Who Doesn’t Love Oreos? The History of an Analogy

oreo 767127 Who Doesnt Love Oreos? The History of an AnalogyThat Hollywood is in fact something less than a model of political sophistication was made clear to me a few years ago, at a party where Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry’s fame, illustrated the inequities of the federal budget for a group of admirers by stacking up Oreo cookies on a grand piano. The guests reacted as if they were witnessing a scholar on the order of Noam Chomsky.
- Beverly Hills Coup?, by Matt Bai, The New York Times Magazine, November 13, 2005.

· “The co-owner of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream has found a way to spread a political message, and still leave at least a semi-sweet taste in people’s mouths.
“He uses the Oreo cookie.
“The Oreo Mobile, driven by Aaron Rubin – an employee of Ben Cohen, who is the ‘Ben’ in ‘Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream’- made a stop in Dubuque Saturday afternoon to discuss how to fix wasteful government spending.” (Dubuque, IA Telegraph Herald, September 25, 2005.)

· “Maybe they came for the ice cream. Or maybe it was the Oreo cookie demonstration.
“Close to 500 people packed into the Barry Marks Auditorium at the University of Rhode Island last night to hear Ben & Jerry’s cofounder Ben Cohen speak about social responsibility in business.” (The Providence Journal, November 10, 2004)

·“[Gloria] BORGER: Now you also have a Web ad that talks about the reasons–and it’s a very cute, sort of cartoon depiction of you–there, we’ve got it on the screen–talking about how you need to cut the defense budget. And you illustrate it with–I love this–Oreo cookies to tell people why we ought to cut defense spending and use the money for domestic policy. What kind of response have you had to that?
Mr. COHEN: We have had a tremendous response to that. Over half a million people have viewed that animation on the Internet in the last few weeks. And membership in TrueMajority has grown to over 400,000 as a result of that Internet animation, which is available at TrueMajority.org.
(Capital Report, CNBC, February 18, 2004)

·“[C]onsummate Vermonters Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, have endorsed Dennis Kucinich instead of their home state’s ex-governor, Howard Dean. Cohen says the other candidates are interested only in incremental adjustments to the system, while Kucinich wants more sweeping alterations. ‘He is also the only candidate that gets to the nitty-gritty of how we’re going to pay for that change,’ says Cohen, who compares the federal budget to Oreo cookies. ‘If you take five cookies out of the Pentagon’s package of 40, you could provide national health care and rebuild schools. Mr. Kucinich has those same priorities. When I explain why I support Kucinich, [Vermonters] respect it.” (Newsweek, February 4, 2004)

·“Using Oreo cookies to represent the Federal Discretionary Budget, [Cohen] told Tufts students of how 50 percent of the Budget is reserved for the Pentagon. ‘Fifteen percent of the Pentagon budget would satisfy all our needs,’ he said.” (Tufts Daily, October 20, 2003)

·“[Phil] DONAHUE: Do you want to do your ‘show and tell’ here?
COHEN: Sure, absolutely. You know, we decided that the most appropriate mechanism to talk about this issue is Oreo cookies. On this chart, each Oreo equals $10 billion. And this is our national budget. So the Pentagon gets 40 Oreos, $400 billion. And in comparison to that, federal aid to education is 3 Oreos. Humanitarian foreign aid is 1 Oreo. Children’s health care is 4 Oreos. Energy independence, that’s a quarter of an Oreo. And Head Start gets half an Oreo…” (Donahue, MSNBC, August 23, 2002)

·“With that, he brought out stacks of Oreo cookies, each representing 10 billion. Thirty-five such treats stood for Pentagon expenses, while only three were for education and one-half stack for job training.
“‘Now all we’re talking about is moving a few Oreos around,’ Mr. Cohen said to laughter. He then slipped into a sort of campaign stump speech. ‘We put the Oreo from here and put it on education, and at 10 billion a year in 10 years we can rebuild all the schools in our country.’” (Baltimore Jewish Times, February 22, 2002)

·” During the lunch break of the second general session, Ben Cohen, cofounder of Ben & Jerry’s, used his time at the mike to encourage socially-responsible business practices and to deplore large U.S. expenditures on military hardware. Mr. Cohen brought several props to the stage, including a large stack of Oreo cookies.” (Modern Brewery Age, October 9, 2000)

·” If their message-”Invest in children, not in Pentagon waste”-is direct, the medium used to convey it has been full of surprises. They’ve dramatized it by using charts of Oreo cookies, rap music sung by Cohen, a campaign bus called Mabel cruising through the caucus state of Iowa, 10,000 cookies distributed to prospective primary voters in New Hampshire and a hot-air balloon launched at the Capitol last week.” (Newsday, February 13, 2000)

·“Mr. COHEN: On this chart, every Oreo equals $ 10 billion.
[Russ] MITCHELL: And it may be Ben’s attraction to dairy that drove him to his latest project.
Mr. COHEN: So this is the Pentagon. It gets 28 Oreos–$ 280 billion. Over here is education. It gets three Oreos worth $ 30 billion.” (CBS Evening News, December 4, 1999)

·“‘The candidates have seen the polls, but they’re really not backing up their words with the money to pay for it,’ said Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and founder of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. ‘We say, “Show me the money.”‘
“[...]
“The group’s sometimes folksy, low-tech approach, such as using Oreo cookies to illustrate a military spending chart, has been garnering a good deal of national media attention as its bus followed candidates from Iowa to New Hampshire.” (AP, October 26, 1999)

·“The Oreos stacked in small piles on the witness table meant this would not be an ordinary Senate hearing. So did the attire of the first witness before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Ben Cohen. He wore khakis, unofficially prohibited on Capitol Hill unless it is a Friday in August. This was a Tuesday in early September.” (Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Sept. 22, 1999)

·“COHEN: This is 28 Oreos, $10 billion per cookie, so this is $280 the federal level. That’s three Oreos’ worth.” (The Crier Report, FOX News, Sept. 2, 1999)

·“Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. has outgrown Cohen and Greenfield, but then, neither one ever imagined that the crepe and ice cream scoop shop they opened in an abandoned Burlington, Vt., gas station would ever grow to its current size, with $140 million in sales.
“As it turned out, their flavorful ice cream, rich in butterfat and loaded with large chunks of Oreos, Heath Bars and other goodies, seduced American taste buds. A nation of dieters saved room for dessert.” (The Los Angeles Times, July 24, 1994)

Matt Haber