In light of the recent controversy over Kellogg’s, MHN editor Sam Smith explains why he is joining the Kellogg’s boycott and why readers should too. Kellogg’s was founded by an eccentric Victorian who blamed the world’s ills on masturbation. Whilst this in itself would be harmless, he gave advice to parents on abusive ways to treat children suspected of masturbation and carried out clitoridectomies (removal of the clitoris) on underage girls.
The modern Kellogg’s company does not endorse female genital mutilation but in 2016 has been linked to child labour involving 8 to 14 year olds. Kellogg’s has also withdrawn its advertising from Breitbart News over “values”.
Cornflakes were invented by Dr John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Keith Kellogg (who went on to later found the eponymous company). The food was invented as a by-product of the brothers’ running of a well-known hospital of the era called the Battle Creek Sanitarium.
Treatments available at the hospital included the following –
- Pouring carbolic acid on the genitals of underage children
- Amputation of the clitoris
The problem was that the Kellogg brothers believed that nearly every conceivable physical and mental health problem anyone could ever have was linked to masturbation. To combat this perceived evil they recommended catching children in the act. This meant advising adult parents to lurk around children and burst in on them without warning when they suspected masturbation.
The parents were to then forcibly remove the child’s bedding / clothes and examine their genitals for physical signs of arousal such as tumescence in boys or moistening or reddening in girls. In short their advice was creepily abusive.
Once the child had been caught in the act treatments included bandaging the genitals, tying the hands, cages (like BDSM style chastity cages, only child sized), pouring carbolic acid on the genitals to cause pain and blistering, circumcision of boys and removal of the clitoris and labia in girls. All of this arose from untested paternalistic dogma.
Whilst today the Kellogg’s company in no way advocates fitting BDSM cages to children nor amputating their genitals (with or without acid), it has still been criticised for its treatment of children this year in 2016. Specifically, the company has been accused of using palm oil sourced from a company which uses child labour. Amnesty International has issued a hundred-and-ten-page report published on their website with a summary (archive here).
At the same time whilst Kelloggs no longer endorses the sexually abusive practises of the Kellogg brothers the same pseudo-Victorian paternalism is evident in other areas of its business. On 29 November 2016 Fortune reported that Kellogs had blacklisted Breitbart.com as a recipient of advertising (archive here). The reason given was that Breitbart.com is not “aligned” with Kellog’s “values”.
Who do they think they are? Kellogg’s is a food manufacturer. They serve a broad and diverse society with a wide range of political viewpoints. Singling out one especially political media organisation is discrimination. When that group has a vast and growing audience it is commercial folly also. There are many choices for breakfast – fruit, toast, full English breakfast such as bacon and eggs. No one has to use Kellogg’s.
Breitbart’s Kellogg’s boycott petition is here and at the time of writing has just under 400,000 signatures. I have every sympathy for Breitbart and none for Kellogg’s, whose arrogance stated this. On a personal level I have always found Breitbart journalists kind, sympathetic and professional.
I also admire Steve Bannon, former executive chair of Breitbart.com. When he was first appointed by Donald Trump, based on newspaper reports I at first shared the reservations of organisations like Heat Street. However his dignified performance over the last few weeks has demonstrated that he is a good and decent man undeserving of the vitriol that has been heaped upon him.
Kellogg’s is in no position to be lecturing anyone on values. Aside from the warped depravity of its child-mutilating founders, leaving aside the allegations about Palm Oil, in 2010 it agreed to a consent order with the Federal Trade Commission, which accused it of “dubious claims” that its cereals improve children’s health. FTC release here (archive here). Of course when making the claims, Kellogg’s were only continuing the tradition of their founders, who once made the “dubious claim” that pouring acid on the labia of underage girls improved their health.
In 2012 the UK Advertising Standards Authority banned two Kellogg’s adverts, (archive here) after deciding that the statements that Special K is “full of goodness” and “nutritious” did not have required support.
Of course all companies are staffed by flawed human beings and many organisations have skeletons in their historical closets. The difference is that most companies are not so foolish as to pass judgement on others. Kellogg’s are not gods. They are not prophets nor philosophers. They are in no position to pontificate about “values”. Kellogg’s are a manufacturer of breakfast cereals invented by a child abuser and they would be well advised to steer clear of moral debate.
Certainly Kellogg’s has become far more coy in recent weeks since its foolish posturing exposed it scrutiny. I sent an early draft of this article to Kellogg’s media team in the US and UK. The email was read many times but I received no reply and no denials.
If they want my business Kellogg’s should stop passing judgement on potential customers’ “values” and stay in the kitchen, making breakfast.