Facebook excels at making me occasionally hate people I have known for years. Maybe they liked some homophobic retailer, shared a widely debunked story unironically, or generally just kept posting skinny mirror selfies to show How Awesome their lives were. Whatever. But Facebook’s corrosive powers don’t stop there; it’s the absolute fucking best at stirring up contempt for complete strangers. It goes where Reddit and the comment section could never go, because it creates a link between life-destroying nonsense and someone’s face/real identity.
These missives often come in the form of comments on a friend’s post, from someone I don’t know. Anyway there were two that really got me recently, so I’ll dissect them, not so much because they made me mad out of nowhere but because they triggered some thoughts I have had about the subjects in question for some time.
First, this sage on dietary advice and social progress:
“I’ve read several nutrition books from low carb to full vegan with many contradictory findings. The only absolute between them all is the undeniable harm refined carbohydrates and added sugars have on the body and society. It is definitively linked to the number one killer of Americans, more than lung cancer, more than drunk driving: heart disease.
The greatest health mechanism of our century wouldn’t be a cure for cancer, but a tax on added sugar and refined flour.”
Let’s start with the “contradictory findings” he mentions in the “nutrition books” he read. Resorting to confirmation bias and especially arguing that humanity has strayed from some idyllic dietary past are not bugs in nutritional literature (mmm) but features of it. Consider the long held wisdom that saturated fat causes heart disease (I picked this ailment due to the content of the above Facebook post). The American Heart Association has been largely responsible for peddling this notion, yet a 2013 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that:
“Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”
The reasons that so many diet books are filled with contradictions are: 1) the authors are trying to sell the reader something, rather than educate him; 2) the effects of many foods on the body are still not well understood and merit further.
The poster above of course won’t have any of this, as seen in his use of “undeniable” and “definitively,” despite the doubts that can be cast on his claims. His usage of lung cancer and drunk driving in passing are notable, since he is trying to point to an obvious cause of heart disease on par with cigarette smoking and lung cancer or excessive alcohol consumption and drunk driving. It doesn’t exist, though.
Demonization of sugar in particular has much more to do with moralistic ranting about how “if it tastes good, it must be bad for you,” confusion about the differences between “natural” sweeteners like honey and their “chemical” clones like high fructose syrup (the same fucking thing), and fears that kids were being “poisoned” by candy, than it does with any solid science (sugar may cause weigh gain, which is worth than death for much of the current elite; but even being fat has no clear effect on mortality). Ditto for carbohydrates, albeit with an even more sordid history of junk low-carb and gluten-free diets that arose from one doctor’s accidental success in treating a celiac with a banana and skim-milk diet.
The last bit is bad in a different way, since it displays such limited imagination in improving health – a tax (and not just any old tax, but a regressive one borne by the poor as they try to buy food)! Denmark actually tried this “mechanism,” as he calls it, before, except with saturated fat. Once it became clear that the tax motivated Danes to cross the border to get fatty foods and that the entire premise of the measure was some shaky science, the tax was rolled back.
How about instead of using neoliberalist bullshit from self-help and diet books to control public institutions (i.e., governments that can enact taxes) we instead focus on actually figuring out how foods affect the body? The whole post comes off as someone afraid of being “fat” or “out of shape” trying to lecture the entire world on what they should eat.
Moving on now, to this luminary on the subject of the minimum wage:
“I don’t understand why the US thinks minimum wage should be $15/hr. If you are worth more than $7.25/hr to a business then there is no conceivable reason for you to be stuck working a minimum wage job. It doesn’t take skill to operate a register, clean a bathroom, or serve a meal, it’s basic labor and it’s not physically demanding. If a job is any more than that and still paying minimum wage then you’re working for the wrong company and should move on.
Minimum wage isn’t meant to support a family, purchase a new car, home, or even pay student debt. Minimum wage is meant for introductory roles or part-time/basic labor. Is it abused? Obviously. Will raising it fix the problem? No. It will just cause a loss of jobs and harder work for those making $15/hr. It will also cause pay cuts for those above the $15 mark who have busted their ass to get somewhere in life.”
Blah blah blah, look at me I work in IT to ensure that people get vitamins and loofas deliver to their front doors. First off, it’s curious that we start with figuring out what a person is “worth,” which in this case is determined by a business rather than by the person himself. Businesses do not have anyone’s real best interests – in terms of remuneration, health, you name it – at heart and exist mostly as outmoded institutions that are preserved to prop up the neoliberal state.
“No conceivable reason,” eh? This statement assumes that the employment market is rational and not beset by randomness, injustice and events far beyond a jobseeker’s control, such as the world-gambling going on every day on Wall Street. The poster has decided that all reasons for someone being stuck in minimum wage while deserving more can be ruled out. We can probably even do away with the nominal “$7.25/hr” bit, since the writer seems to think that whatever a business deems a worker is worth is what he is actually worth! I guess that includes $0.
“Skill” is an infuriating word in the context of employment discussions. There’s persistent talk about the nonexistent “skill gaps,” which is mostly code for businesses trying to squeeze workers’ wages by not hiring them and creating the artificial scarcity of unemployment, which drives desperation and willingness to take anything. “Skill” also imparts a sort of fictional objectivity to a chaotic market, through its associations with culturally important icons like athletes (who have “skills” in narrow areas) or card/video game players.
“It’s basic labor” – hah! Try cleaning a bathroom every day of the week. Better yet, try being a caregiver working for near minimum wage for 60+ hours a week and see just how un-demanding such a job is. Again, we have the assumption that high pay correlates with “real” work and low pay with “basic” work, when of course there are so many counterexamples that I could fill up the rest of this entry with them. A caregiver puts in much more body- and mind-numbing work – work that can be a matter of life and death for the person involved – than any software developer working on some Web app for a consulting firm can ever aspire to.
Saying minimum wage “isn’t meant to support a family, purchase a new car, home, or even pay student debt” reimagines many of the transient ideals of our age – home ownership, car purchases, exorbitantly expensive college – as universals that can serve as bases for judging what someone should get out of their work. It is a great question these days to ask exactly why anyone works in the first place, when so many occupation are completely removed from social welfare and basic human survival and automation could play a bigger role. The poster has an idea of “why,” though, and they’re all goals from the postwar era when today’s suffocating, precarious work environment was still decades away and society didn’t fetishize every last word out of some CEO’s streamlining, cost-cutting, union-busting mouth.
“Who have busted their asses to get somewhere in life” – it’s statements like this one that make me really despair over the U.S. ever finding a way past its relentlessly classist and racist system. Instead of trying to imagine that we’re all in this together and deserve dignity as members of the same nation, this poster draws the line between the vast masses of those earning minimum wage and the truly deserving who had the fortune to enter a lucrative field within our deterministic universe. This attitude is responsible for so much social ill, from the ridiculous costs of American healthcare (cue remarks about how long it takes to become a doctor) to the gentrification of working class neighborhoods by workaholic “entrepreneurs” making digital baubles for the 1 percent.
I won’t do this type of post again for a while, most likely. Again, I had planned to write on these issues at some point, and Facebook simply provided me with the raw material I finally needed to get started.