Monsanto vs. The Media

Initially the subject matter required for this entry left me skeptical. Obviously the news reported by major networks is every bit as processed and deconstructed of real nourishment as Land o’Lakes yellow American cheese. All the same, there was no specific incident that came to mind when I thought of stories that related to the topic of this post. Then…I watched “The Corporation”.

“The Corporation” is a 2005 documentary, shedding light on the many shady on-goings that big business figures don’t want people like us to know about. Of the filmmakers’ list of complaints, there is Coca-Cola’s attempt to maintain profit in Germany in the wake WWII, K-Mart’s preying on the likes of impoverished countries with sweatshops, paying the average worker $0.03/per hr. and of the most relevance to this topic, Monsanto.

Having grown up under the wing of my health nut mother, I’ve already come to be aware of Monsanto’s wrongdoings for quite some time. She’s told me of their attempts to eradicate the reproductive systems of fruits and vegetables in the hopes that no one might grow their own garden anymore. I am well aware that their genetically modified products are responsible for the ever dwindling honeybee population. But the topic which they cover in the film is milk.

Years ago, Monsanto began to distribute a product called Posilac, a little something farmers could inject into their cows in the hopes of increasing the quantity of white creamy goodness. In every sense of the word, they were literally “milking it”. But problems around the side effects of the hormone resulted in the cows becoming sick, often to the point that their once perky utters began to sag to unhealthy looking conditions. Even more frightening was the fact that the milk, extracted from the cows treated with Posilac, was linked potential cancer.

When two Fox News reporters, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, attempted to broadcast their findings on Monsanto, the were contacted by the company who implied the possibility of legal action. After a series of failed bribes and threats against the reporters, both parties came to the agreement to air the story…but with a few “subtle” edits. Akre didn’t give a word for word description of each precise change Monsanto demanded that they had to make to the story, but one change that did stand out was Monsanto’s insistence on changing the word “cancer”, when used, to “human health implication”.

The sad thing is, despite their effort to do so, Monsanto didn’t have to lie in this scenario. While the term “implication” does downplay the significance of the matter, especially in comparison to “cancer”, it wasn’t technically a fallacy. We, as a civilization, have a tendency to display shock at the mere sound of blunt words, despite those very words having synonyms which we respond to with far less panic…and companies like Monsanto know it. The word “cancer” is automatically linked to ideas of “fatality”, “pain”, “disease”, whereas “implication” is associated more among the lines of “inconvenience”, “boo boo” or “hiccup”.

The same response could be elicited in the usage of “rape” rather than “sexual assault”. Both are serious offenses, but in the grand scheme of things, which one of these terms would better initiate your instinct to rescue someone screaming one of these two terms, if heard in a parking lot? Better yet, which one of these would you choose to scream while placed in the role of victim? Why is it that we allow ourselves to have the scale of a matter amplified and minimized by the likes of a few syllables?

One of the reasons we contradict ourselves in our self-censorship is the standard of what society considers inappropriate. As George Carlin observed in the video we watched in class, there’s an unofficial – though frowned upon – set of words that someone, long ago, decided couldn’t be used in formal dialogues. Since we have taught ourselves what is audacious to others, we eventually find it to be audacious to us. I could also argue that one of the reasons is that informality and straightforwardness are what gets the job done. Monsanto thrived on the idea that some “listeners” would hear this and dismiss it as jargon, gobbledygook. The reason “implication” would be of no detriment to Monsanto was because many people don’t even know what it means.

Works Cited

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