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meme war

Peggy Elam writes the best blog post I've seen yet on the "fat is contagious" study that everyone's ranting about.

I'm glad that so many people are outraged by this study and how it is being reported. It failed to peg my outrage meter though, and I wonder why.

I'm somewhat appalled that such crap is being published in the New England Journal of Medicine. I used to think they could be trusted to publish good meaningful scientific studies, not studies that play 52-pickup with a bunch of statistics. I guess that was too much to expect. For a while they were publishing editorials critical of the "obesity" hysteria.

As for how it's being reported ("better avoid fat people if you want not to get fat"), I'm not surprised that the reporters are getting some of the facts wrong and leaving out the rest of the facts. That's how science tends to get reported, especially where "obesity" is concerned. I'm also not surprised at the hatred and fear behind such comments, because it's clear that society tells us to hate fat people and to fear fatness beyond most other conditions.

The main thing that's different about this particular story is that the hatred and fear are being openly voiced, by mainstream supposedly objective news media, as advice. The hatred is usually more couched in pseudo-concern or "too bad, but this is the way it is" language, but here fat people are being portrayed as actual enemies of thinness to be actively defended against, rather than as victims or losers.

This doesn't outrage me...it's more like it makes me curious. I really have no idea what it's like inside the head of a person who believes fat people are attacking them. Also it makes me go, "Hm, what next? When will they start saying we eat babies?"


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 28th, 2007 07:57 am (UTC)
Thanks for the link. Indeed, that's an excellent summation of the various things wrong with that "study" and its "reporting."

Gah. Makes me want to scream. And/or send links to my mom (who tried to get me FOUR TIMES to read a diet/weightloss book she has, the last one accompanied with the concerned look and "I think it might help you, dear." GRRRRR).
Jul. 28th, 2007 01:12 pm (UTC)
I couldn't summon the energy to get outraged, but Peggy's article gets me a bit closer to it. At the time, I read the BBC report as far as the quote "People come to think that it is OK to be bigger since those around them are bigger" and thought, "Well, good, because it is okay."

Jul. 28th, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)
I've only been amused by this story. Most people I talk to haven't heard about it, and those who have just count it as another badly reported study with shoddy methodology.

I am surprised to be completely un-outraged, but except for the media, I see no evidence of it being taken seriously or changing anything.
Jul. 28th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC)
I haven't followed the reporting of this study much, but the thing that got me was how clearly it showed that fat people can have significant social influence. And that may be what's pushing people's buttons.
Jul. 28th, 2007 06:12 pm (UTC)
I think the only reason it hasn't pissed me off is because a) I live reasonably media-free so I don't hear what the journalists make of it, and b) most of the people I hang out with who might here about the study aren't dumb enough to take the media reports at face value.

(If if filters down to the people at my workplace, I'm in real trouble.)
Jul. 28th, 2007 09:18 pm (UTC)
Tag, we're it
Privileged classes can't openly pick on women, blacks or gays any more so someone had to be found.
Jul. 28th, 2007 09:43 pm (UTC)
I just thought "That's silly." I know lots of social groups where one or two people are fat and the rest aren't.
Jul. 29th, 2007 03:07 am (UTC)
I'm quite impressed by this response to the media fuss ... overall I am amazed that such shoddy statistics have been picked up and run with.
Jul. 29th, 2007 05:46 pm (UTC)
Do you have a specific item in the paper which is "shoddy statistics"?
Jul. 29th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)
As far as I can tell, the statistics in the study are fine (my apologies for not being clearer on that), so far as they go - the extrapolations from those statistics are a bit more suspect. Additionally, the way in which they're being interpreted by various places in the media is even more removed from the original findings.

By way of example, I give you Sandy Schwartz's look at both: Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave.
Jul. 29th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
I really have no idea what it's like inside the head of a person who believes fat people are attacking them.

Maybe like "Defense of Marriage" folks who think gay marriage attacks "real" marriage? Maybe they get some sense of self-worth because they can say to themselves, "At least I'm not some fat slob!" and then running into "fat slobs" who don't cringe and apologize for their weight...
Jul. 29th, 2007 10:04 pm (UTC)
At no point in the article (or in any discussion I've read about this) have I seen any explanation as to how fatness is transmitted from person to person. I mean, if this is a scientific study, they must have some idea of the mechanics. Have they simply noticed that fatties tend to hang out with other fatties, and thinnies with thinnies? Well, I can't imagine why that would be!

I am having an outrage reaction, although it's heavily mixed with anxiety, to be honest. Like I need yet another reason for people to shun me?? Like fat people aren't already socially stigmatized enough, now they want to codify it? It just makes me fear for my social future... and I struggle enough with other social issues as it is.
Jul. 30th, 2007 03:26 am (UTC)
I don't know what, if anything, they are suggesting is the mechanism.

I like to think that it works like this:

Person hangs out with people who are fat.
Person notices their fat friends are healthy, active, and happy.
Person realizes being fat isn't bad for you.
Person stops unhealthy dieting behavior.
Person's body stabilizes at a slightly higher weight than previously.

Your outrage reaction makes sense.
Jul. 30th, 2007 10:41 am (UTC)
"Hm, what next? When will they start saying we eat babies?"


I guess I just file such people in the incomprehensible-mindlessly flocking-haters rough pile, and am as croggled as I am disgusted.

Of course us fatties cause global warming, too, you know, by eating more and using aircons more.

oh and

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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