OJ? Really?

There are these posters all over Boston announcing "OJ IS GUILTY!" which then continues to present itself as an anti-Orange Juice ad for some sort of orange water. Orange Juice apparently, now being bad for you.

Orange Juice? Really?

It amazes me that the notion of "common sense" can allow people to completely condemn fat people, but doesn't allow them to stop and ask whether attacking orange juice really sounds right. It seems that Orange Juice has too many "carbs", so I guess this is some Atkins nonsense. The text on the bottle of orange colored water also makes a big deal about how the ideal breakfast with the mom serving OJ is unrealistic, but even if you can't get your mom to serve you OJ, you can still have orange colored water. Because God forbid you just pour your own damn glass of OJ.

I'm sorry, but Orange Juice isn't bad for you. End of story. Its juice, for goodness sake. The only way one could see that as being far too much is if a person is either starving themselves or insanely obsessive about "carbs". Which regretably are a lot of people so I'm sure the orange colored water will do quite well for itself.

Foot soldiers against fat

Its increasingly clear to me that the greatest threat facing fat acceptance isn’t the multi-billion dollar diet industry or the multi-billion dollar related industries that also profit on promoting the fat=evil message. Rather, the real danger comes from the people who’ve been sold that bill of goods. Because they will keep angrily fighting without any financial motive. Having been coddled with a vacuum that supports their way of thinking, they have been made to become violently angry when someone suggests that we look at fat people differently.

To be sure, many are now personally indebted to the cult of dieting. They are probably the most aggressive unpaid foot soldiers against fat acceptance because they see it as a real threat to their world view. Their perspective simply cannot condone any disagreement. Because if someone doesn’t agree, it can sow doubt as to whether they are doing the right thing. Dieting up and down, again and again, increasingly culminating in radical surgery as a means of punishing their bodies for not being thin. This can only be justified by an extreme view of the evils of fatness that has never been supported by research or even honest anecdote (the favored proof of the fat bashers; though try some in return and watch it be instantly dismissed as meaningless anecdotal evidence). Many of these people have heard of fat acceptance but rejected it. That’s their right, of course, but their response is to insist that fat acceptance change to support their world view. They’ve perverted the term “size acceptance” which was always an expansion of fat acceptance ideas, into a means of turning the movement into yet another diet support group. It’s not about accepting the size you are. It’s about accepting the size you think you should be. And since this effectively shuts up people are advocating for the idea that being fat can be okay, the size everyone thinks they should be is the size Big Diet tells them they should be.

But this goes further than just dieters aggressively protecting their viewpoint from any disagreement. Even people with no stake in the matter whatsoever express the same rabid support for the diet industry. Their message has been allowed to be promoted with such protection that many people find the notion of disagreement to be inconceivable and will react with just as much passion on learning of the fat acceptance movement as they would if they found out people claimed gravity doesn’t exist or that the oceans are made of jell-o. The media has allowed the fat=evil message to be promoted with so little challenge that virtually everyone sees it as a given. As so obvious that you simply cannot disagree with them.

Fat acceptance faces a major challenge in confronting these attitudes. Inevitably, even well meaning people will treat the movement as the stuff of tin-foil hats. They’ve been so successfully trained to do so precisely because they were never told there was another side to the story of fat. While no article on fat acceptance can go without being challenged by fat detractors, no article on dieting will ever be challenged by anything more threatening than a different approach to dieting. Even the statistics of dieting’s failures have been largely co-opted by the diet industry to promote their wares, thus neutering them of their true force.

I’m unsure how fat acceptance can get beyond this problem, though I’m deeply concerned that the movement has a pattern of simply giving into to their critics and endorsing their attacks. We cannot affect change if we cannot even argue for our right to believe differently. Yet this is the current state of affairs. As fat acceptance started to grow more prominent, it drew more active condemnation and subversion from the ant-fat folks, and I’m sad to say its working. For some time, fat acceptance optimists though we were on the verge of a tipping point in cultural attitudes, but I think its clear this has not been born out. Indeed, the backlash from those indebted to diet culture has possible pushed the movement backwards. Places where it is safe to believe fat acceptance are increasingly scarce and we find ourselves waging the same basic debate over and over and over to every single critic who cannot conceive of people who feel this way. A couple people are open-minded enough to be converted, but so many are just incredulous to anything said against fat=evil that you just can make any headway. These aren’t all bad people, either. Not every critic of fat acceptance is the type to indulge in the sort of extreme hatred that is easy to ignore.

So what to do? How do you counter cultural attitudes so entrenched as to be seen as self-evident? Is this similar to the early years of the gay rights movement? While many have come to the side of tolerance on gay issues, I have to imagine they started from a place no different than fat people. I suspect I’m sometimes fooled into seeing Stonewall riots as being the start of the gay rights movement, but that may not be fair. Stonewall happened the same year NAAFA was founded, so one could look and wonder why our two movements have seen such different advancement. But the groundwork for Stonewall no doubt stretched much further back, while the real philosophical grounding fat acceptance wouldn’t really start to develop until the Fat Underground was formed in the early 70’s. And even that grow out of radical lesbian philosophy, so clearly gay rights had a solid head start and quite likely an extreme one. Also, while many people are personally indebted to homophobia (and often respond to the notion of gay rights with the exact kind of mocking condescension fat activists are treated to), no one is making serious money off of gay hate.

So, is there another comparison to make? Gay/fat comparisons are easy because both involve things commonly assumed by the opposition to be choices but which are biological. But is there something that has had to fight powerful and monied opposition that makes money by specifically promoting anti-fat attitudes? I know some movements face well-funded opposition. Environmentalists, for instance, go up against powerful industries. But those industries don’t actually make their money by promoting anti-environmentalism. They spend money to promote it, but it’s not something that they can expect to directly make money from. Is there something to look to for ideas or is fat acceptance on its own here?


Break Free!

So, around Boston I've been seeing a lot of transit billboards and posters promoting something called "Fusion Flash Concerts". The posts are meant to be very counter-culture with the image of a bar-code with the bars stretched out evoking the sense of a jail break. The posters seem to suggest a series of free concerts but doesn't provide any dates or locations. This didn't entirely surprise me, though, as "Flash Concert" immediately reminded me of "Flash Mobs" where the location and time isn't announced until the last minute before the protest. So, these posters seem to be promoting something very underground and new.

Actually, I think they are just telling us that flash mobs are now solidly passe.

We had our first inkling when they were featured on Law & Order, a bell weather for all things mainstreamed. Still, these concerts are definate confirmation. While the posters are designed to look very low cost, they really look like they were designed to look very low cost. Instead of achieving their goal, they just make it obvious. There is a diagonal print error at the top of the signs that's too obviously there. The bar code logo is too cliche and too well designed. Its clearly professional work. All of the copy is haphazard in the way it looks when you are trying to be haphazard.

Of course, most obvious is that this is clearly a major advertising campaign. The posters and billboards are all over the subway system. I've bought subway ads so I know they aren't cheap. This campaign must cost tens of thousands of dollars at least. Something underground and anarchistic like the original flash mobs wouldn't have billboards in subway stations. It takes about 2 seconds to see through the artiface to the fakeness within. Simply put, it screams viral marketing. Oh, the corporate sponser was smart enough to not put their name on the poster, but that's clearly what's going on here.

Sure enough, their website (and no, I'm not linking to them) reveals it to be the work of the Sony Corporation. A simple Google search informs me that Ford is also a corporate partner. Its not like I was into flash-mobbing to begin with, so I'm not really offended by this. Corporations do what they feel they need to do to make money, so whatever. This is essentially harmless. But I do find it generally amusing to see Ford and Sony playing pretend anarachists. There is a lot of viral marketing going around, and while its intriguing, I have to wonder how much it really is going to work in the long run. Maybe, all you get it is a short-term bounce and in the long-run you've sacked the credability of the tools you used. Just more corporations trying to brand themselves as anti-corporate. I just don't see the long-term benefit there.


Turning you off

Well, since I stunningly have readers all of a sudden, I guess I should try posting again. And what better to turn people away than Steroids in baseball. I'm an avid watcher of ESPN's block of sports talk shows in the early evening, "Around the Horn" and "Pardon the Interuption". Both programs have been consumed with talking about Rafeal Palmero's recent suspension from baseball for a positive steroids test. I've got to tell you, the indignation rings alarmingly hallow to me.

The attention baseball is getting for its steroids problem is frankly a joke. The biggest secret everyone knows in sports is that steroids are rampent in nearly every sport. Baseball is hardly even the worst offender. Track and football both have it easily beat. They do a better PR job about it, yes. They've convinced everyone in the press to not talk about how dirty their sports are, but that doesn't change anything. Steroids is a huge part of pro-football. Its a huge part of college football. Its a huge part of high school football. We have to take our heads of the sand if we really want to talk about this issue. The problem isn't just baseball. Its much much bigger, and if people are serious about doing something, they need to admit that. But I suspect people aren't serious about doing something. They just don't want to think about, so as long as a sport is pretending its doing a good job with the problem, everyone just looks the other way. There is no reason to gang up on baseball in the face of the serious problem throughout the country from high school on up.

Peter Jennings signs off

Just want to quickly offer my respects to the late Peter Jennings. Though I am not one of those guys who gets their news from The Daily Show, growing up I was always an ABC News guy. Jennings always conveyed a sense of dignity and honesty that I very much enjoyed. He's since proven himself a very good sport and extremely well-spoken when not reading the news. I've always really admired Jennings and its a shock to lose him. In a lot of ways, Peter Jennings will always be my anchor, just as earlier generations will always think of Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow.