the Food Babe and the rules of propaganda
“Ipsa scientia potestas est.
Knowledge itself is power.”
― Francis Bacon, Meditations Sacrae and Human Philosophy Meditations Sacrae and Human Philosophy
The Food Babe is firmly on my list of People To Kill [that’s a Billy Madison reference, not a literal homicide threat, in case you are wondering] – along with Dr. Oz and Gwyneth Paltrow.
The food industry wants to keep us fat and sick, GMOs will kill you in your sleep, and the big companies are out to get us. The arguments (in a very loose sense of that word) are appealing and almost intuitive.
What fear mongering bundles of joy like Food Babe have in common is that they have the human psychology piece figured out. Their propaganda is no different than any other propaganda.
The rules of (any good) propaganda are as follows, and I quote:
Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people.
All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. […]
The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another.
Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side.
The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas.
These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.
Oh, sorry! Forgot to cite the source for the above:
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter VI
Hitler was (an evil, yes, but) a charismatic leader, who knew how to convince the masses. He also truly believed he was making the world a better place. Hmmm…. That does sound familiar.
The Food Babe refers to her fans as the Food Babe Army. And writes all of her communications from a militant “we”. As in “WE are close to winning”. Scared yet?
Some would say that the likes of Food Babe and Gwyneth Paltrow are simply trying to help. They are not pretending to be scientists.
Of course, they are not. That would be too easy to dispel. Instead, the Food Babe suggests that “these issues are too important to leave up to the experts”.
We must take matters into our own hands, and drink as many non-GMO kale smoothies as it takes to see God. Or to turn our poop green. Whatever.
Looking for the Final Solution to all our dietary problems, “we” desperately try to cleanse, detox and purify. There, there. Squeaky clean.
Oversimplification IS the name of the game. Bare essentials and stereotyped formulas, people. Repeated often.
Reducing the human experience to one or two constructs, and trying to understand the world in those terms is a common (and a perfectly reasonable) approach. Some understand the world in terms of love. Some in terms of money. Some in terms of God.
French philosopher Michel Foucalt understands the world in terms of knowledge and power, and their relationship to each other. According to Foucalt, power does not have to be oppressive. As a matter of fact, it can be very productive when combined with knowledge.
It’s the ultimate question of “how do we know what we know?”.
Knowledge IS, indeed, the highest form of power.
Having knowledge and understanding of something, lends you power over that something.
And so, we seek knowledge, hoping for power within our own lives. Hoping for control.
Celebrities, shamans, social media gurus – they all dispense knowledge.
Or do they?
Information, whether in the form of anecdotal evidence, personal experience or layperson’s interpretation of science is not the same thing as knowledge. No matter how appealing the idea of control may be.
If you think this post is about the Food Babe, you are missing the point. Whether it’s Dr. Oz with yet another sugar detox, or Gwyneth Paltrow proclaiming the benefits of steaming her vagina (I couldn’t make this shit up), it is the combination of celebrity and strategic propaganda that is terrifying.
Celebrity is power. And power produces reality. Just ask the steamed vaginas of Gwyneth Paltrow’s followers. Did I mention that the Mugworth V-Steam not only cleanses your uterus, but also balances female hormone levels?
When people listen to what you have to say, you do have the power. The ultimate power of persuasion.
And with great power comes great responsibility.
All out of hugs,
P.S. Yes, I know all about Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Apologies. Comparing the Food Babe to Hitler? How cliche.
I love it.