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In ‘The G Word,’ Adam Conover Explains What We Take For Granted In Government


Food & Drink In ‘The G Word,’ Adam Conover Explains What We Take For Granted In Government Lizzy Saxe Contributor Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. I write about the future of food, business, and culture. May 18, 2022, 03:49pm EDT | New! Click on the conversation bubble to join the conversation Got it! Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin In The G Word, Adam Conover “ruins’ the American government Netflix, Higher Ground Productions If you were to suddenly go back in time, let’s say 100 years, going grocery shopping would seem like an extreme sport. These days, it’s a quotidian activity, one you can do confidently without checking to make sure the bread you’re buying is full of sawdust or whether your sausages contain literal poison. It wasn’t always like that. We often like to pretend an imagined culinary past was somehow better, but for all its evils, our industrialized food system is safer and more productive now than at any time in some vague, misty time that was. And the policies of our government are a big reason why. Don’t believe me? Don’t worry, there’s a show for that. Tomorrow, May 19th, Netflix and Higher Ground Productions will premiere The G Word , the newest offering from contrarian documentarian Adam Conover. But unlike in Adam Ruins Everything , where he complicated things we thought we understood, this time, he might just give you a much-needed glimmer of hope about the American government. Government might sound like a potentially hairy topic to undertake at this particular moment, but for Conover, that was exactly the point: “We spend so much time talking about, arguing about, screaming our heads off about who’s going to run our government. Our political culture is so toxic, but almost nobody knows what the government actually does, myself included when I started doing the show… If we’re going to be making decisions in a democracy about how our society is going to be run, we need to have some understanding of what the hell it actually does.” MORE FOR YOU Amid Drought, Billionaires Control A Critical California Water Bank The World’s 1st Ayurvedic Herbal Eatery Blends Ancient Wisdom With Modern Tech Divide And Conquer: How Ross Franklin Turns Pure Green Into A Cold Pressed Juice Empire By Leveraging Leaner Infrastructure And Crowdfunding Each episode of The G Word delves into an overlooked element of the things that “affect people’s everyday lives” from GPS to the FDIC to The National Weather Service. Each episode is remarkably digestible and informative given its short runtime, and also makes it clear that learning how these things work was hugely eye-opening for Conover himself. The show opens with an overview of the food system, because, “food is the topic in American life that people think about and care about the most… It’s one of the most intimate things that we interact with. It goes right into our mouths.” Perhaps because of this intimacy, we are often sold the capitalist lie that we have the power to make food choices entirely by and for ourselves. BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – MARCH 28: A shopper wearing a surgical mask looks at a prepared meal at a … [+] Trader Joes in Brooklyn, New York on March 28, 2020. The store lets in a minimum amount of shoppers at one time due to the spreading coronavirus. Trader Joes is an American chain of grocery stores headquartered in Monrovia, California. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images) Getty Images But, as Conover elucidates in the show, those decisions are made for us by food companies and our government long before the products hit the shelves. In the episode, Conover visits a busy meatpacking facility in Nebraska and is visibly overwhelmed by the sensory overload of the experience. Huge carcasses spin around the loud, humid factory while USDA inspectors in white lab coats cut into the occasional cow, pulling them out of production at the slightest hint of disease. Veterinarians are on standby to perform necropsies, determining exactly what killed the cows deemed less than edible. In this case, the decisions made for us were good ones. Food-borne illness tends to be an exceptionally rare way to get sick in the United States, and those USDA inspectors are a big reason why. Conover was impressed with the sheer complexity of their jobs, but it also made him wonder how similar legislation would be approached today: “That’s a kind of regulation that you kind of have trouble imagining politicians today approving of. ‘That’s un-American! The government’s going to tell me how to run my business?’ Yeah, they are. And they need to. And guess what, the results are better for everybody.” Conover emphasized that the USDA is in no way a perfect agency, but in this aspect, you can’t argue with its results. That being said, it tends to prioritize the needs of food producers rather than their customers, despite the inherent irony that everyone is necessarily the latter. This kind of nuance is what makes The G Word so compelling. Conover refuses to cover any topic in the show without exploring both its good and bad sides, even criticizing the actions of the Obama administration despite receiving backing from Higher Ground. The food system episode also dives into farm subsidies, incentives put in place during The Dust Bowl to help keep farmers afloat that has been twisted by politicians and food companies to effectively make American food cheap, profitable, and unhealthy. “We’ve sort of slid into a system where we are subsidizing the exact crops we don’t need to subsidize. We should be subsidizing the crops that are scarcer, that are more expensive, in order to bring the price down so people can actually afford better food. If you went to the grocery store and the cheapest foods were in the produce aisle, then we would have a much easier time of convincing people to spend time cooking foods that are better for them.” Conover is strikingly similar to his TV persona over Zoom. He might dial up the comedy for the camera, but he’s just as passionate and knowledgeable in real life as he is with a huge production budget. I asked him whether he thinks that change is even possible in American food, and without the slightest hesitation, he told me it absolutely is. NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 17: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Comedian Adam Conover visits Build to discuss … [+] comedy series “Adam Ruins Everything” at Build Studio on January 17, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images) Getty Images “I’d say it’s a deeply entrenched problem, but part of the story of this show is the reason anything exists in America is because at one point, people looked around and said, ‘This fucking really sucks. We need to pass something in order to change it.’ And then they did. And at the time it was radical… The idea of sending meat inspectors into every meat plant in America. How radical could you get? But it got done because it needed to be done. And now we take it for granted.” That’s really the crux of what’s interesting about The G Word , that it explores what we forget is happening. The little background actions that keep everything ticking. Conover hopes that by making this show, he will inform people to discover what America actually does for them and thus inspire them to make a change in their local communities, and I think he might have found the perfect way to encapsulate that message. Because nothing good happens in America without someone standing up and deciding we need to pass something to make our lives better, and in order to stand up, you need to know what you stand for. Follow me on LinkedIn . Check out my website . Lizzy Saxe Editorial Standards Print Reprints & Permissions

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