Claims that are hard to swallow

Now that you’ve presumably digested my appetizer on fat acceptance, it’s time for a sampling of some of BFB’s recent output. Here, Mr. McAleer cites an article that suggests that corporate influence peddling may sway medical researchers toward conclusions favoring the funding source. (I asked a Harvard School of Public Health obesity researcher about alleged corporate influence on work he’s been involved with and will relate his reply in a future entry.) The article says nothing about obesity studies, but McAleer’s conclusion — already iterated on his blog too many times to count — is that any data suggesting a link between overweight and health woes is either biased or ineptly collected, so he feels confident in again mentioning the alleged conspiracy between companies like Weight Watchers and independent researchers.
Given this background, here’s a look at some the sources commonly used by Big Fat Blog to “debunk” the crazy — and I daresay tasteless — idea that disease and excess weight are related.

  • Sandy Szwarc (example). An R.N. who writes for, Szwarc is a “food editor and writer” and a “certified culinary professional and recipe developer” who “serves on the Executive Committee as a judge for the annual International Association of Culinary Professionals Julia Child cookbook awards.” Perhaps BFB founder and chief demagogue Paul McAleer has overlooked these things or believe they’re not relevant to Szwarc’s criticism of obesity research.
  • The Center for Consumer Freedom (example). This august organization, a front group for the food, booze and tobacco industries, agitates for keeping the blood-alcohol level at which it’s legal to drive high and constantly attacks studies suggesting links between the overconsumption of certain foods and disease.
  • Paul Campos (example). This certified crank, who has also lamely protested the “scientific orthodoxy” maintained by evolutionary biologists (but has no problem with, say, the orthodoxy propounded by adherents to gravitational theory), is the author of “Big Fat Lies,” itself an inglorious compendium of distortions, red herrings, propaganda and demagoguery. But because Campos unabashedly caters to the wounded egos of overweight people, he has virtually assured himself and his books glowing praise from an uncritical niche audience; meanwhile, the book’s inaccurate claims have guaranteed its not being taken seriously by anyone with a medical background. This tome uses the common tactic (echoed on BFB itself) of conflating shoddy or unflattering treatment of fat people in the media with the medical realities of being too fat.

Moving on, this post is a great primer on the thought processes of FFAs (that’s “free fatty acids” to biochemists, but “fundamentalist fat activists” for present purposes). Look at what is written in response to the implication that childhood obesity predisposes kids to future health risks:

“I suppose my first question would be what, exactly, is the evidence of this future risk? Because I’d certainly like to see it.”
No, he wouldn’t like to see it. He doesn’t like to see evidence of such things any more than creationists are thrilled to learn of discoveries like this one, because otherwise he’d have to raise his most reasoned rebuttal of a scientific claim above the level of “Nuh-uh!” Paul McAleer is no scientist or analyst — his outraged claim that the opinions of 700 randomly sampled Virginians can shed no light on the minds of the other seven million is a testament to that — and he dismisses medical facts as neatly and artfully as someone clearing a room full of unwelcome interrogators with a noisome burst of flatulence. In his view, any doctor who espouses the idea that being fat isn’t good for you is either or whore of the pharmaceutical industry or a victim of cultural brainwashing. See any parallels between this kind of dogmatic dismissal of evidence and that of creationists, who are certain that biologists tout evolution not because the trail of facts lead that way but because of a pre-existing commitment to God-bashing?
As a group they seem to have arrived at a loose consensus about a poorly desfined yet grand anti-fat conspiracy involving the mass media, the government, and private interests such as the weight-loss industry and Big Pharma. Obviously entities like Weight Watchers want nothing more than business, and for most people these programs are dismal failures. But does this imply that such programs are not addressing a legitimate need? Of course not — no more than the inefficacy of intercessionary prayers suggests that the objects of these prayers don’t have cancer or other diseases. And I could be wrong here, but as far as the media pandering to weight-loss and fashion advertisers is concerned, I’m pretty sure I see twenty ads for some food product or another for every one I spot for a miracle diet or a magic slimming device. The media may whore itself out to guarantee its own existence but does so on an equal-opportunity basis.
And how about Washington? Well, BFB, like every irrational group in America with a beef, believes that Uncle Sam is behind the bulk of the chaicanery. BFB’s vilification of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is sufficiently extreme to awaken the appreciative parodist in all of us. Their position is that every last rock in the veritable mountain of data the CDC has accumulated about the health risks of obesity was laid there by special-interest money and a toxic mixture of unconscious anti-size bias and plain old-fashioned bigotry.
There are several intended lessons in the exploration of this subject. Not only will posts dealing with FFAs serve as touchstones to examining the medical aspects of being overweight, but they will underscore the penetrating and aforementioned similarities between the delusions maintained by secular communities facing what they see as persecution and those of religious adherents, thereby in a quirky and indirect way cutting skygod fanatics some slack: In being met with furious and incomprehensibly irrational resistance, are dealing with a twisted thought process that is not engendered by or specific to a “god meme,” but simply one manifestation of a greater human tendency, or need, to cling to deep-seated beliefs no matter how badly they fail objective stink tests.

  1. #1 by Platypus on June 12, 2006 - 10:09 am

    Oh yes, Sandy Szwarc. You should look up her BSE-denial stories on Astroturf Central too. They’re a hoot.

%d bloggers like this: