Eat This Foot

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Radley "The Agitator" Balko has a new blog up devoted to debunking Super-Size Me auteur Morgan Spurlock—and in particular Spurlock's junkalicious new Don't Eat This Book. It's pretty jaw-dropping so far: From the looks of it, Spurlock has (literally) just recycled a bunch of hysterical claims from Internet chain letters—indeed, in one case, he cites an FDA newsletter article debunking anti-aspartame quack sites as endorsing the very claims it attributes to those quack sites (and then refutes). I don't expect much of Spurlock, but even I was taken aback; check it out.

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  1. What struck me most is how much disrespect Spurlock has for his audience. It appears that his guiding light is the assumption that his audience is a bunch of dumb fucks who will believe whatever you tell them.

    Which gets me thinkin’:

    Perhaps, in his trials and tribulations in fast food land, he caught on to something: even though McDonald’s is bad for you and tastes like shit, these people actually EAT it. Not only that, but they come back for more. So, why not apply that principle to a movie and a book? Just feed people shit, and they will eat it up, regardless of how bad it is. Spurlock, then, is the McDonalds of the ‘documentary’ world: feed ’em tripe, and watch ’em come back fer seconds.

  2. Well, it worked for Michael Moore.

  3. If linking to Time magazie and a handful of scientific journals is now Reason’s standard for debunking, I guess we won’t be seeing any more global warming denial threads.

  4. I have to admit… I’ve never really understood why folks will spend so much time debunking one person. But to each their own.

    I especially like this line – “It’s tempting to dismiss Spurlock as an unserious guy whom serious people don’t take seriously. That’s probably true.”

    Yep.

  5. Good one, Joe. The similarities between Morgan Spurlock’s claims and the continually evolving understanding of climate science are so striking that they obviously require the same standards for scrutiny. Scored a zinger there, you did.

  6. Krybo (Enigma):

    Take it easy on the guy. Joe has a daily “snarky comment” quota to meet here.

    Interesting, though, that the burden of disproof is somehow on ?Reason?. Either way, it seems like, in those 4 or 5 short blog posts, Radley did more research than Spuriouslock did for his entire book. Yet, Joe has the nerve to criticise, um, Reason?

    Like I said, a slave to the snarky comment quota. Doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not.

  7. Just noting the unexpected deference that such quaint sources as peer reviewed scientific journals and federal science agencies are receiving all of a sudden.

    You can’t believe Time Magazine – they’re the MSM.

    You can’t believe federal scientific research bodies – they’re all biased.

    You can’t believe what you read well-known scientific journals – researchers published there receive grants funded by the government.

    Now somebody like Spurlock – an independent kind of guy who’s not afraid to contradict a virtually unanimous field of researchers, while not having very much in the way of credentials, but who is affiliated with political activist groups – now THAT’S the type of guy who deserves our utmost respect and consideration.

  8. Quick, guess that fallacy. I’ll give you a hint:

    Julian writes a post, though it cannot be true because someone somewhere may have said something sort of like,

    “You can’t believe Time Magazine – they’re the MSM.

    You can’t believe federal scientific research bodies – they’re all biased.”

  9. joe,

    You might not like the conclusions that Balling and Michaels make in The Satanic Gases, but Spurlock’s poorly referenced collection of urban legends and other tripe cannot legitimately be compared with it.

  10. Oh no, wellfellow and MP, Julian’s post is just fine. And so is Balko’s link. He pretty much stuffs Spurlock on the NutraSweet thing.

    In fact, Balko’s debunking should set the standard for reviewing scientific claims and consulting sources. That’s all I’m saying.

    Those throwaway lines – ones that appear on every global warming thread – are complete idiocy, and deserve every bit of the denunciation you give them.

  11. Hey joe, this is just in, but Spurlock is popular. He’s all over the media. He had film critics fawning over his completely staged documentary Super-Size Me. He ignores facts and science to reach his conclusions. Why shouldn’t he be fact-checked? Because he’s an “independent kind of guy”?

  12. joe, try this on for size:

    Anyone who is making a ton of money from their “findings”, or otherwise parlaying them into power and influence, deserves withering critical scrutiny.

    Since Spurlock and Moore are both making money from and political points off of their claims, scrutiny they get.

    Since all too many of those pushing the global warming agenda are also sucking up government grants (making money, no?) and pushing political fixes (Kyoto), scrutiny they get as well.

    What’s so hard about that?

  13. I think Joe’s point was that the sources considered good enough to debunk Spurlock aren’t considered good enough to debunk global warming. Basically a case of “We usually ignore these sources, but today we’ll give them credence because we agree with them.”

  14. Jennifer,

    You beat me to it! It’s the theory of selective agreement.

    And who doesn’t think those who dismiss the global warming theory have an agenda of their own? As Michael Corleone said to Kay, “Now who’s being naive?”

  15. How is it that joe becomes the center of every thread in which he participates? It’s like he’s a big ol’ worm on a hook, and everyone else is a hungry fish.

  16. BTW, more power to Mr. Balko, and hopefully if nothing else people can use some of the information he provides to counter arguments made by fans of Spurlock who love how he’s “taking it to the man”.

  17. jf,

    joe plays devil’s advocate, and then the wolves come out to play. It’s difficult to be the voice of dissent on a comments thread, especially one where the original author has already steered the majority response in a certain direction.

    I may not agree with most of what joe says, but I can understand at least where he’s coming from.

  18. RC,

    Responsible researchers investigating global warming publish their work in peer reviewed journals, where it is open to review by still other researchers after it is published.

    Climatologists ARE subject to scrutiny. Nothing hard about that at all.

    Thank you, Jennifer.

    jf,

    People argue with me for the same reason I come here to argue – mutual admiration societies are boring. How compelling would a thread of “You’re right, RC…You’re right, mediageek” be?

  19. jf,

    Somebody like Spurlock gets a certain amount of lattitude because HE’S JUST A GUY WITH A CAMERA. Of course he’s going to get certain facts wrong – he’s not a PhD, who goes into a debate with a huge pile of assumed credibility, whose reputation can be severely set back if he gets caught passing on bad information.

    Especially with the aggressively-amateurish Spurlock, it’s expected that he’ll get details wrong. He’s mostly there to entertain and start conversations.

  20. You’re right, joe.

  21. What, exactly, does Spurlock get right? And what’s the difference between Spurlock and, say, John Edward? Both knowingly lie through their teeth and profiting by feeding people’s fears and prejudices. I find it to be close to evil to perpetrate damaging untruths ( how long before Spurlock argues that vaccinations cause autism? ) simply to make a buck.

  22. his audience is a bunch of dumb fucks who will believe whatever you tell them.

    I think this is an apt description, however Spurlock is only an entertainer, and should be treated as such. In this age of mercurial fame it seems a waste of bandwidth to lambaste every misguided idiot who writes a book. I read most of in the bookstore. At 300 pages it’s barely a pamphlet. I don’t imagine it’s going to win any converts except among fat, useless lumps of flesh who can’t get over feeling sorry for themselves for all the horrible things society makes them do to themselves, like forcing them at gunpoint to gorge themselves on big macs and fries…or something like that.

    It’s for the weaklings. Which is I think very much like, “it’s for the kids.”

  23. Responsible researchers investigating global warming publish their work in peer reviewed journals, where it is open to review by still other researchers after it is published.

    That community has gotten some criticism because it has been accused of ignoring rather than engaging critical or dissident research and theories. Your “mutual admiration society” comment would be applicable here too. I’m not saying that man-made global warming is not occurring – I’ve never done extensive reading on the subject – it’s just that the global-warming scientific community doesn’t have a reputation for thoughtfully engaging contrary theories.

  24. Spurlocks out to make a buck and a name for himself, he doesn’t care about his cause. He had an orginal idea with the super size me film and the media jumped behind him. How can you blame him for cashing in on his 15 minutes. The people who are stupid enough to believe him and those like him. They don’t know how to use logic so they get all worked up over any claim that appeals to their emotions or catches their fancy. Ignorant people have made rich men out of out of more than a few bullshit artists.

    For most perception is reality. For proof of this listen to a few politicians speak…

  25. Joe,

    I like what you do here, it prevents the Reason regulars from splitting hairs all the time. Are there any blogs that you could suggest where I might be able to go to do the same thing that you do here?

  26. jennifer, I know where joe is coming from on this. When even the Times of the world can see that you’re full of it, as with Spurlock, and are willing to say so even though both of you are pushing roughly the same sort of lefty agenda, well, that’s pretty damning.

    The fact that Time doesn’t see through the claptrap on the global warming side of the fence doesn’t devalue the fact that they do see through it on the Spurlock side.

    And, joe, the kind critical scrutiny that is represented by “peer review” doesn’t mean much when the peer group has bought into the same paradigm. A bunch of people cashing global warming checks and pushing tranzi global warming solutions standing around nodding in unison is not impressive to me. Especially when there are obvious, gaping problems with their basic premises.

    For a colossal failure of peer review, one has only to revisit the humiliation of the history profession by Bellesiles. Sure, eventually his peers caught up, but only because they were pushed and shamed into it by law professors and other non-“peers”.

  27. The whole exercise that made Spurlock popular in the first place was to eat nothing but fast food for 30 days. No sane person eats McDonald’s every day, and no person need pity the fool who does. Society is best served by such people keeling over from a heart attack ASAP.

    You don’t go to McDonald’s on Tuesday as a thin man, get misled as to the nutritional content of a big mac and fries, then wake up Thursday a bloated whale. If you can’t make the connection between your growing waistline and the grease you shove in your maw, that’s your own problem, and it’s your fault. You don’t need valid, peer-reviewed sources to tell you that. You and you alone are responsible for the decisions you make.

  28. Who said that the point of Spurlock’s book was to give out useful, truthful information? I thought it was about selling as many copies of the book as possible as quickly as possible in order for Spurlock to get as rich as possible.

    Radley Balko, if you want to keep beating your head against a wall trying to warn people about scammers, liars, cheats, and crooks, join JREF and deal with it on a daily basis.

    MyNameIsAsh,

    You said it before I did.

  29. R C Dean wrote:

    Since Spurlock and Moore are both making money from and political points off of their claims, scrutiny they get.

    It’s an excellent point, though it runs us into a bit of “consider the source” problem. Not that one should never consider sources — I reject the notion that merely considering a source is still an ad hominem attack automatically (“genetic fallacy” being a form thereof, IIRC). Given the highly refined developments of the sciences of “spin” and “public relations”, we ignore “the source” at our peril.

    As to why Balko would spend so much time furthering somebody’s “message development campaign” by waging war on a nobody like Spurlock, who knows? Is he just a True Believer with a lot of time to kill and nothing better to do? May well be.

    My money’s on “because somebody’s paying him to do it.”

    Second choice: its because he thinks he can add a few bylines to his resume and make a bigger name for himself by spinning-off a few op-eds from it; failing that at least build up a public record of his bona fides as he strives toward a paid position as a junior varsity hack someplace.

    I thought that was the whole point of the “blogosphere.”

  30. Somebody like Spurlock gets a certain amount of lattitude because HE’S JUST A GUY WITH A CAMERA. Of course he’s going to get certain facts wrong – he’s not a PhD, who goes into a debate with a huge pile of assumed credibility, whose reputation can be severely set back if he gets caught passing on bad information.

    on the contrary, that’s why he should get less latitude. the problem is that, to much of the country, the fact that he’s just an average guy with a camera does entitle him to a huge pile of assumed credibility, if only because he can get his point across to a much less judgmental crowd than your average PhD. at the same time, no matter how bad his information is, his reputation is unlikely to be severely set back, because again, he’s presenting to the lowest common denominator.

  31. and to elaborate on my point IW, i don’t know (or care) why balko does it, but for the reasons stated, a “nobody” who commands a significant amount of attention deserves as much scrutiny or more than someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

  32. Especially with the aggressively-amateurish Spurlock, it’s expected that he’ll get details wrong. He’s mostly there to entertain and start conversations.

    It’s gone a little beyond entertainment. Aggressively-amateurish style has worked for Michael Moore and Arnold Schwarzenegger, too. Some of those conversations wind up in the halls of legislators.

  33. The fact that Time doesn’t see through the claptrap on the global warming side of the fence doesn’t devalue the fact that they do see through it on the Spurlock side.

    I’m not a Spurlock fan, but that doesn’t change the fact that Joe made a good point.

    Let’s say y’all are right about Time in regards to global warming. In that case, you still shouldn’t quote Time to support any other cause you have. Consider: even a known liar can tell the truth from time to time. But if I know somebody is a liar, and then he says something which ahppens to be true, I am NOT going to believe it because the known liar said it; I’ll believe it after I check with a source I trust.

    I think Joe made a good point about suddenly placing faith in a source you’ve always claimed false before. C’mon–imagine how you guys would react if JOE tried to support an argument of his by quoting Ann Coulter, or for that matter if RC tried to prove a point by quoting Michael Moore!

  34. Jennifer, Joe, etc. —

    I think the point here is that Spurlock’s *own sources* frequently disagree with him. Both in different contexts, and frequently on the very point for which he lists them as a source. I do think it’s significant when CSPI, for example, won’t even vouch for a claim Spurlock makes. As for Time, you might remember that the magazine devoted an entire issue and sponsored a huge conference with ABC News last summer aimed at hyping up the obesity debate. Time’s extremely critical of Big Food. So when Time has specifically debunked a charge Spurlock throws at the food industry, I think that’s worth pointing out.

    The “appeal to authority” is a valid and persuasive method of argument. And an appeal to an authority that’s otherwise hostile to your own position can be even more persuasive.

  35. Zach kind of touched on this but the question here is not whether Spurlock’s movie or book accurate (Neither is), or why Spurlock is doing what we does (Money and Fame obviously).

    The real question for me and perhaps for the rest of you is why does anybody care? Do people actually believe this guy or does he present just present his work in such an interesting and easy to digest way that it doesn’t matter?

    Many PhD’s do research which can only be understood by their peers, the exception being smart media sources (Reason, Economist, ext), the level of analysis, or perhaps effort, required to interpret a lot of the stuff is too much for main stream media and then the average news consumer to handle or care about. I do not think this is because most people are not intelligent or because they are uneducated . I believe this is because people do not know to look beyond conventional wisdom or conventional sources or think beyond stage one in terms of consiquences. Putting forth the effort to find out the truth often loses out to one of life’s other temptations.

  36. Big Worm sayeth,

    As to why Balko would spend so much time furthering somebody’s “message development campaign” by waging war on a nobody like Spurlock, who knows? Is he just a True Believer with a lot of time to kill and nothing better to do? May well be.

    My money’s on “because somebody’s paying him to do it.”

    Second choice: its because he thinks he can add a few bylines to his resume and make a bigger name for himself by spinning-off a few op-eds from it; failing that at least build up a public record of his bona fides as he strives toward a paid position as a junior varsity hack someplace.

    I thought that was the whole point of the “blogosphere.”

    That’s a nice little guessing exercise, but it’s obvious that you have no idea what you’re talking about. If you go to Balko’s blog, you can read his reasoning behind going after Spurlock. If you do a little more looking around The Agitator, you can read what he’s all about, why he started blogging, and why he continues to blog even after getting rid of his comments feature. If Balko was getting paid to do that blog by some shadow operation (McDonalds), you can rest assured that he would disclose that fact.

    As for supposedly “striving toward a paid position as a junior varsity hack someplace”, well, again, you have no clue. He’s already a paid “hack” for the Cato Institute. And I’m sure he gets a few bucks from his Fox News columns as well. Something tells me that he isn’t relying on his Spurlock blog (which Balko describes as his “fun little side project”) as his ticket to fame.

  37. Wow, RC, that’s a pretty big conspiracy theory you’ve got there. Out of curiosity, are there any global conspiracies that encompass almost all of the researchers in a field, as well as the media, a large majority of democratic governments, and the scientific bodies appointed by our government to act as impartial arbiters, that DON’T dovetail with the self-interest and ideological preferences of giant mulitinational corporations and the shills they pay?

  38. Joe I am waiting for some info on a couple Anti-Reason sites I want to go argue with those hopeless souls…

  39. MNIA, exactly.

  40. MNiA,

    What about “Supersize Me” is inaccurate? Did he use fake puke? Did the drive-thru people not really ask him to supersize? Was he wearing a fat suit at the end?

    Is his facial hair stick-on?

  41. Ash,

    You can’t liberal sites with comment threads without me? You’ve got to be kidding.

  42. joe, to quote MNIA: The real question for me and perhaps for the rest of you is why does anybody care? Do people actually believe this guy or does he present just present his work in such an interesting and easy to digest way that it doesn’t matter?

  43. I can very easily, but I figured you would have the inside track to a few where the comment thread would not end with name calling

  44. That’s a tougher nut to crack.

    Pretty much every political blog I’ve seen, excluding Reason, has threads that end in namecalling.

  45. Go register and bug the regressives at “the nation”

  46. Pretty much every political blog I’ve seen, excluding Reason, has threads that end in namecalling.

    “Double-dumbass on you!” 🙂

  47. MyNameIsAsh,

    For a site that gets good traffic, try Drum’s site: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/.

    He doesn’t post as frequently and tends to focus on more of a subset of his pet issues (social security, hating Rove, etc.), plus there is most certainly a fair degree of name calling when a contrarian shows up, but it’s not quite the Democratic Underground.

  48. There is an interesting article on Surlock here:

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110006868

    Where he asked for expert help to support one of his preconceived notions, and was turned down by his sources when it became clear that he would simply use only ‘facts’ that support his own view.

  49. Who said that the point of Spurlock’s book was to give out useful, truthful information? I thought it was about selling as many copies of the book as possible as quickly as possible in order for Spurlock to get as rich as possible.

    I’m not that familiar with Spurlock, is he anti-capitalist?

    I’m not saying he is, but I’d like to know. That’s one of the most annoying things ever, the “capitalism is bad except when I make a lot of money” dynamic. Sort of like Hilary “we’re going to take something from you for the common good” Clinton and her 7-figure income.

  50. Stevo:

    “people only take you seriously if you swear every other word. It’s prevalent in the literature of the time…”

    “…ah… the Giants…”

  51. What about “Supersize Me” is inaccurate? Did he use fake puke? Did the drive-thru people not really ask him to supersize? Was he wearing a fat suit at the end?

    Joe the premise of the movie is incorrect: Eat McDonalds everday for every meal for month and you will get fat. This is an illustration of correlation but not but not proof that McDonalds causes the fat. In order to be a tad bit more accurate a person of similar weight, metabolism, and body composition to Spurlock could eat the exact same amount of calories everyday at Subway. I can infer that the results that the other individual would have would be similar to Spulocks. This would show that it is not McDonalds that makes you fat but eating too many calories.

    Anyway not my favorite source but the best on such short notice notice:

    …”Last summer he threatened to sue fast-food restaurants if they didn’t display warnings telling consumers their food was ”addictive.””

    …MTV viewers may remember Spurlock’s short-lived show ”I Bet You Will,” whose motto was ”stupidity pays.” With cameras rolling, Spurlock paid a man to gulp down an entire 24-ounce jar of mayonnaise. He got a woman to shave her head, combine the hair with butter to form a giant hairball, and then eat it. Internet voyeurs could also see one guy chew on a piece of dog feces for Spurlock’s ready cash…

    Fast-forward to 2004. The mainstream media are lining up to shake hands with Spurlock, who now presents himself as a serious and socially concerned documentary filmmaker. Spurlock recently pontificated that ”If there’s one thing we could accomplish, it is that we make people think about what they put in their mouth.” This from a guy who once paid people to eat dog droppings…

    http://www.consumerfreedom.com/oped_detail.cfm/oped/165

    And Joe thanks for luring me in with your bait. One small part of my ealier post was challenged and I had to retort. Unfortunately in order to have a decent response to you I had to comment on the accuracy of Spurlock which isn’t really the issue for me so much as why do people pay attention to him.

  52. Joe,

    No, actually the puke was real, which means the premise was flawed. No one I know eats until he vomits, which makes the whole “I’m Just Eating the Way John Q. Everyman Eats” a bit of a stretch.

    PS I suspect he was on his second super-sized meal for the vomit scene, but then again that might just be me cluckin’.

  53. Has anyone seen Spurlock’s show on FX? How does this guy keep getting work?

  54. Brett thanks for the link will check it out.

    Joe,

    I figured you would at least have couple off the top of your head. A non-libertarian/individualist such as yourself certainly gets your news from other sources than just this one. Perhaps you are just a libertarian who enjoys playing devils advocate?

    Not that there is anything wrong with that…

  55. Myself, I don’t have big problems with climatologists on the global warming issue. I accept that it’s more likely than not that the earth’s temperature is increating, and that it’s more likely than not that technological production (or technically, by-production) of greenhouse gases is enough to cause this trend.

    I however, also accept that climatologists don’t have anything like consistent, agreed-upon predictions for how much hotter the earth is getting, how much hotter it will be at given times at certain levels of greenhouse gas production, what the precise effects of those heat rises will be, and how much reduction is necessary to stop the heating trend. Predictions for temperature rise over the next century with a fixed level of pollution vary by more than an order of magnitude, depending on who you ask.

    And this is all well and good. Science is about poking at things, measuring them, and refining understanding of them. No conspiracy, no failure: it’s just the process. I look forward to more study and greater understanding of global warming, which will provide much more precision for predictions of future climate.

    What I do have big problems with are the people who express certainty on the very things the scientists haven’t pinned down, particularly writers, journalists, editorialists, and political activists who cherry-pick and/or selectively edit (or sometimes simply fabricate in the last case) worst-case scenarios in order to demand or support political action. Not to mention politicians justifying their activities with poor science.

    An activity for the dubious: read an article or essay on climate change or a press release from an environmental group and take a look at whatever global warming scenarios and temperature rise numbers they describe. Now, find the source of this claim. Many times, this will just be another article, essay, or propaganda piece. If you’re lucky, you might get an institution, usually a university, mentioned as the source of the original researcy. If you’re really lucky, you’ll actually get some names – actual climatologists! – and possibly a year. If you get enough information, try to look up that actual study. Skim the abstract, figures, and the conclusion if it’s horribly long. Compare what the study says to the claims in what you read.

    Did they pick the absolute worst-case scenario and present it as the only possibility the climatologist(s) described (or, to the picky and defensive, is that the only possibility they bothered to mention)? Did they fudge any of the numbers (perhaps giving only the top end of a range of possibilities)? Did they present something the climatologist fell all over himself to emphasize as an interesting possibility with no firm evidence, but worth investigating as a certainty? Did they even completely get it wrong, either by misunderstanding or misrepresenting what the study said?

    It shouldn’t be mind-boggling to suggest that laymen arguing about science in a political context might get aspects of it wrong, simplify it to make things more exciting in a story, or be willing to shade the truth to make their arguments more persausive. It shouldn’t be hard to believe that politicians aren’t themselves impartial, scientifically literate individuals with no other concerns than to make policy with the best conformance to known scientific information.

  56. Ash,

    Don’t you think the calorie (and fat, and carb, and salt) content of McDonald’s food makes your oh-so-careful hairsplitting between “McDonald’s food” and “calories” a little phoney?

    “He didn’t prove that McDonald’s food makes you fat. He proved that eating too many calories makes you fat. By, uh, eating McDonald’s food…”

    This next part’s for you, fcnolan,

    “…the way the employees of McDonald’s recommend you eat it.”

  57. And if it’s somehow pointless and unnecessary to criticize a documentary filmmaker’s claims because he has no obligation to tell the truth or be correct, how much more pointless and unnecessary is it to complain about people criticizing him?

  58. Wow, RC, that’s a pretty big conspiracy theory you’ve got there.

    I think that Crichton’s analogy to early 20th century thinking regarding eugenics was a good one. It showed how it is possible for an idea to overwhelm the scientific community. It is not a matter of conspiracy, but an issue of faith trumping science. I’m not one to claim that global warming is hogwash. But I’ve yet to see concrete evidence that supports the doom and gloom warnings that are fairly predominant in both scientific literature and the MSM.

  59. In a world where “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” you have to wonder whether there’s a positive or negative effect by continually bringing the work of Spurlock, for example, to people’s attention.

    At minimum, the would-be critic needs to do enough damage to his target to offset the free publicity he’s giving it; otherwise he’s done the opposite of what he’s set out to do. How many well-worded zingers does it take to offset one DVD rental caused by piquing the curiosity of one of your readers? How many “fraudulent misrepresentations” do you have to unearth to offset the income generated by the sale of one movie ticket and a giant box of popcorn?

  60. Eric the .5b,

    Nice post (2:18 pm).

  61. Eric,

    “I however, also accept that climatologists don’t have anything like consistent, agreed-upon predictions for how much hotter the earth is getting, how much hotter it will be at given times at certain levels of greenhouse gas production…” Actually, they have ranges and confidence intervales for these topics. If they DID claim consistent, agreed-upon predictions for those variable, THEN I’d be skeptical.

    “what the precise effects of those heat rises will be,” With the emphasis on the word “precise,” I guess.

    “…and how much reduction is necessary to stop the heating trend” Right you are.

    And of course politicians are full of hot air. But the broad consensus from the NAS, NSF, and the overwhelming majority of climatologists would seem to recommend that those most deserving of a skeptical reading are those political figures – CATO, Jame Inhofe, AEI, George Bush – who are so at odds with the large and growing consensus, and who rely on conspiracy theories to explain why their preferred outcomes are so wildly implausible to the scientific community.

  62. And if Spurlock’s purpose is to “start a discussion”, why is it so important to some people that the discussion not wander over to matters like “is this film full of shit?”

  63. (I get a giggle and a suspicious grin every time someone refers to “CATO”… But no matter.)

    What conspiracy claims have the Cato Institute made about global warming?

  64. MP,

    Eugenics was not, fundamentally, a scientific pursuit, but a values-based one. Eugenic theories are not indpendently verifiable, or falsibiable. You accept that this sort of person is superior to another sort of person, or the entire structure collapses.

    This is not the case with climatology – there is either more energy stirring the atmosphere, or there is not. The temperature gets hotter, or it doesn’t. Sea levels are here, or they’re there. There is not leap of faith or statement of principles involved in the science of climatology.

  65. “I get a giggle and a suspicious grin every time someone refers to “CATO”…”

    You know what, it’s the RAND/Rand thing.

    Cato routinely asserts dark motives towards scientific bodies that don’t tow their line.

  66. Actually, they have ranges and confidence intervales for these topics. If they DID claim consistent, agreed-upon predictions for those variable, THEN I’d be skeptical.

    Correct, but they have distinctly different ranges and confidence intervals in their predictions.

  67. Cato routinely asserts dark motives towards scientific bodies that don’t tow their line.

    Cool. Cite where they’ve claimed that specifical climatologists or climatologists in general are conspiring to lie to us.

  68. Jacob Sullum article below provides some more information on super size me.

    Sullum article on Spurlock

  69. Climatology isn’t the thing to compare to eugenics, environmentalism is. It’s not the matter of science, but the political framing of science in service of an agenda.

  70. “I get a giggle and a suspicious grin every time someone refers to “CATO”…”

    You know what, it’s the RAND/Rand thing.

    Don’t know in the case of RAND/Rand, but a lot of very sloppy attacks on the Cato Institute usually get the name wrong. People quoting them and unfamiliar with the actual organization usually continue the error, so sometimes – not always – it’s a hint about the commentator, the commentator’s sources, etc.

  71. His show ?30 Days? isn?t bad TV. The one about the guy trying to reverse the aging process with a HGH and testosterone was interesting and raised many of the points brought up in these pages. If estrogen treatments are ok for women in menopause, why can’t aging men get testosterone treatments? The one with the Anglo Christian guy living as a Muslim was good TV as well. I’m looking forward to the homophobe living in the Castro that’s on tonight.

    His stuff just strikes me as a somewhat more intelligent form of reality TV. I don’t always agree with where he goes with it and he is often far from intellectually honest, but he presents interesting questions in an entertaining manner. Most of the time.

    I do agree that most of his conclusions fall into the “No shit Spurlock,” category.

    If you eat at McDonalds 3 times a day for 30 days you’ll get fat. No shit.

    It’s hard to live on minimum wage. No shit.

    Not all Muslims are terrorists. No shit.

    But that?s not really the point. He?s a showman pure and simple. I check out his stuff for the same reason I?ll cruise by Limbaugh or Fraken every now and then. He may piss me off, but he?ll do it in style.

  72. I do agree that most of his conclusions fall into the “No shit Spurlock,” category.

    Notice, though the trouble he does to present these “no shit” conclusions. McDonalds food can make you fat if you eat there a lot and have the largest portions, and McDonalds presents the largest portions suggestively? That’s a fair point to make, a “no shit” issue. What does this have to do with literally stuffing his face at McDonalds until he pukes? That’s more than just showmanship, that’s showmanship with an agenda.

  73. “Cato routinely asserts dark motives towards scientific bodies that don’t tow their line.”

    In other words, exactly what you’re doing with regards to them.

  74. “That’s more than just showmanship, that’s showmanship with an agenda.”

    I don’t disagree Eric, but so is Pen and Teller’s Bullshit. I like both shows. I don’t have to agree with someone’s agenda to be entertained by it. I’m a grown-up. I can filter.

  75. I’m a grown-up. I can filter.

    So? I’m still missing the reason why there’s anything wrong with criticizing this guy. I’d love an explanation, from people posting dismissive comments on a libertarian blog, why it’s so ridiculous to talk about a supposedly non-fiction book or movie.

  76. i’d like that same explanation, but from martian bunnies.

  77. Eric.

    Chill dude. I was just giving my opinion on the show. I think it’s a good thing that guys like Radley are out there debunking him. (Although I do find a libertarian invoking “it’s for the children” a little ironic.) There’s nothing wrong with criticizing his obviously crappy book with a reasoned point-by-point takedown. I just don’t think we should get our panties in a twist over the guy. He’s a showman with an agenda, but the key word is showman.

  78. Zach: Heh. My point is that if talking about a documentary is somehow pointless, posting on a fringe political forum to complain about someone talking about a documentary much be much more pointless.

    Ralphus: I’m chilled, and you’re cool. I’m just amused at this defense for guys like Spurlock and Moore, especially when it gets used by people who’ll turn around and talk about the importance of their work…

  79. Rather, “must be much more pointless”

  80. RC Dean, you lying sack of crap:

    “Since all too many of those pushing the global warming agenda are also sucking up government grants (making money, no?) and pushing political fixes (Kyoto), scrutiny they get as well.”

    The climate scientists being bought are those working for the oil companies and their think tanks. There’s no demands made there about good science; just that the science point to the conclusion that GW isn’t happening.

    You’re a particularly loathsome fuck.

  81. well there it is.

  82. Maybe it’s already on Balko’s site (I can’t access it now), but are you guys all aware of Soso Whaley the “anti-Spurlock” — the woman who ate exclusively at McDonald’s for a month, and lost weight and lowered her cholesterol? And made a documentary about it?

    Interview. (I’m sorry it’s at NRO, which some of you will find distasteful, but it’s an interview of the source, not an editorial. Gives some good detailed info.)

    Oh, just found another source of info I know some of you have heard of.

  83. “You’re a particularly loathsome fuck.”

    “people only take you seriously if you swear every other word. It’s prevalent in the literature of the time…”

    Double-dumbass on you!

  84. CATO

    I think it would be cool to open up a martial arts school and call it the Kato Institute.

  85. Coming Soon:

    Morgan & Me – Filmmaker Michael Moore eats filmmaker Morgan Spurlock in 30 days and loses weight.

    “A searing indictment of right-wing capitalist greed.” – A. O. Scott, New York Times

    “Flawless research and undeniable moral truths unmask the Republican agenda. A must see!” – Salon.com

    “Tasty!” – Gene Shalit

  86. OK, I had to snarf at “tasty”.

  87. I think it would be cool to open up a martial arts school and call it the Kato Institute.

    It would be utterly badass if it were a martial arts/etiquette/high-performance driving school for manservants…

  88. … and utterly uncool if it were for blond surfer dudes who live in O.J. Simpson’s guesthouse.

  89. “Tasty!”

    *chuckle* (ditto on Stevo’s comments)

    the woman who ate exclusively at McDonald’s for a month, and lost weight and lowered her cholesterol?

    I have to admit, I really like their apple-grape fruit salad (at least they market it here in the Midwest – I don’t know if they have it in other locations of the US). That’s not unhealthy at all — at least until you dump the packet of sugared walnuts on it that comes with it. mmmm…

  90. I don’t buy the but he’s just an entertainer argument. I may have more social approbation if someone like Richard Dawkins were to come out with a book that played as fast and loose with the facts as this, but it wouldn’t make it more factually incorrect.

    The guy is not positioning himself as “just an entertainer” except when it becomes him to do so. Ditto Rush Limbaugh, Jon Stewart, and Michael Moore. The same way that Jon Stewart deflects criticisms of his own show (“Hey, we’re comedians. You’re criticizing a news show on Comedy Central?”) should pretty equally be applied to his own criticisms of other shows (“Oh, I’m glad we have the stand-up comic’s view of journalistic responsibility. Do you have Julia Child’s view of nuclear physics, as well?”).

    But Stewart, Spurlock, Moore, and Limbaugh don’t treat their own pronouncements as fluffy entertainment when they go on the offensive, only when on the defensive. They remind me of the bully with glasses–he’ll hit you, but if you hit back, you’re “hitting a kid with glasses.”

    Well, my sentiment has been that if you hit, you deserve to get hit. Similarly, the second you proffer something other than pure entertainment, you open yourself up to the same type of criticism. So Spurlock is getting his, and good on Radley for doing it.

    I note the Left has no trouble criticizing Limbaugh, so why should libertarians be criticized for critiquing Spurlock?

  91. Interesting discussion tangental to epistemology. Obviously people like Spurlock and Moore deserve closer scrutiny and criticism (if deserved) because they are getting so much attention, and enough people buy into their agenda that larger consequences can occur, not the least which is legislation intended to address the alleged problems.
    Part of the problem, though, is these guys are getting attention from average, mainstream people who will not be as critical or concerned about the quality of information and arguments, and are unlikely to turn to Reason or even Time to find out more. What’s really needed to counter people like Moore and Spurlock isn’t another Reason article or Cato Institute paper (not that those are without value), but an entertainer who won’t play fast and loose with the facts and research. That’s what I like about Michael Crichton.

  92. But hey…Entertainment Weekly looooves the guy…

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