"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 19 November 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Milking It



Just when everything seemed to be

winding down into a pleasant

premillennial apocalypse, with

the world degenerating into

random violence, loveless sex,

and another two years of a

Republican majority, along came

the massive media blitz for a

product almost synonymous with

wholesomeness: Milk.


Stealing what little thunder

there was in the general

election, the National Fluid

Milk Producers Promotion Board

brashly Photoshopped milk

mustaches onto stock photos of

Bill and Bob, without seeking or

receiving permission. When media

observers, pundits, and even the

Prez quietly expressed their

concern, the milkmen of Madison

Avenue responded by asserting

that the candidates were "public

figures," and therefore fair

game. That'll be news to Nike

executives, who've been

hoodwinked for years into paying

"public figure" Michael Jordan

millions of dollars to hawk

their tennies.


[Milkman Dan He Isn't]

But really, what other trade

group could possibly have gotten

away with this stunt? What's Bob

Dole gonna say, that he doesn't

condone the consumption of milk?

(Well...) Is Bill Clinton

seriously going to litigate

against Skim, 2-Percent, and

Whole? Sadly, Malt-O-Meal and

Tang may be eager to follow suit

and airbrush a bowl of mush or a

glass of electric Kool-Aid in

front of a beaming Newt

Gingrich, but in their heart of

hearts - which is to say, in

their legal departments, often

confused with other prominent

parts of the corporate body -

they know they could never get

away with it. Besides, milk

isn't a brand. It's practically

a Kantian category. Look at it

this way: Who or what do the

good dairy producers of America

consider their competition?

Beer? Odwalla?



True, it's been said with bluer

words in seedier places, but we

can't help ourselves: Those milk

mustaches don't look exactly,

um, kosher. The vaguely obscene

connotations of whatever that is

on Tyra Banks' upper lip are all

the more provocative for the

absence of an actual glass of

milk. And it's stimulating to

consider how many celebs have

suckled at the teat - from Spike

Lee to Kristi Yamaguchi, Bob

Costas to The Phantom (though we

note that Ron Jeremy and Marilyn

Chambers have apparently not yet

been approached). Indeed, the

unofficial organ of all pop

culture in print, Rolling Stone,

recently bowed to the cause,

launching a major sweepstakes

cosponsored with the milk people

in which they invite readers to

"create and design your own milk

mustache ad." The Stone isn't so

much going downhill as simply

going down.



An unsentimental look at the role

of milk in American culture

might convince an unstable mind

there's some unsavory conspiracy

afoot. Recently there's been a

lot of tut-tutting about product

placements in public-school

curricula, but milk has been

arriving at 10:10 a.m. in grades

one through six for most of this

century. You want more proof of

a milk conspiracy? How about the

whole racket of publishing

photos of missing and abducted

people on milk cartons - often

using sophisticated computer

programs to simulate the effects

of aging? To suppose that the

milk industry is involved in

some ghastly form of white

slavery which they both

subsidize and rail against

probably gives the

quasi-governmental institute too

much credit, but still... What

were those sleep-inducing blue

mats in kindergarten really

about, anyway? And what about

the milk industry's mocking,

throw-down-the-gauntlet URL,

www.whymilk.com? Step aside,

Trilateral Commission, Committee

of 100, International Order of

Oddfellows, and the Shining Path -

here's the Milky Way.



On the other hand, there are some

interesting political aspects of

milk that haven't been fully

exploited. For example, every

snot-nosed kid knows that milk

defines our whole phylum on the

tree of life, mammals. Indeed,

the word is cognate with

"mammary" and "mama." But the

real issue at hand is why we

exploit another species for our

own daily dose of bone-building,

teeth-whitening, libido-stoking

milk. Here may be the solution

to all our social ills: If

Clinton were truly the

bipartisan milkman of human

kindness, he'd leverage his

mandate to put welfare moms off

the dole and on the milking

machine. The national appetite

for dairy could easily employ

millions of freeloading women,

killing two sacred cows with one



[Non Dairy]

From the look of it, the dairy

industry wants you to believe

their milk-mustache campaign is

a public service announcement.

Any company worth its dividends

would trade its milk teeth for

that kind of consumer confusion.

But in light of recent reports

about the chemical abuse of

dairy cattle, the extinction of

the family farm, price fixing,

and the real possibility that

drinking milk may be no more

healthful than not drinking

milk, it's clear that Land O'

Lakes, Kemps, Old Home, and all

the others are hedging their

bets against a possible outbreak

of that dread disease, lactose

intolerance. And with the status

they enjoy as America's favorite

uncarbonated beverage that isn't

bourbon, who can blame them for

doing what comes naturally, and

milking their market share for

all it's worth?

courtesy of E.L. Skinner