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July 08, 2005



Actually, although Spurlock should is in the Michael Moore category of political analysis (ie., more 'entertainment' than social science), this blog is a piece of not-very-clever distraction. The first post I read tackles Spurlock's assertion "that the cost of vegetables and fruit rose 120 percent between 1985 and 2000" with a long diabtribe seeking to prove that there is more demand for fruit and vegetables now than there was, that they are cheaper than the processed foods of which they are ingredients and that Spurlock has the politics of people who don't like Wall-Mart. But that has nothing to do with the original quote, on which Balko just says 'this may be true...'

On the next post down, Spurlock states that 'like so many health issues in this country (smoking, for one example), [obesity] has the worst impact among poor Americans, especially African Americans and Hispanic Americans.'

Balko replies that rich Americans have been getting fatter at a faster rate than poor Americans, but reveals that poor Americans are '5.7% more obese than the richest.' Well, 5.7% is a pretty significant number. And as for his comment about why poor Americans are more likely to smoke, well that's got nothing to do with Spurlock's point and it's spectacularly disingenuous. What's he suggesting? That by raising taxes, government is somehow responsible for poor people smoking? WTF?

This might be a good piece of political chicanery, just as Spurlock's work is. But it doesn't do what it says on the tin, which is actually address any of the facts that Spurlock cites. It's nothing but a nice exercise in distraction and denial.


You only caught some of his most esoteric posts.

His stuff on artificial sweeteners simply nailed Spurlcok, as did the stuff on BSE and ruminant feeding.


Abiola Lapite
"And as for his comment about why poor Americans are more likely to smoke, well that's got nothing to do with Spurlock's point and it's spectacularly disingenuous."

One complicating wrinkle that needs mentioning is that young African-Americans are actually less likely to smoke than their white counterparts, despite having lower disposable incomes. This suggests to me at least that culture plays a much greater role in determining smoking rates than any possible economic factors one might point to.

Peter Nolan

"One of the most annoyingly persistent memes (sorry, I know this word is another blogging cliché) is to establish a "watch" blog solely devoted to picking apart the blog posts of your particular bete noire"

So, will we see you setting up watch-watch.blogspot.com?


Jim - I only scrolled down a bit and then gave up. He may have nailed Spurlock a few times (it wouldn't surprise me at all) but the, um, esoteric posts suggest his agenda is other than analytical. Which wouldn't be a problem if he was frank about it.

Abiola, I never knew that. Fascinating. I wonder what's going on there?

Frank McGahon

Ciaran, I'm mildly baffled by your take on this. I don't think that Balko is anything other than open about his "agenda"- as he notes in his first post, he intended to write an op-ed about "Don't Eat This Book" and found himself with considerably more 'material' than he expected.

I don't think there's any claim to impartial analysis. Rather he starts from the a priori position (an opinion, I should add, he has acquired from examining Spurlock's oeuvre) that Spurlock is a kind of disingenuous/dishonest demagogue who rather slicky re-packages, let's be blunt, communism (pace the references to non-consumerist Cuba) for today's gullible youth and seems to exhibit an irrational loathing of prosperity and progress. For example: I'm utterly nonplussed by Spurlock's blithe dismissal of every single thing traded in the US in 2003 as "$8 trillion on all kinds of crap". I find it hard to fathom the mindset who would draw that conclusion.

Balko's mission as I interpret it, is to expose some of the dishonesties and disingenuities (If that's a word?) in Spurlock's work that may not be so obvious to the casual observer.


Frank, I've no idea whether Spurlock is a communist or not. But that's beside the point (and as for today's gullible youth, I'm sure we don't need to get the hemlock out of the cupboard to protect them just yet...). The point is that Balko is pretending to counter supposed facts with actual facts but is doing no such thing. He is countering facts (supposed or otherwise) with facts about other things. Which is disingenuous. And a little bit irritating for a pedant like my good self!

Michael Turley

Sorry, but that site is abysmal. I fail to see how any rational individual could become so exercised by Spurlocks (admittedly flawed) documentary.

By the way, are "today's gullible youth" more gullible than the youth of yesteryear? Do they really need to be protected from the poison of political indoctrination by popular documentary?

Frank McGahon


Spurlock's "Super Size Me" is a huge hit. I'd be willing to bet that anyone pulled off the street at random would assume that everything Spurlock claimed was true, after all McDonalds must be bad for you.

Yet, Spurlock, as with his 30 days tv show (also popular) is pulling a fast one. If you ate 5,000 calories of wholesome organic food every day and pointedly shirked any exercise your health would be as abysmal as Spurlocks was at the conclusion of his "experiment". It's agit-prop plain and simple and Balko is calling him on it. And exposing deception to today's gullible youth is emphatically not "protecting" them, but shouting down any criticism of "our bastards*" like Spurlock and Michael Moore might be.

*there does seem to be this kneejerk reaction on the left to any criticism of people "on our side" no matter how tendentious or "flawed" they might be. Those on the left would do well to call demagogues like Moore and Spurlock as would those on the right idiots like Ann Coulter.

Michael Turley

"Spurlock's "Super Size Me" is a huge hit. I'd be willing to bet that anyone pulled off the street at random would assume that everything Spurlock claimed was true, after all McDonalds must be bad for you."

I think you underestimate the average punter a little (at least in Ireland, anyway).

Balko seems to be disproportionally exercised by Spurlocks claims and as such his site is as tedious to me as any other mypaticualarbugbear-watch.com website out there.

I suppose you may have a point though, as the celebrity demagogues act as less a source of reliable information and analysis than as an interesting introduction to political thought for some who may otherwise have found politics the dry passionless subject of nameless grey men. Discovering and accepting that your original heroes are flawed is part of growing up.

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