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‘Nanny State’ Nonsense: The Inaccuracy & Hypocrisy of The Latest Conservative Outrage

The latest conservative meme is a spin-off of the National Rifle Association’s infamous 1970s slogan, “I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands”, with different foods replacing the word ‘gun’.  The most common variation refers to “burgers and fries”, but as Sarah Palin demonstrated last year, cookies also apply.

For reasons that fall beyond comprehension, many conservatives view public health as a threat to their liberties and freedoms.  Mention calorie postings on menus and prepare to be labeled “a food Nazi” (a term that always make me cringe, no matter how many times I hear it).   Suggest a ban on trans fats and, well, consider yourself responsible for the downfall of the United States.  If you want to get Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs going, bring up Meatless Mondays.

In fact, almost every time a sound public health measure is brought up, conservatives trot out “Nanny State” complaints, even when these measures simply consist of educational campaigns or information dissemination that aims to help consumers make better choices.  After all, calorie counts do not prevent anyone from ordering to their heart’s discontent.  Similarly, trans fats bans do not forbid foods, but rather remove an ingredient which has been shown time and time again to wreck all aspects of human health, and that can be replaced with less-offensive substitutes without affecting flavor.  Much like the tooth fairy, the Nanny State is an imaginary concept.  Despite what many conservatives think, offering a healthful option, while still keeping the less healthful option available, is simply about prioritizing the health of a society.

Curiously, the same folks who throw these “Nanny state!  Stay out of my life!” tantrums over sound and reasonable policies like removing flavored milk from school lunchrooms are the same ones who are quick to tell women what they can and can not do with their own bodies, declare what couples can and can not get married, and forbid certain topics from being discussed in schools.  As much as conservatives may appear to be “laissez faire” when it comes to issues of nutrition and health, they sure go out of their way to protect Big Food and Big Agriculture (Monsanto owes some of of its legal victories to Republican politicians).

Real progress can not occur unless policies and laws are enacted, which reflect — and, in some cases, precede — a collective shift in consciousness.  This nation’s nutrition crisis has awakened many of its citizens, who will only increasingly continue to demand that government take measures to help foster an environment of wellness.  Banning trans fats, artificial dyes, and genetically modified organisms is not “nanny”-ing; it is the correct response to well-documented threats to the physical and environmental health of a nation.

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9 Comments

  1. Kate Shaw said on July 20th, 2011

    Great post Andy! Just to add another example of this fear of public health initiatives by conservative politians North of the border, Toronto’s mayor (Rob Ford) recently rejected a proposal to ban vending machines in city buildings that sell sugary beverages. His exact words, which only he can so eloquently put:
    “Once you get rid of all the sodas and the water, are you going to go after my butter tarts downstairs, too. I’m not being sarcastic. And the next step would be let’s dictate what we should eat, what we can drive. Should we take the bus because it’s not healthy to drive a car. Where does it stop? Where does the socialism stop.” Its truly sad.

  2. BrettFutureRD said on July 20th, 2011

    You really hit the nail on the head with this one. I’m not too happy with either political party, but I can’t stand most republicans. Their hypocrisy is uncanny. They are so afraid about their rights being infringed in some aspects, but when it fits their own agenda, they have no problem infringing on people’s rights (Hello teaching religion in public schools in Texas?). The point you made that I like is that banning trans fats and putting up calorie counts in menus doesn’t infringe on anybody’s individual rights. Republicans really do live in a fantasy world.

  3. Mitzi said on July 20th, 2011

    The people you quote above represent the nutritional opinions of few of the conservatives I know. We want schools to serve kids good food, not sugary milk beverages and nutritionally worthless reheated deep-fried unidentifiable objects that leave them buzzed and cranky. We believe in all the amendments of the Constitution, including the 4th (I can’t fly until the TSA rediscovers it) and the 1st (religious people should not have their beliefs lampooned without debate in the science classroom- I allowed doubt and inquiry to be freely expressed in mine, and the kids listened with respect as a result). We believe in truth in advertising and unadulterated foods, enforced by the government if necessary, but hopefully more so by the spending of a properly-educated populace. Which party controls the unions with a death grip on that education again, with no good or bad foods? Sorry, I live in Memphis, TN. You couldn’t be a Democrat for long if you lived here. Crazily corrupt, democratic-party machine politics. Nasty.
    How would you like it if the media summarized liberal opinion by strictly quoting Al Sharpton and Nancy Pelosi at her “you’ll learn what’s in this bill after you pass it” worst? I get frustrated when liberal friends tell me “But CNN says conservatives believe this silly thing, and you are conservative, so you must believe it.” I think both political parties are fiddling while Rome burns, and neither is really conservative (they sell out to the highest bidder), but that’s an opinion held by a real conservative, not someone who plays one on TV.
    I usually like your blog very much, and read it often, BTW.

  4. erika said on July 21st, 2011

    Let them eat cake (cookies, brownies etc).

    I remember reading an article a few years ago about the future of the US military in terms of recruitment. It stated that the military has to reject a large number of applicants (over 30%) because they are overweight. Further, it said that if the US doesn’t get this under control that this will pose a national security risk.

    Some very evil part of me sides with the Right. I wonder, though, who will be the blame when Americans are too fat to fight?

  5. GingerSnap said on July 21st, 2011

    Excellent points!

    I guess those who fear ‘socialism’ are OK with corporate free market fascism..?

  6. Judi said on July 22nd, 2011

    Agree with your post on pretty much everything, except that bringing in abortion is in bad taste. The whole “what they can and can not do with their own bodies” is a silly concept that fails to actually address a fundamental truth – there are two bodies involved in an abortion, and when one exercises her right, the right of the other person over his or her body is taken away. It’s not an appendix being removed, it’s a human being killed. Those whose lives are taken deserve better than to have their fate compared to the removal of trans fat.

  7. Rob said on July 28th, 2011

    There’s hypocrisy and extremism on both sides. If you want to bring in abortion as part of the argument, I know a lot of “liberals” that are fine with abortion but against capital punishment.

    It’s … it’s been a personal conundrum for myself. I consider myself conservative, as someone who was formerly 380+ pounds and has benefited from bariatric surgery to help me lose weight, and now depends on eating healthy to maintain that loss I have been very close to a lot of issues that face so many. Access to health care, education about healthy eating, and thanks to your Andy, and many others I’ve “met” via Twitter and various blogs I am becoming more and more aware of issues surrounding everything from GMO to organic foods and more.

    While I see the issues going on with much of “corporate America”, the conservative in me also sees the continued failure of various government programs, the wasteful spending, and yes – fears the continued reach of the government in to our personal lives.

    There are some things I am … “more ok” with than others. I think smoking bans in bars/restaurants are an attack on personal property rights. Nobody has to work in or patronize a restaurant that offers a smoking section. I truly believe the marketplace is the best tool in that instance (I believe Perkins for one saw increase in sales when they went smoke free in their restaurants long before any states implemented smoking bans).

    But smoking is for lack of better way to describe it, a much more visual issue. Trans fats are not… part of me wishes that educating people about trans fats would be enough for them to demand that companies not use them, backing up their voices with their wallets.

    But can the companies be fully at blame when we as consumers continually want more for less, and we want it faster, easier to make, easier to serve, easier to access?

    I dunno… it’s enough sometimes to make me dread my pursuits in to the field of nutrition and other times it only serves to steel my resolve to do what I can to make a difference.

    @mcnee

  8. Andy Bellatti said on July 28th, 2011

    Rob,

    Thanks for your comment. For the sake of preventing this from turning into a political debate that strays from this particular issue, I invite you to contact me via e-mail if you are interested in further discussion (I am absolutely open to it, I just want to avoid the ‘comments’ section turning into a general “conservative” vs “liberal” debate).

    I disagree on the issue of smoking bans because I believe the right to a healthful environment is crucial. If I choose not to smoke, I should not have to sit a foot away from someone who smokes at a restaurant (especially with the documented research on the harms of second-hand smoking). Even a designated smoking section is problematic, because it poses a health risk to employees of that restaurant.

    As far as trans fats are concerned, that is one example where change must be policy-driven. Food companies have no reason to phase out trans fats unless required to do so. Public outcries and financial support aren’t as powerful, especially when you consider that for many people it is not an important issue (though it should be). Banning trans fats has worked well in many European countries. Flavors and textures are not negatively impacted (and, a trans fat ban is not a food ban). Trans fats are insidious, especially since we know minimal amounts pose great cardiovascular risks.

  9. Rob said on July 29th, 2011

    Thanks Andy, I know you are always open to discussion, one of the things that keeps me coming back to your site. But yea, I’m not really looking for a debate right now either, maybe another time when I’m feeling more feisty. Heh.

    Maybe much of my frustration is over my wishes that people actually started caring enough about what they’re eating to get, or even just allow themselves to get a bit of education in that regard. Like you said, the public outcries don’t work, because not enough people care about it.

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