That’s not what “information” means, sir

The greatest thing about unintentional irony is that its power to amuse is immune to the sands of time.

We live, of course, in an era in which every slack-minded crusader with Internet access seems to think that his frantic and delusional ideas about politics, religion and life in general merit a personal blog. This has boosted the number of people publicly expressing thoughts that are not only profoundly stupid but also magnificently oblivious to levels no observer could have predicted even twenty years ago. Nevertheless, every new addition to the canon of “Look at the pile of chocolate it looks like I stepped in! Why does it stink?” is just as entertaining as the ones preceding it. If nothing else, these actors are largely insulated from uncomfortable emotions such as shame and embarrassment, because they lack the intellectual candlepower to see how badly off the mark their shots invariably fall.

Hence my fascination with Granite Grok. This murderously mindless collective found me a bunch of years ago thanks to a post I made about one of their contributors, a woman with strong ties to Texas and the 19th century who had written a letter to the Concord Monitor that reduced neatly to “Piss on the queers cause it don’t please Jesus.” We had some back and forth and…ah,  fuck it, there’s no need for any backstory here. I’ve had more recent dealings with these clowns, who decided to post my girlfriend’s address and proudly refused to remove it. They have only become more bitter, dumber and greater in number over the years what with a black Democrat in the Oval Office and New Hampshire becoming increasingly politically liberal. Mainly as a result of these things, I like to rip on their more egregiously stupid posts despite the fact that their blog is an obscure echo-chamber, even though this is kind of like picking on a bunch of kindergarteners for fucking up a calculus assignment and wiping boogers on it for good measure before handing it it to the teacher in the form of a crumpled paper ball. But hey, if you want to take stock of what the most wrongheaded far-right-wingers in America are “thinking,” this is as good a representative sample as you’re apt to find.

The site’s two most prolific bloggers are labeled “Skip” and “Steve.” Both men qualify as supremely slack-minded by any metric; this is not a place where thoughtful conservatives would be welcome, not that they have any inclination to join the strident chorus. Skip is probably the fundamentally more angry and cognitively barren of the two, and unquestionably boasts the more infelicitous grammar. He is inclined to season his counterfactual analyses of news items with extemporaneous rants that at times are quite literally unreadable. Steve is less inclined than Skip to become emotional, but has an unparalleled penchant for linking to ground-level misinformation sites to support his capacious warehouse of lies. Skip is genuinely an asshole; Steve, I think, is more of a simpleton than a genuine hater, although saying that he’s a kinder fellow than Skip isn’t exactly throwing a compliment his way. Both of them revel in taking cheap shots at women in power, which is to be expected since they both look like they just fell out of the ass end of an elephant with colitis, and homely dudes are often strangely empowered by taking one-sided potshots at successful, educated women. (More on this shortly.)

Steve has a Twitter account that includes this self-description: “Conservative Blogger, Podcast/Radio Co-Host, Taxpayer Advocate, Social Media and info-junkie.”

Calling yourself an “info-junkie” when you get all of your “facts” from the dregs of the climate-change denial world, fundamentalist Christian-run “medical” organizations, Breitbart, and other assorted cranks, liars and functional illiterates is like calling yourself a proud feminist of long standing because you continually masturbate to badly stained issues of Hustler you’ve kept under your mattress since the 1980s. It’s a perfect example of the howling irony I mentioned earlier. (Maybe he means “infomercial junkie.”)

So, this takes me, indirectly as always, to the specific post I will take issue with today. I chose it entirely at random, which in Grok-land is a surefire way to chose a post riddled with factual errors and other miscues.

You can read this brief, inspired outburst — which is a jab at the FDA’s recent requirement that food makers include “added sugars” on nutritional labels — for yourself. Highlights: Steve thinks that the plural of people is “people’s,” refers to the First Lady as “Moochell-o,” and doesn’t seem to understand that Michelle Obama herself, though an advocate for healthful eating, doesn’t have the authority to simply issue orders to the FDA or any other arm of the government. (Perhaps Steve is a fan of House of Cards, although it’s painful trying to imagine him doggedly trying to follow any one of the show’s many intertwined plot threads.) As always, Steve had nothing in the way of an original argument on display here; he simply regurgitates, uncritically and erratically, what he has skimmed in his source du jour, published on a site called the Washington Free Beacon.

The Free Beacon’s creators claim that the site is “dedicated to uncovering the stories that the powers that be hope will never see the light of day” and that its staff “produces in-depth investigative reporting on a wide range of issues, including public policy, government affairs, international security, and media.” In case you missed it the first time, they insist that “the Free Beacon is committed to serving the public interest by reporting news and information that is not being fully covered by other news organizations.” They only admit to being conservatives in their dog-whistle “MSM sucks” way, and glance at the bios of its primary writers suggests that “An assortment of gloriously self-unaware right-wing Christian paranoiacs” might be more accurate; one has even written a book titled The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star. (See, I do investigative reporting myself.)

The Free Beacon story, carrying the headline “Scientists: Michelle Obama’s Nutrition Facts Label Not Based on Science,” claims that the addition of “added sugars” to nutrition information labels — which is apparently an idea solely advanced and authorized by Michelle Obama, given that it is “her” label — is going to cost food manufacturers $640 million and have “a net social cost,” whatever the fuck that is, of $1.4 billion. The explanation given later in the article for these figures, which were the result of an analysis aid for in part by such objective sources as the Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners Association, consists of language bearing a suspicious resemblance to hollow jibber-jabber.

The article also includes this gem:

A letter critical of the new label signed by a dozen scientists, including Roger Clemens, a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and Eric A. Decker, the head of the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, was submitted to the Office of Management and Budget. The scientists said the new label is “misleading,” and note that it was based on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, whose committee did not include a single expert on sugars.

First of all, twelve whole scientists? Really? I lack the time and the inclination to vet the personal politics of Roger Clemens (snicker) and Eric A. Decker, but I would hazard a guess this was far more of a motivating factor for their signing the letter than anything science-related.

Second, I’m quite certain the writer(s) of this letter know what an ad hominem argument is. Here they are saying that the panel of scientists behind the new labeling aren’t qualified to make the recommendations they did because no one on it is a “sugar expert” (whatever that might be; it sounds like the biochemistry world’s answer to a “right main bronchus expert” in pulmonology). But if they actually take issue with the science itself, they don’t say why, or at least the Free Beacon article fails to include this…information. Look, if the people who signed off on the label fucked something up, say what it is. Don’t just call them unqualified to make the judgment they did.

Finally, there’s this:

The letter also noted that the Institute of Medicine and the European Food Safety Authority have “concluded that added sugars are not uniquely linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes.”

This is just as vacuous as it looks. Added sugars probably aren’t uniquely linked to leprosy, scabies, or acne rosacea either, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a concern for some people. And do take note of the word uniquely. All that tells you is that if sugars are in fact linked to those diseases, well, big fucking deal — so is a lot of other shit. I also don’t recall anyone saying that sugar is “linked to” diabetes as a causative factor, any more than heroin per se causes addiction.

This thing got way too long for even my taste, so in closing I’ll walk it back. A politically motivated “news” site (and believe me, some of the liberal ones are just as bad — I’ll give the Free Beacon credit for solid writing) offers a distorted account of a biased and largely unimportant action by a few concerned scientists acting on behalf of sugar and food interests to bitch about something that will cut industry profits. This is picked up downstream by the “news” aggregator of an obscure and empty-headed right-winger who then repeats parts of it while calling Michelle Obama a cow in pidgin English. I’m noit sure why I thought that any of this was noteworthy.

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