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Health, OWS

The Everybody’s Doing It Excuse

When I was younger, I remember I would get into trouble and would try to use a get-out-of-jail free care with my mom.

Mom: What do you think you’re doing?  You know better than that?  I’m taking away your Super Mario Brothers and you need to go to your room

Me: But Mom.  That’s not fair.  Everybody was doing it.  I wasn’t the only one.  Why am I the only one getting yelled at?

Mom: So if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?

So, now, fast forward some many years later, and I’m amazed that this excuse is still being tried.  But not by my niece, nephew or cousins.  It’s being used by grown ass men and women. Huh?  I guess they never got the “if everyone jumped off a bridge” lecture when they were younger.

Case in point: there’s a new report from Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that outlines how unhealthy sugary drinks (sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, etc.) are contributing to obesity and how the industry is aggressively marketing these products to children.  Further, according to the study, “The data show that companies marketing sugary drinks target young people, especially black and Hispanic youth.”

Now this would seem like a reason to sound alarm bells.  Kids are fat, they’re getting fatter, companies are marketing aggressively to them to get them to drink more of their fattening drinks…you see how that cycle ends (warning…suitable for work, but clicking on this link could be bad for your health).  This has to be stopped, right?!?!!?

So how does the beverage industry respond?  By releasing a statement distinguishing between marketing to children under 12 and teens, and…wait for it….using the “everybody’s doing it” excuse.  Specifically: “This report is another attack by known critics in an ongoing attempt to single out one product as the cause of obesity when both common sense and widely accepted science have shown that the reality is far more complicated.”

And this is not the first time this excuse has been used.  When David Patterson pursued the idea of placing a tax on sugary drinks in New York (similar to the one that was placed on cigarettes), he was met with a full scale campaign by the American Beverage Association and it’s members (these guys really do advertise well don’t they?) to defeat the measure.  One of the arguments, again, was not WHETHER sugary drinks contributed to obesity, but that it was unclear HOW MUCH sugary drinks contributed to obesity.

Lest you think that the beverage industry is the only one pulling this rabbit out of the hat, let me also point you to another favorite industry…yes my friends, that would be the banking industry.  In the aftermath of the Occupy movements actually being taken seriously, the narrative from the industry has moved from we didn’t do anything wrong (well, some, like the esteemed Mr. Michael Bloomberg still, unbelievably, tell that story), to we may have done something wrong, but there are a lot of others who did as well.  Washington screwed up.  Other corporative executives get lavish salaries for running their companies into the ground.  In other words, the banking industry is not the only one that contributed to the crisis, so why the laserlike focus on it?   Sounds familiar right?

Well, let me answer that question.  Even if you accept the argument that the banking industry may not have been the largest contributor to the crisis or not, the point is that just because there may be many factors that contribute to something going off the tracks, doesn’t mean you (the general you) didn’t contribute.  For instance, if three people rob a bank, and they catch the guy who was the lookout but not the other two who broke into the safe, the defense attorney doesn’t get to say….you know, um, I get that my client did something wrong, but the other two did something even worse.  So until you catch them, well…it’s just unfair to charge my client.  There actually may be some unfairness to his client being directly singled out while others are still out on the streets free and likely laughing about it.  But, you know what is even more unfair?  No one being held accountable because everyone points to someone else and said they did it too.  That didn’t work when I was 9 years old and it shouldn’t work now either.



4 thoughts on “The Everybody’s Doing It Excuse

  1. i could be wrong about this, but i think coca cola’s most aggressive advertising at the moment is aimed at africa (see the world cup last year). from what i can gather they view the entire continent as an untapped pool of hungry and thirsty people from which profit can be extracted. yes, they are building water infrastructure in impoverished areas, but this is mainly with hidden agenda of eventually putting coca cola bottling plants into these communities. let me tell anyone who is too think headed to see this for him/herself, coca cola is the LAST thing that impoverished africans need. they need healthy calories, not what coca cola promises to provide. it is so frustrating that the only way that many africans will gain access to clean water is through coca cola. when will folks do something because its the right thing to do versus a means to profits……

    Posted by dorian | December 1, 2011, 3:49 pm
    • wow. hadn’t heard about that. that’s kinda depressing. i guess it’s all about whether a company’s goal is to make profits and in the process, do some (any?) good, or to do good and in the process, make some (any?) profits. we are far too weighted towards the former rather than the latter. but at least there are more of the latter now and they are becoming more prevalent. now, we…meaning people who care about doing the right thing, need to actually support them! i think that’s how we get things to change.

      Posted by chico | December 1, 2011, 5:11 pm
  2. It is going to be very difficult to hold anyone accountable for the fall out due to corruption in banking and the massive obesity epidemic for two reasons:
    1. The people who work for these companies hold jobs that demands that profit come before people.
    2. In a capitalistic society money rules, not the health and well being of the individual.

    When you point the finger at the guy who is mixing the syrup into the Coke, or the guy on the trading floor or the guy driving the Red Bull truck to a campus they will most certainly tell you- it’s what the public wants. The executives and board members also believe this.

    The mantra “profit before people”, I believe is demonstrated by the behavior and insane power and profit of the top 5 American “food” companies: PepsiCo, Nestle, Kraft Foods, Dole, and General Mills. They own pretty much everything that is in your pantry or fridge. For example, PepsiCo owns Frito-Lay, which produces an enormous variety of snack foods, including Ruffles, Lay’s, Tostitos and Fritos brands. Healthier eaters might be surprised to find out that Pepsi owns Tropicana, some lines of the TAZO juice and tea brand and Quaker – which produces such wholesome foods as oatmeal, Mother’s cereal and puffed wheat. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Large banks have also purchased most small banks in this country, or merged to become gigantor banks.

    Big Banks own everything, Big Food companies own everything too. They will do everything they can to market themselves as a necessary part of our functioning society. We are promoting a system that has slowly become dependent upon huge corporations (that’s a whole other post. Public relations teams for these large manufacturers are walking a fine line when it comes to disclosure versus corporate image. I say we just keep pushing for transparency, and keep advocating for people before profit.

    If you want to keep your head right, use your local bank branch and buy as much as you can from close farms. Read the label and the fine print.

    Posted by Roz | December 1, 2011, 6:05 pm
    • yeah. previous post i said that we willingly give away our economic independence. so, your suggestion is not just the best way to keep your head right, it’s also potentially the best way to change things…if enough of us buy in (no pun intended). we have power collectively. we need to actually use it.

      by the way, in addition to local banks, a friend of mine is involved in a startup called simple (https://www.simple.com/) which is a new kind of online “bank” and looks like it could be a great alternative as well.

      i don’t know enough about local farms and food, but if you have a place to point people, i’m sure they’d appreciate it.

      Posted by chico | December 2, 2011, 12:52 am

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