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Smack-a-fattie Friday at the BBC

Why have one horrible, badly reported, hysterical obesity panic story to ruin everyone's Bank Holiday when you can have two? After all, now that Libya has been freed, the economic crisis is over, the riots forgotten and the Somali famine a distant memory (umm, wait a minute) the Beeb can get back to its real purpose - (mis)using the license fee money of it's 'majority' fat subscriber base to serve as a mouthpiece for obesity crusaders and agitate for tougher laws against fat people.

The first, 'Government must 'get tough' on obesity' is the usual 'call to arms' story from one of the ballooning number of obesity 'concern' organisations, citing projected exponential rises in the obesity figures (really) as justification for 'fat taxes' to stave off a coming Fattypocalypse. To date there are 1200 comments on the associated discussion thread, some attempts to inject sanity but mostly the old favourites we've come to love - put us in concentration camps, sterilise us, ban / tax 'plus-sized' clothing, forced removal of fat children from parents, more stigma, hate and shame (because we all know how well that's worked to date).

And then there's this piece, representing the BBC's other favourite past-time - mommy-shaming. Once again we're told that fat women are endangering their unborn babies, making deliveries more difficult and costing the NHS a fortune. Indeed the BBC regularly runs articles attributing the entire midwifery / maternity crisis in the health service not to Government cuts or a baby boom on a scale not seen since the Sixties but too many fat people getting pregnant (and here I was thinking being big was relationship / marriage suicide - unless all the fat people are procreating with other fat people, which I'm sure would be used to justify Dan Savage-style anti fat-marriage laws were it ever 'empirically proven').

There's still time to get over there and try to inject some sense into the comments (ETA: a third story, again with comment thread, has appeared, this one about an alleged explosion of obesity in Sierra Leone and other developing countries). There are disconcertingly few dissenting voices, far fewer than debates on (say) climate change, smoking, alcohol or drug legalisation. I'm also going to put together a formal complaint, not that it's done much in the past. I am so thoroughly sick of the media abusing its position of influence in this way to demonise and incite hatred against a group of people whose positive contribution to society is never even considered. I've said it before, but we've been here so many times in the past, and it's never, ever, ended well.

(*I can't take credit for that, it was dreamt up by a sympathetic commentator on the 'evil fat mums' thread).

What is dieting anyway? | Back to School

pani113's picture
August 28th, 2011 | Link | IMO, control of the

IMO, control of the population and scapegoating are factors. The UK population is much more aware than the U.S. population the extent to which they were ripped off by the bankers/power-elite. Scapegoating fat people diverts rage away from the top to the poor. A weight obsessed population is distracted by their scales; when they are looking down they can't see what is going on around them. And as Naomi Wolf points out, so many governments are headed towards fascism; they know what a powerful weapon violating body boundaries are. Class warfare in a especially very ugly form!

"Fat can be beautiful. Intolerance is ALWAYS ugly!"

richie79's picture
August 30th, 2011 | Link | Absolutely Pani. Consider

Absolutely Pani. Consider the debate thread on the main BBC article. Almost 1700 comments by the time it closed; even allowing for multiple posts and the few voices of reason that's a good thousand people with nothing better to do than spend their time blaming one group of artificially-created scapegoats for the situation in which the 'developed' world now finds itself. I'm not one for conspiracy theories (for one I'm not convinced that the current UK / US Govts are generally well-organised or efficient enough to orchestrate a hate campaign of such complexity) but would certainly agree that it's been in the interests of the rich and powerful to allow the whole thing to snowball to its current level of craziness.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

richie79's picture
August 30th, 2011 | Link | Emerald - again I agree.

Emerald - again I agree. Consider the BBC show 'Saints and Scroungers' which despite claiming to 'balance' its demonisation of the 5% or so of claimants who 'cheat' the system with tales of disability 'heroism' against adversity (itself a hugely problematic and stigmatising concept) seems very much a reaction to the current Government's disproportionate obsession with welfare fraud. Similarly 'Super Size Ambulance' (a BBC 'shockumentary' following bariatric paramedic crews, now apparently commissioned for a full series) seeks to reinforce the stereotype of fat people taking more than their 'fair share' out of the NHS pot. And then there are all the various 'fly-on-the-wall' productions focusing on immigration and the tactics of the Border Agency - immigrants are another heavily scapegoated group, with the Byzantine complexities of visa law making it easier than many would think to be branded an 'illegal'.

On 'hate crime' legislation I'm torn - on the one hand we shouldn't need it, since a) there are other methods of opposing ignorance and intolerance, b) it tends to rile the 'PC gone mad' brigade who then froth and rage about it on DM comments threads, c) i'protecting' particular classes of people merely shifts the focus onto other groups who through omission are then considered legitimate targets (as indeed is the current situation with fat) and d) fat people are unlikely ever to be so recognised because our 'characteristic' is considered mutable and such legislation would be opposed as 'promoting obesity' or 'permission to be fat'.

That said and as another of unconventional appearance I signed the Sophie Lancaster petition and supported her family's campaign, because I strongly oppose society's current acceptance that the fear of violent and abusive censure by a narrow-minded and ignorant minority lacking anything better to do should be allowed to dictate how people choose to express themselves when in public.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

worrier August 28th, 2011 | Link | "ban / tax 'plus-sized'

"ban / tax 'plus-sized' clothing"

I've always considered the price of plus sized clothing, which is usually a lot more expensive than smaller clothing, as a kind of de-facto "fat tax" anyway. And the policy in department stores of always putting the plus sized section behind all the smaller clothes in the farthest, darkest corner of the clothing section is a kind of ghetto-isation of fat clothes/people. It wouldn't be that much of a stretch imagining fat clothes being banned. I also don't find it too much of a stretch imaging fat people being banned.

richie79's picture
August 30th, 2011 | Link | Worrier, many of the

Worrier, many of the suggestions (and this is a recurring theme on these 'debates') focused on making a limited selection of 'plus-sized' clothing available only on prescription, as a means of keeping fat people joined at the hip to the NHS. Exactly how this would reduce the alleged tax burden is unclear, and seems motivated more by the desire to punish and exclude than anything else.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

worrier August 30th, 2011 | Link | "suggestions (and this is a

"suggestions (and this is a recurring theme on these 'debates') focused on making a limited selection of 'plus-sized' clothing available only on prescription"

Or yellow stars sown onto clothing. My God, I'm one of life's pessimists, but this one shocked me, really. The suggesters of such things obviously have no clue that they're no different from the Nazis who wanted all Jews to wear yellow stars.

richie79's picture
August 31st, 2011 | Link | No need worrier. Our primary

No need worrier. Our primary disadvantage in this society is our visibility, that's why we're such easy targets. Fat people automatically stand out and unlike many other stigmatised groups have no means of temporarily hiding or disguising the feature with which people take such issue. The yellow stars are entirely unnecessary - the media and mass culture have ensured that every single fat person has a perpetual 'Kick Me' sign pinned to their back, every time they leave the house.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

Alyssa November 30th, 2011 | Link | Taxing "plus size" clothing

I agree completely that the higher cost of larger sized clothing is indeed a fat tax for the consumer. It certainly is not justified by a bit of extra cloth or why wouldn't stores charge more for a size 12 versus a size 6? I have heard the "extra cloth" excuse as well as it's a "specialty market" where fewer pieces are made and so manufacturing costs per piece are higher. WTF? Since a signficant percentage of the U.S. population requires these sizes, I doubt the veracity of the latter argument. Couple that with the fact that much of the clothing I see in larger sizes for women is poorly constructed and consists of inferior material, the pricing of much larger sized clothing lets the manufacturer reap a windfall profit.

DeeLeigh's picture
August 29th, 2011 | Link | I just heard a report on the

I just heard a report on the BBC that implied that splitting bottles of wine at dinner was going to give all of us liver disease. Even the announcer seemed to think that the interviewee was full of shit. If only they were equally critical of the similarly alarmist, puritanical, patronizing "obesity" stories.

richie79's picture
August 30th, 2011 | Link | They were, once upon a time.

They were, once upon a time. What changed, I wonder?

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

Bree's picture
August 29th, 2011 | Link | The demonization of the poor

The demonization of the poor and/or disabled has always been a staple in the US, but the level of hostility has risen even higher thanks to the prolific coverage of the extreme right-wing GOP candidates running for President and the endless rhetoric of the Tea Party population---ironic considering that most of this group is older and having to rely on the very same benefits as the ones they are mocking.

There is a distinct air of classism in this behavior, since it's widely assumed that many fat/disabled or fat/able-bodied people rely on some type of government assistance. Even if these same people are able to hold down employment, it doesn't matter---they are lazy blobs who should be pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and making it on their own. There is also a racial tone to the accusations as well even though it's been reported since the 90's that more white than black Americans are on welfare.

What's also ironic is that if you want to receive any type of assistance these days, there are requirements you must follow. In Maryland, where I live, it is mandatory for all non-elderly applicants who aren't working to either sign up with the local county workforce network and actively look for jobs, or if they haven't graduated high school, to attend GED classes---unless they receive SSDI. Yes, there are people who do cheat the system, but the days of the stereotypical welfare queen getting her nails done, watching soap operas all day and driving a Cadillac are long gone, and now we have working married couples with children and senior citizens more than ever who need help.

People who choose to act morally superior refuse to see the reality that's presented in front of them, instead clinging to old myths so they don't have to accept that gays, racial minorities, disabled people, fat, etc. are not only living the same lives as they are, but perhaps are doing it better than them.

richie79's picture
August 30th, 2011 | Link | Whilst not fully conversant

Whilst not fully conversant with all the complexities and factionalities of the US political scene, I remain hugely disappointed that the libertarian foundation of the Tea Party movement (which included protests against Bloomberg's 'fat taxes' in New York) seems to have been overtaken by the usual GOP preoccupations with class, race, religion and the things people get up to behind their bedroom doors. I really did think for a while they offered a radical alternative to the 'we-know-what's-best-for-you', big-statism of Obama et al. Sadly it was not to be.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

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