Flamebait

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

No sooner did I put one douchenozzle to bed yesterday, when another appeared brandishing his own long, skinny, useless plastic white dick. Mo over at Big Fat Deal has the scoop; some idjit galoot named John Ridley over at the Huffington Post apparently posted his own steaming pile about how it was “insulting” to claim that fatness was a civil rights issue because we can easily control how many Big Macs we shove in our pie-holes. Yes, those very words, “Big Macs,” “shove,” and “pie-hole.” B8, I30, N47…BINGO. And no, he’s not getting any link love either. Fuck him. Click on this ick via Mo, if you just can’t resist; at least then she’ll get some traffic too.

See, that’s the problem. Both traditional media sites, such as those for magazines and newspapers, as well as high-traffic media Web sites like HuffPo and Salon, have figured out that eyeballs are the name of the game, since they get paid by their advertisers per click, and nothing gets them hits like mindlessly baiting the readership. Right now the best ways to get people frosted from the editorial standpoint, it seems, come down to one of three different types of stories that will spread through the Net like brushfire: a “women are stupid and useless” poo attack emerging from the intestines of someone with a female moniker (ooh, subversive!); a “black and brown people are such crying victimized tittybabies” blop of projectile vomitus barfed up by someone who identifies him/herself as being black or brown (ooh, daring!); or, of course, the ever-popular “fatties should all quit stuffing themselves and then they’ll all get thin and live forever and we’ll like them” noseblattering, no cred of any kind needed for the latter, just sufficient hate to keep the fingers moving. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting long-skinny-useless-plastic- white-dick fatigue — not only because it’s the same garbage over and over and over again, but I’m worn to the nub by the knowledge that they are making pots of money off our outrage. They insult us; we rush over to avenge the insult; they win. And win. And win. Why should they stop?

It’s easy to see how this process keeps generating itself. We feel (or at least I do) that if we don’t take on this stuff in some way, it becomes the equivalent of trying to “ignore” a junior-high bully, hoping they’ll let us be. Unless they’re really bad at bullying and their heart’s not in it, they will do no such thing; the attacks will merely escalate. And you can’t write about this stuff without reading it, right? Well, you know…maybe we can, to some degree. When Mo posted the excerpt from Ridley, I needed to read no further than “I can moderate the number of Big Macs I shove in my pie-hole” to know what I was dealing with. I don’t care if the rest of the post was the frigging Iliad; that much hate in the first graf alone earns you an automatic spanking, and not the good kind.

Yes, that’s right. That makes me a giant hypocrite, doesn’t it? Because didn’t I complain that most of the posters on Majikthise never actually read my “Fats and Crats” post and instead were stuck on ripping me a tracheotomy over saying “disappear me” (which really had very little to do with the actual content of what I wrote)? But you know, there’s a big difference. I didn’t write “Fats and Crats” for the money. I didn’t write it for the eyeballs. I didn’t write it (or use the phrase “disappear me”) solely to piss people off. In fact, I did not have “pissing people off” as a goal at all; I wanted to explore certain ideas that I hadn’t seen explored in quite that way elsewhere. When you’re dealing with a story that’s pure flamebait, that’s a very, very, very different situation merely from writing about something you vehemently disagree with but which wasn’t coughed up merely to get a rise out of the reader. If the idea is to prevent a story like that from turning up again in the future, the objective is to keep the hits as low as possible, while at the same time reinforcing the idea that crapping in people’s cornflakes like that is just plain wrong. So writing about the excerpts and about each other’s posts, in lieu of linking to said stories ourselves? Perfectly fair game, in my book.

Okay now. Second order of business is to let these people know that we will never read their stupid rag again if they ever publish anything like it in the future. This is a tricky business if we never read their “stupid rag” in the first place; is anyone here a really big fan of Newuniversity.org? Didn’t think so. But in this particular case, I have a little bit of pull, in that I do read HuffPo pretty regularly, or have until now. So lemme try my hand at this.

Dear Arianna Huffington:

I have been a big fan of your site for several years. I read it at least once a day — or at least I did until yesterday, when I saw quite possibly the most single most offensive thing ever posted to the Huffington Post: John Ridley’s “Fatism Doesn’t Exist” entry, which posited the truly hateful idea that all of us fat folks are fat because of shoving Big Macs endlessly into our pie-holes, as he so wittily put it, and therefore we deserve whatever amount of hate the world has to cough up for us. (Apparently, millions of fat vegetarians and vegans and health food nuts don’t actually exist, and nobody ever gained crazy amounts of weight because of medication use or illness or injury, or from trashing his/her metabolism on endless rounds of dieting from a ridiculously young age. But I digress.)

Now, I really have no idea if Ridley came up with this “idea” for a “story” or if it was assigned to him, but in either case, allowing it to post to your site demonstrates what I consider a shocking lack of judgment and sensitivity. I’ve read plenty of things on HuffPo that I didn’t agree with, and that’s fine — I don’t expect an echo chamber, I expect challenging, interesting ways of seeing the world, particularly those that one cannot get from the traditional media. But I fail to understand how your site can question almost everything idea the traditional media has to offer and buy whole-hog into “obesity panic” without reading the fine print of who is behind it. If you read the fine print of almost every fat=death “study,” you will find a diet company, a diet-pill manufacturer, or a weight-loss surgical equipment manufacturer that has commissioned a data dredge to come up with the desired “fat kills!” result. And there have recently been studies to suggest that fat panic is taking a terrible toll on the psyches of young people, especially girls and women, resulting in skyrocketing rates of eating disorders and serious depression and body hatred, not to mention strong aversions to the nonstop exhortations to eat veggies and exercise that have resulted in less motivation, not more of it, to do such things. What it has NOT resulted in is lower weights or better health.

You are a sophisticated woman, Arianna. I know you cannot be completely unaware of this. I also know you must understand that this is a feminist issue also; it is the poorest paid and most overworked of women who tend to be the fattest, and an article in the Well section of the New York Times on March 31 suggested that women experience weight-based discrimination at weights far lower than those at which men suffer discrimination; a woman needs to be only about 13 pounds “overweight” to be snubbed, whereas a man must be about 68 pounds “overweight” before it becomes a stigma for him! And women diet their way up to “obese” far more often than they diet their way down to “normal,” at least on any permanent basis.

As much as I’ve enjoyed Huffington Post and would hate to lose it as part of my regular blog-reading routine, I cannot abide these kinds of careless fat-bashing insults such as those put forth by John Ridley, and if I see another post of its kind, I will regretfully have to discontinue reading your site for good. Being accused of something I am NOT doing — shoving countless Big Macs (which I personally find disgusting) into my “pie-hole” — is the fastest way to drive me away, not to mention the fact that my friends who do have this kind of disordered binge-eating pattern do not deserve this kind of contempt and scorn any more than those who suffer from anorexia and bulimia do. I trust that you will do the right thing and be far more mindful about this in the future. Thank you very much.

Sincerely yours,

Not Just a Bill (my HuffPo screen name)

Well, whaddaya think? Any good?

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15 Responses to “Flamebait”

  1. AnnieMcPhee Says:

    I think it’s good. So who is going to be the designated scout to find out when people are posting stuff we shouldn’t give the links to? 😉

  2. wriggles Says:

    John Ridley’s “Fatism Doesn’t Exist” entry, which posited the truly hateful idea that all of us fat folks are fat because of shoving Big Macs endlessly into our pie-holes……..and therefore we deserve whatever amount of hate the world has to cough up for us

    Isn’t it about time that some of us that have heard this kind of thing over and over started to get over it a little? If only to be able to give these views the challenge they deserve.

    Don’t get me wrong Meowser, you and Fu are doughty fighters, and I sometimes get v. angry myself, no doubt but I sometimes think that we are letting them off the hook by not pacing ourselves better. The point is who cares what people think we eat, food is food, so the point is we should focus on the fact that he feels fat people are deserving of hate, and why he thinks that’s anymore moral than those who think that black people are deserving of hate. Is racism really only wrong because black people can’t be white? ( of course there is skin bleaching! IOW we could make more of an effort to appear whiter, just like fatties are supposed to make endless painful efforts to be slim, even if they don’t succeed or ‘succeed’ at great cost).

  3. peggynature Says:

    I agree Meowser — it’s all a huge emotional manipulation, in the service of gaining readers. I glanced at that Huffington Post thing yesterday and just thought, “I’m not even going to deal with this.”

    The idea that discrimination against fat people doesn’t exist, given that there are reams of scientific literature on the topic, and entire organizations founded in an attempt to fight it, indicates that author is either 1) too stupid to bother arguing with or 2) baiting his readers.

    And the main reason I wrote something about the U of T piece was only because it hit a little too close to home, since I’m a university student in Toronto. But I even wonder if our talking about it didn’t just give them exactly the attention they wanted. Who knows anymore.

    When (significant) ad revenue enters the picture, you have to start questioning the motivations of the editorial.

  4. Sage Says:

    Good.

    Better? Send similar letters to advertisters you see on their site.

  5. spacedcowgirl Says:

    Meowser, your letter makes a great point that people who believe themselves to be universally skeptical and critical of the mainstream media nevertheless swallow the obesity crap without questioning it at all. I hope at least that sinks in, but I also hope that they read the whole letter carefully because there is a lot of important stuff in there.

  6. Liz Says:

    Weingarten has done it, too. Again. I’m quitting him. I’ll miss him, but I’m quitting him.

  7. buttercup Says:

    Excellent letter. I hope it does some good.

    Sometimes, I wonder if people just need someone to hate. If people need an “ism”. Racism and sexism are out, so how about sizeism? Over and over I’m perplexed by this in the progressive community and the art community. Maybe those of us who have cast off “isms”, are the exceptions to human nature rather than the rule.

    It makes me quite sad.

  8. Aurora Says:

    Great letter! And I second the advertisers suggestion too… one reader quitting is one thing, but advertisers threatening to pull over reader outrage makes another statement.

  9. Cindy Says:

    This is a really tough one for me.

    On one hand, I too tend to avoid that which causes me pain or ire.

    On the other hand, as a member of the much-maligned media, I don’t think savvy, partisan consumers of media are doing themselves or the culture any favors by reading only content that affirms their own worldview.

    The number of hits on a site mostly means that an advertiser is placing its content before the desired demographic. It doesn’t necessarily mean direct product sales. Well, crap. I know how branding works (more sales), and I see your point. But I’d hate for meowser or any other sophisticated blogger to tighten her field of view because she might encounter content that doesn’t totally line up with her worldview. I see the difference between dissent and hate speech, though, and Ridley pretty much side-stepped dissent and went for the knee-jerk fatties-are-gross argument.

    Shoot, this is a tough issue for me.

  10. Le'a Says:

    I completely agree with your approach, meowser. Don’t reward bigots with eyeballs, and let them know you’re doing it. After Saletan’s hideously bigoted fat-loathing piece on that whole “obesity is contagious” study, I sent Slate an email basically saying “This is my IP address. Please note that you will not see it at your site again, and this is why.” Haven’t been back, haven’t missed it. You can’t denigrate me and treat me with contempt and still count on my readership. Duh. And no, I don’t, in the interest of being “openminded” or whatever, have an obligation to take this shit.

    I think there’s also something odd going on with these flamebaiting pieces, though. The writers and publishers seem to assume that they can treat fat people as some kind of disgusting “other” without ever considering that some readers might actually be fat and *identify* as being fat. The assumption seems to be that even if you are fat (which they should know, since they’re all constantly trotting out that “OMG, 30% of everyone is obese” statistic), you’re probably still thinking of yourself as that “thin person inside,” and so you’ll also be “othering” yourself.

    I see this in other contexts too, like I had a prof last semester who would go on about Twinkie-eating fat people, never seeming to realize that this might be offensive to some of the people in the room. Because of course, to be offended would be to step forth and identify as fat, and who the hell would do that? It was weird.

  11. Meowser Says:

    Buttercup: Racism and sexism are not “out.” Not by a long shot. I only wish. (I want it noted that I pointed out in this same post that woman-bashing and POC-bashing are very much welcome in traditional media outlets, they’ve been quite profitable flamebait too — in this election season especially, but really anytime.)

  12. Meowser Says:

    I think there’s also something odd going on with these flamebaiting pieces, though. The writers and publishers seem to assume that they can treat fat people as some kind of disgusting “other” without ever considering that some readers might actually be fat and *identify* as being fat. The assumption seems to be that even if you are fat (which they should know, since they’re all constantly trotting out that “OMG, 30% of everyone is obese” statistic), you’re probably still thinking of yourself as that “thin person inside,” and so you’ll also be “othering” yourself.

    Oh, absolutely, Le’a. There’s no way they could possibly get away with it if every single fat person — or even close to it — was as turned off by reading this garbage as I am. Too many fat people read this stuff and say, “He’s right, I’m a disgusting pig, keep telling me and maybe I’ll slim down,” or, “I may be fat, but I’m being GOOD right now and I’m getting slim! Why can’t all those other fatties be as good as I am?” They haven’t gotten the message: Haters don’t care if you’re “good” or not, or ever will be. To them, there is no such thing as a “good fatty.”

  13. Top Posts « WordPress.com Says:

    […] Flamebait [image] posted by meowser No sooner did I put one […]

  14. buttercup Says:

    Buttercup: Racism and sexism are not “out.” Not by a long shot. I only wish.

    Maybe “out” was a poor choice of words. Less acceptable? More frowned upon? I don’t know. Gads, how well I know they’re not ACTUALLY out after this election cycle. I’m on a “progressive” e-list where people truly, really, honestly claimed they did not see where HRC’s treatment in the media was sexist.

    A lot of people are more comfortable in their lives when there’s someone to “other”. It all sucks. I fully credit the fatosphere for damn near saving my life over the past year.

  15. NY Daily News “Fat-letes” Slide Show: Sports Entertainers of Size as Food/Eating Porn « fat fu Says:

    […] yes. Let’s. (As per my flamebait rules, no direct link: here is the link to the photo gallery page, from which you can find it if […]


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