This column was originally published on Aug. 2, 1998.
Today I have an extremely important topic to discuss with you, but before I decide what it is, I need to "set the record straight" on something:
In a recent column, I made a statement that turned out to be inaccurate. Yes. Although the error was corrected by a few alert editors, many newspapers, tragically, did not catch it.
My statement was that Gleem toothpaste used to have an ingredient called "Gardol, " which created an Invisible Protective Shield that deflected baseballs. This is simply not true. It was actually Colgate toothpaste that had Gardol. I am not sure what Gleem had in the way of a cavity-fighter. I know it wasn't Bucky Beaver, because he was affiliated with Ipana toothpaste, although eventually he developed a drinking problem and wound up working in porno cartoons. I'm thinking maybe Gleem had that obnoxious little tooth who was always getting tied to the railroad tracks by Mister Tooth Decay. But I don't want to speculate on this until I have all the facts.
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Why am I so concerned about accuracy? Because American journalism - which had already sunk to the same level of public trust as Charles Manson - recently had a series of embarrassing incidents in which writers for respected magazines and newspapers simply made up quotations and sources. The most prominent example was The Washington Post, which on June 24 was forced to print a front-page statement admitting that there is not, nor has there ever been, any "Marion Barry."
In an effort to find out what's behind this disturbing trend of reporters inventing sources, I interviewed the president of The American Association of Journalists, Warren P. Cormorant Jr.
"Why do journalists make up sources and quotations?" Cormorant asked rhetorically, as he leaned back in his worn leather chair and idly scratched his scalp with a Dorito shard. "I'll tell you why. Because when we interview real people, they talk too fast for us to write it down, plus they never say anything interesting. I know for a fact that Kenneth Starr is a hermaphrodite."
Be that as it may, my point is that this column is dedicated to giving you, as accurately as possible, the information that you need to lead an informed, productive and happy life, which is why today I am pleased to report that, according to guidelines recently adopted by the federal government regarding body weight, the odds are that you, personally, are a big wad of fat.
Perhaps you are wondering why the federal government, an institution that encompasses not only Newt Gingrich, but also both of President Clinton's thighs, is setting standards for body weight. The answer can be found in the U.S. Constitution, which states that the primary function of the government is, quote, "to constantly think up rules and guidelines that no real person can understand, let alone follow." The shining federal example is of course the Internal Revenue Service, which has done such a fine job that as of 1997, only nine U.S citizens were in full compliance with all tax regulations, and six of those people perished while undergoing the IRS's new "Jungle Challenge" auditing program.
So anyway, several years ago, the National Institutes of Health was alarmed to discover that, under the federal body-weight guidelines, only one-third of all Americans were classified as overweight. This meant that a shocking two-thirds of Americans were within federal weight guidelines, which is a flagrant violation of federal guidelines regarding federal guidelines. And so the NIH convened a panel of experts - in the Washington, D.C., area, convening a panel of experts is easier than getting a pizza delivered - and they came up with a new, much stricter, set of guidelines, under which, to quote the NIH report, "basically every U.S. citizen, living or dead, is classified as overweight except the woman who plays Monica on Friends."
These guidelines are based on something called the "Body Mass Index, " which is calculated - really - by dividing body weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. This makes for a perfect federal guideline, because nobody in the United States knows what either a "meter" or a "kilogram" is. The whole reason why we fought the Cold War was so we wouldn't have to learn the metric system. Most of us could never in a million years figure out our own Body Mass Index, so it's only a matter of time before the Internal Revenue Service requires us to include it on our tax returns.
But the point is that if you're an American, you're overweight. The question is: Who is responsible? I interviewed the U.S. Surgeon General about this, and he or she told me: "I blame food. It's everywhere! Some mornings I wake up and there are Snickers bars in bed with me! I'm taking up smoking."
You may rest assured that we here in journalism will keep you updated on this important story until we get bored with it later today. Meanwhile, we ask that you help "keep us on our toes" by reporting any inaccuracies you find in this column, or anywhere else, to the publisher of this newspaper, Citizen Kane. Who by the way could stand to lose a few kilograms.
© Dave Barry
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