Reading this dizzying array of Fox News attacks on various initiatives to promote healthy eating, I think it’s time for an expanded theory on the right wing War on Health. I mean, on one level, this is just pure culture war. Healthy food and exercise have been relegated to “hippie” behavior, and sitting on your ass stuffing fried food in your face has been associated with “Real America”, and so even the most innocuous reference to healthy habits causes a knee-jerk culture war reaction. It’s a lot like the ridiculous temper tantrum over energy efficient light bulbs. (The most comical version of this fight in my direct experience was when I was on Bloggingheads, and my conservative debate opponent decided to rationalize this silly culture war tantrum with the usual aesthetic arguments. Sadly for her, I actually had one of the demonized light bulbs directly on my face—we were buying energy efficient light bulbs before it was the law, man—and was able to address her argument directly. The aesthetic argument is a favorite because people usually don’t have the direct evidence on hand to refute it, but alas, Mollie didn’t get lucky that day.) But the War on Health is particularly ridiculous because it seems so self-defeating for the people who buy in to it.
I think my favorite example from this long list has got to be Fox News throwing a fit because the New York City Health Department issued health guidelines for its employees that discouraged serving fried food at work events. And that’s in a list that includes a fit thrown because Michelle Obama had an exercise theme for the annual White House egg roll. It’s the futility of the fit-throwing that amazes me. There is no real downside to discouraging fried food at work events, and all upside. In fact, I would recommend that work places serve only healthy food with a vegetarian option at work events for employee morale. When you present a pile of sugared food and fried food and there’s nothing for vegetarians, it can be disheartening for a large percentage of your employees. People who are diets are excluded,* vegetarians are excluded, health nuts are excluded, and people who have restricted diets under a doctor’s orders are excluded. If your doctor told you that you really must watch your diet, and your work event is serving fried chicken and ice cream, you’re going to feel punished. Salads, make-your-own sandwich plates, fruit plates, grilled chicken, that sort of thing? Much easier to accommodate everyone. Until it became a culture war issue, everyone liked fruit and sandwiches.
I think part of the problem here is that wingnuts got themselves worked up into such a frenzy over health care reform that health itself started to be demonized through guilt by association. The words “health” and “healthy” have joined the long list of hot button words that set the wingnut brain into Hate Liberals Urg mode. It’s more a free association thing at this point. An Obama + the word “health” = Fascist Death Panels Abortion Taxes. It’s concerning, since this stuff tends to feed itself. I worry that soon there will be right wing theories that eating vegetables will kill you, a sort of internal death panels thing, or maybe a broccoli abortion.
*Yes, I know that it’s bad to be “on a diet”, but the solution for that is critical analysis of the diet industry, not bullying people in the workplace or making them feel excluded.