn syrup. Yuck. Yuck. Yuckeeeee!!! In fact, if I know them, I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if, in a year or two, they will actually convince the American public that "corn sugar" is actually far better than that other stuff.


  1. I bet the actual sugar lobby won't stand for this.

  2. Sorry you feel like crap :( If you have netflix they were streaming a indie doc called "King Corn," where you can learn more about that crap than you want to. Subsidized corn is why corn syrup is cheap.

  3. Shoot, hope you're feeling well soon. :)

  4. Gettin' better. Thanks.

    @Nunya -- Yeah, I saw that one. That part with the cows with the holes in their side was pretty disgusting stuff.

  5. Sorry 'bout the flu Bill! Glad it's not me!