Archive for the “The Food Evangelists” Category
In the previous three posts, we looked at why The Anointed aren’t big fans of free speech or the wide-open discussion and debate free speech enables:
1. They believe they are very, very smart.
2. They believe the rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are therefore easily fooled and led astray.
In comments, a reader posted a link to an excellent blog post by Charles Hugh Smith that makes the same point:
Perhaps what has failed here is the narrative that everything fails and falls apart if it isn’t centrally managed and curated, a narrative that inevitably leads to censorship under the guise of “protecting you, the easily confused sheep, from these nasty wolves.”
Censorship then enables another, much more well-organized and centralized pack of wolves (the ruling elites) to prey on the obedient sheep at their leisure, without fear of any disruptive dissenting narratives.
What the ruling political elites and their mainstream media shills fear is a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas.
I’ve got to start reading his blog. Sounds like my kinda guy.
Whether The Anointed like it or not, that chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas is happening. Thanks to the internet and social media, the information gatekeepers have lost control of the gates. The rest of us are now communicating directly with each other. The results haven’t been good for The Anointed, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb pointed out in his essay The Intellectual Yet Idiot (his term for The Anointed):
What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.
… With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.
My, my, my … with the great unwashed masses rebelling and trusting their own instincts, or their grandmothers, or each other, or bloggers and podcasters whose ideas and advice they’ve found useful, how are The Anointed supposed to protect people against their own stupidity? (As you may recall, The Anointed believe anyone who defies them must be stupid, or evil, or perhaps both.)
One way or another, The Anointed believe they must coerce people who disagree with them into shutting the hell up. As we saw in our last post, demanding retractions of critiques and opinions they don’t like is one favorite tactic.
Another favorite tactic is to personally attack the messenger, as opposed to arguing against what the messenger has to say. That’s where the “anyone who disagrees with us must be evil” attitude shows itself. Yelling “racist!” over disagreements that have nothing to do with race is certainly near the top of The Official Anointed Playbook. So are comments like this, uttered by our ol’ buddy Dr. David Katz while responding to the Nina Teicholz critique of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines:
The report does take into account sustainability, something that the committee noted was not traditionally in their purview. “Ms. Teicholz seems inclined to ignore that altogether; perhaps she does not care whether there is anything for the next generation to eat or drink, but I suspect most of us do,” Katz noted.
Got that? If Teicholz argues that the guidelines aren’t based on good science, well then by gosh, it means she doesn’t care if our kids and grandkids end up starving and dying of thirst – a looming disaster the U.S. Dietary Guidelines would of course prevent. Gee, she must be a terrible, terrible person. Best not listen to anything she has to say.
When demands for retractions and personal attacks fail, there’s always the final option: bring the rebellious naysayer up on charges. Initiate some kind of prosecution, preferably one with the threat of real punishment attached.
As you probably recall, a state board threatened to prosecute blogger Steve Cooksey for promoting a low-carb, paleo diet for diabetics on his Diabetes Warrior blog. Here are some quotes from a Carolina Journal article about that incident:
The North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition is threatening to send a blogger to jail for recounting publicly his battle against diabetes and encouraging others to follow his lifestyle.
Chapter 90, Article 25 of the North Carolina General Statutes makes it a misdemeanor to “practice dietetics or nutrition” without a license. According to the law, “practicing” nutrition includes “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” and “providing nutrition counseling.”
Hmmm, certainly sounds like a case of The Anointed feeling threatened by a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas. After all, there are plenty of bloggers and health professionals in the world promoting the low-fat diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Are they afraid people will try Cooksey’s advice and discover it actually works? Yes, I think that’s part of it.
In South Africa, The Health Professions Council of SA brought Professor Tim Noakes up on charges for a tweet – that’s right, A TWEET! — in which he advised a young mother (in response to her question) to wean her baby onto high-fat, real foods. The sane response there would have been to send out tweets and press releases explaining why HPCSA disagrees with Noakes. But we can’t expect The Anointed to behave sanely when there’s a risk ordinary people might come to believe their advice is wrong.
Meanwhile, in the land down under, The Anointed initiated another prosecution. Here are some quotes from ABC in Australia:
Gary Fettke is an orthopaedic surgeon and an advocate of a low carbohydrate diet.
He said he became passionate about nutrition after amputating limbs of diabetic patients whose diets were a big part of the problem.
“What I’ve been advocating for some years is cutting sugar down, particularly all the refined sugars in the diet,” he said.
“Over time that’s evolved, and it’s evolved to what I call low carb, healthy fat.
“It’s just eating lots of vegetables, pasture-fed meat and the right amount of oil in the form of things like nuts, avocado, cheese, olive oil and fish.”
Geez, that sounds really, really dangerous. Humans never would have survived and evolved on a wacky diet like that.
According to Dr Fettke, an anonymous complaint from a dietician at the hospital sparked an investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Two and a half years later the watchdog found he was working outside his scope of practise and was not qualified to give specific nutritional advice, and he was ordered to stop speaking about the low carbohydrate, high fat diet.
“The committee does not accept that your medicine studies of themselves provide sufficient education or training to justify you providing specific advice or recommendations to patients or the public about nutrition and diet, such as the LCHF lifestyle concept,” it read.
Now, stop and wrap your head around that last statement. Dr. Fettke isn’t qualified to give nutrition advice because he’s just a doctor? Have you EVER heard of a doctor who recommends a low-fat diet with lots of healthywholegrains! being prosecuted anywhere in the world? Of course not. Dr. Fettke summed it up nicely himself:
“You go to your cardiologist and he tells you what to eat, you go to a neurosurgeon and he tells you what to eat, gastroenterologist and all of them, by definition, don’t have a major training in nutrition and yet they’re all giving advice. You cannot push a way of eating onto a person. All I’ve ever done is told patients that there is a choice, that there is an option that’s out there.”
Ahh, but The Anointed don’t want the great unwashed masses to know about options. That could lead to a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas – which would of course be very, very bad. No, The Anointed much prefer something like this:
AHPRA has released a statement reaffirming that it expects medical practitioners to provide appropriate dietary advice to patients.
And “appropriate” means whatever The Anointed say it is.
That’s why we can never stop fighting these arrogant morons.
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In part one, we looked at why The Anointed don’t like wide-open discussion and debate:
1. They believe they are very, very smart.
2. They believe the rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are therefore easily fooled and led astray.
In part two, we quoted from an essay by Dr. David Katz that proves the points made in part one. Social media is endangering our health by allowing everyone to shout health advice into an echo chamber, ya see — and once the inferior brains of ordinary folks are filled with bad information, there’s no room left for good information.
Okay, that’s not exactly how Katz put it, but pretty close. Here’s the exact quote:
Misinformation is far more pernicious than ignorance. Ignorance is that proverbial empty vessel; a knowledgeable health professional can fill it. But it’s hard to fill a cup that already runneth over- and that’s the scenario that misinformation creates.
If I’d begged The Anointed to please provide an example of how they believe they’re very, very smart and the rest of us aren’t, they couldn’t have provided a better one. I’m guessing Katz doesn’t limit his reading for fear his big ol’ brain will reach full capacity and become incapable of absorbing and evaluating new information. No, that’s only a risk for the rest of us.
He’s an egomaniac, but at least Katz plans to battle what he considers bad information with what he considers good information — provided by the usual gang of goofs who’ve been trying for decades to convince everyone that animal foods will kill us, while grains and soy will save us. He calls his gang of goofs The True Health Initiative, and apparently their mission is to rush out and fill inferior brains with advice Katz likes before advice he doesn’t like occupies all the available space.
Other members of The Anointed aren’t willing to risk having their advice bounce off a brain that already runneth over with advice they don’t like. The only way to prevent that disaster, of course, is to shut down people who argue that The Anointed are wrong. Let’s look at a recent example.
Back in September 2015, the British Medical Journal published a report titled The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific? The report was written by Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise. The upshot of the article: uh, no, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines aren’t based on good science. You can read the BMJ piece online, but here are some quotes from a Newsweek article on the report:
A new report published in BMJ on Wednesday suggests the latest U.S. dietary guidelines up for review are not based on sufficient and up-to-date scientific research of crucial topics, such as saturated fats and low-carbohydrate diets, and may even be fraught with industry biases.
The last time the committee members drew up guidelines—in 2010—they used the Nutrition Evidence Library that was established by the USDA, which provides systematic analyses of research on various nutrition subjects, such as sodium and sugar intake. But the committee that worked on the 2015 guidelines didn’t use that system for more than 70 percent of the topics, including some of the most controversial, according to Nina Teicholz, a New York City–based journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, who wrote the BMJ report.
In the report, the committee states that there is a “strong” association between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. However, Teicholz says, the review of the science behind saturated fat consumption didn’t include research from the last five years, including several notable papers that don’t demonstrate a link between high saturated fat consumption and increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
She says the committee’s review of different kinds of diets—including low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean-style, healthy vegetarian—is also deeply flawed. In the BMJ report, Teicholz says that in some instances, the committee based their conclusions on limited research or poorly designed studies, such as a single clinical trial of 180 people with metabolic syndrome, which found the Mediterranean diet was most effective for weight loss.
Okay, you get the idea. Teicholz pointed out what she considers several flaws how the Dietary Guidelines Committee came up with their recommendations. And since her report was published in the BMJ, it carries some weight. After all, doctors read the thing.
Naturally, The Anointed weren’t happy. Here’s what our buddy Dr. David Katz had to say, as quoted in MedPageToday online:
“The DGAC report is excellent, and represents both the weight of evidence, and global consensus among experts,” Katz wrote.
“The notion that the opinion of one journalist with a book to sell is any way a suitable counterpoint to the conclusions of a diverse, multidisciplinary, independent group of scientists who reviewed evidence for the better part of 2 years and relied upon knowledge and judgment cultivated over decades is nearly surreal,” Katz added. “It is a disservice to the readership in both cases.”
I’m almost starting to like Katz. Whenever I need an example of how The Anointed think, he delivers. Notice what his (ahem) “argument” boils down to: THE LITTLE PEOPLE AREN’T QUALIFIED TO QUESTION US, SO NOBODY SHOULD BE LISTENING TO THEM!
The BMJ report is just the “opinion” of one journalist, ya see. Weird thing is, I could have sworn Teicholz cited a whole lot of facts in her critique of the dietary guidelines, not just opinions. That’s why BMJ was persuaded to publish the report. And while The Anointed would love for us all to be swayed by impressive-sounding credentials (conferred by The Anointed themselves, of course), the truth of a statement does not depend on who utters it. Facts are facts – and that’s a fact.
But when facts – or even opinions – are embarrassing to The Anointed, some of them just can’t resist the urge to stifle the opposing voices. Enter the Center for Science in the Public Interest. (Those of you who’ve seen Fat Head are free to yell “This is a job for THE GUY FROM CSPI!”)
Soon after the Teicholz report appeared, CSPI demanded that BMJ retract it. Now, stop and think about that. Katz insisted Teicholz was expressing her opinion in the BMJ article. If that’s true, it means The Guy From CSPI was demanding the BMJ stifle an opinion. Well, that’s just awesome. We The Anointed hereby declare a ban on opinions we don’t like.
But if it’s not an opinion piece, then any dispute comes down to facts. If The Guy From CSPI believes the dietary guidelines are correct, he is of course free to argue in favor of them. If he believes Teicholz doesn’t have facts and logic behind her arguments, the proper response is to reply with facts and logic to dispute her arguments.
But then, we’re talking about CSPI here – the organization that threatened to boycott a nutrition conference unless Teicholz was disinvited. So obviously The Guy From CSPI isn’t a fan of defending his arguments in a debate. He’d rather just prevent people who disagree with him from being heard. So he demanded a retraction of the BMJ report, and attempted to apply pressure by having 100 members of The Anointed sign a petition.
Now for the good news, in case you haven’t already heard: After weighing the evidence (including reports by two independent reviewers), BMJ announced that it stands by the Teicholz report and will not retract it. Here’s part of the announcement by the editor of BMJ:
We stand by Teicholz’s article with its important critique of the advisory committee’s processes for reviewing the evidence, and we echo her conclusion: ‘Given the ever increasing toll of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and the failure of existing strategies to make inroads in fighting these diseases, there is an urgent need to provide nutritional advice based on sound science.’
Neither Teicholz nor The BMJ are new to criticism. Healthcare is rife with controversy and the field of nutrition more so than many, characterised as it is by much weak science, polarised opinion, and powerful commercial interests.
Weak science? You betcha. Polarized opinion? Of course. When so-called experts promote nonsense based on weak science, opinions should become polarized. That’s why The Anointed are so big on creating consensus: if opinions are polarized, it means people are daring to question them and (egads!) perhaps even insisting they’re wrong. They want those people to shut up.
More on that in the next post.
A reader pointed out that Dr. David Katz was among the 180 anti-fat warriors (not 100) who signed the CSPI demand for a retraction, which means he’s an even bigger jackass than I thought — and that’s saying something. Remember, he described the Teicholz report in BMJ as “the opinion of one journalist with a book to sell.” That means he, along with The Guy From CSPI and the other anti-fat warriors, was demanding BMJ retract an opinion.
So here’s what this boils down to: Teicholz wrote a report saying U.S. dietary guidelines — which still promote anti-saturated-fat hysteria — aren’t based on rigorous science. Then the same group of goofs who’ve been pushing anti-saturated-fat hysteria decades demanded BMJ pull her critique. This isn’t about protecting public health. It’s about protecting their own reputations and interests.
And speaking of having something to sell, Dr. Katz has written several books promoting a low-fat diet (I don’t if he compared his writing in those books to Dickens or Milton), and of course he has a financial interest in NuVal, a system for ranking the healthiness of foods according to his own opinions. So the Teicholz piece was a threat to his own bottom line.
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In our previous episode, we looked at why The Anointed aren’t big fans of freedom of speech or of concepts like The Marketplace of Ideas or The Wisdom of Crowds. Two of their most dearly-held beliefs are:
1. They are very, very smart.
2. The rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are often quite stupid.
Consequently, The Anointed don’t view wide-open debate and discussion as opportunities for the best ideas to be discovered and bubble up to the top. They view them as opportunities for the great unwashed masses with their inferior intellects to be fooled and led astray.
Let’s look at a perfect example of what I’m talking about: a recent Huffington Post essay by Dr. David Katz, the guy who developed the NuVal system for ranking the healthiness of foods – a system recently dropped by some big grocery-store chains. Here are some quotes from Katz:
Misinformation is very much in season. Disclosures since the presidential election about massively disseminated misinformation, some of it inadvertent, some of it willfully manipulative, have come fast and furious. In fact, in the aftermath of the recent revelations about fake news, we are being invited to add “post-truth” to our lexicon.
So Dr. Katz is very upset about fake news. That’s pretty danged funny, considering he was caught writing reviews of his own novel under a fake name and comparing himself to John Milton and Charles Dickens. Apparently his definition of fake news is limited to “post-truth” he doesn’t like.
For the record, I think we can all agree we’d prefer not to be exposed to fake news. But of course, fake news isn’t new. In the years that I’ve been paying attention, “news” stories that turned out to be largely or completely fabricated have been printed or aired by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, CBS and NBC. The Washington Post even ran a piece recently titled Fake News? That’s A Very Old Story, which recounts how fake news has been around since the founding of the country.
But since the Katz essay is about health advice, I wondered why he opened with a complaint about fake news in the recent election cycle. Then it hit me: he’s trying to draw a parallel between health advice he doesn’t like and wacko stories claiming the Clintons were involved in child-sex rings. If one is bad, the other must be equally bad, ya see. Nice try, Doc.
I’ve written several posts and given a speech about how the internet enabled the Wisdom of Crowds to turn the tide against the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! and healthywholegrains! nonsense coming from the Axis of Incompetence: the USDA, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, etc. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, partly because I remember the bad old days.
In the 1980s, I was a staff writer and editor for a small magazine called Family Safety & Health. Researching a health article was a process I called “round up the usual suspects.” Something about heart health? Get in touch with the American Heart Association. Diabetes? The American Diabetes Association is your go-to source. Cancer? Call the American Cancer Society. Anything else, start with government health agencies and go from there.
Information flowed from The Anointed at the top, through a handful of gatekeepers, then down to the rest of us. So I, like every other health writer in those days, wrote articles about the wonders of whole grains and the dangers of saturated fats and cholesterol. I didn’t know any better because I didn’t have access to contrary evidence and opinions. For The Anointed, those were the good old days.
Now the gatekeepers have been swept aside. I consider that a net positive. Dr. Katz, as a member of The Anointed, of course disagrees:
The social media that served as the currents in which false and misleading election-related news were swept far and wide pose three particular threats to health related information.
The first is that very problem, the unfettered promulgation of information that is just plain wrong. The second is that misinformation is far more pernicious than ignorance. Ignorance is that proverbial empty vessel; a knowledgeable health professional can fill it. But it’s hard to fill a cup that already runneth over- and that’s the scenario that misinformation creates.
And lastly, the third is the very problem we’ve had since the radio was first invented: static. At some level of background noise, the worthiest signal is indiscernible as such. Our ability to deliver a message, any message, depends now, as ever, on the signal to noise ratio.
Let me interpret that: @#$%!! All those @#$%ing bloggers and podcasters are somehow drawing big audiences and convincing millions of people that saturated fat isn’t bad and grains aren’t good! People no longer just accept what The Anointed tell them! This is very, very bad!
Cyberspace is the ultimate, ecumenical echo chamber. Everyone can shout into it, and every shout has the same chance to echo from the megaphones of the sympathetic.
Well, that’s true to an extent. Social media has created a vastly wider and more diverse Marketplace of Ideas. Are some of those ideas garbage? You bet. For all I know, there may be more lousy dietary advice pinging around cyberspace than good advice.
That’s not the point. The point is that good advice – advice that actually works — is now accessible to people who never would have seen it in the pre-internet days. That’s where The Anointed and fans of the Marketplace of Ideas disagree. The Anointed believe if everyone can shout into an echo chamber, everyone will have equal influence. That’s nonsense. It’s like believing everyone who produces a product will have an equal share of the market. Despite what The Anointed think, people aren’t stupid. They gravitate to the products and the advice that prove beneficial.
You may recall the story of my co-worker whose wife suffered from migraines for years. Doctor after doctor failed to prescribe the magic-pill cure. But then a friend-of-a-friend suggested she try giving up grains – because he’d read on the internet that grains can trigger migraines. So she tried giving up grains and voila! – no more migraines. She found relief because of knowledge shared on the internet.
Now, given what the internet is, I suppose someone else might have suggested she rub her eyeballs with orange caterpillars. That would have been junk advice. But here’s the thing: she would have recognized it as junk advice based on the results. That is, after all, largely what the Wisdom of Crowds is about: knowledge gained from experience and then shared with that big ol’ crowd.
The Anointed, by contrast, put far more faith in little groups of experts – with expertise defined by them, of course, and largely consisting of earning degrees by attending classes taught by other members of The Anointed. This is nothing new, by the way. Eric Hoffer, author of the terrific book The True Believer, wrote this in the 1950s:
The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated.
Back to Katz on people shouting into that darned echo chamber:
This is an enemy not only to medicine, but to everything in any way related to science, for science demands the filter of genuine understanding, actual expertise, and evidence.
Once again, that’s pretty danged funny, considering it’s coming from a guy whose NuVal system ranks sugar-laden chocolate soy milk as a far healthier option than a turkey breast. I’d like to see the evidence supporting that ranking. Unfortunately, NuVal refuses to explain its scoring system because the information is “proprietary.” In other words, we just made this @#$% up because it’s what we believe.
Having defined the problem – too darned many voices yelling health advice into that social-media echo chamber – Katz then lays out his solution:
In my particular purview- lifestyle medicine- I have felt compelled to develop a new method to confront this New Age challenge. If the noise is irrevocably greater than ever before, so, too, must be the signal. The True Health Initiative pools the voices, currently, of well over 300 leading experts from over 30 countries to make the case that we are not clueless about the basic care and feeding of Homo sapiens; that the fundamentals of a health-promoting diet and lifestyle are the stuff of decisive evidence, and global consensus.
Sorry, Doc, but I’m going to have to disagree. When you tell people eggs will kill them and sugar-laden soy milk is a healthier option than a turkey breast, I’m pretty sure you are clueless about the basic care and feeding of Home sapiens – none of whom enjoyed a nice, sweet glass of chocolate-flavored Silk Soy Milk until modern industry made such garbage possible.
I looked up the members of those (ahem) “experts” Katz is putting together to combat the social-media echo chamber. I didn’t recognize most of them, but here are some we all know:
Keith Thomas Ayoob … whom I’ve referred to as “Ayoob the Boob” because he thinks the saturated fat in coconut oil will kill people.
Dr. Neil Barnard … yup, the vegan nut-job whose group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine puts up billboards warning people that consuming animal products will kill them.
T. Colin Campbell … author of The China Study, which attempted to prove (through cherry-picked associations) that eating meat is the main driver of disease.
You get the idea. Katz is assembling a team of the same old anti-fat, anti-cholesterol, anti-meat goofs who have been part of the problem for decades. Talk about an echo chamber.
To his credit, Katz is at least trying to combat what he considers bad information with what he considers good information. The members of The True Health Initiative will be shouting into the very echo chamber Katz dislikes. Since I believe the Marketplace of Ideas works, I predict the market won’t be kind to them. No amount of shouting from the usual suspects will convince people who’ve seen their health improve after going low-carb, gluten-free or paleo to take a giant step backwards.
Other members of The Anointed aren’t satisfied with shouting into the echo chamber. They’d rather prevent people who disagree with them from shouting in the first place … or writing, or tweeting, or whatever. We’ll pick up that subject in the next post.
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The Anointed aren’t big fans of free speech. Sure, they pay lip-service to the idea now and then, but when you watch them in action, it’s clear they don’t much like wide-open discussions and free-wheeling debates. You may recall, for example, what happened when Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, was invited to be part of a nutrition panel at the National Food Policy Conference: members of the Center For Science in the Public Interest and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee threatened to boycott unless she was disinvited … which she was.
I wrote at the time that the CSPI weenies were afraid Teicholz would kick their asses in a public debate. I still believe that’s part of the explanation, but recent events (which I’ll cover in later posts) got me thinking there’s more to it.
To explain, let’s start by quickly summarizing the Wisdom of Crowds concept: when ordinary people share their experiences, ideas and insights with each other, the right answers tend to eventually bubble up to the top. Notice that the Wisdom of Crowds doesn’t mean the majority is always correct, and it certainly doesn’t mean everyone’s ideas are good ideas. It simply means that when ideas and information are freely exchanged within that big ol’ crowd, the good ideas tend to take hold.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the U.S. are based on a similar concept. The Founders believed in what’s often called the Marketplace of Ideas. Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote that it’s safe to tolerate error of opinion where reason is left free to combat it. Fredrick Siebert put it quite nicely in Four Theories of The Press:
Let all with something to say be free to express themselves. The true and sound will survive. The false and unsound will be vanquished. Government should keep out of the battle and not weigh the odds in favor of one side or the other.
Notice what both the Wisdom of Crowds and the Marketplace of Ideas have in common? That’s right … they’re based on faith in ordinary people. Given access to lots of information and competing ideas, most people will come to the correct conclusion most of the time. So people who believe in the Wisdom of Crowds view the prospect of debate and discussion with an attitude of Bring it on! I’ll make my case, you make yours, and we’ll see who wins.
The Anointed, by contrast, view wide-open debate and discussion as a threat. Why? I used to think it’s because they know their Grand Plans are based on flimsy or non-existent evidence. As Thomas Sowell points out in both The Vision of The Anointed and Intellectuals and Society, The Anointed tend to fall in love with bold, new, exciting ideas. They don’t like waiting for solid evidence to support their bold, new, exciting ideas, and are quite adept at ignoring or dismissing evidence that their bold, new, exciting ideas are wrong. So I figured they’re hostile to debate out of simple fear someone will prove them wrong.
But that doesn’t jibe with a fundamental trait of The Anointed: their extreme confidence in themselves and their ideas. So after noodling on it for awhile, I decided their hostility towards debate and discussion is rooted in two of their most dearly-held beliefs, which are:
1. They are very, very smart.
2. The rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are often quite stupid.
Therefore, The Anointed aren’t afraid they’ll be proven wrong – heck, they don’t believe it’s possible for them to be wrong. Rather, they’re afraid the rest of us are too stupid to discern how right they are. When we hear lots of contrary opinions, we (unlike The Anointed) don’t have the intelligence to weigh the evidence and come to the correct conclusions. So as far as The Anointed are concerned, an open debate is nothing more than an opportunity for the great unwashed masses with their inferior intellects to be led astray.
That’s why so many of them long for the good ol’ days when a relatively small number of information gatekeepers decided what most of us see and hear. That’s why so many of them are angry about the emergence of talk radio, social media, blogs, and other forms of what they derisively call the “pajamas media.” (I’m not wearing pajamas at the moment, in case you’re wondering.) The information gatekeepers have lost control of the gates, which means the Marketplace of Ideas is a vastly larger and more diverse marketplace than it once was.
That’s what allows the Wisdom of Crowds to flourish. But The Anointed don’t believe in the Wisdom of Crowds, so they consider all that debate and discussion a problem. We’ll look at how they (ahem) “solve” that problem in the next couple of posts.
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In our last episode, we heard from a BBC reporter (and member of The Anointed) who believes governments should use information campaigns and “price reform” to discourage people from eating meat … all because of a cockamamie theory that forcing her preferences on the rest of us will somehow reduce global warmi—er, climate change.
Soon after that post, a reader sent me a link to a site promoting a discount on life insurance for vegetarians. The name of the page suggests it’s a lead generator, so I don’t know if any insurers are actually offering such a discount. Could just be a way to get your name on a marketing list.
If insurers really and truly do offer discounts for vegetarians, however, it raises some interesting possibilities … such as, how do they know people won’t just lie on the form? The only qualifying question on the page is How long have you been a vegetarian? What’s to stop people from entering 25 years and then going out for a ribeye? Would insurers check on people?
There have been plenty of cases where sandbaggers filed workers’ comp insurance claims, insisting they couldn’t work because of on-the-job injuries, then were caught on videotape playing basketball, hiking, building an addition on the house, etc. If insurers start offering cheaper rates for vegetarians, will they hire camera-wielding spies to follow policyholders to restaurants?
If so, I sense a business opportunity. There are all kinds of meatless foods out there designed to look and taste like meat: soyburgers, veggie hotdogs, tofurkeys, etc. Imagine the insurance-discount demand for foods that look like tofu and beans, but are actually made from chicken, beef and pork.
“Yes, waiter, I’ll have the (ahem) veggie chili.” (wink, wink)
“So that’s the— oh, you mean the veggie chili, not the real vegetarian chili.”
“Yes, but please keep your voice down. They may have the place bugged.”
Anyway, that’s not the topic of the post. This is:
Some months back, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post titled A Vegetarian Diet Will Make You Sick And Crazy. I took the kind of weak-ass observational study that vegetarian zealots like to wave in our faces and (like them) assumed the study actually proved something. But in this case, the study didn’t exactly support the notion that going meatless is the key to a superior life:
A new study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria finds that vegetarians are more physically active, drink less alcohol and smoke less tobacco than those who consume meat in their diets. Vegetarians also have a higher socioeconomic status and a lower body mass index. But the vegetarian diet — characterized by a low consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol that includes increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products — carries elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders.
A reader recently sent me a link to an article from Women’s Health online that offers similar warnings on the mental-health front:
More and more women are vegging out…of their minds. New research suggests that along with shedding pounds, slashing cancer risk, and boosting life expectancy, vegetarianism could come with lesser-known side effects: Panic attacks. OCD. Depression.
Notice the assumption that vegetarian diets really and truly do slash cancer risk and increase life expectancy. Sure, that’s what some observational studies show – because (as the University of Graz study noted) vegetarians on average are more physically active, drink less alcohol, smoke less, etc. Other observational studies, however, don’t show any difference in life expectancy at all.
But to continue with the article …
Drew Ramsey’s 35-year-old patient had always been fit and active, but her energy had flatlined. When she did manage to drag herself to the gym, it didn’t help. She felt anxious and was often on the verge of tears for no reason, even when she was with friends. Worst of all were her panic attacks, a rare occurrence in the past but now so common that she was afraid of losing her job because she had trouble getting out of bed, and she’d become terrified of taking the New York City subway.
It may sound like an episode of House, but Ramsey had a hunch. He’d seen a dramatic link between mood and food before (he even researched it for his forthcoming book Eat Complete), and guessed that his patient’s well-intentioned meat-free diet was the very thing causing her mental deterioration. Sure enough, six weeks after adding animal protein back onto her plate, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent.
But she’ll be slashing her cancer risk and extending her life expectancy while lying in bed and feeling anxious.
It’s tough to argue with the science—and with a movement that’s been endorsed by everyone from Gandhi to Beyonce.
Say what? I argue with the science all the time – because most of it is crap.
And it’s natural to assume that peak mental health and a perpetually blissed-out attitude are just two more side effects of the glowing vegetarian lifestyle.
No, what’s natural is eating meat. Humans have been doing it forever. Chimpanzees (our nearest genetic relatives) not only hunt, they do it in organized packs with assigned roles.
So it was startling last year when Australian researchers revealed that vegetarians reported being less optimistic about the future than meat eaters. What’s more, they were 18 percent more likely to report depression and 28 percent more likely to suffer panic attacks and anxiety. A separate German study backs this up, finding that vegetarians were 15 percent more prone to depressive conditions and twice as likely to suffer anxiety disorders.
I’m not startled. I was a vegetarian.
“We don’t know if a vegetarian diet causes depression and anxiety, or if people who are predisposed to those mental conditions gravitate toward vegetarianism,” says Emily Deans, M.D., a Boston psychiatrist who studies the link between food and mood.
True, we don’t want to confuse correlation with causation. But let’s recall what happened with Dr. Ramsey’s patient:
Sure enough, six weeks after adding animal protein back onto her plate, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent.
If she was just a person who happened to have a mental condition and gravitated towards vegetarianism, then it’s quite a coincidence that after adding meat to her diet, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent. But whichever way the arrow of causality points — going vegetarian causes mental problems in some people, or people with mental problems are more likely to go vegetarian — it’s not a flattering correlation.
Name some “brain foods.” Well, there’s avocado. Olive oil. Nuts. Red meat? Not so much. Yet anthropological evidence shows that, long before we could choose to subsist on cashew cheese and tofu, animal flesh provided the energy-dense calories necessary to fuel evolving cerebellums. Without meat, we’d never have matured beyond the mental capacity of herbivores like gorillas.
Which is one of the many reasons I don’t believe meat causes the diseases it’s sometimes “linked” to in observational studies. Mother Nature isn’t stupid … and it would be stupid to design us so that the food that increased our brain size and made us human also ruined our health.
Just like Drew Ramsey’s patient, Isabel Smith was active and energetic and thought a vegetarian diet was the perfect complement to her health-conscious lifestyle. But after a few weeks sans meat, she found herself uncharacteristically weepy. “I was tired and frustrated and got upset more easily, especially over things that wouldn’t normally bother me,” she says.
Like a blog that promotes a diet that includes meat? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard from some of those easily-upset people. I usually tell them to go eat a steak and get back to me, but they rarely do.
Shortly after she started eating meat again, she noticed an uptick in her mood.
So much for that whole eating meat makes you angry and aggressive nonsense.
The twist? Smith is a registered dietitian. One who now understands personally what she studies professionally: Not everyone is cut out for a life without meat.
Yes, but you see, we need to discourage people from eating meat to save the planet. The Anointed have spoken. And if a lot of people who give up meat because of “price reform” end up feeling depressed and having panic attacks … well, too bad. That’s the price they have to pay.
Besides, they may get a discount on life insurance.
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Decades ago, The Older Brother opined that when the loony lefties want to violate someone’s constitutional rights, they just claim it’s to save the children. Then if you oppose the loony lefties, they claim you don’t care about children.
Apparently that strategy was limited in its usefulness, because eventually the loony lefties replaced “it’s to save the children!” with “it’s to save the planet!” That’s why Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, eventually quit the organization. He saw environmentalism being hijacked (as he put it) by the political and social causes of the left. Science took a back seat to politics. As Dr. Moore put it in an essay he wrote back in March:
There is a powerful convergence of interests among key elites that support the climate “narrative.” Environmentalists spread fear and raise donations; politicians appear to be saving the Earth from doom; the media has a field day with sensation and conflict; science institutions raise billions in grants, create whole new departments, and stoke a feeding frenzy of scary scenarios; business wants to look green, and get huge public subsidies for projects that would otherwise be economic losers, such as wind farms and solar arrays. Fourth, the Left sees climate change as a perfect means to redistribute wealth from industrial countries to the developing world and the UN bureaucracy.
You’ve got to hand it to the loons; they know a useful weapon when they see it. I mean, heck, it’s one thing not to care about children, but who wants to be accused of not caring about THE ENTIRE PLANET?!
Want to achieve your lifelong goal of transferring wealth from rich countries to poor countries? No problem. Just claim the rich countries are damaging the poor countries by warming the planet, then demand compensation. The U.N. will happily back you on the idea. Want to use the power of government to discourage people from eating meat? Again, no problem. Just claim that the meat-eaters are causing global warmi—er, climate change.
If you’ve read any of my posts about The Anointed, you’ve likely already spotted the pattern. But as a refresher, here’s how The Anointed go about their business (as described by Thomas Sowell in his terrific book The Vision of the Anointed):
- The Anointed identify a problem. This is now THE BAD.
- The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem. This is now automatically THE GOOD. (By sheer coincidence, the Grand Plan almost always involves restricting other people’s freedoms and/or confiscating more of their money.)
- Because they are so supremely confident in their own theories, The Anointed don’t believe they should be required to provide evidence that the Grand Plan will work. In fact, The Anointed are always so sure the Grand Plan will work, they will happily impose it on other people — for their own good, of course.
- Because the Grand Plan is THE GOOD, The Anointed are sure anyone who opposes it is either evil or stupid.
- When the Grand Plan fails, it can’t possibly mean The Anointed were wrong, because The Anointed are never wrong. Failure can only mean the Grand Plan didn’t go far enough — so we need to do the same thing again, only bigger.
So with that in mind, let’s take a peek at an article on the BBC News site titled Can eating less meat help reduce climate change?
As the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21) draws near, the international spotlight is more focused on climate change than at any time since the Copenhagen talks of 2009.
But amid all the talk of decarbonising energy and transport systems, one crucial area remains in the shadows. The livestock sector produces about 15% of global greenhouse gases, roughly equivalent to all the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet.
Wait a second … that would mean every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet combined produce just 15% of greenhouses gases, right? And yet you people expect me to believe if you force me to buy fluorescent bulbs for my house, we’ll stop global warmi— er, climate change?
Who is eating all this meat?
Bad people, no doubt.
The US has one of the highest levels of meat consumption in the world at about 250g per person per day, almost four times the amount deemed healthy by experts.
That would explain why Native Americans who lived primarily on buffalo meat were always dropping dead of heart disease and cancer.
At the other end of the scale, Indians average less than 10g of meat per day.
They also have one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world. Somebody should inform those health experts of yours.
Left unchecked, shifting diets, coupled with a growing population, would see global consumption increase by more than 75% by 2050. What is being done about it? Very little.
Mean consumption is unchecked?! You mean nobody is applying force to stop it?! Oh, nooooooo! Please, tell me somebody in government is going to do something!!
Why not? Governments fear a backlash from voters over interference in such a personal choice as diet.
Naww, they shouldn’t fear a backlash if they try to take away our meat. Armed revolution, maybe, but not a simple backlash. But what would be really cool is if governments left this whole thing “unchecked” not out of fear, but because they decided it’s none of their business how much meat we eat.
And because public awareness of the link between diet and climate change is so low, there is very little pressure on governments to do anything about it.
Boy, I just don’t know what’s wrong with the voters these days. You’d think they’d stop worrying about high unemployment, runaway government debts, runaway college costs, insurance premiums being doubled because of the “Affordable” Care Act, terrorism, etc., etc., and put that whole meat-causes-global-warmi-er-climate-change issue at the top of their “government needs to do something!!” list.
Are there any grounds for optimism? Yes.
You mean governments are going to finally admit they’re generally incompetent and stop mucking around in our lives?
Even though COP21 is highlighting the need for climate action and, though a deal seems likely, the pledges made in advance of the summit would put us on a path to warming of about 3C by the end of the century, leaving much work to be done if we are to get to 2C.
Riiiiiiiight. Because those models that predict worldwide temperatures decades into the future have turned out to be so darned accurate.
But reining in excessive meat consumption could close the gap by as much as a quarter and will represent an attractive strategy for governments in need of credible and affordable solutions.
I’m sorry, but for a second there, I thought you put the words credible and affordable in the same sentence with governments – you know, like the government that gave us the Food Pyramid and the “Affordable” Care Act. Surely I was mistaken.
But reining in excessive meat consumption could close the gap by as much as a quarter and will represent an attractive strategy for governments in need of credible and affordable solutions.
Head. Bang. On. Desk.
Governments should seize this opportunity.
If seizing the opportunity means seizing more taxpayer money, you’ll have no problem selling them on the idea.
The first priority is to increase public awareness – both to allow people to make informed choices about what they eat and to build support for further action.
Ah, I see. So you’re not advocating for the use of force. You’re all about allowing us to make our own choices. Well, no problem, then.
But it is clear that information campaigns alone will not suffice.
Uh … meaning?
Governments should use the full range of policy levers available to them.
Doncha just love the Orwellian rhetoric of the loony left? We need information campaigns so people can make informed choices – and then we need to force them to make the decisions we know are best.
Changing the food served in public organisations – to offer a greater share of vegetarian and vegan options – would provide a boost to sustainable suppliers and issue a powerful signal to the millions of people who eat in public offices, schools, the armed forces, hospitals and prisons.
And when the “powerful signal” doesn’t do the trick …
Price reform will also be needed to reflect environmental costs and incentivise behaviour change at the scale needed.
In other words: @#$% FREE CHOICE! WE NEED TO TAX THE @#$% OUT OF MEAT SO PEOPLE WILL EAT LESS OF IT.
Will the public accept government intervention in our food choices? Focus groups carried out by Chatham House in four countries suggested that as long as the public could see a strong rationale for change, they would come to accept government intervention on diets.
Great. Fabulous. Awesome. Individual rights? Naww, who the heck needs those? Ya see, if we can convince most people that taxing the @#$% out of meat is a good idea, then it’s okay … even if it means people who don’t want to eat less meat have to cut back because they can’t afford it anymore. Remember, folks, when The Anointed impose their will on you, it’s for your own good – and the good of the planet, of course.
What’s more, the public appears to expect that governments will take action in the public good.
Excuse me while I go laugh my ass off at that one ….
… Okay, I’m back.
With a strong enough signal from governments and the media about why we need to change our eating habits, the public is likely to come to accept initially unpopular policies.
Riiiiiiight. Once The Anointed in government and The Anointed in the media convince enough people that eating meat is bad, they’ll want you to use force to make them eat less of it. I mean, it’s not as if they’d just make that informed decision for themselves.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make an informed decision and choose to eat a burger for dinner.
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