Friday, September 3, 2010

Why I sometimes hate the Internet

Oh, we few, we happy few, who find ourselves occasionally reading or writing at Ben's Blog.  I try, I really do, but the Internet is tough.  I mean, I want to spend some time with it, but, like a crazy friend, you get that call and hit ignore, whatever you've been telling yourself.

So, yesterday, my lovely wife made me aware of this post at Feministe by Monica Potts about body mass index (BMI).  Many people have criticized BMI as a bad indicator of health, arguing that people can be healthy at any size.  Those people, some of whom dub themselves part of the fat acceptance movement, rage against an establishment media that throws around "Obesity Epidemic" pretty freely, and uses BMI to define who is obese and therefore unhealthy.

The post is pretty banal.  Being a part of various Internet sub-cultures gives people a weird sort of tunnel-vision. Who else but someone steeped in the feminist blogosphere would wake up and think, "Gee, I think the idea I really need to go out and defend today is 'fat is bad.'"  But that is more or less what this post does, arguing that BMI is relevant, that we should pay attention to it.  On the way, she makes some silly fat jokes and says nothing new or interesting.  If she has an angle, I don't know what it is.

This would be annoying enough, but then comes the deluge.  If you do go over and look at the post, be sure to read some of the comments.  Here are some highlights:
But right now I am literally shaking from anger.
Now I will go sit quietly somewhere else on the Internet until I stop feeling ill.
I hate this post. I hate you for writing it. I pretty strongly hate feministe for posting it.
what the fuck is this post.  what the fuck are your responses to people’s legitimate anger about the legitimately douchey and wrong things you said in this post.  what is going onnnn
Fuck you, Monica. Fuck your arrogant tone and FUCK your dismissive attitude.
There are some more nice moments, but I think you get the picture.  And I have to wonder: do people really get this upset when someone writes something trifling on the Internet?

Two other themes run through the comments:  threatening to never go to the blog again and anger over comments not making it through moderation.  The first I just think is funny, and it's another thing you see all the time.  The second I think is sad.  I mean, whatever people think about what's going on, if you read the comments, it's pretty clear that all kinds of stuff was getting through, including stuff that sounded pretty nasty and personal (see above).  It all reeks of a combination conspiracy theory and sense of entitlement, as if people have some right (another thing you see all the time) to comment.

So, I have some sympathy for the author.  But I can't let her off that easy.  Take a look at this response she has for her detractors:
So mostly I stay out of comments and let people say what they want: we’re all adults and we can disagree. But I’m going to say this. I greatly resent the idea that I’m not a feminist because I don’t tow the line on the fat acceptance movement. There are women in the world suffering because rape is a tool of war, there are women in the world still dying preventable deaths because of childbirth, there are women in the world watching their children die from hunger, and there are women in the world who are paid nothing or pennies for the work they do. The idea that worrying about women’s health in a way that acknowledges that obesity correlates with diseases that kill women and that fat acceptance may actually harm them — because despite the fact that posters are operating under the belief I’m unaware of the movement I’m actually very much aware, and disagree vehemently with it — is anti-feminist, is really offensive to me. Poor women die of heart disease, cancer and stroke, whether you want to believe it or not. They die because they don’t have medical care at all. The BMI is a useful indicator of the prevalence of illness in society, and that’s really important.
I'm not going to dissect this.  But it is one of my favorite responses, and I suggest you all use it as often as possible:  whenever people accuse you of not showing enough compassion, just tell them that you care about some group of people who are really screwed, make up something horrible if you have to, and then give them a smug, self-satisfied look.

Works for me all the time. 


Anonymous said...

F&$% you, Ben. I'm a hair's breadth away from never reading this blog again. There are websites on your hated internet collecting unprecedented amounts of donations for children who will die in Africa for the lack of a $10 mosquito net. I apologize for caring. -- Tom H.

Ben said...

Crap. Now I feel bad.

Hoist by my own petard.