Tuesday 26 October 2010

Time To Cut Jamie Oliver

It's no secret that my opinion of Jamie Oliver is less than complimentary. In fact, I think he's a naïve, self-important, nannying, lucre-obsessed prick who has cost the country £1bn already (and he wants more) by pushing government into enforcing rules on school dinners which are doomed to failure. They'll fail because they are based on coercion and a condescending attitude which human nature naturally abhors.

So it was interesting to stumble across this article the other day which kinda mirrors the points I've been making here.

Brian Wansink and David R. Just of Cornell University published an interactive graphic in the New York Times that illustrates how subtle cafeteria changes, not finger-wagging campaigns, can make a big difference in the way kids eat:
Children and teenagers resist heavy-handed nutritional policies — and the food that is associated with the heavy hand. No food is nutritious, after all, until it is actually eaten.

A smarter lunchroom wouldn’t be draconian. Rather, it would nudge students toward making better choices on their own by changing the way their options are presented. One school we have observed in upstate New York, for instance, tripled the number of salads students bought simply by moving the salad bar away from the wall and placing it in front of the cash registers.
There are caveats here. Firstly, yes, the article is hosted at the Center for Consumer Freedom, an organisation funded by the food industry, and also this is discussing 'nudging' which would usually be anathema to a libertarian.

However, the funding would seem irrelevant considering their opinion is backed up by evidence which not only appears legit, but is also pretty obviously common sense to anyone who spends any time with the public. Besides, who can possibly object to nudging when it is done in such a way as to retain full freedom of choice?

And choice is most definitely the key to this. Nothing is banned, denied, limited, or discouraged in this theory, merely given less prominence. If a student in their hypothetical canteen wishes to eat unhealthy food, nothing is stopping them. But merely by placing 'healthier' options in different locations, or by describing food differently, the choices made are drastically altered.

Personally, I don't believe it is the concern of any government to meddle in our lives or 'save' us from perceived unhealthy decisions, but if they really feel they must, then subtle - non-coercive - methods such as these should be the way they go about it.

However, what healthists - and the dangerously counter-productive Oliver - seem incapable of understanding is that hectoring and restriction of choice will always lead to failure and unintended consequences. So disastrous has Oliver's crusade been, for example, that hundreds of councils across the country are now hampering local businesses as a direct result.

Yet the righteous seem too dull-minded to see what is as plain as the nose on their face. Coercion doesn't work; restrictions don't work; bans don't work; and prohibition has never worked.

By contrast, benign non-compulsory encouragement does, simply because it carries the public with it and makes everyone happy to co-operate. In tobacco control, smoking bans invariably halt decreases in smoker prevalence; in road management, shared space schemes all but eradicate accidents entirely; in the workplace, a popular boss will invariably derive better productivity from his staff than a bully; in fact, in any walk of life, if you promote personal responsibility and afford respect to the public, they will reciprocate and work with you.

Now, I've been taken to task on Oliver before, the general idea being that at least he is doing something, or 'his heart is in the right place'. But, if so, when is he going to see that his methods are not only failing, but also causing more problems than they are solving? If he can't, I'd suggest he is woefully under-qualified in the grey matter department and, therefore, shouldn't have any fucking sway with government just because he can do a wicked toad in the hole.

However, if he does recognise that things aren't quite working out how he imagined - and food being passed through school gates, crying on-screen, plus being ridiculed by Letterman would tend to suggest he has noticed a certain resistance - then one can only assume that it's blind ignorance, a holier-than-thou attitude, and the resultant bumper cheques that are driving him on.

Which helps no-one but Oliver himself. The dictatorial cock.


Anonymous said...

I've just enjoyed a nice home cooked cheeseburger, and have washed it down with a vodka and a cigarette.

At least I wouldn't call a child of mine "Buddy-Bear" however drunk I was.

SpiteK said...

"Time To Cut Jamie Oliver"

Oh, please. I'll even provide my own knife.

PT Barnum said...

Jamie Oliver's biggest problem is that he has no self-awareness. He knows he sees the truth and if he can only show it to other people, they will too. If they won't, he'll just have to try again and harder.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Now, who knows most about manipulating (or 'nudging' to use the trendy word) food consumers into buying things? Food producers and food retailers. Sometimes psychological manipulation could be a good thing, I suppose, if one uses our learnt mental categories and symbolism to guide us towards a better choice. But it could be a dangerous old slope to start on. Good intentions and the road to hell...

Anonymous said...

Hello, Dick and fellow readers

Nudging is a (very) left-wing American idea. Cass Sunstein, who's got some rather unusual ideas about life and the universe, co-wrote a book about nudging. It's all quite authoritarian.

I, too, had a go at Jamie over the weekend:


Would love to have had a conversation with the people from West Virginia!

All the best

Junican said...

I think that the authors of that report were using the word 'nudge' in a more old-fashioned way. If one 'nudged' a person standing next to one (mostly the acts of schoolchildren), It was merely A SUGGESTION that that person moves over a bit. The way in which it is used by the zealots is to use FORCE a little at a time. Just another misuse of our language, I'm afraid. Not dissimilar to the use of the word 'abuse'. We used to know what the word 'abuse' meant. One could 'abuse' one's position by bullying people at work; one could shout insults at people, which was considered to be 'abuse'. Now, no one really knows what it means - it all depends upon what the user wishes to have his listener respond emotionally to.
Of course, it is a sad reflection on society that so many people actually DO respond emotionally rather than use their reason. Remember the Billy Piper story? I lost count of the "disgusting"s and "Poor dear"s.
Educashun, educashun.

Chuckles said...

'I think he's a naïve, self-important, nannying, lucre-obsessed prick'

And those are presumably his good points...

You might mention that his whole crusade is merely regurgitated received wisdom. Food is food, and nutritionally, the concept that there is 'good' food or 'bad' food is laughable, as Sandy at Junkfoodscience has pointed out many times.

Anonymous said...

Did you forget the 's Throat from your title?

Dick Puddlecote said...

SpiteK & Anon @ 11:38, the alternative use of the word cut didn't occur to me at time of writing ... it was just an extremely apposite coincidence. :)