Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Conservative Way, Often

On July 29 Rush Limbaugh reported an argument on CNN's Campbell Brown between a woman he identified as National Action Against Obesity president MeMe Roth and editor-at-large Mia Amber Davis of Plus magazine. This is, according to Rush's website, a portion of the exchange, an exchange which revealed the conservative mindset in action:

ROTH: If you're obese, you are unhealthy. Reuters recently reported that only 8% of us don't smoke, drink moderately, eat the fruits and vegetables we're supposed to eat, and exercise regularly. So really, fat or thin, only 8% of us are even trying in this country.

DAVIS: .

ROTH: There's a higher incidence of infertility, pregnancy complications --

DAVIS: I don't have those issues.

ROTH: -- low sperm count, and even a higher incidence of birth defects when it comes to obesity. So don't argue me. Argue with Darwin.

RUSH: Well, you can say arrogant or whatever, but this is who these people are. Her statistics are wrong. Only 8% of us don't smoke? Eighty percent of us don't smoke. Drink moderately, eat the fruits and vegetables we're supposed to eat? Get that? We're supposed to eat? So Mia Amber Davis, she starts getting back at her a little here.

DAVIS: I think that that's insulting, actually. I work out four times a week.

ROTH: Which you're supposed to be working out every day.

DAVIS: I'm not here to argue with you. I'm here to say that stop blaming overweight people or obese people for America's problems. It's not our fault. If you are gay, you can play straight. If you are a certain religion, you can play another religion. You can't hide the fact that you're overweight, and nor do we want to. I'm proud of the way I look. I'm proud of my body. I'm proud of all my friends and the hard work that we do to maintain our curves. So stop blaming us for America's health care issues, because I am not a part of that plan.


Note the classic conservative mindset at work:

1) But overweight does not mean unhealthy. I've been off the charts since I was 12 years old, and I'm perfectly healthy.... I don't have those issues.... I work out four times a week.

Don't bother me with facts or details about a nation of 300+ million people. I'm healthy, and that proves my point.

2) Her statistics are wrong. Only 8% of us don't smoke? Eighty percent of us don't smoke. Drink moderately, eat the fruits and vegetables we're supposed to eat? Get that? We're supposed to eat?

No, Rush, Roth said "only 8% of us don't smoke, drink moderately, eat the fruits and vegetables we're supposed to eat, and exercise regularly. So really, fat or thin, only 8% of us are even trying in this country." The reference, clearly, was to 92% failing to follow the entire protocol- not that 92% smoke.

3) If you are gay, you can play straight. If you are a certain religion, you can play another religion.

If gay, you can play straight? Opinions differ, but most evidence indicates the vast majority of homosexuality (or heterosexuality) is nature, not nurture. Not a choice. And for that vast majority, "playing" straight is not an option- but the suggestion does trivialize human sexuality. So too does the charge that people "play another religion." Trivializing faith- part of the conservative mindset?

4) I'm here to say that stop blaming overweight people or obese people for America's problems. It's not our fault.

Davis probably should have listened a moment earlier when Roth observed "If you wanted to make a nation fat, we have set our culture up to do exactly that. It's like we're living in a brothel and no one's allowed to have sex. Everywhere you go, there's one temptation after another."

5) You can't hide the fact that you're overweight, and nor do we want to.

Hide being overweight? Where did that come from? Roth did not argue that individuals should hide being overweight, or anything else. Rather, the concern was with why individuals are overweight, and she noted "We need to make good food, real food, produce available, cheap, accessible to everyone. The economics of it are shifting. Big Pharma has made a bundle on obesity. The weight loss industry has made a bundle. Beverage and food have made a bundle. Now we're seeing it. We're picking up the tab, and we're pushing back."

Details are irrelevant ("I don't have those issues"). Misrepresent your opponent's position ("only 8% of us don't smoke?"; "stop blaming overweight people"). Ridicule personal characteristics, such as sexual orientation and religion, which are either immutable or largely a factor of family background ("If you are gay, you can play straight"). Play the victim ("it's not our fault... so stop blaming us").

Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking. It's the liberal mindset to generalize like this! But if you listen to Rush, or to some (not all) other conservatives, you'll find that this is pretty standard fare.

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