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Do people need nutrition? Wingnuts are skeptical.

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, December 9, 2010 16:21 EDT
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I have seen some serious stupid in my time while dealing with wingnuts online. Just this morning, I had to gently correct a wingnut who assumed that not wanting children or marriage personally means that I hate parents or married people. (My mother would be so surprised!) I also saw a really cute example of stupid plus overstretching with one of my favorite wingnut tics, which is using the word “nihilism” without having the ability to open up a dictionary to discover its definition. (Alas, there was no discussion of “Kantian nihilism“, which really puts this pseudo-intellectual bamboozling on the next level.) But by far, the dumbest wingnut assumption I’ve seen all week is Matthew Boyle at the Daily Caller, who appears to believe that poor people only eat one dinner a month.

Boyle decided to do an “investigation” into what he believes is a scandalous fact about food stamps, which is you can buy food with them. Boyle’s investigative technique appears to have been to defraud the government by lying about his rent to get food stamps—he claimed to pay $1,375 in rent, when in fact his parents pay for it—and he got what he believes is a ridiculous $105 a month for food for a single man.

To prove how ridiculously high this is, he went to Whole Foods and spent $51.10 on a single meal.

To be fair, Boyle did buy more food than a single meal’s worth. He also bought—after letting his money roll over into December—$100 worth of candy. We are meant to believe that people on assistance are sucking down gourmet meals and sugar on our dime, and then probably getting taxpayer-funded orgasms. And you, incredulous reader, aren’t getting any partner orgasms, even though you work so hard by explaining carefully to women you meet on online dating sites that most women are crap. The unfairness of it!

Of course, most of us with working brains immediately see the flaw in this argument, because we actually buy food for our houses, and whether we have assistance or not, we usually budget for it. Therefore, when we got to the store, we don’t spend our entire food budget on a single meal and a bunch of candy, because then we will have nothing left for the rest of the month. Let’s assume the average month has 30 days in it, and most people eat 2-3 meals a day. We could, like Boyle, make entirely different assumptions, of course, but I prefer to have my assumptions align with reality. That means that if you blow your entire food budget on one meal, you have no money for an average of 74 meals a month. (By the way, according to my math, that comes down to an average of $1.33 a meal, if you skip half of your breakfasts, which I’m assuming many people do. However, children often don’t, so things get tighter if you factor that in.)

After looking at these inconvenient facts that should be obvious and should put a kink in Boyle’s outrage generating, I came to the only conclusion possible: Boyle thinks the poor don’t eat more than once a month. And even then, they do it just for pleasure, because they have no nutritional needs.

Which makes me wonder if Boyle is a creationist or otherwise subscribes to views that are hostile to basic, proven biology. He’d almost have to be, because it would be sort of weird to be like, “Well, yeah, evolution is true, but I believe that people who make below a certain income don’t need nutrients to survive.” I’m reminded of Rush Limbaugh’s rants against food stamps that are based around the fact that some people living in poverty are fat. Again, a calculator plus a 7th grader’s grasp of basic biology would dispel the notion that depriving someone of all food altogether would be an effective response to obesity, but perhaps Limbaugh is also in denial about the nutritional needs of human bodies.

Hey, I know it sounds weird to accuse conservatives of perpetuating nutrient denialism, i.e. the belief that people don’t need food to survive. But there’s all sorts of subterranean wingnut beliefs that are passed around in email forwards, fundamentalist churches, and other social occasions that only come to the light of day when there’s a political conflict that brings them to the surface. So why not? They believe all sorts of other crazy shit, so why not add “people, at least poor people, don’t need to eat” on to the pile?

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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