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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Growing Pains

Those do-gooders at Center For Science In The Public Interest are at it again.

This time their target is not fast food or agribusiness but the "male enhancement" supplement industry. Not that I suspect many people will pay much attention to them, despite their continued ability to make headlines.

I was starting to wonder when someone would target these commercials, since not only are they over-the-top hilarious, they advertise (in a particularly blatant fashion) a product that almost certainly doesn't actually work. They tap one of the great secret anxieties of nearly all humans unfortunate enough to have a Y-chromosome, namely the idea that everyone laughs at the size of his, er, manhood.

I wonder where the FTC was going to get consumer complaints from. Is there any guy out there who'd admit to taking these pills and further admit that they didn't work on him? Imagine how awkward a conversation with a bored and easily amused federal bureaucrat fielding that call to an FTC complaint hotline, or, better yet, an e-mail exchange about the subject that gets around the office. Not that, in my case, I'd be able to tell that string of e-mails from the approximately 50 unsolicited e-mails each day I get telling me that I should buy one or more of these products.

For some reason, whenever I see a CSPI press release, I wonder how it must feel to work there. (And not because I applied for a job there once.) It must be something like being a die-hard Los Angeles Clippers fan. They are often accused of being humorless busybodies who want to deny other people the right to enjoy their lives, but it takes a certain sense of humor, the kind of person who could come up with a quip like "Enzyte is more successful subtracting from the male wallet than it is adding to the male organ." If one is unable to mock the absurdity of the marketing of drugs called "Suregasm" and "Pro-Erex," then life as a watchdog for the public against unscrupulous peddlers of snake oil would be miserable indeed. I can only assume that, given what liberal non-profits generally pay, some level of good humor and idealism are needed to work at them.

At the same time, I wonder about people who spend their careers advocating for the powers that be; lobbyists for business groups, corporate attorneys, and the like. If they are too successful, at some level, they're working themselves out of a job; for instance, if the Chamber of Commerce gets its entire free-trade, cheap labor, and minimal regulation agenda enacted, wouldn't its need for lobbyists in Washington at least go down some? How aware are their flacks of this dynamic?


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