I wrote about this before, but it deserves another mention, given the topic of this post. Back in December, Morgan Spurlock made a public #MeToo confession, admitting he’d sexually harassed a female employee and is very, very sorry now and will become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Yeah, whatever. Given who is, I suspect Spurlock learned he was about to be named publicly and decided to get out in front of it. Or he just figured the confession was good P.R.
What I found interesting was that he blamed his behavior, at least in part, on being an alcoholic. In fact, Spurlock said he’d been drinking since age 13 and hadn’t been sober for more than week in decades.
Surprisingly, hardly anyone in the major news media put two and two together and wondered if perhaps Spurlock’s confession also means Super Size Me is a load of bologna.
The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Wire did finally ask the question recently. The WSJ article is behind a paywall, so let’s look at some quotes from the Daily Wire article, which also quotes from the WSJ article:
McAleer [of the WSJ] rightly asks: “Could this be why his liver looked like that of an alcoholic? Were those shakes symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?”
Indeed, one of the doctors asks Spurlock in “Super Size Me” if he abused alcohol, to which Spurlock replied no.
“Any alcohol use?” the doctor asks at the outset. “Now? None,” he replies.
I guess “Now? None” means I’m not drunk at this particular moment.
So the audience is presented with the image of a healthy young guy who doesn’t drink. And then he eats just three meals per day at McDonald’s, and by gosh, everything goes haywire, including his liver. (I explained in Fat Head that Spurlock couldn’t possibly have eaten three typical meals per day at McDonald’s, given his calorie totals, but that’s what we were told.) This review is pretty typical of what the film’s fans took away from it:
In just a month, Spurlock gains 25 pounds, his cholesterol increases sharply, and he suffers severe liver damage. In the last few days, the doctor tells him that his liver resembles an alcoholic’s and if he continues the diet much longer, it could entirely wipe out his liver.
Hmmm … his liver resembles an alcoholic’s. And now we know he was an alcoholic, and had been one for decades. And yet Morgan Spurlock was happy to have the world believe that just a single month of eating at McDonald’s trashed his liver. An interview with Spurlock about Super Size Me in The New York Times was titled You Want Liver Failure With That? – and again, Spurlock blamed the fatty food he ate at McDonald’s for turning his liver into pate.
So the question is: why would he do that? Why would a guy who knows damned good and well he’s a heavy drinker decide it’s okay to blame McDonald’s for a liver that resembles an alcoholic’s? In words, why do lying liars lie?
I believe the answer is related to what I’ve written previously about objectivists vs. subjectivists. An objectivist thinks like this: If it’s true, I’ll believe it. But a subjectivist thinks like this: If I believe it, it’s true.
Subjectivists have a fuzzy relationship with the truth. That fuzziness allows them to believe that it’s okay to stretch, twist, or otherwise abuse the truth if they are serving a larger and more important truth. Call it little truth vs. Big Truth. It’s okay to abandon little truth if Big Truth is advanced in the process.
My guess is that Morgan Spurlock told himself it’s okay to blame McDonald’s for damaging his liver because McDonald’s sells unhealthy food. Little truth: I’m an alcoholic, and that’s why my liver is trashed. Big Truth: McDonald’s is an evil corporation that’s making people sick, and if people believe eating their food damaged my liver, maybe they’ll stop eating there. I’m doing them a favor.
Spurlock is a gimmicky filmmaker. We’re talking about a guy who paid people eat dog turds and worms on his MTV show. But even reporters for the national news media make the little truth vs. Big Truth tradeoff.
In the 1980s, I was working at a small health magazine and wrote an article on AIDS, which was very much in the news. The conclusion (quoting a researcher more or less verbatim) was that if you’re a heterosexual and don’t shoot drugs with used syringes, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to contract AIDS. (As a single man at the time, I was quite relieved.)
Meanwhile, I was reading articles in national newspapers and magazines assuring us that AIDS was about to explode into the heterosexual population. Nobody was safe. U.S. News & World Report declared that The disease of them is suddenly the disease of us. Life Magazine ran a cover story with the title Now No One Is Safe from AIDS.
I kept thinking, Are these people reading the same research I’m reading? Where the hell are they getting this?
It was little truth vs. Big Truth. The little truth (otherwise known as the actual facts) was that AIDS was a horrible disease, but mostly confined to gay men and drug abusers using infected needles – and almost certain to remain so. But the major-media types were more interested in the Big Truth, which was that if the public believed were all in danger, it would be easier to convince politicians to spend more money on research. So they wrote articles they knew were abusing the facts. The predicted explosion of AIDS into the heterosexual population, of course, never happened.
I’m convinced little truth vs. Big Truth explains a lot of what passes for research in the field of nutrition and health. We’ll look at some examples in my next post.