You Might Be a Zombie . . . (22 page)

BOOK: You Might Be a Zombie . . .
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3. CARMINE

Carmine can also be identified on food labels as crimson lake, cochineal, Natural Red 4, CI 75470, or E120. We mention that because we’re guessing you’l want to check for it after reading this.

If you’re eating something red right now, or have recently, you’re probably eating carmine, which is ground-up cochineal insects—essential y mashed red beetles. Because you’re dying to know more, the insects are kil ed by exposure to heat or immersion in hot water and then dried. Because the female abdominal region that houses the fertilized eggs contains the most carmine, it is separated from the rest of the body, ground into a powder, and cooked at high temperatures to extract the maximum amount of color.

Then it’s added to that yogurt you ate this morning while lording your health consciousness over the guy in the cubicle next to you who had an Egg McMuffin.

Food manufacturers are wel aware that word has gotten out about exactly what carmine is and that people are less than crazy about it. So a number of crafty manufacturers have resorted to labeling it not as carmine but instead as “natural color,” thereby guaranteeing you’l never really know for sure if your cherry ice cream contains the USDA recommended amount of creepy crawlers.

Hey, speaking of that . . .

2. NATURAL FLAVOR

When it comes to food, most of us get nervous when people are intentionally vague. We steer clear of the street vendor sel ing “meat soup” and “food burritos.”

So when you see that a label has included “natural flavor,” you should be equal y alarmed. If you’re thinking the natural flavor in your orange candy must have come from oranges, think again. If it was from oranges, they would say so right on the can. It would be a sel ing point.

The problem is, natural flavor can be anything that isn’t man-made. Cat urine could be a natural flavor. If someone discovered that goat jizz added a special zing to ice cream and they could prove that eating it wouldn’t make you sick: natural flavor. And because they know people would rather see the word
natural
on the label than some fancy-pants chemical compound, it’s actually in their interest to go with the goat jizz.

One potential y disturbing example of natural flavor gone bad comes from—where else?—McDonald’s. Back in 1990, amid constant public outcry about the amount of cholesterol in its french fries, McDonald’s started using pure vegetable oil in its fryers.

Wait, what were they using before? Why, beef lard. When they stopped using it, and McDonald’s realized that fried potatoes don’t taste as good without some molten beef added, it was “natural flavor” to the rescue.

When vegetarian groups demanded to know what the mystery flavor was, company reps would only say it was “animal derived.”

They wouldn’t say what animal. According to the book
Fast Food Nation
, “Beef is the probable source, although other meats cannot be ruled out. In France, for example, fries are sometimes cooked in duck fat or horse tal ow.” Now, we all know how uptight French people are about their food. If their fries are being boiled in the processed knee joints of Kentucky Derby hopefuls, what does that mean for us Americans? Use your imagination.

1. BACTERIOPHAGES

In 2006, the FDA approved the use of bacteriophages to fight
Listeria
microbes on lunch meat, wieners, and sausages. If you’re unfamiliar with the term
bacteriophages
, let us put it in a layman’s term for you: viruses.

In this case, six viruses, to be exact. There is an excel ent chance that ham sandwich you had for lunch this afternoon was sprayed with a mixture of six different viruses in an effort to fight a microbe that kil s hundreds of people a year. Hundreds. Approximately the same number of people that die in plane crashes. Because of this clear and present danger, your lunch meat is slathered with an array of viruses.

This probably sounds bad enough already, but wait until you hear Intralytix, the company that developed the bacteriophage mixture, explain exactly how the virus works. “Typical phages have hol ow heads that store their viral DNA and tunnel tails with tips that bind to specific molecules on the surface of their target bacteria. The viral DNA is injected through the tail into the host cell, where it directs the production of progeny phages.”

We’l take it from here. The battlefield on which this virus-versus-microbe war plays out is the bologna that you used to prepare your afternoon lunch.

Around the same time the hol ow-headed bacteriophages were storming the beach at
Listeria
, you were lifting that bologna sandwich to your mouth. Just as the phages were thrusting their hol ow, viral-DNA-fil ed tails into the host cel s (also living on your sandwich), you were jamming the whole nasty battle right down your oblivious gul et.

If you’ve ever tried the Subway diet without success, this might be a good time to give it another shot. If thinking about the rampant virus-versus-microbe violence you’re about to ingest doesn’t put you off eating for the rest of the day, then nothing will , tubby.

FIVE STORIES THE MEDIA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT

AT
its best, the media is a knife at the throat of tyrants everywhere, the ever-watchful guardian of the interests of the people. Unfortunately, it’s rarely at its best—hel , you’re lucky if it puts on pants in the morning. More often than not it’s, uh . . . this.

5.
USA TODAY
’S STAR REPORTER LIES TO THE PUBLIC . . . FOR TWENTY-ONE YEARS

When It Happened: 1991-2004

News Agencies Involved:
USA Today

Back in 2004,
USA Today
was the most widely read newspaper in the United States, and its star reporter was Jack Kel ey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning twenty-one-year newspaper veteran notorious for getting impossible scoops. He wrote gripping first-person accounts of riding with Army Special Forces to catch bin Laden; watching a Pakistani student unfold a picture of the Sears Tower and say, “This one is mine,” in 2001; and infiltrating bands of terrorists around the world. He was like Jack Bauer, only with a pen instead of a pistol (and judging from Bauer having never
once
moved his bowels in 192 hours of screen time, equal y ful of shit).

Over twenty-one years of professional bul shitting, whenever a col eague would raise a question about Kel ey’s latest scoop, “Jack Kel ey Revealed to Have Largest Penis Ever,” they were shot down by the editors. Eventual y, someone filed a complaint that stuck. When  the higher-ups asked to speak to a translator Kel ey used on a story, Kel ey handed one of his friends a script and asked her to pretend to be the woman in question. Somehow this didn’t work out (it was probably his insistence that she pepper her responses with flattering anecdotes about his mastery of karate sutra, the deadly art of sex-fighting). When
USA Today
launched an investigation, it found Kel ey had made up “al or part of 20 stories that appeared in the paper, lifted more than 100 passages and quotes from other, uncredited sources.” There was no Pakistani student gunning for the Sears Tower, and he never infiltrated anything or rode along on a hunt for bin Laden. And then there was his heartrending tale, in 2000, of a Cuban woman who died trying to flee her country by boat.

Turned out the woman in the snapshot he provided the editors was a Cuban hotel worker who they tracked down in 2004, alive and wel .

What it taught us about the media

You could walk into a major newspaper, introduce yourself as Jack Ryan, and hand in an excerpt of a Tom Clancy novel. They’d put in the next morning’s paper. Then they’d win the Pulitzer.

4. THE GREAT MOON HOAX

When It Happened: 1835

News Agencies Involved:
The New York Sun

In 1835, the
New York Sun
duped the people of the United States into believing that aliens had been discovered on the moon.

To its credit, it attributed this fantastic discovery to John Herschel, the best-known astronomer of his day. Herschel was the perfect cover because he was famous yet reclusive. Since telephones hadn’t been invented, it was virtual y impossible for Herschel to dispute the
Sun
’s claims, and the ridiculous scheme worked: The
Sun
increased its subscriber base by over fifteen thousand daily after the first story.

Having learned a valuable lesson about deceiving its readers (specifical y, hey this shit works!) the
Sun
announced the life that was discovered on the moon consisted of intel igent batmen. Once again, circulation increased, making the
Sun
the largest newspaper on the planet. The story was so thoroughly believed that a Springfield, Massachusetts, missionary society resolved to send missionaries to the moon to convert and civilize the bat-men, apparently unaware that bat-men have lost all faith since they saw their parents gunned down in that all eyway.

What it taught us about the media

The story was revealed to be a hoax several weeks after its publication, but since there was no television or radio, the news didn’t spread very far. The
Sun
never had to issue a retraction, and its circulation didn’t decrease as a result. Nevertheless, the media learned its lesson: Don’t tell falsehoods unless you like giant piles of money that will last forever with no repercussions.

3. MICHAEL BAY DIRECTS THE NEWS

In 1992,
Dateline NBC
aired an investigative report that showed unsettling videos of GM pickup trucks exploding on impact in low-speed col isions, presumably due to faulty fuel tanks . . . or wizards.

Harry Pearce, GM’s executive vice president at the time, attempted to discredit the story with a press conference that involved what legal scholars call “a shitload of evidence.” During the press conference, Pearce produced a letter NBC sent him claiming the vehicles used in the video had been “junked” and, as a result, couldn’t be inspected. Then he produced the astonishingly not-junked cars. Before the folks at
Dateline
could respond, “Oh, you wanted the
cars we used in the footage
! We thought you said
cards
, and we were like, ‘huh?’ Ah, but no, the cars are fine . . . ,” Pearce was ready to move on to act 2 of
Ruining NBC’s Shit: The Reckoning.

Next, he brought out a blown-up screen grab of the col ision that NBC aired and zoomed in on two tiny plumes of smoke coming out of the side of the pickup truck. The problem with this was that the screen grab was taken just moments
before
impact. The GM pickup truck explosion that aired on the NBC program was actually caused by NBC. The producers had rigged the trucks prior to filming. There was literal y a guy standing off camera pushing a button a split second before the filmed impact.

Of the five people responsible for the report, three were fired, one resigned, and one got transferred faster than a touch-y priest.

What it taught us about the media

We at Cracked.com like to think the best about people, so the only explanation is that the
Dateline
producers were drunk. For weeks. And GM was holding one of their daughters hostage.

2. EVERY MEDIA NETWORK IN THE COUNTRY STICKS ITS FINGERS IN IS EARS AND SHOUTS,

“NAH NAH NAH, I CAN’T HEAR YOU”

When It Happened: 2009

News Agencies Involved: ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox

In 2008,
New York Times
journalist David Barstow discovered that in the run-up to the Iraq War, every single major media outlet had featured pro-war “impartial experts” who were in fact government sock puppets (metaphorical y speaking, in all but the most retarded cases). The report even went on to reveal which Pentagon officials’ bony wrists were protruding from the asses of which talking heads (stil metaphorical y speaking . . . hopeful y).

In the end, Barstow’s report revealed that when it came to the Iraq War America got news that was as reliable as a Chinese Google search for “Tiananmen Square.” The Pentagon and major TV news outlets misled Americans into war. That’s the information age’s Watergate! So why had we never

BOOK: You Might Be a Zombie . . .
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