To persuade you something is true, when it actually isn’t true at all, I have to achieve just two things:
- I have to conceal the real truth, so that you don’t see or recognise it.
- I have to make you believe in a comfortable alternate reality, where my deception appears as near to an acceptable ‘common sense truth’ as possible.
To make the point, here is a fine example of CokeSpeak:
The Australian Beverages Council, calling itself ‘the industry voice of the $7bn non-alcoholic beverages industry’, promotes the supposed health benefits of soft drinks on www.beveragehealth.org.au. (click the image to visit).
Let’s focus on this single paragraph, headed up ”GOOD AND BAD FOODS”:
- “People tend to classify foods as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. There is no such thing as a ‘bad food’ only ‘bad diets’. The best way to ensure that you eat a good diet, according to reputable nutritionists, is to consume a variety of foods and beverages in moderation.”
Sound advice, isn’t it? The way they put it, it’s just common sense, hard to disagree, and as reputable nutritionists think the same, then so shall I. Pass that fizzy drink over here, please.
This is the great power of CokeSpeak. All the complicated science about nutrition, obesity, diabetes, and sugar … I don’t have to worry, I don’t have to change my habits. I can drink what I like, so long as I have a good variety, in moderation.
But take a closer look at what Australian Beverages Council are really saying:
They start off by saying something that is trivial, but very likely true: people classifying foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. For the sake of argument, let’s agree and believe them.
Next, ‘there is no such thing as bad food only bad diets’. Where did this idea suddenly spring from? If true, where is the evidence? There are a host of questions we should ask about this statement, but we generally don’t. Because it has been slipped in just after we have read something we do believe, and crucially because it’s something we would like to believe: an ideal world where there is no bad food. Excess salt, sugar, trans-fats and poisonous mushrooms either don’t exist, or exist only in your diet, not in your actual food. Heaven, especially chocolate heaven…
By now, we are ready to believe almost anything Australian Beverages Council tell us. We bought their alternate reality, and are enjoying the psychological reward of comfort and security, the knowledge that our eating habits are just fine. And just to confirm this, we are told that ‘reputable nutritionists’ recommend we consume a variety of foods and beverages in moderation. We should ask who these unnamed nutritionists are, and what about all those nutritionists who say the exact opposite, but we don’t. We should point out that the advice to ‘consume a variety of foods and beverages in moderation’ is a completely meaningless piece of advice, but we don’t. We take it as confirmation that all is well with our world and crack open that can of cold fizzy.
This is a simple, common but effective example of CokeSpeak. All you have to do is (a) include truisms or half truths to gain credibility, (b) mix in words such as ‘in moderation’ and ‘healthy diet’ to increase trust and reduce your resistance to the message, and finally (c) add some crooked logic to glue it all together, in this case suggesting ‘reputable nutritionists’.
The fact that there are plenty of ‘bad foods’ and plenty of reputable nutritionists who disagree with these statements has been cleverly concealed under what appears to be a ‘common sense’ statement of truth.
Game, set and match for Australian Beverages Council. Good onya, says Alice.
For an explanation of the different phases of CokeSpeak, see: