If activists get something they want, they don’t go away. Even if they do deign to acknowledge a company for doing what activists asked for, they always push the goalposts further away — even if activists were wrong the first time.
The latest example is the response of the hyperbolically neo-Puritan Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and other activists to Coca-Cola’s call for an open discussion of obesity. The company called attention to its array of low- and zero-calorie options and its commitment to disclosing calorie information in an industry-wide agreement.
Rather than acknowledging a positive step, activists saw a fine opening to try moving the goalposts, using the opportunity to declare soda “running scared” and to call for the usual mix of bans and taxes. Just like vegan activists who demand changes to pork production in the hopes of eventual bacon bans, nutrition activists demand bans and taxes in the hopes of turning Carry Nation’s hatchet on drinks with sugar.
Why can’t activists just take a victory lap or engage in reasoned conversation? Economists speak of “public choice theory,” the doctrine that entities — even those that aren’t formally for-profit companies — will do whatever it takes to stay in business. For activists, that often means becoming more and more radical as time goes on. For example, the Humane Society of the United States, now all-vegan, was described not too long ago as “not a vegetarian organization” by its then-president.
For nutrition activists, becoming more radical involves a change in focus. As food companies adopt more nutrition disclosures, activists are changing tack from requiring transparency to dictating decisions. They’ve even developed a notion of “food addiction” to provide architecture for denying personal choice entirely.
Meanwhile, scientists from Cambridge University are finding that “Criteria for substance dependence translate poorly to food-related behaviors.” Cookies aren’t crack, but too many activist paychecks depend on arguing that they are.