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The Michael Moore of Fast Food By: Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Two years ago, Morgan Spurlock was just another film-industry wannabe. Writing plays no one read and producing movies no one saw, he could lay claim to mini fame as the host of little-known MTV show called “I Bet You Will.”

Today, Spurlock is the globetrotting poster boy for anti-corporate angst, his opinions on everything from congressional legislation to the global obesity epidemic fawningly sought out by the Left’s top outlets.


For his sudden celebrity, the 33-year-old Spurlock has “Super Size Me” to thank. Spurlock’s ode to left-wing victim culture, the hit documentary is a sizzling indictment of the fast-food industry. More centrally, it is an assault on the anti-corporate crowd’s favorite punching bag: McDonald’s.


Its many failures notwithstanding, “Super Size Me” succeeds on one level: it clearly knows its audience. For one thing, it taps perfectly into the angry left’s reflexive approval of camera-wielding corporate-bashers. (“We love to see you smile” may be alright for a corporate slogan, but over on the Al Gore Left they have they their own motto: They love to see your bile.)


For another, it has a theme fine-tuned to tug on lefty heartstrings. Which is why, after adopting a self-destructive, all-McDonald’s all-the-time diet, stuffing his face at the Golden Arches three times a day for 30 days, and punishing his arteries with a whopping daily intake of 5,500 calories, Spurlock winds up blaming the force that drove him to it—that’s right, McDonald’s. How dare it traffic in the cheap, tasty food he’s all too eager to eat!


If that sounds hypocritical, it is. Don’t let its “documentary” handle fool you: “Super Size Me” only pretends to document the debate over cultural food habits. In fact, for Spurlock, that debate—between corporate responsibility and consumer choice—is no debate at all. He is interested in one thing and one thing only: projecting a mindless leftist plotline: Corporations are always guilty; Consumers are always innocent.


It is precisely this cheesy, blame-McDonald’s-first message that steams critics like Soso Whaley. “Morgan went out to prove that McDonalds was bad for you, and he did,” says Whaley, 49. “But it’s not a black-and-white issue.” A filmmaker and adjunct fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (http://www.cei.org/pages/debunk/debunk_the_junk.cfm)

, Whaley had a bone to pick with Spurlock’s contention that McDonald’s was a menace to eaters.


So, aiming to prove what a little consumer responsibility can do, Whaley, repeated Spurlock’s experiment—with one modification: she chose wisely from the McDonald’s menu, keeping within a 1,800 to 2,000 calorie range. After 30 days on the McDonald’s diet, not only did Whaley not gain weight, but she actually lost ten pounds, skimming her cholesterol from 237 to 197, and exposing the methodology behind “Super Size Me” for the junk science it is.


But if the three million dollars “Super Size Me” has made since its release last month is any indication, the Left eats this stuff up. And Spurlock, eager to win its approval, is cashing in. In May alone, Spurlock has been featured in the New York Times, the American Prospect and Mother Jones, and earned glowing citations from the leftist Center for American Progress. Left-wing commentators want him; budding anti-globalization activists want to be him. Currently, Spurlock is on a worldwide tour to promote “Super Size Me.” That means plenty of opportunities to please foreign journalists by grilling McDonalds for globalizing its fries—while working to globalize his film.


Never one to miss a good brownnosing opportunity, Spurlock also regularly drools over fellow conman Michael Moore. Informed by LA Weekly of comparisons between him and Moore, Spurlock could scarcely contain his glee, or hide his naked ambition. “Yeah, and you know, what better thing to have happen to a first-time director? But someday they will be calling Michael Moore the first Morgan Spurlock.” In addition to hailing Moore as a “great filmmaker,” Spurlock now boasts that Moore has given “Super Size Me” two thumbs up. “Moore was excited to see someone following in his footsteps trying to fill his big shoes," Spurlock says.


That should come as no surprise. Like Moore, Spurlock has demonstrated his willingness to go to extremes to score a political point. And while the skinny-framed Spurlock can’t yet match Moore’s appetite, a formidable task to be sure, Spurlock’s hunger for celebrity and his tireless self-promotion suggest he’s already learned a thing or two from the Left’s favorite filmmaker.


Proclaiming “Super Size Me” his attempt “to save a population,” Spurlock now postures as an everyday champion of the eating man, a sort of McHero, as it were. Ask Spurlock about McDonald’s recent decision to phase out its super size option, and he’ll giddily take the credit. (“McDonald’s said that this film had nothing to do with their decision to eliminate super-sizing whatsoever. I’m sure it didn’t!”)What he won’t mention is the fact that the decision was made months before his film’s release; or the fact McDonald’s has been developing a more health-conscious menu since 2002, when the company added salads, as well as fruit, vegetable and yogurt options to its Happy Meals.


Like Moore, too, Spurlock often has trouble keeping his facts straight. Spurlock insists, for example, that he was inspired to make “Super Size Me” after seeing a representative from McDonald’s appear on television to deny any plausible link between McDonald’s food and fat Americans. Here is how he told it to the New York Times: “[A] spokesman for McDonald's came on and said, ‘you can't link their obesity to our food — our food is healthy, it's nutritious.’ I thought, if it's so good for me, I should be able to eat it every day, right?”


Corporate spinmeisters shilling for their diabolical bosses? Not quite. It may not have been a McDonald’s spokesman at all. Listen to Spurlock spin the same story for a Mother Jones reporter. “I was sitting on the couch watching a television program, and I can’t remember if it was someone from McDonald’s or someone from the food company, but they’ve got a lobbyist who came on and said, ‘You can’t link our food to these two girls getting sick. You can’t link our food to these girls being obese. Our food is healthy; it’s nutritious; it’s good for you.’ ” So which was it? A McDonald’s spokesman, a food company representative, or a lobbyist? Given tendency to confuse the three, one may be forgiven for wondering whether the story happened at all.  


On one score, however, Spurlock has been consistent: sucking up to the liberal elite. For these purposes, McDonald’s is the perfect target. In taking on the fast food chain, Spurlock follows a long and shameful tradition of the anti-globalization Left. José Bove, for instance, was just another French loudmouth, until his part in the 1999 ransacking of a McDonald’s in southern France, under the banner of resisting industrialized food production, won him international fame. After serving a 40-day sentence for vandalism, Bove emerged as a hero of the anti-globalization movement. He has since become, in between stints in prison, one of the militant left’s most prominent personalities, cheerleading for Palestinian terrorists, leading raids on U.S. biotechnology plantations in Brazil and inciting attacks on a McDonald’s in the U.S.  


So it speaks to Spurlock’s desire to polish his leftist credentials that, when asked his impressions of Bove, he gave this revealing answer. “He’s a patriot for defending what he believes is a sacred institution, which is food and dining in France.” That this soi-disant “patriotism” involves destroying private property and putting fellow Frenchmen out of work is, for Spurlock, small beer.


Whether he’s flattering international criminals like Bove or gushing over all-American frauds like Moore, everything in Spurlock’s repertoire seems calculated to appeal to the leftist tastemakers. Similar considerations seem to have informed his fast-food horror flick, “Super Size Me.” Only time will tell whether he’ll achieve Moore-sized fame. For now, though, Spurlock is clearly betting that the key to the Left’s heart is through its stomach. 

Jacob Laksin is managing editor of Front Page Magazine. His email is jlaksin -at- gmail.com

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