I was working on a post for Pith about the Tennessee Obesity Taskforce [sic], which reminded me of the upsetting discovery that their early promotional material included illustrative photos of what a problem fat people were that showed fat people as slovenly and ridiculous and as a step down on the evolutionary ladder. And something dawned on me. When you have a situation like obesity, which is linked to bad health outcomes, how can you tell if you’re dealing with an actual health crisis or a moral panic?
And I think the way to tell is that, in a moral panic, the people who are ostensibly helping openly ridicule the people they think need help.
I’ve just come to this realization, so I’m not certain it pans out 100%, but I’m trying to think of any time I’ve heard of a natural disaster or an outbreak of illness where the people who showed up to help–not the assholes who might sit back and do nothing but take potshots, but actual show-up-to-help folks–openly made fun of the people they were helping. And I can’t think of any.
But here are the people who have showed up to help fight obesity, openly making fun of obese people.
I think that’s a tell. It’s a little involuntary twitch that lets you know this isn’t about health, but about morality.
Ooo, I mean, think of it this way. “Oh, we need to do something about poverty”–concern about well-being. “Oh, we need to do something about thugs with their stupid music ruining our city.”–moral panic. Right? It holds true.
I’m going to have to keep an eye out for more examples.