Sunday, August 08, 2004

Michael Moore is a Mad Cow

From Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man by David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke

Page 43

One page 137 of Stupid White Men, Moore latches on to an easy means of stirring up fear and makes the most of it. This time around, it’s the facts about mad cow disease that will be bent to his theories. He writes, "Americans are not immune from this deadly disease. Some experts estimate that some 200,000 US citizens diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may in fact be carrying the alien protein and that their dementia is actually a form of mad cow."

Moore’s endnotes attribute this to an article by Deborah S. Rogers. But a careful examination of what she actually says reveals that mad cow disease is one form of prion disease, a family of fatal ailments spread by a mutant form of protein that has the capacity to convert and kill other proteins (such as your brain). Rogers contends that we shouldn't focus on mad cow disease when other prion diseases, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), are already known here. Her figure of 200,000 referred to CJD, not to mad cow. Before we’re accused of splitting hairs, though, it’s more than a technical distinction: Mad cow disease can be spread by eating infected beef, but how CJD is spread, other than by contaminated transplant tissue and other surgical transmission, is unknown.

We’d be tempted to say that Moore stopped reading at the article’s title. Actually, he must not have gotten that far. The title is "Mad Cow Here? It’s the Wrong Question."

While we’re at it, it’s worth mentioning that Moore gives some paradoxical advice. He notes that burning does not destroy mad cow disease prions: "But when you burn them, the threat doesn’t disappear; you can’t kill them, as I said. The smoke and ash just carry them to another location...." But, then, he goes on to advise: "Make sure, if you have to eat a burger or steak, to cook that sucker until it’s black." Moore is wrong on both counts. Burning does destroy prions, cooking does not, so his cooking advisory is not well-taken. They’re protein, and cooked meat is still protein, but meat smoke is not. The truth, as usual, is something Moore serves medium rarely.