Junk Food, Junk News, Junk President

U.S. President Donald Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barri
U.S. President Donald Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

There was a time, not so long ago, when food companies could be depended upon to provide good, healthy and nutritious food.

Not anymore.

Today, an astonishing 68.8 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese, according to the National Institute of Diabetes.

This is a relatively recent phenomenon in American history. The 'new norm', you might call it. It is directly related to the vast quantities of junk food that people consume. This should not be a surprise. The 'food companies' employ buildings full of scientist who endlessly research the combination of sweetness, crunchiness, saltiness that makes foods simply addictive to us. These companies are not interested in our health or our nutrition, they are only interested in selling more bags of Cheetos or Doritos. And it works.

The Media companies today are no different. Where once it was their mandate to deliver quality news and journalism, and it was expected that they would do this at a loss (as a trade off for their broadcasting licenses), today they too employ buildings full of research scientists who determine exactly what combination of shock and tawdry stories will deliver the best ratings. News, like food, is a business. One seeks to maximize eyeballs, the other to maximize mouthfuls. Neither is interested in nutrition, either for the body or the brain.

The results of this 'business approach' to food and journalism has been depressing. Turning the food business into a for-profit search for addictive tastes and textures has given us an obese nation. Turning the news business into a for-profit search for garnering the most eyeballs has given us Donald Trump in the White House.

How did that work?

For years, the news business and the TV news business specifically, have been ratings driven. The higher the ratings, the more eyeballs, the more networks could charge for advertising. The more outrageous the story, the more it was like a car crash that you could not turn away from, the more profitable the network became. Fox News and Breitbart were clearly the winners here but everyone got into the act.

Take a look at your local TV news some evening. (And entirely new experience if you are under the age of 65). What kinds of stories to do you see? A murder? A fire? A robbery caught on a security camera. Exciting! Now, ask yourself, how much impact does that fire or that murder have on the average person watching? The answer is, unless you are the poor devil whose house burned down or who got killed... none.

It is simply salacious entertainment. Good for ratings. Like watching a car crash. Slow down so we can all have a look.

The same rule applies to network news. ISIS cutting the heads off of captured Syrians makes great TV, from a ratings perspective. (And ISIS knows how to produce a video for worldwide attention). But how much direct impact does that ISIS video have on the average American? The correct answer is, none.
But it IS scary.

Scary stuff sells. And for the past 30 years of so, since news became commercialized, the news has been FILLED with scary stuff every night. Real scary stuff. Because that is what gets the ratings. Think of this as the McFlurry of television news - OK, it has a million calories but boy does it taste good.

The average American spends a mind-boggling 5 hours a day watching TV and an even more astonishing 72 hours a week staring at screens, filled with lots of scary stuff as every network and website competes for eyeballs.

Spend enough hours and days and weeks and years watching that stuff and after a while you will actually start to believe that there is a real danger out there. That terrorists are behind every door, on every flight. That there are killers everywhere. That the country is a mess. That things have never been worse. When none of this is true.

Get a candidate who plays into that fear and you know what you get?

Donald Trump.

Want to lose weight? Stop eating junk food. Want to have a decent president? Stop believing junk news.