Facebook Badge

09 October 2008

Moral Depravity at the New York Times, or, What the Fuck Else is New?

Click the link for the article; below is my response, followed by another commenter's, with the article's author's response, and my final one, yet to be approved.

Are Bad Times Healthy?

1936: In hard times, as in the Great Depression, laborers have more time to care for their children.

My first comment:

Yes, the Depression was a much-missed golden age of family fuzzies for "laborers." More quality time sitting around the shack and really, you know, relating to each other. Providing food, medicine, education, and clean water is nowhere near as important for health as having "more time to care for [your] children." Just imagine how close you'll get to your young ones as you try to decide which of them eats tonight! It's even better than renting a Disney movie.

Anyway, yes, on the slide down to malnutrition, or even starvation, many fat people lost weight. That was really good! Plus, squirrels and rats carry 57% of the RDA for most key nutrients. If the poor were truly industrious, they'd realize the protein value of lice, cockroaches, and other underutilized food resources in the commons which have yet to be enclosed by corporations. Look for Monsanto to patent "RatUp" -- a couple of genes that make rat meat more tender -- but you gotta pay if we find a Monsanto rat on your stick at the hobo camp.

This part of the article was especially worrying to me:
The economic downturn “is not good news for the health care industry,” he said. “There may be slivers of positive, but I view this as sobering.”
I see a potential revenue stream for that poor, beleaguered health care industry: cross-market with manufacturers of high-fructose corn-syrup, some of the lowest-cost food around, calorie for calorie. Encourage consumption of that poison, with the proper government subsidies of course, and you won't need to worry about your next Q with the Wall Street analysts.


Another commenter, with the author's ("TPP") response:

I believe the data show that in Nazi-occupied European countries during World War II, coronary artery disease decreased in the occupied populations. Obviously there were many other risks and causes of death in those circumstances, but presumably a simpler diet and more exercise may have contributed to the decline in coronary disease. The stress of living under Nazi occupation was apparently less of a factor.

FROM TPP — I don’t know the data you cite but I find it to be an interesting point. Obviously, nobody is saying life was better for those people or that life is better for people during an economic crisis. It dose show however, that boom times don’t always put us on a more healthful path and that when a simpler diet is imposed on us, either by difficult circumstances or an economic downturn, we see this resulting improvement in cardiovascular health, despite the added stress. If anything, it should serve as a wakeup call to the role that a poor diet plays in our overall health. thanks for writing.

And my last comment, yet to be approved:

I almost didn’t post this second comment, because the author of this post will only be rewarded for the length of the string, but it is heartening that many others have noted the complete moral bankruptcy of this article. It is a minor classic in a well-worn genre, possibly posted in order to appear “controversial” — and thus generate a long string so that the folks at NYTOnline are satisfied — but, sadly, was possibly written in earnest, which says a whole lot more not only about the author, but also about the New York Times and our intellectual culture, such as it is.

And, finally, the fact that you, Tara, couldn’t recognize satire in comment # 42 on improved cardiovascular health under the Nazis — and even found it “interesting” — speaks volumes.

I note, too, that you don’t realize that the cheapest foods are usually the most unhealthy. Or possibly you don’t care, as your audience isn’t poor people, whose ranks are about to spike, but relatively wealthy readers of the NYT.

As for folks who are feeling desperate: keep up the struggle and don’t let the bastards get you down!

Update: TPP replies:

FROM TPP — Was that in fact satire? Forgive me if it was — it’s hard to tell sometimes with readers. I try to take all my readers’ comments seriously. I have also written about the problem of food costs for the poor. There is an ongoing debate on the blog about whether it’s more expensive to eat healthfully. I believe it is. I embarked on this article believing I would find data showing hard times are hard on your health. It was surprising to me to find such a large body of research showing that economic crises do not always take a health toll as measured by heart attacks, mortality and infant mortality. But if you read the article, you will see that it shows for the very poor and uninsured, there is a powerful effect.

My response, as yet not approved:

Re: your reply to my second comment above –

FROM TPP — Was that in fact satire? Forgive me if it was — it’s hard to tell sometimes with readers. I try to take all my readers’ comments seriously. I have also written about the problem of food costs for the poor. There is an ongoing debate on the blog about whether it’s more expensive to eat healthfully. I believe it is. I embarked on this article believing I would find data showing hard times are hard on your health. It was surprising to me to find such a large body of research showing that economic crises do not always take a health toll as measured by heart attacks, mortality and infant mortality. But if you read the article, you will see that it shows for the very poor and uninsured, there is a powerful effect. –

1. I can guarantee that my initial response was satire; I’m willing to bet the one I was referring to (Nazi, etc.) was, too. At least I hope it was: it shows how your tunnel vision, at best, ignores the main point: totalitarian rule is immoral regardless of incidental health benefits. You missed that; and if it was meant seriously, the poster did, too.

2. Satire is a deadly serious form of discourse, surface humor aside.

3. Why should it come as any surprise that the diseases of relative wealth will drop as people become relatively less wealthy? Didn’t we already know that through simple common sense?

4. The article implies a general point very strongly — that the less wealthy everyone is, the more healthy. That is false a priori. If you believe it’s true, quit the Times and try living like Barbara Ehrenreich did — or as 80% (or some large percentage) of Americans do. You’ll get healthier, no? Now, clearly, you won’t do that; neither will anyone else reading this, if they can help it.

So, yes, even though I believe you didn’t “mean” your article in the way you did — and maybe didn’t even have editorial control over the photo and its caption, which was appalling — you do in fact fall into a long tradition of arguing for the moral benefits of _other people’s_ poverty.

I’m willing to believe that you’re a nice person; that’s not the point here.

2 comments:

  1. Doug,

    Please slow down for a moment, go back, and re-read this article. You obviously read it the first time, b/c you quoted the last line, but you seem to respond to what you *think* the author was saying, rather than what she really did. The absurd caption on the photo is embarrassing, and someone should be slapped for that, but the rest of the article didn't try to suggest what you're implying. It may have been rambling and poorly editted (if at all), but I really don't believe it's evil or depraved.

    Andy

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, Vogues: I read it about 10 times, and it is what it is. Her subsequent comments bear that out; the point is that she is not consciously being immoral, but the framework within which she operates is.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete