More than boogers and pizza

Speaking of food, there is more to the Domino’s YouTube PR disaster than a bunch of board teens having fun with their cellphone cameras. It represents another example of the denigration of our food system. In Italy this kind of thing would be unheard of because the places where I buy pizza I have a relationship with the proprietor and cooks. We know each other, so through our relationship and human connection, we feed off each other, so-to-speak. We are not engaged in a dehumanized food environment.

The following commentary really captures what I think has been missing in the discussion of the Domino’s story. In it the author links the video with Sinclair’s The Jungle and Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. (I recommend reading the whole commentary)

Communicative Action: Digital Sinclair:

From the perspective of a media ecologist, the actual food-handling and inexcusable “tampering” are secondary to the communication of the story itself. Upon reading and watching the story on-line, it occurred to me that I was witnessing a kind of Digital Sinclair. The workers, themselves, had exposed the horrific treatment of our food albeit without fully considering the consequences. (They have been arrested on felony charges.) The exploitation of labor was lost on Sinclair’s audience, and perhaps again with respect to Schlosser [author of Fast Food Nation]. Perhaps it was the very exploitation that each man sought to describe that drove the two Domino’s employees to perform their raunchy acts, and also to show them to the world at large. Perhaps the unspoken, psychological impact of thankless and robotic work in the fast food factory environment pushed them to abuse our food supply and then pushed them to cathartically demonstrate it to us. I’m only an amateur psychologist, but in terms of the medium, it appears as though the Internet and it’s many communication environments has taken the printed word, distilled it into the instinctive reactionary elements that touch us at some fundamental level, and eliminated the rest.

We still are given access to the horror, to revel in its raw power, but we are left without the depth of analysis and the contextual treatment that the literate-minded Sinclair, and his modern counterpart Schlosser, provided. The outcome is potentially the same. The sensational aspects of each story are what remain. The YouTube version of the story simply cuts out the wordiness of print and hits us where we react most instinctively. In the gut. If the outcome is oversight and reform, each of these examples spoke to the communication sensibilites of its public. If it’s understanding of the issue in a more complex and interconnected sense, with respect to its impact on labor and the human condition, it most certainly will fail. The critic will shout from the rooftops that this new medium is failing in a very specific sense, but I wonder if that critic might be forgetting the lessons of Sinclair’s experience.