Mush and misdirection

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Just about every time I refer to the "Center for Consumer Freedom," I feel the need to acknowledge that yes, I'm doing it again — giving attention to the cynical, purchased slants of a collection of people who identify themselves as uncredible by their very name. They call themselves a consumer group — which is true and a lie. Yes — who isn't a consumer? But no, a group that is funded by industry but implies that it is made up customers should not be heeded.

Sometimes, though, my desire to point out the misinformation overrules my good sense to just ignore the bastards. I do, however, not include links to their posts, and that's not an oversight.

The CCF windmill I'm tilting at today is one of its responses to the "60 Minutes" story on sugar toxicity, in part based on the work of Dr. Robert Lustig in San Francisco. In part, it said:

Suggesting that simply cutting out one ingredient is essentially the cure-all to diseases and weight loss in America shows just how out-of-touch Dr. Lustig’s harebrained proposal truly is.

This is a typical CCF tactic. No one has said that "cutting out one ingredient is essentially a cure-all to all disease and weight loss in America." No. One. But if you can't counter the argument that someone makes, restate it in a way you can, right?

What Lustig says is that refined sugar, as it is consumed in America, is unhealthful. If Americans cut way back on it, Americans would be way healthier. Nothing so wild-eyed there.

Lustig is among those who compares the refined-sugar industry to the tobacco and alcohol industries before it. In all three, industry refines and manipulates a product of nature to take advantage of human biology. In the latter two, society decided that industry would keep on exploiting their process until it was curbed, and that's what happened.

Lustig is saying that this is another example of our collectively needing to impose curbs because industry will never police itself — it is not in industry's interest to worry about public health, especially not the expense of profits.

I have no doubt that both sides of this question — public-health advocates and industry — have learned the lessons of the tobacco experience, especially, and are applying them to their cause. Among industry's tactics are absurd overstatement, downplaying industry intentions, denying what it knows to be true, mocking the messengers ("out of touch," "harebrained"), and ignoring the important point by recasting the discussion in black-and-white terms.

An example of that last one is when the CCF says sugar-in-everything is an issue of human freedom, instead of a health issue. It could be that both choice and public health are implicated, and that we need to balance them to arrive at the best solution for all.

Another example of black-and-white thinking is asserting that public-health advocates say that "cutting out one ingredient is essentially a cure-all to all disease and weight loss in America." It's not what they say, it's not what they mean, and it's not that simple.

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