Too effective for our own good

In the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity's recent f.a.c.t.s. report (which I'm highlighting as a continuing series), "40 percent of parents report that their children ask them to go to McDonald's at least once a week; 15 percent of preschoolers ask to go every day."

These kids today! Where do they get such ideas?

From McDonald's, of course, through its endless marketing efforts, which saturate TV but go far beyond it, to 13 websites, banner ads, and social media.

Some people frame this circumstance strictly as a First Amendment question: People have a right to say whatever they want, and the Supreme Court says corporations are people. 'Course, the Court is famous for saying, in 1919, "the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater ... " allowing for exceptions where the speech might cause grievous harm to the nation.

Does this mean that I suggest we should outlaw marketing to kids? Well, let's break it down:

* Is the nation at risk? Unquestionably. Former members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff say so, which ought to satisfy even the most rabid Red-Stater, but any fair-minded American would have to agree that physical fitness is central to our national fitness. And we're not physically fit.

* Does marketing of junk food raise or lower the risk? Since no one — with a straight face, anyway — would say that junk food is healthy for anyone other than those who sell it, that seems obvious, too.

In the face of a serious, growing national peril, certainly we must at least consider weighing competing interests, instead of clamping our minds shut at "First Amendment, period." The theater really is on fire.


Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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