Constant readers will recall that I reserve a very special old pale grade of really choice bile for the lifestyle-totalitarian junk scientists, a.k.a., the jackbooted thugs who want to confiscate your cheeseburgers, who lurk over at the Center for Science [sic] in the Public Interest [very sic]. I’m sorry to report that the CSPI is now being aided and abetted by a sort of daughter coven — to wit, a foul species of organization calling itself the Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, directed by one Kelly Brownell. As an Old Blue (Yale Class of ’92), furthermore, I am particularly grieved to see that in addition to being a CSPI board member and certified weasel, this Brownell is a Yale professor. And he’s not just a research scientist buried in a lab, or a teacher of obscure seminars attended by six or seven graduate students. He’s a pillar of the undergraduate community with maximal student contact: Brownell is the “master” of Silliman College , which is one of the largest of Yale’s twelve “residential colleges” — in other words, he presently mentors and acts in loco parentis to hundreds of Yale College students. Let me try to show why that ought to frighten you as much as it does me.
Kelly Brownell is a man who deeply and sincerely wants to see fat go the way of tobacco — a man whose prescription for a healthy America consists of bloating the nanny state in order to enforce his strict nutritional precepts upon everyone in it. A recent Jeff Jacoby piece , featured last week on WorldNetDaily even as I was writing these paragraphs, quotes Brownell’s contention that “the government should subsidize the sale of healthy food, increase the cost of non-nutritional foods through taxes, and regulate food advertising to discourage unhealthy practices.” Now where, thought I to myself upon reading this, have I personally seen — and quoted — something like this before? Why, I do believe it was Kelly Brownell himself over at the CSPI site just last summer, making a pitch (scroll about three-fifths of the way down the page for the scary bits) to “subsidize the cost of healthy foods, so they cost less; increase the cost of bad foods, so they cost more; regulate food advertising aimed at children. …” Brownell goes so far as to insist there’s no difference between Ronald McDonald and Joe Camel — and he’s right, to the extent that the First Amendment ought to protect both, but won’t.
Do I need to point out the sheer spookiness of this hyperregulationist thug’s possessing massive influence over hundreds of nineteen- and twenty-year-olds? Can you imagine the effect of Master Brownell’s authoritarian utopianism upon these bright young members of the elite intelligentsia — most of them brought up to believe in their own anointedness
, their natural vocation and duty to solve society’s problems, and all of them at the ripest possible age for ideological brainwashing? I can. I wish I couldn’t. I’d sleep better at night.
Professor Brownell’s academic field is psychology. Call me crazy, but the last I heard, psychologists don’t spend a whole lot of time covering nutritional science to qualify as psychologists. (That might explain why Brownell so unquestioningly buys into the bunk conventional wisdom of a low-fat diet as the Holy Grail and panacea for all people, regardless of individual physical differences. Or it could just be distaste on his part for the very concept of “individuals” with the gall to differ from one another.) But even if he were somehow in magical possession of the One True Gospel for All regarding nutrition, it wouldn’t justify his making it into the law of the land. Is Brownell really the man to design laws telling the rest of us what to eat — to be appointed Butter Czar in a brand-new national war on fats?
Furthermore, Brownell’s particular area of specialty is eating disorders. Not normal eating behavior: eating disorders. His life’s work. Think about that. Here’s Brownell’s picture . Tell me, what do you think the chances are that he himself has some major, messy neurotic issues to work out regarding control in general, not to mention appetite and consumption specifically? And shouldn’t he be exploring those issues with his own therapist, rather than playing them out using America’s laws (not to mention her citizens) as props?
Let me encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, to go and read Jeff Jacoby’s essay slamming this putative Fuhrer of Fat, if only so you won’t think I’m just an isolated weirdo, obsessing over my pet apocalyptic theory whilst cradling my Haagen-Dazs possessively to my chest. As Jacoby very cogently puts it, “Soon you’ll hear about all the children whose lives will be cut short because they got hooked on junk food at an early age. You’ll see references to the 300,000 people ‘killed’ each year by fatty diets. In time there will be lawsuits and congressional hearings and moving testimony by the ‘victims’ of chocolate and butterfat.”
Still unclear on the concept? Think extortionate sin taxes. Think Surgeon General’s Warning labels. Think cities and towns banning fatty foods from public consumption. Think fifty states suing Land O’ Lakes for health-care costs. Think dirty looks and public tirades from strangers on the street. The way things are going, you may well see pregnant women prosecuted for child abuse in your lifetime because they dare reach for whole milk instead of fat-free. (I only wish that last idea were as alarmist as it sounds; check out the October Nutrition Action Healthletter, unfortunately not at present online in its entirety, for the CSPI’s surreal take on milk: “Children get more heart-damaging saturated fat from milk than any other food …”) Anti-fat regulations are most palpably on the way, my friends. Individual freedom of choice? Please! It’s your health! Besides, we’ve got to think of the children!
States are rushing to legalize medical marijuana across half the West — but do you realize that for a growing, vocal, and powerful portion of this country, marijuana is already a far more socially acceptable substance than bacon? The old Prohibition may be starting to show signs of age and decrepitude. The new Prohibition has not yet begun to fight.
Tobacco was just for openers. Guns are next. New Orleans has already inaugurated what promises to become a tidal wave of health-care-cost lawsuits by cities and states against law-abiding gun retailers and manufacturers. After that … well, it sure looks to me as though McDonald’s had better start sprucing up its legal department. Believe me when I say that this ship’s only just being launched — and Kelly Brownell is at its helm, with a growing army of our brightest young men and women behind him, the light of the anointed shining in their eyes, all ready to graduate and to fan out into the power structure of America and to regulate, regulate, regulate. …
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Then act. No, I don’t mean run right out for a hot fudge sundae. (You can do that later.) Rather, take a few minutes (you’ll enjoy them) to tell Yale President Richard C. Levin your precise thoughts regarding Brownell’s fitness to be master — a high-profile, responsible mentoring position that is intimately knit into undergraduate life, and from which he can freely peddle his pet brand of proto-fascism to the young. Include the egregious Brownell quotations given above, with their Web site references. Point out that — particularly considering the recent ousting of Saybrook College’s ex-master on child pornography charges (true!) — Yale might want to try focusing just a little more attention upon those it deems suitable for the master’s office.
CC your e-mail to the chairman of Yale’s Psychology Department; I believe the weasel Brownell has tenure, more’s the pity, but that’s no reason we should let him be too comfortable in it. CC that e-mail, in addition, to both of Yale’s major student newspapers: the weekly Yale Herald can be reached here , and the Yale Daily News accepts e-mail here . That way our e-mails will go as far as possible in heating things up a bit for the loathsome Brownell. Let’s not let this still-a-borning new orthodoxy go unchallenged.
And, if you’re as disgusted with him as I am, you may also want to take a minute or two before that hot fudge run to suggest personally to Master Brownell just exactly what he can do with his quasi-totalitarian proposals. May I respectfully suggest that the classic pro-choice slogan, “Keep your laws off my body,” would make a charming subject line?