Twisted logic from Coke’s [dumbass] exec lets soda off the hook for obesity

Editor’s note: This post contains adult language and a dangerous quantity of righteous indignation.

So, earlier this week, the top honcho at Coca Cola urged the beverage industry to rage, rage against the unfair claims that soda bears any blame for the nation’s rising obesity problem. It is time, claimed Muhtar Kent — who took the helm at the Coca Cola company in July — to return to “responsible discourse” about obesity.

His speech, by the way — a keynote address to the InterBev 2008 conference, delivered Monday —followed a talk by a representative from those beacons of responsible discourse, the Corn Refiners Association.

“People need to understand that obesity is not about a beverage or a candy bar or a restaurant meal or a PlayStation game or about working longer hours,” said Kent (left). “It’s a systematic lifestyle issue that we must address individually and collectively as a society.”

And of course, in a way, he’s correct. It never is any one thing. It’s not the beverage, or the candy bar that is almost always consumed with the beverage, or the restaurant meal that comes with free refills of the beverage, or the Playstation game that is played while drinking the beverage, or the long working hours that are fueled by the beverage. Of course it’s not any one of those things. It never will be.

It is the American lifestyle. And thanks to Coca-Cola’s nearly $2 billion annual advertising budget, Coke and other sodas are now an integral part of that American lifestyle.

I read Kent’s comments here, then immediately shot off an email to our Ethicurean list-serv, noting that deflection like this makes me want to bang my head against the wall.

“Don’t bang your head against the wall,” wrote Bonnie, the editor of this blog. “Write a post about it.”

“Can I use the word ‘dumbass’?” I shot back.

“Of course,” she replied. Then — because she is, like, my favorite editor ever — she added, “you can even use my favorite word: ‘fuckwad.’”

So here goes:

Mr. Kent, with all due respect, those are some dumbass words you uttered. They even appear to be, in the phrasing of the illustrious editor of the Ethicurean, words of a fuckwad. Your logic — the problem is not us, it’s simply this thing of which we are a major part, and from which we profit heavily — is semantic parsing on a level unseen since the proud Clintonian days when we debated what “is” is.

It’s not us. It’s this other thing. We just happen to be a big part of this other thing.
Think about that, Mr. Kent. Just think about what you’re saying there. It will never be any one thing, Mr. Kent. It will always be you plus the other factors that conspire together to make Americans the fattest, least healthy, most diabetic population on earth.

Like, the young child I saw on the playground the other day, Mr. Kent? The one who was literally too fat to climb the stairs to the slide? Betcha anything she’s a soda drinker, Mr. Kent. What’s your guess? Or the 8-year-old who was just diagnosed this morning with Type 2 diabetes, Mr. Kent: want to place odds on soda being a regular part of his diet? Of course it’s not just the soda, but it is partially the soda, and that’s where you come in. And don’t — oh, do not dare — condescend to me by using the words ‘parental responsibility’. I know all about parental responsibility, and I fight to maintain it every single day. Unfortunately, for decades your company, and all your junk-food buddies, have done everything in your collective power to undermine the authority of parents. As long as you are undermining parental authority, you forfeit the right to fall back on the “parental responsibility” excuse.

By the way, Mr. Kent, thanks to companies like yours, it’s not simply the “American lifestyle” that results in obesity. Turkey, your native country, now has huge rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome, as well. How ’bout that “lifestyle” that we export around the globe, often in bottles with familiar red-and-white labels?

It’s not us. It’s this other thing of which we just happen to be a huge part. That’s funny logic, Mr. Kent. It’s not a starting place for “responsible dialogue.” It’s not a path to start “addressing the problem individually and collectively.”

It just sounds like another tired-ass deflection.

By the way, Mr. Kent is paid over $13 million for his worthy efforts in identifying that it’s not soda, it’s the American lifestyle. Way to add shareholder value, Muhtar. No wonder the economy’s in the crapper.

Illustration from iStockphoto

11 Responsesto “Twisted logic from Coke’s [dumbass] exec lets soda off the hook for obesity”

  1. Well, he’s right. And drunk driving deaths aren’t caused by alcohol. It also involves a systematic mix of gasoline, automobiles, people, roads, bars. Likewise gun deaths aren’t caused by handguns. It also requires bullets, people, cardboard boxes, etc, etc. Nothing is simple. Although, come to think about it, if we removed the alcohol and bullets it really would solve some problems. Maybe corn syrup’s in that same category too… Gee… Mr. Kent’s a freekin’ genius!
    Of course, responsible people don’t use corn syrup powered bullets in hand guns while drunk.

  2. Katharine says:

    A maintenance guy came to our house yesterday. This is a tall, healthy-looking man who spends all day on his feet. He told me he had just been diagnosed with diabetes at his last physical. He also mentioned that he used to drink five Cokes a day.
    Hmmm. Now, I understand that it’s no one factor, but given how active this man is, I’m thinking that the Coca-Cola didn’t help.

  3. Erinelizabeth says:

    Huzzah! Righteous indignation, indeed!
    Just read this out loud to my mom, to both our amusement. Now, if I can just get her to put down the can of Diet Coke while complaining about needing to lose weight.

  4. Nicely done. Personally, I’ve become attached to the term “fuckmunch” – a derivative of “buttmunch” – but “fuckwad” will do nicely.
    I do drink approximately one 8 oz. can of coke every two weeks, when a hot espresso just doesn’t ring my bell for an afternoon caffeine fix. That said, I continue to be amazed by how many YOUNG kids I see drinking coke and pepsi, etc. Guess their parents just can’t pass up the cuddly polar bears or cool hip-hop beats in those ads…

  5. Jess says:

    Let’s not forget how much money Coke and PepsiCo give to US public schools to put their machines in every school they can. Even schools that have banned sodas and sugary snacks are selling sweetened vitamin waters and energy drinks. Why in my day…

  6. Jeff says:

    I agree with the points you’re making, but c’mon, using words like “fuckwad” and “dumbass” is juvenile. For heaven’s sake. You mock Kent’s statement about “responsible dialogue,” but a tone like this also has no hope of actually opening an intelligent discourse. That’s the point, right? Or did you just want to let these words reverberate through an echo chamber of enraged food enthusiasts?

  7. Ali B. says:

    Fair enough, Jeff. But I’d really like to keep the words “tired-ass deflection.”
    Because that’s what it is.

  8. BsaB says:

    Coke, Pepsi, most all the soda beverages are sooo high in high fructose corn syrup that it amazes me to think anyone can dismiss them as not contributing to obesity. Come on…look at the adult onset diabetes curve and compare that to the use of high-fructose corn syrup and you will see that they rise at almost the exact rate.  They do taste great but once again, moderation in all things… especially soda.

  9. Matt says:

    The problem with ‘parental responsibility’ is that so few parents actually display it. I have people in my extended family who have put Pepsi into baby bottles. Hey, it’s okay because there are no teeth to rot, right?

  10. Scott says:

    Don’t forget to blame the fork and spoon manufacturers for their role in my consumption of more calories than I need.  Ohh, yeah, the people who make pie tins need to held responsible, too.

  11. People gotta make a buck man. Just get them to change the label to include a daily value percentage of sugar intake on the cans without being deceptive with the serving size. One can is enough for an entire day.