Monday, 15 May 2017
"You will eat want we tell you to eat" - fussbucketry on our TVs
The clip starts with one person presenting how standardised packaging for "junk food" would look - this is accompanied by "ewwww" sounds from the others round the table as they agree they'd never eat something packaged like that. "But I wouldn't eat it anyway" giggles one of the participants.
None of the people round the table 'debating' the subject - "Junk Food: should it come with a health warning" - is is any respect an authority. No nutritionists are present, no-one who understands advertising, not even a public health professional. Instead we've a bunch of TV presenters and journalists who proceed to demonstrate just how much they loathe the choices of a lot of ordinary people out there in the real world.
We see James Caan, he of Dragons' Den fame, exclaiming "yes, yes" at the idea of banning Burger King and KFC. And Rachel Johnson, Remainiac extraordinaire suggesting that parents are incapable of resisting the pestering of children to buy a "bottle of water and a Cadbury's for a £1 in WH Smiths". Not, of course, that station forecourt booksellers are the favoured haunt of mums with screaming kids in tow.
For me this three minute long clip sums up so much that is wrong with our society, with government and with the punditry that sets the tone. "We can't afford...", "one in eleven children...", "Our NHS..." - a collection of ill-informed, evidence-free comments from people who've no idea at all what it's really like to raise a couple or three kids on a low income but who are ready and eager to condemn the failings (or what they see as failings) of those in this circumstance. All summed up by the first presenter (my apologies for not knowing who he is apart from being a vaguely familiar TV presenter sort) saying "people are making the wrong choices" and that we have to educate them into making the right choices (by telling lies about cancer, heart disease and rotten feet).
What we have is a bunch of privileged - in every meaning of this word - people given a platform to promote an intolerant and snobbish disdain for what other people do. The tone and the comments display a belief that somehow people like those gathered here to 'debate' the issue of "junk food" have some sort of righteous duty to stop other people making what they've decided are the "wrong" choices.
For me this agenda - nannying fussbucketry - is at the heart of the elite attack on the personal choices of ordinary people. The subtext of the debate is that we are not capable of making our own decisions, right or wrong, but must be guided by great and good people who have experience of presenting TV shows, writing newspaper columns and telling bad jokes. Every TV entrepreneur, actress, comedian and writer of columns in weekly magazines must adopt - with passion - a cause that involves lecturing poor people about how they're doing it all wrong.
Whether it's food, drink, bicycles, dress sense, or buying blue toys the great and the good want you to do what they say. They want to tell you that you've bought the wrong sort of car, gone on the worng holiday, visited the wrong restaurant and had the audacity to buy cheap semi-sparkling wine. These great and good believe they know what you should do and what is good for you. Like nineteenth century Methodist preachers they're going to bang on about how you are not living you lives properly.
And, if you're not compliant enough, these splendid folk will campaign for the government to damn well make you do what they want you to do. Moreover, such wonderful people are not to be challenged - fussbuckets like Jamie Oliver are to be given acres of print and hours of sychophantic TV without ever once being challenged on the evidence for the fads and food fascism they're promoting (or indeed the way in which it's used to promote their latest money making scheme).
The little clip I linked to above isn't a debate (although Nick Ferrari does at least try) it's a love-in where a bunch of self-important semi-celebrities outbid eachother as to who can be the most illiberal, the most snobbish and the most patronising about poor people. There's an important debate to be had about diet, food and obesity but conducting it on the basis of "let's ban stuff" and "you'll all get heart disease and diabetes if you eat this stuff" is simply dreadful - especially when this is done without any evidence.
The problem is that the views of such folk - nasty and bigoted views about people not in their high society - influence the decisions made by politicians. We can see the trajectory, the slippery slope, towards advertising bans, sin taxes, mandated school dinners, forced reformulation and standardised packaging. Add in bans on new shops, the removal of shiny branded livery and restrictions on what can be sold to minors and we have the full agenda. Unless we shout at these fussbuckets, these health fascists, expect this to happen, expect a duller world made ever drearier by the pompous nonsense of great and good folk on TV.