I once did a contract job for Pepsico. It went fine, but during the fieldwork, we noticed that every overhead utility wire and several prominent tree branches in the undeveloped forest we were surveying for archaeological sites had soda bottles strung over them, like those fetishes hanging around in the forest in the Blaire Witch Project. But the soda brand was, in every case, Coke. Coke, no Pepsi.

I asked around about why that was the case, and someone told me confidentially “Everybody around here hates Pepsico. But everybody around here works for them. Be lucky you are from out of town.”

But what about this new Pepsico Blog on Scienceblogs.com? There is some controversy…

Let’s assume for a moment that the new Pepsico blog at Scienceblogs.com is a corporate tool designed to push evil Pepsico-benefiting rhetoric onto the web in the guise of a legitimate semi-independent authoritative thoughtful science blog.

That may not be the case. The Pepsi blog may be no different than the Collective Imagination blog sponsored by General Electric, which is not a corporate shill. Indeed, one could point out that my fellow science bloggers such as Grrl and Pal are being goat-loving hypocrites: Nobody squeaks when human-rights abusing Shell Oil has a blog, or PCB spewing GE has a blog, but for some reason, Pepsi gets their goat (here we are with the goats again) perhaps because they prefer Coke or something, and they get all icky-dicky about it.

But as Grrl and Pal as well as Jason Goldman point out, there are differences with this new Pepsi blog. It seems very much that it is not the same. It makes me feel icky-dicky too, though I’m trying to remain calm and reserve judgment, as are most of us.

But how, dear reader, should YOU react? Some commenters have said they will never read another scienceblogs.com blog ever again because our credibility has totally collapsed because this blog exists. That’s like when a student told me that nothing I had said in lecture all semester could be believed because (according to his misguided understanding of something) I had gotten this one thing wrong. Those commenters will either calm down and keep reading the blogs they like, or perhaps stick to their guns and go away, thus making Sb a bit less stupid of a place, or so one might hope.

Sbreaders could just not read the new blog. Or, Sbreaders could read it carefully and never give them a break. If they really do post mainly self serving corporate jerk-off juice then having comments objecting to their content will devalue it considerably, if those comments are reasonably well worded and well documented. And, if the comments are allowed.

Sbreaders can write a note to the Sb overlords. But keep in mind, contracts have presumably been signed, and patience may be needed.

Sbreaders could demand a Coke blog. That could offset the Pepsiblog. Of course, if we can’t have an institution or business with both Coke and Pepsi vending machines, it may also not be possible to have a major blog network like Scienceblogs.com partly sponsored by both mega soda corporations.

I’m an atheist and all, but I will be praying that we don’t get a Tab blog. OMG.

On one hand, a major international corn-syrup to market industry leader blogging about nutrition is a little like having a beef industry blog that focuses on vegetarianism. Possible, but unlikely. On the other hand, maybe there is a future in which Scienceblogs.com has 120 or so blogs (we are heading that way now) with 20 or so distributed among major institutions and major industries. Maybe that’s not ideal but maybe its not as bad as it sounds.

Minimally, here’s what it comes down to for me: Since Pepsico pays Scienceblogs.com to have that blog, and I don’t pay Scienceblogs.com to have my blog, does this mean that if I blog something negative about Pepsico that I’ll take heat from the Scienceblogs.com management? That seems very unlikely from what I have experienced to date, but I can not guarantee that this will not happen. If it does, of course, you’ll be the first to know. And, given the importance of this situation, the next time I have the opportunity to write critically of Pepsico, I’ll probably take up that opportunity. Just to see how it goes. Dragon’s tail, meet my finger. Any day, any time.

Comments

  1. #1 John McKay
    July 6, 2010

    Whatever else is going on, the Seed overlords certainly screwed the pooch by not warning you guys or explaining the terms of the Pepsico blog.

  2. #3 Tom S.
    July 6, 2010

    Prediction: This discussion among Scienceblog’s bloggers will involve more misunderstanding and less helpful dialog, causing a rift in the blogosphere big enough for Pepsi to drive a semi through. For no good reason, I add.

  3. #4 Jim Thomerson
    July 6, 2010

    When I was in Venezuela in the 80’s and 90’s, Pepsi was the quality drink. I knew of only one place which had Coke. I’ve been told that Coke quietly bought the one bottle making plant in Venezuela and cut off Pepsi’s local supply of bottles. You could still get an imported Pepsi at Kentucky Fried, or other Pepsico owned place. I don’t usually drink carbonated drinks, but I had a Coke, probably the first in ten years, the other day and enjoyed it.

  4. #5 gruebait
    July 7, 2010

    Meh. I can read or not read, as I choose.

    As long as there is never, ever a Fresca blog. I would delete my browser.

  5. #6 denature
    July 7, 2010

    Certainly using the blog to distribute press releases would be unacceptable, but many of the SB reactions remind me of the culture of grad school–everyone is trained to be a basic research scientist and gaining employment at an equivalent institution is considered the most worthy goal. An impression can be gained that teaching or working for a corporation is equivalent to a failure to make it. Despite the fact that most graduate students will never get this opportunity.

    I would see value in posts on how applied science is conducted differently from science designed to gain information. However, I suspect any blog based on manufacturing nutrition products will have inherent weaknesses due to the whole story not being solidified by basic research prior to product development. It’s a faddish industry. But I reserve judgment.

  6. #7 NewEnglandBob
    July 7, 2010

    I have nothing personal against Pepsi or Coke but I still have no interest in reading a blog called “Food Frontiers” because the “science behind the food industry’s…” has no appeal to me whatsoever.

    I also stopped drinking carbonated beverages years ago because they are harmful.

  7. #8 sailor
    July 7, 2010

    Well my first comment was:
    “And may the first article be about the effects of high-fructose corn syrup on obesity and diabetes in the USA. A can of Pepsi has about 40 grams of sugar in it, and high fructose corn syrup seems to be the worst sugar for your health.”
    It is being held of moderation, hummm

  8. #9 JohnV
    July 7, 2010

    @denature

    I had a similar reaction, noting that some of the blog responses here felt like they were exuding the typical “industry means you’re a failed scientist” vibe.

  9. #10 Kapitano
    July 7, 2010

    Sbreaders could demand a Coke blog.

    Somehow I don’t think that quite hits the nub of the problem.

    You don’t solve corporate problems with more corporations, for the same reason you don’t stop a war by starting another one.

  10. #11 Tony Sidaway
    July 7, 2010

    I value your blog greatly but this step by Scienceblogs makes me want to avoid having anything to do with their blogs. I encourage all concerned Scienceblogs content producers to take up with Seed the way in which they have devalued their content by introducing this organisation.

    At the very least the scienceblogs.com URL can no longer command the respect it did until recently, and it would obviously be in the long term interests of all Scienceblogs content producers to consider finding a new, more trustworthy home on the internet.

  11. #12 JGlenn
    July 7, 2010

    Wow – a lot of immature comments by some SB bloggers and readers (you, Greg, not included).

    PepsiCo makes an attempt to interact with a scientifically-literate audience, and they’re eviscerated for it? Could this not be a hugely positive step towards corporate social responsibility?

    Let’s be honest; the SB audience will see through BS. Further, many of the bloggers here are quick to engage in discussion on other scienceblogs. Does anybody really believe that PepsiCo will get a free pass?

    PepsiCo has created a global empire based in large part on foods that are harmful. You don’t get an organization like that to change by throwing a nutty and walking out.

  12. #13 hannah
    July 7, 2010

    hey, if pepsi didn’t want people to distrust their sincerity in starting a food blog, or a foodscience blog, they shouldn’t be making pepsi….

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