So TikTok is toxic. As is social media in general. But I can’t quit the good good. We break up and we make up but I just don’t have it in me to pull the trigger and block the app. It was in the midst of this cycle that I doom scrolled ass backwards into a video from @teresamorcha showing an advertisement running in Germany about food insecurity in America.
The viral video about a not-so-viral video is characteristically under-researched. So, not surprisingly, it mischaracterizes the whole situation by implying that Germany itself, as a nation state, is behind the ad. But through my uncanny powers of observation (looking at the logo at the bottom of the video) and access to cutting edge technology (Google) I deduced that the video is simply targeting German speakers, but is in fact produced by an international nonprofit organization, Great Nations Eat.
I would’ve forgotten it, until the powers that be (the algorithm) hit me with vid number 2 from Teresa, showing the version targeting China. My gut reaction? Admittedly: oh my god, the conspiracy theorists are right! What kind of New World Order shit is this blatant propaganda transparently designed to upend the dominant reputation of a global hegemon with the same heartwarming neocolonial messaging used to marginalize the continent of Africa to this day? But then, alas, reality set in.
It’d be inane to fail to acknowledge that food insecurity is a real problem facing people here in this country. 10.5% of U.S. households (13.8 million) were food insecure in 2020, with 3.9% reporting disruption to normal eating patterns due to shortage of funds. Consider that the average U.S. household has 2.53 people, and you get close-ish (~35 million) to the number (49 million) quoted in the video. The other numbers provided by the nonprofit, however, check out even less.
Their website maintains that a ‘$1 gift can give seven dinners to an eager family’ which… umm lol what? Welcome to hyperinflation land, where one U.S. dollar won’t buy you a damn KitKat, let alone seven dinners. They hyperlink to the OG U.S. food insecurity NGO, Feeding America, as the source of this quote, but the link just goes back to their own contact page.
Compound this with the various typos plaguing the company’s homepage — ‘We used to indulge in social service activities organized by others. That is we though why no do it ourselves.’ — and it’s clear not all is above board. Possibly a Russian front designed to delegitimize our great nation? Sure. But more likely, like far too many NGOs, it is a scam to play on peoples’ sympathies and take their money by making them feel like they’re solving a real problem.
Where are the funds going? Who knows. Clearly not to a copywriter. (If you need one though don’t hesitate to @ me. I’m not cheap but my line is always open.) And considering that their only publicity in the past two years came from a viral TikTok video, I’d hazard a guess you weren’t going to donate to them anyway.
So why bother writing this? Well, in a weird way, it couldn’t be more timely. Last week, a Squid–Game-inspired cryptocurrency, covered uncritically by mainstream news outlets such as the BBC, turned out to be a pump-and-dump in which the scammers made off with over $2m. My takeaway here is less that crypto scams abound — been known by now — and more that the media is so desperate for constant coverage that reckless, under-researched reports circulate widely, often with destructive results. It’s not just the TikTok influencers and NGOs who get the facts wrong. Plenty of our far-more-qualified peers do too. So, with the way mainstream reporting is trending, it’s worth calling a scam a scam when you see one.
All that to say that, if I were the scammers, I’d fundraise off of the message of how shit the American education system is. But the truth just doesn’t pull at the heartstrings the same.