Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Fast Food Nation

Well, to those (very select) members of the global elite who have been invited to read these words, may I bid you very warm greetings. You'll know the strange week that I've been subjected to: a strange week which is the culmination of some steady weirdness, steady hoodoo, that's been a personal theme since the closing stages of 2007 and into the new year. But such things come in cycles; and it's a cliche, but a truism, that's it's often just when you think things can get no worse they start to get steadily better. So in spite of everything, I feel empowered; ready to begin a new chapter of my life with optimism and confidence.

Homily over.

I've been reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser recently: a global bestseller, which, like Naomi Klein's No Logo and a raft of copycat works, dissects American culture from the perspective of some of its most successful brands: in Schlosser's case, its fast food joints. It was marketed, to some extent, as a shopfloor expose; but the meat of the book is not its many (valid) criticisms of the content of your average hamburger; but the even deadlier effect of the procedures that the industry has spawned: a factory-line mentality, whose 'successes' are now imitated in almost area of industry. McDonald's, who wrote the book on employee processing, is fingered as one of the worst offenders; and it is interesting, therefore, that the birth of this chain occurred in Anaheim, California: the same city that gave the world the Hell's Angels. Ray Kroc, still the company's CEO, is frequently credited with introducing the innovations which made it the envy of the Republican elite; one of the book's most interesting sections outlines the many similarities (and 'synergies') between Kroc and Walt Disney- the man who brought the Process to Hollywood. The same chapter concludes with an excellent description of Disney's Tomorrowland attraction: which was the subject of an article by Miss Hoi Polloi not so long ago. I thought this information compliments a few of the points that she made there.

'After the war, Disney continued to work closely with top military officials and military contractors, becoming America's most popular exponent of Cold War science. For audiences living in fear of nuclear annihilation, Walt Disney became a source of reassurance, making the latest technical advances seem marvellous and exciting... [His] passion for science found expression in 'Tomorrowland', the name given to a section of his theme park and to segments of his weekly television show. Tomorrowland encompassed everything from space travel to the household appliances of the future, depicting progress as a relentless march toward greater convenience for consumers. And yet, from the very beginning, there was a dark side to this Tomorrowland. It celebrated technology without moral qualms. Some of the science if espoused later proved to be not so benign- and some of the scientists it promoted were unusual role models for the nation's children.

In the mid-1950s Wenher von Braun cohosted and helped produce a series of Disney television shows on space exploration... At the time, von Braun was the US Army's leading rocket scientist. He had served in the same capacity for the German army during WW2. He had been an early and enthusiastic member of the Nazi party, as well as a major in the SS. At least 20,000 slave laborers, many of them Allied prisoners of war, died at Dora-Nordhausen, the factory where von Braun's rockets were built. Less than ten years after the liberation of Dora-Nordhausen, von Braun was giving orders to Disney animators and designing a ride at Disneyland called Rocket to the Moon.

Heinz Haber, another key Tomorrowland adviser- and eventually the chief scientific consultant to Walt Disney Productions- spent much of WW2 conducting research on high-speed, high-altitude flight for the Luftwaffe Institute for Aviation Medicine. In order to assess the risks faced by German air force pilots, the institute performed experiments on hundreds of inmates at the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. The inmates who survived these experiments were usually killed and then dissected. Haber left Germany after the war and shared his knowledge of aviation medicine with the US Army Air Force. He later cohosted Disney's 'Man in Space' with von Braun. When the Eisenhower administration asked Walt Disney to produce a show championing the civilian use of nuclear power, Heinz Haber was given the assignment. He hosted the Disney broadcast called 'Our Friend the Atom' and wrote a popular children's book with the same title... 'Our Friend the Atom' was sponsored by General Dynamics, a manufacturer of nuclear reactors. The company also financed the atomic submarine ride at Disney's Tomorrowland.'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_Food_Nation

3 comments:

hoi polloi said...

Very interesting... This also ties in nicely with that little article you posted about McDonald's mice becoming human.

Glasgow Greensmoke said...

Yes, I have those Tomorrowland shows on DVD, they are fantastic. My favourite is EYES IN SPACE where they show how they are going to control the weather using drone aircraft spreading chemical trails, cooling towers creating cumulus clouds, radio antennae for grounding lightning and steering jetstream currents and a fleet of weather satellites to observe and command the operation. All demonstrated in a dramatised example where they steer a hurricane away from New Orleans. Produced in 1959 I believe.

Of course the Disney family have been part of the power establishment since the Norman invasion of England in 1066 when they were known as the D'isgneys and rewarded for their role in the battle of Hastings by being given Lincolnshire as a principality which they ruled over for hundreds of years from their stronghold in Norton Disney (you can visit the church there and see the Disney family tombs). At the time, pre-Plantagenet, the D'isgney coat of arms was the three lions we see today on England's coat of arms... and Estonia's.

Even then they had the tourist trade sewn up with their visitor attractions, only then they were into the 'worlds tallest building' game with Lincoln Cathedral. Then strangely enough St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn, Estonia became the tallest building in the world.

But let us not dwell on the past, let us instead go back to Fantasyland, the happiest kingdom of them all.

3 Lions on a shirt or Mickey Mouse occasionally we all have to change our logo and update our brand don't we?

JM said...

I highly recommend Richard Linklater & Eric Schlosser's dramatised film of the book - a tragic journey into the Heart of Darkness of America's nutritional wasteland & its human fallout.