"I am a fattist," writes Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail. "I find obese people unappealing in almost every regard. They are physically unattractive, they lead unhealthy lives, they take up too much space on public transport, and..."
"...(most of all) they are a strain not only on their clothing but on NHS resources. The secret of their size? Their outsized appetites are matched by a lack of self-control and even less self-respect."
It is hardly worthwhile to debunk Platell's argument point by point: the knowing assumptions based on casual observation; the reflexive equation of size with health; the assumption that anyone not matching a certain weight profile is filled with self-loathing and incapable of self-respect; the normative standards; the rhetoric which, directed at any other group, would qualify as blatant hate-speech.
People like Platell (think Meme Roth on steroids) couch their disgust in a disingenuous concern for the health of the lazy slobs they so deplore. Each one talks, pityingly, about the "fatties" in their own families. Are there obesity epidemics in America and the UK? Yes. Do people eat badly and not exercise enough? Definitely. Are some of these issues tied up with economics and complex issues of social injustice? Of course. But this isn't what Platell is actually talking about; this merely becomes a justification, in her mind, for conflating her issues and ugliness with a fig leaf of conscience. She doesn't want to help these people. Get rid of them? Shrink them? Sure. But let's not pretend it doesn't come down to the fact that she finds them "unattractive" and that something about overweight people frightens her.
In order, however, to explore the issue like the objective, serious journalist she is, Platell travels to the West Midlands, England's "Fat Central," an economically-depressed area with rising obesity rates. What she finds, shockingly enough, disgusts her.
Everywhere, there were fat people. Men with stomachs so large it must have been decades since they'd seen their toes; women so overweight they had rolls of fat cascading down their backs, their thighs so large they couldn't walk, they waddled. More troubling still were the huge number of people on motorised buggies - every one of them obese. Others staggered along supporting their bulk by leaning on shopping trolleys. It doesn't take long to see that immobility is the inevitable outcome of a lifetime of obesity. Saddest of all, though, were the young kids, just teenagers, with arms so fat they stuck out from their sides, legs so large their feet pointed outwards. I'm sorry if that sounds cruel. But until we recognise the reality of the problem, we'll have no hope of beating it.
Yeah, she sounds really sorry. This is clearly the way to address the issue. In her investigation, she arrives at several highly bizarre conclusions: the government is throwing its money away on "arts centres" instead of facilitating, fitness and, oh yeah, people want to be fat because of - wait for it - social pressures. "In other words, being a normal size is abnormal around here. If you want to fit in (as most of us do, wherever we live) then pile on the flab. And so the problem gets steadily worse, generation after generation." Now, on the one hand, stopped-clock-style, she's not wholly wrong; those parents with unhealthy eating habits are probably more likely to foster them in their kids. But her larger point - that the problem is people feeling too good about themselves - is among the most disturbing in the whole disgusting piece.
So, how does the trip leave her feeling? Take a wild guess. "I had thought the sight and plight of people in Britain's fattest town might soften my attitude to the obese, but while I have sympathy for the individuals I spoke to, I'm sorry to say my overall thinking has only been hardened by what I witnessed." Shocker, that. She went amongst a group of people she despised based on their appearance, stared at them like a particularly crap nature documentarian, found that, yes, they were fat, and hated them even more. Her point, I guess, is that...well, I don't know what it is. That she hates fat people? We got that. That she feels morally superior? Check. That she's a loathsome human being? Because that's what I took away from it! Without resorting to Godwin's Law, Platell's language is that of racialist justification - the dehumanization, the reflexive contempt and, yes, the naked hatred. That she feels comfortable writing this filth in a national publication - even a rag like the Daily Mail - is shocking and sobering. There are those who will condemn my even giving her the virtual ink, or giving the Mail the credence. But I think it's important to acknowledge that this is how a lot of people feel - and feel comfortable stating - and expose it as the ugliness it is wherever we see it. If her concern is really for improving people's health, well, she's undermining it. If she's trying to harden a hateful, irrational fattist fringe, well, good job.