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This guys use of statistics is dubious. What exactly is "the retail industry", anyhow? Does it include grocery stores? Yeah, damn those corporate whores, convincing us we need to eat.


This is the most debateable article you've posted thusfar, because it's not actually a criticism of his methods, it's a criticism of his ideas.

There are clear arguments to be made on both sides of the materialism debate. Clearly, many individuals are able to be as happy or happier without as many material possessions as they would normally make do with--but some are not. As you mention, consumption and purchasing are voluntary; but advertising does have an effect on the consumers.

The best part of this particular debunking is the illustration that his statistic, again, is wrong. Just because $8 trillion was spent on purchases does not mean that all of those purchases are frivolous and contributing to that culture of consumerism he is discussing.

To be honest, I believe your blog would be seen as a more credible resource if you stuck to debunking bad sourcing, poor statistics, and logical fallacies presented by Spurlock rather than actually engaging the main points in debate.

For example, if you look at your previous post citing the "ill effects" of Splenda, it does not matter who you are or how you feel about Spurlock's work, you can read your post and realize "Hey, Spurlock is full of shit." In this post, you raise very valid points--but they're quite debateable and really are about the nature of sociology and psychology rather than Spurlock in specific.


John Jenkins

Clearly, many individuals are able to be as happy or happier without as many material possessions as they would normally make do with--but some are not.

This proves the point. *Having* choices is better than not having them. People then can choose whether to buy and what to buy on their own as makes them most happy.

The thesis that some people are made less happy by having choices doesn't make sense for healthy people. Some people have psychological issues, I suppose, that could cause them problems, but that is hardly cause to reduce choices.

Materialism as such (by which I assume you mean accumulating possessions and not philosophical materialism) might be debateable insofar as whether *having* more stuff is necessarily good, buy as you note yourself that is a personal choice and to deny some that choice because others might abuse the abilitiy to choose is simply wrong.


" least violent society in the history of mankind"

Really ? Haven't you guys started the most wars by any country on the planet ?

404 - Name Not Found

"Really ? Haven't you guys started the most wars by any country on the planet ?"

Considering the US has only been around for 229 years, probably not.

Wild Pegasus

From an old Agitator commentor, I have to say that this site is awesome. I love to see someone shove it right up that self-righteous prig's ass. Good show, Rad.

- Josh

Brian Hawkins

Well...assuming the trend continued in 2004, the $8 trillion spent on "crap" presumably includes the $10.5 million that Supersize Me made at the box office...

And who knows how much was spent on the DVD...

Evan Williams

Well, that example DOES hold true, since 'Stupid Size Me' IS actually crap.

I think it is also worth pondering/investigating: what does Spur[ious]lock do with all the millions of dollars he made? Does anyone know? Does he wear a burlap sack as clothing? Does he get around on a homemade wooden bicycle? Does he only eat nuts and berries that he found in the woods? If not, then, well, he contributed to that 8 trillion dollars worth of "crap". Which makes him nothing more than a hypocrite.

Jacob Morse

Let me say, first, that I'm not by any means a Spurlock "fan." However, I think the people that criticize him most are the ones that are missing his point. It seems to me that he is not attacking consuption, per se, nor capitalism, nor any other idea pertaining to free markets. What he's condemning is what he says plainly, "disastrous effects of all our overconsumption."

See that? OVERconsumption.

Spurlock is disgusted by materialism as an attitude, not capitalism as a system. Arguing that the massive dependence upon pharmeceutical "happy pills" is a good thing (even if it's a result of capitalism) is a little too much for me to swallow.


the thing is, people assume that more prozac = more depressed people. i'm not saying that's necessarily false, but look at it from this angle: imagine there is a (relatively) fixed number of depressed people in america at any given year. if that's true, then more prozac = fewer depressed people. i'm not saying that's the truth either, but it's an interesting thing to think about.



Let me get this straight. It's ok for there to be crap in the world, but it's not ok for Spurlock to write a book you think is crap?

You can't have it both ways. Just be happy that other people are happy reading Spurlock's book and that's that.


Josh, I don't think anyone has said that Spurlock shouldn't have the right to publish whatever he wants. Hell, he could write a book claiming to be the 1,000 year old grand Emporor of the planet Nebulon V, and he'd be free to sell it if he could find a publisher willing to print it. Capitalism allows him to do so. Hey, it worked for Carlos Casteneda!

But the flip side of the coin is that people like Radley have the right to point out flaws and inaccuracies in such a book. Or, in this particular case, to offer counter-arguments to his reasoning. That's also capitalism. That's an important part of capitalism, because his actions allow other people to be better educated consumers when they see Mr. Spurlock's book on the bookstore shelf.


Has Spurlock ever ACTUALLY said that he wants government intervention? Maybe he has, I don't know. If you want to be presenting facts, Radley, I applaud you for it. But you're just as guilty of a attacking strawmen as Spurlock if you're attacking him as a communist/socialist when he's never actually called for government intervention.

Radley Balko

Give me time.

Spurlock calls for a host of legislative remedies in his book.

In fact, at one point, he writes that he "prefers legislation" to other ways of fighting obesity.

I'll get to it.

Adam Ruth

I have a neighbor who is constantly attacking American consumerism for its terrible effects (she's not from here, she's from Europe). Yet she loves to shop at D.I. (it's a local non-profit thrift shop that sells donated clothing and other goods for very, very cheap) and brag about what wonderful deals she got and how EVERYONE should be doing that instead of shopping at Nordstrom. I have tried in vain to get her to understand that if we all shopped at D.I. THERE WOULDN'T BE ANYTHING THERE. It's the very people shopping at Nordstrom that allows her to get her fantastic deals. Some people just don't realize how easier their Luddite lives are because of us non-Luddites.


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