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This Thanksgiving, Media Still Stuffed with Food Police Message

In just a few days, Americans will give thanks for their blessings and celebrate them by stuffing themselves with a bountiful feast. Despite this beloved tradition, many in the news media disapprove of overeating and continue to call for taxes on certain foods, and increased regulation.

Time magazine's website, includes an "Ideas" section with what it calls "Essential Insights. Great Debates. Informed Opinions." It was there that Shannon Brownlee, director of the liberal New America Foundation's (which is funded by George Soros' Foundation to Promote Open Society) Health Policy Program, recently called for more regulation under the guise of "public health."

Her Nov. 15 opinion piece, "Let's Stop Being Passive About Fighting Obesity," compared obesity to smoking and argued that not using the same forceful measures used to reduce smoking (she cited bans, negative ad campaigns, more expensive insurance and taxes) was passivity.

"Whenever health officials propose using the same approaches with obesity, the American public tends to protest that the measures are too draconian or infringe on personal liberties or unfairly demonize people who are overweight," Brownlee wrote. "Given the fact that once gained, losing weight is harder for most people than quitting smoking, why are we being so passive about obesity?"

Brownlee complained about public opposition to taxing Slurpees and health insurance premiums based on weight. Ultimately she called for increased shaming of the obese saying, "Maybe it's time to be at least a little more willing to similarly demonize excess poundage. Our rapidly rising rate of obesity harms us financially, because we pay for health care collectively."

The Business & Media Institute has reported many times since 2006 that the anti-food crusaders on the left were going to attack food the same way they went after tobacco and smoking.

Time's willingness to provide an outlet for Brownlee's left-wing views on food should come as no surprise, given the media's support for food regulation and taxation. Mainstream media outlets routinely condemn dishes at popular restaurants, complain of the dangers of soft drinks or salt, often by interviewing radical anti-food spokespeople who are far from mainstream in their views. Those experts are labeled neutrally as public health experts or "consumer advocates" in news reports, but their anti-obesity solutions look to government control rather than individual responsibility.

Denmark, a nation known for its liberal policies, recently established a "fat tax," applying a surcharge for foods high in saturated fat. On Oct. 4, 2011, NBC's panel of experts literally applauded Denmark's move and NBC's resident medical expert Nancy Snyderman declared that "... there should be a tax on colas with sugar in it, foods you don't need ..."

CBS has also supported the idea of a fat tax. CBS's Michelle Miller advocated just that on July 25, saying "While some say a new tax is the last thing we need, it could mean a healthier America."

The media have also called for or praised calls for more food regulations. On Nov 18, NBC's Brian Williams attacked those opposing new government health regulations by asking "what does Congress have against healthier lunches for kids?" On Feb 1, 2011, CBS's Harry Smith teased a story about the government pressuring food companies to regulate salt content with this line: "The assault on salt. Chances are you are eating too much of it."

The networks were not the only media calling for the government to increase food regulation. The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt praised Michelle Obama for her anti-obesity crusade in a Dec 26, 2010 editorial, complaining that 'obesity is not a Republican or Democratic issue.' He declared that "The obesity epidemic is a genuine public health emergency, with vast implications for the nation's well-being, economy, and even national security."

Andrew Martin, in a January 31 article in The New York Times, echoed government food regulators' hard-line stance: "As the nation's obesity crisis continued unabated, federal regulators on Monday issued their bluntest nutrition advice to date: drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda, fill your plate with fruits and vegetables and cut down on processed foods filled with sodium, fat, or sugar..." Martin's terminology made it clear he supported the government as opposed to the "powerful food lobby."

Government regulation of food has increased during the Obama administration. The most prominent advocate of government intervention in food-related matters is the First Lady herself, Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama has made fighting childhood obesity a crusade, introducing the "Let's Move" campaign and stumping for schools to adopt healthy school lunches.

The media rarely admits that current government measures, such as nutritional charts and enforced labeling of fast food products, have proven singularly ineffective in combating obesity. Despite new government food measures over the past twenty-five years, the obesity rate has also risen. Of course, liberals argue the solution is simply more regulation.

The media glosses over the obvious cause of obesity - individual people choosing to eat too much and exercise too little. Personal responsibility is rarely discussed or encouraged. They'd much rather the government simply tax your Turkey and pumpkin pie.