One of the reasons I don’t have a television is the quantity of rubbish far outweighed any quality and there was little sign of the original broadcasting promise to inform, educate and entertain. The adverts, with their continual pressure to comply with cultural discursive practices, were particularly galling. I haven’t missed it at all. I want to have some choice over my exposure to media advertising – not have it forced on me. Like this morning – at the cash machine – where in order to draw out cash I had to watch adverts for a well known brand of chocolate biscuits.
This is wrong on so many levels. It’s evidence of further linkages between corporate multinational food companies, the supermarket giants and the banking system. It’s contrary to government initiatives to promote healthy eating and reduce the amount of sugar, fat and salt we consume. You might not have thought ‘chocolate biscuits’ all week but the image is now surfacely and subliminally planted in your psyche. Why weren’t they advertising British apples?
The present government’s Change4Life programme is aimed at combating Britain’s high obesity rate by encouraging people to eat healthier food and exercise more. Then they scrapped the Food Standards Agency and gave the task of promoting healthy eating to food giants like Unilever, Nestle and Mars – who between them just about control the worlds supply of sugar, salt and fat. It’s like asking tobacco companies to run stop smoking campaigns and it’s madness. Or like my good friend and colleague Maria told me this morning, in response to the news that David Cameron’s uncle has said the working classes prefer to be lead by aristocrats, it’s absolute tosh – which apparently is aristocratic for ‘shite’.
Firstly classic government spin from last weekend’s Guardian. After decades of research into maternal attachment, and under the mantra ‘work is good benefits are bad’, a single study in the US claims to show ‘babies don’t suffer’ if mum goes back to work. Well, they wouldn’t would they? Babies are resilient. Their built in survival mechanism responds well to being warm, dry and fed – regardless of who does it. The issues are much more socially complex than this and lines like “The gains of being in employment outweigh disadvantages” could only be written by someone who’s never worked in white wellies or juggled night shifts with a growing family at home. Work is a necessity; enjoying work is a luxury.
A second Guardian report that only tells half the story. 40% of dementia cases would be avoided if we spent longer in education – oh and we need to eliminate depression and diabetes, and eat more fruit and veg too. What isn’t being mentioned is the control the processed food industry has over the cost and availability of the chemical crap it passes off as being good for us. Diabetes is linked to obesity which 99% results from messing up our bodies with high fat, high salt, high sugar food. If you eat lots of fruit and veg there’s a good chance you won’t be eating much of the synthetic stuff; not only will that reduce your chances of being obese and diabetic but you’re likely to feel better too. Aspartame messes with your brain. Remember saccharine? At a time when rising levels of obesity, and related health issues, are causing concern, note the plethora of low fat, low sugar, diet foods and drinks that are available but don’t seem to be making any difference. Why don’t they teach critical thinking at primary school?
This expert blog post ‘Warning Social Computing could be good for your health’ led me to the speech by the Secretary of State for Public Health (who doubtless has to neither shop on a budget nor be restricted by the stock in his local Nisa). Most of the nine pages is typical government rhetoric about inherited problems and solutions that neatly bypass the source. With regard to social media, Andrew Lansley, actually says very little and the phrase ‘the power of new technologies and new media’ bypasses digital exclusion issues of which I have much to say. If you need a reminder of contemporary attitudes, here is some feedback on a funding bid to research digital exclusion and visual impairment.
“Readers said they were surprised about some of the statements about accessibility as there is special software for those with special needs and there is guidance for software developers related to meeting the needs of those with special needs.”
Ok, you could say ‘yes’ to both (ignoring for now the old medical model of disability that’s implicit here), but in the real world the industries who are responsible for each rarely talk to each other. As a result the more the Internet is used to communicate then the more people are being excluded. (If you doubt this click the digital divide/digital exclusion links under my blog categories.)
Back to public health – in a stunning display of political hyperbole, Andrew Lansley misses the point completely. Alongside education for behavioural change, policy should address the environmental issues too such as cut-price alcohol and the processed gunk that passes for ‘ready’ meals. The monopoly of giant food corporations like Coca Cola and McDonalds, and their cheap alternatives, has led to mass consumption of chemical concoctions designed to increase profit margins regardless of damage done to health. The people the government claim to want to help are the very same who are inadvertently supporting their own privileged and financially secure lifestyles. If you need more evidence try We are being ruled by a junk food government and Business Interests fight obesity