What Will Kill You, and Who Cares?

Who Benefits?


 Cui Bono?

That’s the question posed by writer John Gresham’s lawyer-character when confronted with a mystery she can’t solve.

She asks: Who benefits?

That’s a key question I ask students in my Propaganda class to ponder when they are being persuaded, coaxed or sold some idea.

The question is helpful when deciding on voting issues.

Some stakeholders in our state—Oregon—want to convince voters to spend less, reduce taxes and improve schools.

But if you take a look behind the curtain at who benefits from your vote, you can see special interests in play.

I try to look beyond the language and rhetoric because words can mask the meaning of a proposed piece of legislation.

You have to do your own research to understand the real issues in play because the advertising make no sense.

For example, one piece of legislation—Measure 103—uses ads driven by fear to persuade voters their grocery bills will rise unless a law is changed.

Advertisements beg voters to “keep groceries tax-free,” showing elders and people of color struggling with their bills.

Turns out Big Soda (Coke, Pepsi and others) are funding the campaign to persuade voters to change the Oregon Constitution.

The legislation would prevent local communities from taxing soda pop.

The law would strip neighborhoods from defining what is important to their communities.

Who benefits?

Big Soda benefits.

If Measure 103 is passed, local communities will no longer have the Constitutional authority to hold businesses accountable that sell sugary drinks or tobacco or alcohol.

If you look behind the curtain, Big Soda is funding yes on Measure 103 in Oregon.

A yes vote comes courtesy of the American Beverage Association, which “poured nearly $1.7 million into the campaign,” according to the online version of the Oregonian.

So: Who benefits?

A NO vote on Measure 103 retains the Constitution, giving communities their own authority to decide whether Big Sugar should support the community.

Turning to Indigenous peoples, I promised that during Native American Heritage Month (November) I would look at issues through a Native lens.

When it comes to Big Soda, it turns out that scientists agree that sugary drinks play an important role in contributing to diabetes.

Native Americans and Alaska Natives are twice as likely to have diabetes compared to their “white” counterparts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Big Sugar’s dollars promise to increase poor health for everyone—and especially Native American peoples.

Next time you see a billboard, social media post or advertisement about a political measure, ask yourself: Who benefits?

I’ll bet you a batch of fry-bread that it won’t be American Indians who benefit.


Day Two: Native American Heritage Month


2 November 2018













About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in nativescience, votinh and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What Will Kill You, and Who Cares?

  1. Conrad Ramirez says:

    Well said Ma’am.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cynthia, I love that you are teaching this!


  3. And I infuse Indian perspectives into teaching, too


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