Kenneth Tong is a former British reality TV star who became infamous — and got a shit-ton of Twitter followers — when he started tweeting things like "Hunger hurts but starving works" and dieters can "never start too young."
A few weeks ago, Kenneth Tong launched a Twitter campaign. "The words lunch, breakfast, and dinner should now mean nothing to you, you have eaten enough for a lifetime. Stop. You are disgusting" he wrote. And, better a girl "risk [her] life dieting than be sub-par by being a plus-size." His hate-speech caught the attention of everyone from Rihanna to alarmed ED educators, and it's no shock that now, with the threat of lawsuits looming, Tong is claiming it was all a hoax. However, he was singing a different tune when the London Independent's Johann Hari interviewed him recently.
When Hari meets Tong — a self-described "playboy" and former Big Brother villain, who claims to be working on a "size-zero pill,"
He is a short man in a gray suit who manages to look both baby-faced and wizened at the same time. He is lined with great wodges of bling: a sparkling silver necklace hangs from his neck and gold flashes from his wrists. He hurries up to me and smirks: "I am the most hated man in Britain!"
And at the time of the interview, the independently wealthy ne'er-do-well was certainly owning his views, just as he did to the Guardian's Sarah Tonner, who writes that "Tong told me that "managed anorexia" was a term he coined, which was a lifestyle choice and not a diet, aimed at achieving the results of what anorexics want without the bad publicity and negative outcomes." And according to Hari,
Tong tells me that fat women are "disgusting", and any woman over a Size Zero is fat and therefore "worthless." (Men are different: men only have to be rich.) He leans forward, and says evangelically that all women should become "managed anorexics", and his pill will make it possible.
In the course of the interview, he comes across as a shockingly ignorant misogynist who both likes to shock and is too dumb to know how shocking his views are. He comes across, in short, as the last person in the world who should have any say in anything, let alone other people's health. But it gets worse. Because when you think he might be essentially beneath contempt and notice,
in September last year, Tong declared on Twitter: "Truthfully, when you are as wealthy as I am, you can say, do and think anything without penalty, as you have no one to be accountable to." He made similar brags all through his short stay on Big Brother. A woman called Ella Jose then responded to him with a Tweet saying: "Break the law [and] let's see what happens." He replied - with a link to a news story explaining he had been tried and acquitted of rape in 2009. What did you mean, Kenneth? He says it is "not a confession at all." So what is it? "It was kinda a funny little gibe for me," he says, and laughs.
When the interviewer informs him that he's liable to be held legally accountable for his words and actions, Tong "visible panics" and, an hour after the interview, claims the whole thing was a joke. Or, rather, an experiment. To see
whether it was possible, to go from nowhere to be a globally recognized figure within a week harnessing the power of the internet and specifically Twitter... My honest personal opinion on managed anorexia is it is an disgusting and illogical idea. It is a mental illness. It cannot be managed.
"Hoax" or not, Tong has been a trending topic for the past week and thousands of people have read this slime's opinions, if you can call them that. He has 22,000 followers. As Tonner, herself a recovering anorexic, writes, "Any rational person knows not to take any notice of them, but when you have a mental illness like anorexia, you cannot necessarily be rational about things that might justify your illness." While it's tempting to ignore Tong, I think he's moved beyond that point: he has a platform, and he's used it for dangerous ill. People are already listening. You could say the alleged "experiment" was a success. And that means consequences. So let's learn who he is, link his name to, at best, a harmful hoax (and at worst, someone the authorities should have on their radar) and take the opportunity to talk about how dangerous words can be. Then, yes, by all means let's deny him the attention he so desperately craves.
Kenneth Tong: The Interview [JohannHari]
Kenneth Tong's 'Managed Anorexia' Twitter Campaign Puts Others At Risk [Guardian]