YouTube, the Great Radicalizer

Human beings have many natural tendencies that need to be vigilantly monitored in the context of modern life. For example, our craving for fat, salt and sugar, which served us well when food was scarce, can lead us astray in an environment in which fat, salt and sugar are all too plentiful and heavily marketed to us. So too our natural curiosity about the unknown can lead us astray on a website that leads us too much in the direction of lies, hoaxes and misinformation.

In effect, YouTube has created a restaurant that serves us increasingly sugary, fatty foods, loading up our plates as soon as we are finished with the last meal. Over time, our tastes adjust, and we seek even more sugary, fatty foods, which the restaurant dutifully provides. When confronted about this by the health department and concerned citizens, the restaurant managers reply that they are merely serving us what we want.

.. There is no reason to let a company make so much money while potentially helping to radicalize billions of people, reaping the financial benefits while asking society to bear so many of the costs.

Warren Buffett, at Berkshire Meeting, Condemns Republican Health Care Bill

He argued that the American Health Care Act, which passed the House this past week, amounted to “a huge tax cut for guys like me.” He also said rising health care costs, rather than high taxes, were the biggest drag on American businesses.

“Medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness,” he said.

.. Yet Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger stood by Wells Fargo and other Berkshire investments, including United Airlines and Coca-Cola. When a protester from Germany delivered a long speech decrying Coke, sugar and capitalism itself, Mr. Buffett said he would continue to drink his favorite beverage, Cherry Coke.

.. “Change is painful for a lot of people,” he said. “I think it’s absolutely essential to America that we become more productive, because that’s the only way we increase consumption per capita.”

.. Still, he allowed that he expected Berkshire’s next chief to already be rich after a career of business success. And in answering a question about how much that person would be paid, he took a swipe at compensation consultants who often urge corporate boards to pay their managers extravagant salaries. “If the board hires a compensation consultant, I’m coming back!” he joked.

Trump’s outrageous lies come straight from big businesses’ playbook

Sixty-three years ago, as the scientific community neared consensus that tobacco products were dangerous, titans of the tobacco industry came together to meet with John Hill at the Plaza Hotel in New York. This was a rare gathering, as these executives were fighting one another for market share in an immensely competitive business. Hill, the founder of PR conglomerate Hill & Knowlton, recommended that they form a public relations operation, thinly veiled as a scientific institute, to argue that their products were safe. Together, the tobacco executives and Hill created the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, a sham organization designed to spread corporate propaganda to mislead the media, policymakers and the public at large.

.. Their goal was not to convince the majority of Americans that cigarettes did not cause cancer. Instead, they sought to muddy the waters and create a second truth. One truth would emanate from the bulk of the scientific community; the other, from a cadre of people primarily in the employment of the tobacco industry. The organization launched with an ad titled “A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers,” which ran in 400 newspapers reaching nearly 43 million readers and stated, “There is no proof that cigarette smoking is one of the causes” of lung cancer.

 .. However, in the 1950s, the industry’s efforts influenced coverage from journalists as revered as Edward R. Murrow. In 1994, the chief executives of the seven largest tobacco companies told Congress under oath that they did not believe their products were addictive; more than 20 years later, they have yet to face penalties for their apparent perjury. Vice President-elect Mike Pence wrote in an op-ed posted on his 2000 congressional campaign website that, “despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” That year, his campaign received at least $13,000 from PACs affiliated with Big Tobacco.
.. The sugar industry, for instance, has promoted research designed to distract from the health effects of its products. Its Sugar Research Foundation provided funding to Harvard scientists to counter claims that sugar causes heart disease, despite the overwhelming evidence.
.. In the 1970s, scientists at Exxon (now ExxonMobil) knew that their products were changing the climate, but the company nonetheless funded think tanks and organizations dedicated to denying the existence of global warming, such as the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
.. The “death panels” lie was invented and evangelized by Betsy McCaughey, who had also been a leading opponent of Hillary Clinton’s health-care reform efforts in the ’90s. No surprise there: McCaughey has strong ties to the tobacco industry.
.. In August, Trump’s campaign announced that McCaughey would serve as an economic adviser.
..We’ve seen this pattern repeated on issue after issue. A well-financed group invents lies and convinces a substantial share of the public that those lies are true. The propaganda purveyors recognize that the media’s instinct to cover “both sides” of an issue, people’s tendency to believe claims that conveniently fit their ideology, and, more recently, social media’s propensity to spread falsehoods all create a fundamental weakness in our civil society.
.. This political misinformation is so powerful that people have refused access to medical care because they were frightened by lies they had heard about Obamacare.

How Energy-Drink Companies Prey on Male Insecurities

Over the past two decades, as U.S. soft-drink consumption has declined—full-calorie-soda sales dropped twenty-five per cent during that period, according to a recent Times report—the energy-drink market has been thriving. The beverages are consumed regularly by thirty-one per cent of kids between the ages of twelve and seventeen, and by thirty-four per cent of those aged eighteen to twenty-four. U.S. sales for energy drinks and shots now total more than twelve and a half billion dollars—a number that the market-research firm Packaged Facts predicts will grow by another nine billion dollars by 2017.

.. They found that the more a man bought into masculine ideals, the more he believed that energy drinks made him manly—and the more he drank them, the more his sleep was troubled.

.. While the connection between unrealistic standards of beauty and low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating among girls and women has been widely researched and discussed, this study is one of the few to establish a link between marketing to male insecurity and unhealthy habits.

.. The study builds, in part, on a 2013 Taiwanese paper showing that college-age men used the drinks to “regulate their personal sense of masculinity” and that they will drink more of them if they perceive their masculinity to be threatened.

.. Sugar is what Wade calls “a feminized calorie.” Women tend, in advertising, to be depicted as consumers of sweet things, like chocolate and fruity drinks, while men are more associated with red meat and savory snacks, like spicy tortilla chips. The challenge for sweet energy beverages, Wade said, “was to figure out how to man them up. So you associate them with extreme sports and extremely good performance.”

.. The result has been that family fridges now often contain multiple varieties of drinks, devised to reassure the demographical identity of each member.

.. companies can sell more products if they convince consumers to divide their purchases by gender—so that, for example, husbands and wives can’t share a shampoo.

.. When consumed over a long term, Levant’s study confirmed that, in college-age men, the drinks can cause anxiety, dehydration, insomnia, and cardiovascular vascular problems.