Power to the people

I was struck by this stat in a New York Times story today about consumers taking charge of their junk mail: 148,471,508 phone numbers are now on the federal do-not-call list with 300,000 more added every week. There weren’t that many votes cast for President in 2004. Pardon me, but I have to reach into the drawer and dust off my T-shirt with Jarvis’ First Law of media and life: Give people control and we will use it; don’t give us control and you will lose us. Give us the chance to take control of our lives, and we will, by the hundreds of millions. And then I was struck by a second story in the paper: A grocery store put up its own labels rating foods on their nutritional value and found that it affected sales: more people bought the good stuff. Give us information and you give us control and we will use it. Isn’t that what media is all about? It’s simple and obvious but too often forgotten.

  • Nasser

    Amazing that you can still be so naive

  • Eric Gauvin

    I can’t say that a three-star nutritional rating system is a great example of “power to the people.” It’s a marketing promotion and represents the dumbing down of American consumers. Do you really think this will provide people with an increased knowledge of nutrition and empower them to make better decisions about what foods to eat?

  • Sam Davis

    I don’t think this is naive at all. When people have information and the concurrent freedom to control their own lives, by and large – studies show more than 65%, btw – they make the right decisions.

    Why is this? Because any reasonably intelligent adult is far better able to make decisions about his or her own life – the life with which he or she is most familiar – than an expert, technocrat or similar crat at a government bureau somewhere.

    We are not sheep and we do not need public authority Border collies to herd us around.

  • Eric Gauvin

    A three-star rating system provided by a supermarket whose objective is to sell you products doesn’t sound like more information—it sounds like less information. Why not just read the label, which already has a lot if info?

  • Sam,

    People are sheep.

  • Pingback: Future Visions()

  • Eric, it’s not about the numbers it’s about making those numbers real, making them front and center.

    If we put warning labels on everything from cigarettes to high chairs, why not on food? Wouldn’t this send a stronger message?

    For more check out my post at http://jburg.typepad.com/future/2007/09/protecting-cons.html

  • Eric Gauvin


    I’ll ask my original question:

    Do you really think this (extremely simplistic means of communication nutritional facts) will provide people with an increased knowledge of nutrition and empower them to make better decisions about what foods to eat? Do you agree with Jeff Jarvis that this is “Power to the people?”

  • Just wanted to drop a note to say I enjoy the blog and the lively commenting crowd.

  • Guy Love

    The label connection is an interesting thing in the sense that all the big corporate food companies fight tooth and nail to make sure that the consumer doesn’t know what they are eating or drinking. Organic fopd has somehow caught on in spite of this effort to suppress information (word of mouth, internet?). Genetic modified food has been a well kept secret from most consumers, and I truly hope that eventually consumers will get the upper hand on the food companies as they seem to be doing with the media companies. This could actually lead to a solution for the obesity problem once people where better informed and demanded the food companies to toe the line or else suffer the consequences. Hopefully, the free flow of information will eventually break through in this area as it has in others.