The Center for Consumer Freedom (“Promoting Personal Responsibility and Protecting Consumer Choice”) – which is a front group for restaurant, alcohol, and tobacco companies, among others – ran a full-page ad in Tuesday’s New York Times promoting the “vindicated sweetener,” high fructose corn syrup.
The estimated million-dollar advertising campaign asserts that “Sugar made from corn has the same number of calories as other types of sugar and is handled the same way by the body.”
Translation: High fructose corn syrup is exactly as bad for you as sugar. No more, no less.
That’s pretty much the entire message you’ll find at sweetscam.com, the official website of sugar-coated science supporting the high fructose corn syrup industry. The campaign is the brainchild of legend-in-his-own-mind Rick Berman, whose literal 15 minutes of fame came courtesy of a “60 Minutes” profile several years ago, which started this way:
Rick Berman takes a certain pride, even joy, in the nickname “Dr. Evil.” But the people who use it see nothing funny about it—they mean it.
His real name is Rick Berman, a Washington lobbyist and arch-enemy of other lobbyists and do-gooders who would have government control – and even ban – a myriad of products they claim are killing us, products like caffeine, salt, fast food and the oil they fry it in. He’s against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, animal rights activists, food watchdog groups and unions of every kind.
Berman believes we are fast becoming a nation of passive children ruled by the iron thumb of self-appointed “nannies” and he gets paid good money to keep all those “Mary Poppinses” at bay. And they have reserved a special place in hell for him.
In the 60 Minutes piece Berman contends that major U.S. corporations hire him to be their marketing gunsel because they “don’t find it convenient” to speak to consumers directly about controversial public policy issues.
So he does it for them.
That’s because, Berman says:
1) Under their own names, major companies won’t be perceived as honest brokers in any public-policy debate.
2) The American people should have access to both sides of any public-policy argument, and since the government and the goo-goos have the big megaphone, corporations need to level the playing field any way they can.
1) Since the corporate world has traditionally acted in such a way that the public no longer trusts it, corporations need to trick the public to get a fair shake.
2) Government is willing to spend more money than corporations on shaping public opinion. So the corporate world needs aggressive media gambits like the SweetScam campaign to hold their own.
If that’s not the best definition of what Rick Berman does overall, it’ll do until something better comes along.