Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A SPOONFUL OF SUCRALOSE. Some days my vision takes on a hallucinogenic cast, and familiar things turn into their objective correlatives. In my hands on the subway this morning, the New York Post turned into Pravda. I don't mean it was transliterated into Russian, I mean I could see -- or felt I could see -- behind each story into its news hole, and see to the back of the holes (which, in my imagining, are lined with old wood, and have slots for insertion of the back end of the news peg, by which the stories hang), where masking-tape labels are fixed that read SUBMIT TO STADIUM PROJECT HYPE, THE LEADER IS STRONG, TRAITORS AMONG US, and GLAM CRAP/BRAIN SOFTENER, as each case might be.

Of course one need not suffer from visions to see such agenda in the Post's editorial page. It is always a little festival of bad faith and special pleading. Today we had an attack on the sugar industry's attack on Splenda by the head of something called the American Council on Science and Health. This, from the Council's own website, should tell you what you need to know about them (though if you want more start here): "Sometimes, if reporters complain about our corporate funding, I remind them that they are funded by corporations and advertisers as well." Uh huh.

Such people are not total hacks -- that is to say, while they may be Satan's emissaries on earth, they do take professional pride in their own work, and add filigrees and flourishes partly to increase effectiveness but also, I believe, out of pure love of craft. For example, there is some obvious merit to the author's accusations against the sugar barons -- among others, that they had hooked up with pure-food types not out of altruism but as a way to fight Splenda's increasing share of the sweetener market. This is the spoonful of sucralose, so to speak, that helps work down the public's gullet a larger message: that people who oppose synthetic foods on whatever grounds are anti-technology "chemicalphobes."

Organizations such as this are not about arguing a case, but adding strands to a narrative. Facts may be used as part of the grapeshot, but they are by no means the only or even most important part of the armamature. Painting an investigation of questionable scientific assertions as an inquisition on the order of Galileo's, for example, lifts the issue out of the debating chamber and into the realm of dreams. You certainly don't want to side with inquisitors or chemicalphobes. Now eat this chlorinated sugar.

But perhaps I'm overthinking it. Michelle Malkin may very well think that young women who cut themselves are engaging in a "fad" (and doing it to a "new genre of music -- 'emo'") for which Christina Ricci is more to blame than their home and family lives. She isn't necessarily consciously trying to shift blame for our damaged youth onto Hollywood so that it will continue to serve as a distraction from the crimes of our government and corporate rulers. Say this for my paranoia: it offers a more charitable (if more sinister) interpretation of their efforts than simple idiocy.

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