The New York Times reports that it caught New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's health department using Photoshop trickery in an attempt to crack down on soda consumption:
A blunt new poster from the Bloomberg administration shows an overweight man on a stool, his right leg missing below the knee. A pair of crutches leans against a wall beside him. The advertisement, being placed throughout the subway system, warns that ever-growing portions of fast food and sodas could cause diabetes, which could lead to amputations.
But it turns out that the person shown in the advertisement did not need crutches because his legs were intact. The health department confirmed on Tuesday that its advertising agency had removed the lower half of the man’s leg from the picture to make its point[.]
The original image, in which the same man has a leg, and no crutches appear behind him, is here.
Just because the point is a difficult one to make, especially in light of the fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just reported that amputations due to diabetes are thankfully on the decline, does not mean that the government has a right to deceive in order to achieve its objectives.
In a Daily Caller article on the soda ads, Keep Food Legal's Baylen Linnekin is quoted referring to the use of image manipulation to advance Mayor Bloomberg's political goals as "disingenuous."
It appears the campaign against soda may be part of a larger effort by the health department to attack food choice by enacting tougher and tougher regulations that fall just short of an outright ban. On the subject of New York City's campaign against alcohol, Trevor Butterworth writes in an excellent article that appeared at Forbes.com earlier this month:
[A] surprising theory, advanced in a 2005 book by Dr. Tom Farley, who is now the New York City Health Commissioner, may be the driving force behind the new initiatives.
Looked at another way, there is no limit to regulation – apart from an outright ban – that moderate consumers of any legal product should be subjected to for their own collective good.
Again, while Butterworth writes here about New York City's alcohol campaigns, he also notes that work "raises the possibility of other health initiatives." Is the deceptive attack on soda part and parcel of the same "no limit" approach? It appears that may be the case.
Update 1/27/12: Linnekin will be on Rita Cosby's WOR-710 radio show at 4:45 PM EDT today to talk about the ad. Listen live!