The “Turing Slip”

I am just not going to make the obvious beef-joke here

A while ago, Chris at Fismo.com pointed me to the site Cool 2B Real. At first blush, it seems like a typical up-with-teens site — the obligatory boosterish stuff trying to bolster the self-esteem of young girls. “Cool-2B-Real is about real girls like you! Whether you’re in school, playing sports or just having fun, strive to be the best you can be,” it gushes.

I poked around it for a bit, chuckling over the site’s combination of earnestness and hopelessly out-of-date lingo. The incredibly goofy text (“It’s totally cool to feel good about yourself! Take the self-esteem test”), the graphics of girls happily doing their homework … this sort of stuff makes actual teenagers cringe. Have the people who made this stuff ever actually met a teenager?

But the truly weird thing was the constant harping on about meat. “Enjoy a beef wrap for lunch or spaghetti and meatballs for dinner,” the site urges. “As energy requirements increase, so should protein intake. Chow down!” There’s a section devoted to Smart Snackin’, listing delights such as “Beef on Bamboo” or “Easy Beef Chili”, those staples of the teenage diet. Want to really have some fun? Why not take this meat poll? (“What type of beef do you most like to eat with your friends?” it asks, and offers you the choice of “Steak”, “Tacos”, “Burgers”, or “Subs”.) Then you can top off the merriment by playing — and I am not making this up — a flash game devoted to grilling burgers. What the hell is going on here? I wondered.

Then I glanced at the bottom of the site and discovered the secret: This site was produced by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Consider what’s going on here. This isn’t just any other harebrained, marketing site. This is a unique moment in history: The first-ever attempt to make beef hip.

I can only imagine what the pitch meeting for this thing was like.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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