Eating Poison: Food, Drugs and Health
By Kellia Ramares-Watson
Published: May 25, 2013 Words: 15,484 (approximate) Language: American English
This book, currently available only in e-format, and priced most reasonably at $0.99 USD, deserves a wide readership. In its pages, in non-technical prose, investigative journalist and social and political activist Kellia Ramares-Watson, in collaboration with veteran health reporter and commentator, Martha Rosenberg, lays out for the reader the machinations of one of America’s most powerful cluster of “toxic” industries, Big Ag, Big Food, and Big Pharma, and what they are doing to the health of people, animals and the earth.
Highly compact, in fewer than 40 pages Eating Poison explores with great lucidity the corporate-induced economic and sociocultural roots of the obesity epidemic, a type of “manipulable” morbidity which promises to add tens of millions of cases to an already dysfunctional healthcare system, as well as interrelated topics such as the cloning of meat and dairy animals, undertakings whose main purpose remains the extraction of further profit from the brutal and ecologically injurious routines employed in animal factories.
As readers of this publication are well aware, corporate power is given extraordinarily free rein in the US in a manner that few other capitalist nations can match. This makes capitalism US-style one of the most cynical and savage in the world.
It’s not exactly a mystery why this is so, even if few voices in the establishment gallery of apologists and sycophants will ever mention it, but the US is also rather unique in that its population exhibits the most alarming and woeful lack of political power, awareness, and mobilization. precisely the opposite of what its incessant propaganda proclaims.
Of course, none of this is accidental. For a political culture in which the masses seem so clueless and disorganized, the American ruling class has long been in the vanguard in terms of self-consciousness and defense of its privileges. This has meant a continuous class war waged from the top and by all means at its disposal, a considerable arsenal in which, as usual, the agencies of the state and corporate media have played a decisive role.
Eating Poison introduces investigative journalist Martha Rosenberg, and her book “Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How flaks, quacks, and hacks pimp the public health”. Author Kellia Ramares-Watson, herself an investigative journalist, adds her own research to give the reader a primer on two major causes of modern health problems: Processed foods and prescription drugs. [/pullquote]
Not surprising, then, that of all nations the US should be (along with New Zealand, and we wonder why that is) the only nation permitting “direct to consumer advertising” (DTC). This is in keeping with its permissive attitude toward commercial advertisers. The US, after all, is, again, the only major nation to allow constant, 24/7 program interruptions on its television schedules. Other nations eschew this format regarding it as barbaric. Britain carries commercial spots but in far fewer numbers than in the US, and certain networks do not carry ads at all. In France something similar obtains, and former president Nicolas Sarkozy, a rightwing politician seeking to expand his popularity base even banned ads altogether in 2009. Only in the US do the authorities allow the exploiters of television to inject their messages at all times, thereby causing what some media students have called “fragmentation”, not to mention mental overload. As noted by pioneer media analyst Herbert Schiller,
Fragmentation, or focalization, is the dominant–indeed, the exclusive–format for information and news distribution in North America. Radio and television news is characterized by the machine-gun-like recitation of numerous unrelated items. Newspapers are multipaged assemblages of materials set down almost randomly, or in keeping with arcane rules of journalism. Magazines deliberately break up articles, running the bulk of the text in the back of the issue, so that readers must turn several pages of advertising copy to continue reading. Radio and television programs are incessantly interrupted to provide commercial breaks. The commercial has become so deeply internalized in American viewing/listening life that children’s programs, which, it is claimed, are specially designed for educational objectives, utilize the rapid-paced, interrupted pattern of commercial TV though there is no solid evidence that children have short attention spans and need continuous breaks. In fact, it may be that the gradual expansion of the attention span is a controlling factor in the development of children’s intelligence. All the same, Sesame Street, the widely acclaimed program for youngsters, is in its delivery style indistinguishable from the mind-jarring adult commercial review upon which it must base its format or lose its audience of children already conditioned by commercial programs.
Fragmentation in information delivery is intensified by the needs of the consumer economy to fill all communications space with commercial messages. Exhortations to buy assail everyone from every possible direction. Subways, highways, the airwaves, the mail, and the sky itself (skywriting), are vehicles for advertising’s unrelenting offensives. The total indifference with which advertising treats any political or social event, insisting on intruding no matter what else is being presented, reduces all social phenomena to bizarre and meaningless happenings. Advertising, therefore, in addition to its already recognized functions of selling goods, fostering new consumer wants, and glamorizing the system, provides still another invaluable service to the corporate economy. Its intrusion into every informational and recreational channel reduces the already minimal capability of audiences to gain a sense of the totality of the event, issue, or subject being presented. The intrusions also trivialize highly dramatic moments, hindering emotional involvement in any given issue, and thereby indirectly dampening the potential for political protest. (1)
Against this backdrop the permission to run DTC ads is simply a logical extension of an already well accepted malignant cultural practice. Fact is, most Americans, mired in ethnocentrism, regard the “American Way” as the universal, inevitable way. Their political and social imagination badly stunted, they conceive of no other approach to running television.
But the criminal absurdity of allowing this abusive modality to control the most powerful medium of mass communications ever devised is obvious to any impartial observer, or any politician or media person with some decency, even if both species are rare in the US these days. Thus not much is heard about the topic. Radical witnesses naturally complain, but their voices are routinely blocked by the mainstream media, thereby consigning them to oblivion. Indeed, as Michael Parenti has often pointed out, omission of important “radical truths” about the system is the first line of ideological defense drawn by the corporate media in the service of its masters. In this context, reading this book and disseminating its carefully assembled facts is an effective way to strike back at a rotten and hypocritical status quo that feeds off of passivity and ignorance. It is time that people of the left engaged in conscious, systematic counter propaganda. Authors like Ms. Ramares-Watson and Rosenberg have done their job. The tools are there for us to use. Now it’s up to us to pick them up and do what we must.
—Sean Lenihan is The Greanville Post’s associate editor.
(1) See The Packaged Consciousness, by Herbert Schiller.
Precis about this book
Eating Poison introduces investigative journalist Martha Rosenberg, and her book “Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How flaks, quacks, and hacks pimp the public health”. Author Kellia Ramares-Watson, herself an investigative journalist, adds her own research to give the reader a primer on two major causes of modern health problems: Processed foods and prescription drugs.
Topics covered include Direct to Consumer advertising of prescription drugs, the obesity epidemic, and the cloning of meat and dairy animals. The book also contains several of Rosenberg’s humorous but pointed illustrations, and Ramares-Watson’s review of Rosenberg’s book.
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