Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Musings: Snookered

How, one might wonder, did Neal Norman get a HawaiiLife Real Estate ad on the front page of The Garden Island under the guise of “local news”?

Yup, the firm’s unadulterated press release for an $18 million house at Anini is reprinted as issued, just like TGI is doing promotions for Neal or something. Slurpy, syrupy language like this provides the tip-off:

Contemporary design meets superior construction along Kauai’s famed North Shore at 3580 Anini Road, a 4,888-square-foot oceanfront estate with over 400 feet of world-renowned Anini Beach frontage.

“This is one of the most A-plus properties anywhere on Kauai,” Norman [gushed]. “It’s a house with a sense of place.”

Yeah. Some place else.

Just when you think TGI — and Neal — can’t sink any lower…. they do.

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far away, “Big Food” is taking a hit where it hurts: the wallet. After repeated hammering by advocacy groups and media, consumers are becoming increasingly suspicious of the processed food that has dominated grocery stores for the past half-century. As Fortune reports:

“We understand that increasing numbers of consumers are seeking authentic, genuine food experiences,” said Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison, “and we know that they are skeptical of the ability of large, long-established food companies to deliver them.”

In response, huge companies like General Mills and Kraft are reducing sugar and moving away from artificial colors and flavors. They’re also moving into the so-called “packaged-fresh” sector and buying up smaller “natural food” companies, along with their executives, with some formerly upstart brands like Hain Celestial now moving into the real of “big food” themselves.

As Fortune reports:

Following a trend in the tech industry, legacy food companies are on an acqui-hiring spree, hoping to gobble up foodpreneurs, their more agile management operations — and their know-how in the natural food arena.

Executives now even talk a bit differently, infusing a more wholesome-sounding vocabulary in day-to-day conversation. The company “cooks” and “preserves” rather than “processes” and “manufactures”; employees follow “recipes,” not “formulas.”

So how much of this industry shift is real, and how much is just marketing and public relations, like Neal's ad-cum-article? And how committed, really, are consumers to this new trend of “gluten-free, organic and natural” products? This paragraph from the Fortune article provides a clue:

Americans are willing to give up a lot for their newfound interest in wellness. But apparently they are not willing to say goodbye to chocolate and candy, which have resisted the declines felt in other parts of the packaged-food industry.

But even Hershey, one of the fastest-growing big U.S. food and beverage companies of the past five years, is trying to clean up its act, finding replacements for artificial ingredients like vanillin and emulsifiers. Jolly Rancher, however, will probably be left alone — but only because apparently consumers don't expect that a product made from corn syrup and artificial flavors and colors should be healthy.

Speaking of candy, science journalist John Bohannon is chortling over how he tricked people into believing chocolate enhances weight loss for an expose on the junk science-diet industry. As he notes:

Here’s a dirty little science secret: If you measure a large number of things about a small number of people, you are almost guaranteed to get a “statistically significant” result.

Combine that with fake journal publishers, who don’t require any peer review, and unquestioning media, like TGI, and voila, bullshit is presented as fact. As Bohannon writes:

The promise of an “exclusive” story is very tempting, even if it’s fake. There was no quality control. That was left to the reporters. I felt a queasy mixture of pride and disgust as our lure zinged out into the world.

We landed big fish before we even knew they were biting. When reporters contacted me at all, they asked perfunctory questions. Not a single reporter seems to have contacted an outside researcher.

There was one glint of hope in this tragicomedy. While the reporters just regurgitated our “findings,” many readers were thoughtful and skeptical. In the online comments, they posed questions that the reporters should have asked.

Which is why the anti-GMO movement ridicules, attacks and shuns anyone who questions the bogus studies they rely on to support their anti-biotech claims.

And this, dear reader, is how the generally unquestioning public gets snookered, time and time again.


Anonymous said...

glad you pointed out the creepy story a sense of place, that house is more out of place than any. what a crock

Anonymous said...

If you say it with conviction, people believe it. One good thing is that these companies, if making a move toward healthier food, are doing it on their own, at least it is an action created by the free market vs. government intervention.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the Garden Island, yesterday we had a huge accident that resulted in our malicious and idiotic police department shutting down the highway for 5 hours, instead of moving the damn cars off the road like they do in other areas that have traffic bottlenecks. Take quick pictures and move people, then cars then open the road.
Secondly, there was a death in Nawiliwili that people are talking about.
I can't find a word about either in the GI.
What the hell?

Anonymous said...

11:17 - read the paper. The fatality was on the front page. The accident in Kalihiwai was on page 5. In the accident in Kalihiwai they needed the jaws of life to get the driver out of his vehicle. Kind of irresponsible to move the vehicle before you remove the victim. What the hell? Get your facts right.

Anonymous said...

A famous quote by Adolf Hitler, " Make a lie as large as you possible can, keep repeating it with vigor and the people will believe you".

Anonymous said...

Hawaii life had a radio add that mentioned a sustainable GMO free Kauai. Right because all the sustainable ag estates on the north shore are producing so much food and woker housing we can now stop shipping in produce from the mainland.

Anonymous said...

"Americans are willing to give up a lot for their newfound interest in wellness." Yeppers, and there are companies ready to welcome your bucks. These are successful companies who see profit from people freaking out and willing to pay more for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Hawaii Life, Neal Norman and the rest of the realtors who oppose GMO, do so mostly to get the west side to change like the north shore did, from agriculture to tourists. Its called Land and power.Do you really think they give a crap about pesticides, if they did(other than personal avoidance) they would be fighting against Princevile .

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Joan, for not letting that Hawaii Life promo piece slide. It is a new low for TGI and such blatant disregard of responsibility by the editor. I try to ignore that writers are permitted to use language like "try and do it," that they confuse words like "then" and "than," that they recently (ever so ironically) conflated the words "alliteration" and "illiteration," that they routinely forget to include all the essential W-W-W-W-W’s somewhere in the story, that they report information but don't draw connections or reflect critical thinking, that stories are reported but not followed up on regarding later outcomes or findings, that stories informing us of key, pending real estate (over)development affecting us all are largely absent or lacking in substance, that the Police Logs are published months in arrears even though they address time-sensitive concerns of residents . . . I could go on. And on. But this ad written in Realtorspeak and presented as front-page news really takes the award for Smarmy Relations in the Media and warrants apologies from both the editor and Hawaii Life. I'm afraid that two-faced realtors are here to stay, but I would sure like to see that editor go. My small financial contribution to Kaua`i Eclectic follows with gratitude for your voice.

Joan Conrow said...

Thank you! I appreciate it!