Guns, Politics, and Freedom
August 5, 1997

The clown must die!

By F. Paul Valone


The following column ran in The Charlotte Observer on August 5, 1997 at the point litigation was being directed by cities and even federal agencies against the tobacco and gun industries.


‘Joe Camel may have puffed his last, but his evil half brother Ronald McDonald, The Purveyor of Fat, continues to deal death among children.’


The clown has to go; as a hustler for high fat junk food, Ronald McDonald is a luxury we can no longer afford.


According to Kelly D. Brownell, director of Yale’s Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, Americans are victims of a “toxic food environment,” produced by a “diet that is high in fat, high in calories, delicious, widely available and low in cost.”  This must stop.


Ever the reasonable man, Dr. Brownell published a report in the journal Addictive Behavior proposing a system which subsidizes healthy foods, taxes unhealthy foods, and funnels proceeds into nutrition education and public exercise programs. 


“Addictive.”  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  What could be more addictive than juicy, delicious, cheap food?  Gimmicks like “supersizing” and “value meals” are little more than hypodermic needles designed to mainline fat into the arteries.


Says Herr Doctor, “Junk-food advertisements should be regulated, and excise taxes imposed on high-fat foods, just as they are on tobacco and alcohol.”


What a brilliant idea!  To maximize the program’s efficiency, we’ll make sure the federal government administers it.  Maybe we can even create a brand new federal agency.  Like most academics, however, Brownell doesn’t exploit all of the political tools at his disposal.


Let’s start by suing Ronald McDonald.  Not just one suit, mind you, but dozens in all fifty states.  Of course, we aren’t likely to actually win any (reasonable juries, after all, understand that people make up their own minds about what they eat).  But once the jackal pack of lawyers besets ol’ Ronald, there will be no escape.  Ask tobacco executives.


I can see the headlines now: “McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s executives, while continuing to deny they artificially raised the “juiciness” - and therefore the saturated fat - in their hamburgers, are negotiating with Attorneys General for 32 states…”


In terms of youth appeal, Joe Camel was a rank amateur compared to Ronald McDonald.  Says Brownell, “As a culture, we get upset about Joe Camel, yet we tolerate our children seeing 10,000 commercials a year that promote foods that are every bit as unhealthy.”


Remember those horrid Ronald McDonald commercials?  A Christmastime Ronald on skates in a grotesque parody of a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale.  Ronald cavorting with characters like “The Hamburglar” (a criminal role model if ever there was).


And who hasn’t heard of “Beenie Babies?”  Has McDonald’s no decency?  This evil clown actually lures little children with toys.  (Although, in fairness, the toys used as bait aren’t really available, just “sold out.”  Ask any parent).


Clogged arteries.  Hearts attacks.  Strokes.   Ronald McDonald has probably killed more children than Joe Camel and The Marlboro Man combined.


Consider too the shortsightedness of newspapers which rejoiced in writing “epitaphs” for the deceased camel.  “Smokin’ Joe” may have puffed his last, but his evil half-brother Ronald McDonald, The Purveyor of Fat, continues to deal death among children.


The right wingers, of course, will complain that Ronald’s death, like Joe’s, is a threat to freedom of speech.  But, as usual, they fail to understand that the fat old white guys who wrote the Constitution couldn’t possibly have foreseen how the First Amendment could be used to corrupt our children.  We, the enlightened, must right their wrong.


So let’s begin:  Start with a fifty cent hamburger tax.  No Whoppers for children under 18.  Ban TV and radio advertising.  Big Macs in plain white wrappers with black print screaming, “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: THIS FOOD CONTAINS SATURATED FAT WHICH CAUSES ARTERIAL BLOCKAGE, HEART ATTACK AND DEATH.”


Obviously, any politician with the audacity to oppose us wants dead children.


Endless opportunities await us: Guns, liquor, meat, automobiles, coffee…  By using the magic triad - taxation, litigation, and behavior modification - we can create the world we know is best.


A few of you probably harbor lingering, archaic concerns about “individual rights.”  But eventually you will realize that what we propose is but a small and vital restriction to your freedoms.


So if, as the First Lady is fond of saying, “it takes a village to raise a child,” then gather, ye villagers, at the square.  Bring your pitchforks and your torches; storm the gates of McDonaldland.  And kill the clown.  Do it now.  Do it … for the children.