A Super-Size Scandal
By Anthony Allison
Las Vegas Mercury
Here's some food for thought as you grab your burger, shake and fries. If the fat, salt and sugar content of your fast fodder isn't sickening enough, there's now another reason to boycott the Big Mac brigade.
The succes de scandale of Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock's bitingly entertaining documentary about the disastrous consequences of eating nothing but McDonald's for a month, has apparently so enraged Mickey D's honchos that they're fighting back like raging bulls with mad cow disease.
Last week, shortly before the film opened at the Century Suncoast, we heard from a Las Vegas public relations company, The Firm, which said it was forwarding "some information" it "thought might be of interest" if we were planning to review Super Size Me. To wit, that "several nutrition/health experts" feel Spurlock's film "sensationalizes a serious issue and sends the wrong message regarding personal responsibility when it comes to food choices. They also question Morgan Spurlock's methodology and motives."
In short, someone was--with questionable methodology and motives--actively trying to influence our film reviewer's opinion in advance.
That someone wasn't the Vegas-based flackery, which, says a staffer, was subcontracted by another PR company, but that firm's client, the grandly named American Council on Science and Health. This conservative pressure group, generously funded by a bevy of food, drug and chemical companies, has been involved in spin control for years--most notably during the Alar scare, when ACSH retaliated against those memorable public service ads featuring Meryl Streep, insisting that the proven carcinogen, sprayed on trees by apple growers, was perfectly safe.
The Firm did not respond to requests for comment by deadline. But it seems its unsolicited "information" was part of what PR Week called "an aggressive independent third-party response" to Spurlock's film, indirectly orchestrated (to preserve plausible deniability) by McDonald's, whose VP of corporate communications, Walt Riker, told the trade paper, "The film is a gross misrepresentation of what McDonald's is all about."
As scandals go (Enron, Abu Ghraib, Disney refusing to distribute Michael Moore's anti-Dubya doc Fahrenheit 9/11), this crass attempt at getting busy journalists to swallow, and regurgitate, Mickey D's Spurlock-bashing vitriol is a storm in a super-sized soda bucket.
Nobody, including Spurlock, would claim that Super Size Me is fair, balanced or anything but a clever publicity stunt. But this one, low-budget indie flick could potentially do more damage to McDonald's bottom line than a nationwide outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Clearly, Big Fat Food (let's get real and drop the "s" in "fast food," shall we?) is fighting back, using the sort of dirty tricks that a Nazi propaganda minister would love.
But didn't Ronald McGoebbels think his bid to assassinate Spurlock's character might backfire? Didn't the McMinions consider that even dazed film critics, their senses dulled by too many summer blockbusters, might smell a corporate-funded rat?
Apparently, McDonald's rulers are too dumb to realize that by lashing out so aggressively, they're only giving Spurlock priceless free publicity. Dare we suggest that eating too much fast food makes you not only fat, but stupid too?
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