Fox News has long been known as a hate-mongering, divisive organization that profits handsomely from demonizing anyone who is different from the norm. This week, their very own Lou Dobbs, racist, xenophobe and hack journalist advocated “bullying” overweight children. He apparently believes that the best way to get the obese children to change their ways is for skinny kids to bully them. It’s all for their “own good.”
Dobbs, the quintessential “angry old white man,” is none too thin himself. His comments came after a segment of Outnumbered that aired on July 13th. The discussion, which seemed to start out on a reasonable enough tone, centered on a recent research study appearing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM). The study suggests that as overall obesity rates have risen, adolescents’ perceptions of their own weight may have shifted as well. Teens today may be less likely to realize they are overweight – and therefore are less likely to change their behaviors (such as diet and exercise) and/or seek professional help. It’s a genuine concern: obesity due to a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle puts one at risk for a host of diseases in later life.
One of the panelists then expressed concern that the problem may be due to a culture of “political correctness.” The suggestion is that overweight teens today may have positive feelings about their own bodies and it’s socially unacceptable to point out that they may be putting their health in danger. After all, the first step to making changes is to acknowledge the problem, right?
Obesity in the U.S. is a complex problem. The four women hosting the segment addressed the subject in simplistic terms – but they made some valid points about the health aspect. One of them even acknowledged the First Lady’s efforts to raise awareness, saying, “I give Michelle Obama some credit for…at least calling attention to this issue.” Another spoke about the efforts in some schools to ban or at least limit access to junk foods.
Then, the conversation started to degenerate: “The problem here…is they [overweight kids] feel good about themselves when they shouldn’t.” In other words, we as a society are coddling overweight children when what they really need is to be told the hard truth. Another host asked, “What do we do with confident fat kids?” In fact, the study published in the AJPM say nothing about overweight teens “feeling good” about themselves. What it does say is that, due to increased obesity over the past generation, today’s teens – looking at the people around them and comparing themselves – perceive their bodies as “normal.”
Nonetheless, this opened the door for Mr. Dobbs to start shooting his mouth off: “Here’s the problem: some idiots have done a study…they’ve examined kids who feel good about themselves as teenagers and their body image, and now that’s a problem…what the hell is wrong with this country?” Of course, he had to add his libertarian rant and slam against the First Lady: “There is no problem too small for which government and some ‘group-think’ doesn’t have a solution.”
Dobbs didn’t actually come straight out and say that skinny kids should start pummeling and bullying fat kids because parents and teachers are too afraid to tell them the truth. However, he did take a pot-shot at teachers and public education: “Do you know how many teachers in this country understand the concept of reality? Let’s start with that…do you want teachers giving ‘life lessons’ to your children?” Dobbs’ solution for the problem of teachers and parents afraid to be honest with their children was to let peer-pressure do the job. If someone calls a child “lardo,” that’s “socialization…that’s what’s supposed to happen on a playground. The kids will talk to each other – they’ll interact.”
So, to be fair, Dobbs didn’t actually suggest bullying. More accurately, he recommended that it be allowed to happen. True to his libertarian leanings, he interjected his sarcastic comment: “God forbid – we not have adult supervision…three counselors and four government managers over the issue.”
What this writer found offensive about the Outnumbered segment was how the panel took such a black-and-white, simplistic position on what is a very complicated issue. To hear them tell it, the obesity epidemic is all about kids being lazy and eating too much – and not being told that they’re fat and lazy. They fail to bring up the issue of school districts cutting back on physical education and recess in order to get in more “classroom time.” They don’t talk about the vending machines full of carbonated drinks loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. They don’t mention the fact that busy, over-scheduled kids today might have twenty minutes to shove something into their face during lunch – which tends to encourage overeating.
And Dobbs thinks that negative peer pressure is going to solve the problem? He was obviously never young and overweight or otherwise “different.”
Of course, nobody could ever accuse Fox News of bringing any sort of depth or analysis to subject matter.