They are far from the only culprits, but seeing the sign for the new "Sicilian Lasagna Pizza" outside a Pizza Hut led me to an epiphany. The epiphany: Fast food is bullshit. Not that it is bad for you, or may contain bovine fecal matter, though those are safe bets -- I mean bullshit in the specific sense that the concept was developed in Harry Frankfurt's monograph, On Bullshit.* Bullshit, as Frankfurt explains, is different from regular untruth because of its relation to the truth. Lies misrepresent the truth; bullshit is indifferent to the truth. To skim the scum from the pool outside the rendering plant, strain it, bleach it and sell it as "Pure Leaf Lard" is to lie, or to misrepresent the nature of the product you are selling. Bullshit, according to Frankfurt, operates in a realm outside truth and falsity, where discourse displays a cheery disregard for actual referents. Frankfurt offers this analysis as a politically inflected polemic, a kind of Politics and the English Language, Rel 2.0, but the influence is more pervasive. It may be a result of the manipulation and adulteration of our food,** but the notion that the words we use to describe food refer to particular foodstuffs so defined by social convention seems to be losing traction. I saw a Seven-Eleven promoting some item called a "Bistro Griller"; the various staples of Mexican or Tex-Mex dining seem to exist as sounds without sense to combine on menus. Sicilian Lasagna Pizza may not be any worse for you than the Pizza Hut stuffed crust pizza that was so popular in the late 1990s, but it is worse for our culture. The same mental laziness that permits haphazard formulations like Sicilian Lasagna Pizza also permits haphazard formulations like "war on terror."
*Evidently, OB sold like hotcakes, at least by academic press standards, leading to an amusing scenario where On Bullshit is Seattle in 1990, and other academic presses are looking for their own tiny and transgressive smash hits, viz Harvard's edition of Benjamin's thoughts on hashish.
**The beginning of the end may well have been when we, as a culture, agreed to extend the definition of apple pie to include chubby pop tarts full of unnameable slurry.