In my recent post on the poisonous nature of pepper spray, I noted that the name makes it sound more innocuous than it really is. We’re talking, after all, about a chemical agent potent enough that our soldiers are banned by international treaty from using it in other countries:
But we’ve taken to calling it pepper spray, I think, because that makes it sound so much more benign than it really is, like something just a grade or so above what we might mix up in a home kitchen. The description hints maybe at that eye-stinging effect that the cook occasionally experiences when making something like a jalapeno-based salsa, a little burn, nothing too serious.
As it turns out, this is exactly the message that Fox News is promoting to its views. And not subtly either. As Gawker reported, last night News co-hosts Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly mulled over the pepper-spraying of peacefully protesting students at UC-Davis this weekend. Why all the outrage, Kelly wondered. After all “pepper spray is a food product, essentially.”
On Twitter, this has launched some fairly hilarious suggestions from my fellow science writers for potential Fox News Food Products:
@carlzimmer: More Fox food products: ricin nerve gas from [castor] beans, cyanide from apple seeds. Happy Thankgiving!
@sethmnookin: Don’t forget bitter almonds.
Tongue-in-cheek queries about whether Fox was proffering useful household tips:
@hollychrome: So I should start cooking with pepper spray?
And a collection of #MegynKellyEssentially comments such as:
@droogie6655321: Guns are essentially long-distance paper hole punchers #MegynKellyEssentially
@drdryskull: Mustard gas is essentially a condiment #MeganKellyEssentially
But just in case anyone – among, say, the dedicated Fox News viewers, actually believes that we’re talking kitchen science here, let me repeat another point made in my earlier post. There is nothing, repeat nothing, domestic about the nature of pepper spray. On the Scoville scale, used to measure pepper burn intensity, police issue spray stands at 5.3 million units. For comparison, the blisteringly hot jabenero pepper is a mere 350,000 units. And to generate this kind of chemical intensity, you actually need a industrial laboratory process, essentially.
But if Fox is actually looking for some more “food products, essentially” for comparison, then, yes, apple seeds and bitter almonds make a reasonable comparison. Oh and peach and apricot pits, which also contain cyanide.
All of which, by the sound of it, may be found in Megyn Kelly’s kitchen.