Monday, October 1, 2007

Another moral panic that ought to float away

Oh no! "Moral values" hypocrites are offended again! What ever shall we do?

This is a story that pits the two components of modern conservatism against each other: Big Business and holier-than-thou moralism. According to rumor, there's a Wendy's commercial that shows customers floating, apparently after inhaling helium. But now the moral panic contingent is crying that the commersh encourages inhalant use.

Except it doesn't. Inhalants are toxins. Helium, however, is not a toxic substance. But, as with everything else, there are dangers associated with helium. Inhaling it from pressurized tanks, for instance, can rupture the lungs. Inhaling too much helium in too short of a time can in effect choke a person to death, because it crowds out the oxygen they need to breathe. (If you're inhaling from a party balloon, you'll pass out before you can inhale a fatal amount.) Even so, however, it's not a toxic inhalant.

In other words, helium is like just about everything else that isn't air. If they're going after the Wendy's ad, are they going to also go after ads that show scuba diving, because scuba diving increases the risk of inhaling water? Are they going to pull all the TV shows in which someone gets a pie in the face, because that increases the risk of inhaling pie filling?

Maybe they ought to just require every TV station to broadcast nothing but a blank screen all day to mimic the sight of oxygen.

In recent years, FedEx and Toys "R" Us have pulled commercials over this same thing. So at least now we know the "values" types aren't going after Wendy's just because they like Rick Santorum's Burger King ad better.


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