The Center for Science in the Public Interest=Self-Righteous Bullies of the Month

We will begin with a proposition: “Toys do not make children fat.”  Certainly eating too much makes children fat.  Eating exclusively high-caloric foods makes children fat. Failing to exercise and sitting around playing video games all day can make children fat. Over-indulgent or unassertive parents, who allow their children to develop and continue bad eating and exercise habits, can help children get fat. But toys will not make children fat. Even if the kids eat the toys, they won’t get fat.

Nonetheless, the Center for Science in the Public Interest is threatening to sue MacDonald’s if it doesn’t stop putting little toys in its “Happy Meals.” The “You’re Going To Eat Tofu and Like It!” consumer group has sent a letter to the fast-food company, long a convenient villain for those who want to control our basic right to eat what we want to, giving them due notice that either they take those “Shrek” promotional toys out of the “Happy Meals,” or  it’s “see you in court.”

Getting toys, even cheap, forgettable, cheesy and stupid ones, in cereal boxes and Crackerjacks has always been…fun. Fun. The deadly serious, gray-faced, vegan scolds who see a .00007 % short or long-term risk in any pleasure (except sex and recreational drug use, of course) as justification for banning it outright or squeezing all the joy out of it don’t think fun is a valid consideration. The trial lawyers killed the toys that were actually in boxes of foods, because a few idiots actually would swallow the prizes. They didn’t get fat, they got dead. As is the usual equation in such things, millions and millions of children (okay, okay…adults too) lost the chance to have a tiny jolt of surprise in their Cheerios (“Look! It’s a little foam-rubber green dog!”) because idiots eat Cheerios too, and everything buried in them, apparently.

Now the self-righteous bullies—and this is exactly what they are— want to force McDonald’s into expensive litigation to eliminate the toys in “Happy Meals.” They are certain there’s no place for “fun” in children’s meals; this is a deadly serious business. This organization, and it has many allies, believes it should impose on our individual autonomy by limiting our choices to the choices it believes are the “right” ones. Educating the public, encouraging parents to supervise their children, these aren’t enough, because respecting opposing views and being fair are low priorities for autocrats. Their tactic is to use threats and vilification to end the discussion by ending the choice.

“McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” Stephen Gardner, litigation director for the advocacy group said in a statement of jaw-dropping hyberbole. “McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity.”

No, the Center for Science in the Public Interest are the bullies in the playground taking candy away from children. The tiny toys in Happy Meals are only one of thousands of enticements, minor and major, in child and adult food choices. At least the toys have an independent benefit (that “fun” thing again). What about the name, “Happy Meal”? That sounds too good—the name will make kids obese! Shouldn’t McDonald be forced to call it “Box o’ Crap” and package them in sludge-brown cardboard? Shouldn’t Baskin-Robbins be prevented from making ice-cream in all those pretty colors, putting them in those yummy cones and calling them cute names? Making ice cream attractive makes kids fat, right? Come on, get on the ball, Center for Science in the Public Interest! Make the ice cream villains color their ice-cream gray or dead-fish green, and serve it up in an old, used coffee filter.

And candy! The very existence of candy “undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity,” right? Especially candy that is fun (there’s that bad word again) to eat, like cotton candy, or taffy, or gum, or Pop Rocks. It’s downright evil to have any food choices for kids that include colors, sweet or salty tastes, and heaven forbid, entertainment. Come to think of it, those baseball cards I collected—oh my God!—they were just a conspiracy to make me ruin my teeth with sweet pink bubble gum! If only the Center for Science in the Public Interest had been around to threaten to sue Topps and the other card makers, I’d be 30 pounds thinner today, and maybe a marathoner! With better teeth!

Toys in “Happy Meals” are harmless. McDonald’s is harmless too, unless incompetent parents fail to do their parental duty and exercise oversight and supervision so their kids don’t eat there too often. Children can only learn how to make good choices if they have choices. And though the Center for Science in the Public Interest couldn’t possibly understand this, choosing fun can be a good choice.

Toys don’t make kids fat, but lawsuits make corporations cowardly, and success makes those who want to control our lives bolder. We should encourage McDonald’s to fight this battle, and stand up its “Happy Meal” toys, and for the few traditional joys of childhood left—you know, the kind that don’t involve software.

3 thoughts on “The Center for Science in the Public Interest=Self-Righteous Bullies of the Month

  1. These people are just playing the “isolate a target” game in order to enhance their contributions and power. I’m hardly McDonald’s biggest fan… but not because of Happy Meals. Despite what these self-ordained nutritionists say, even an ordinary “junk food” meal gives American kids better intake than others have in the bulk of the world’s countries. As in virtually all problems relating to kids, the problem is rooted in indifferent parenting, a toxic culture, a corrupted educational system or combinations thereof. An occasional meal of burgers & fries- with a little plastic toy to go with it- isn’t going to hurt them one bit. There’s so much more that can and will; both physically and spiritually. And a lot of it comes from the machinations of the Tofu fascists!

  2. I think MacDonalds sells the toys optionally apart from the Happy Meal. So, un-bundling the products, in my view, makes the situation okay. If a kid is clamoring for the toy, a parent making a food decision doesn’t have to compromise their own judgement.

  3. Pingback: Happy meal toys under fire – Washington Post (blog)

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