Michael Blanding - The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink

The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink - Michael Blanding

I wonder if Michael Blanding’s children drink coke in secret, making sure their father would never know. Just like other kids do when they are DOING coke. 

I guess, I don’t like to read anything so obviously and openly biased, even if the author’s goal was good and true. I wouldn’t call it eye-opening either. If you somehow came to whatever age you are, and you still haven’t realised there literally aren’t any limits to what corporations might do in search for profit, then you just have to wake up and smell the coffee, or coke. The main reason behind it is that the corporations weren’t created to benefit the humankind; they were created to make money, so the flaw is in their very reason for existence. You can as much expect them not to think about dollar signs as you can expect a heterosexual fourteen year old boy not to think about boobs. It’s a fact of life.

There is only one way to make the corporations ‘do the right thing’ and it’s to threaten their profits, using either law or customer boycott. I suppose this is what this book is trying to achieve – make people so appalled that they stop drinking coke, using very similar methods that Coca Cola is using to make you drink it. Considering that the Coca Cola Company is 120 years old, I actually find it quite surprising that Blanding barely managed to fill out 290 pages with its sins (the rest are the notes) and that includes a lot of repetitions and all round boring shit. 

The case he spends most time on is a murder of some union workers in Colombia and, boy, is that case thin. Even such a biased account of it couldn’t convince me that the Coca Cola as a company is responsible for it. To me it just looked like a case of a rogue manager, and Coca Cola would find it hard to find a person qualified enough to be the manager of a bottling company that’s not involved in any way in what could only be called an ongoing civil war. This is what any investor in Colombia has to come to terms with it, there is no way around it. You can’t jump into the mud and expect to come out clean. The company didn’t start the war and they weren’t there to do end it. Some activists pointed out that the only ethical thing to do would be to close the shop and go home but that’s hardly what the Union wanted, was it?

Even Blanding himself had to admit that other companies behaved worse in Colombia, and that in fact there was no proof for the connection between Coca Cola and the murders. But then he quickly adds:
“Whether the company colluded with the violence against the union or just benefited from it […]”. Well, it hardly benefited from it, considering the PR disaster it all caused, non?

The other argument he uses is, of course, the fact that Coke like any other sugary drink makes people fat (and, for your information, that includes juices which might have more nutritious value but usually around just as many calories). Let’s be honest here for a little bit – if something is sweet, it is because it either has a lot of sugar in it or aspartame or some other crap you shouldn’t be putting in your body.

I think the bit that shocked me most was the chapter about how schools in the USA signed exclusive contracts with Coca Cola which forbid them to sell any other drinks on the premises. And mind you, it’s not the company’s behaviour that shocked me, after all let’s remember they are like the 14 year old boys, it’s the schools! It’s the school responsibility to do what’s best for the children. 
As for the accusations about depleting scarce water resources in some poorer parts of the world, without getting into finer details of specific cases, I think it is plain sad that any water, as precious as it is, should be wasted on making hectoliters of something that is generally unhealthy. Nonetheless, I’m not entirely convinced in Coca Cola’s crucial role in the water crisis, as it’s, unfortunately, the agriculture that should take the worse blame for the situation. Most of those countries have been experiencing droughts all over for the last few years, Coke or not.

The most laughable part of the book is when Balding criticise Coca Cola’s advertising strategy, first that they claimed that Coke soothes the nerves, and then that invigorated. But then when Coke moved from advertising specific properties of the drink to selling it more as a lifestyle idea, he complains as well. What’s the poor Coke to do to satisfy Balding’s need for ‘honest advertising’? Just say “Coca Cola is a sweet drink. Drink it so we can make money”?

And I like how Balding discovers Coca Cola dreadful secret of how to handle setbacks: “Lobby furiously behind the scenes, give in gracefully when the cause is lost, and be sure to associate the product with the highest national interest.” Yes, truly shocking. Basically: “Play to win, if you can’t win, lose gracefully and use it to your benefit”. I bet no one used that one before. Balding also resents Coca Cola because even when they involve themselves in charitable work, they always have profit in mind. Well, no kidding, Einstein. If they didn’t, they would go bust and would not be able to involve themselves in any charitable work this way or another.

Of course, Coca Cola is selling itself as a pure American dream in a bottle. And it’s working. As a child in a communist country I dreamt of drinking Coca Cola. Some places sold Pepsi and I drank it on special occasions but deep inside we knew it was only the next best thing. 

Make no mistake though, I might be playing a bit of devil’s advocate here but I’m not defending coke. That shit is foul and will make your rot inside. Don’t drink it. And for God’s sake don’t buy bottled water unless you absolutely must. There is absolutely no point to it. And corporations are bad, very bad. You can always suspect the worst of them. As a matter of fact, I would be hardly surprised if it turned out that this book was paid for by PepsiCo.

While researching what to cook to accompany this recipe I came across this page:http://www.cookingwithcoke.com/ Ha ha. Apparently cooking meat in coke yields delicious results. Here is my garlic cola chicken, very loosely based on this recipe (http://www.recipelion.com/Chicken-Rec...#) accompanied with corn (corn, America – corn syrup, get it?). It was actually pretty fantastic, I recommend you try basting meat in coke. But for the love of God, use Pepsi!