The War on Judgment
posted at 6:10 pm on September 14, 2010 by Dafydd ab Hugh
First Lady Michelle Obama is once again on the warpath; this time, she’s bullying the National Restaurant Association, coming as near as makes to difference to ordering them to reduce portion sizes, expunge ingredients that she considers bad (sugar, salt, butter, cream — “not enough to sacrifice flavor — we all like flavor — but just enough to make a meaningful difference in the amount of calories and fat”), and substitute her veggieland choices for traditional side dishes… e.g., “make healthy sides like apple slices or carrots the default choice in a menu and make fries something customers have to request.”
I’m all in favor of restaurants deciding (without State coercion) to offer salads and vegetables and fruits on their menus; sometimes I’ll buy them — I love Souplantation, for example, a restaurant that is basically nothing but a huge salad bar. But voluntary cooperation is not what Mrs. Obama has in mind; she makes her intention quite clear:
Right now, many restaurants are making a point to offer fresh produce and healthy choices aimed at kids and adults. Others are serving more low-fat dishes, whole grain breads, fruit on the side. Some are even offering kid-size portions of the meals they serve on the main menu. And chefs across the country are partnering with local schools to help them make healthy choices.
But as positive as these examples are, the reality is it’s just not enough. Together we have to do more. We have to go further. And we need your help to lead this effort.
The time for talk, talk, talk is over. We need action, action, action!
And action the government has taken:
As part of “Let’s Move,” we’re setting a goal of doubling the number of schools that participate in the Healthier US Schools Challenge by next year. And we’re working with schools and food suppliers to offer more fruits and vegetables and to cut down on that fat, sugar and salt.
And, finally, we’re working with mayors and other local officials to make our cities and towns healthier and to highlight restaurants that agree to serve smaller portions and promote more nutritious options.
So I hope that all of you will join with us in these efforts. Together, we can help make sure that every family that walks into a restaurant can make an easy, healthy choice.
We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture — imagine this — where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them.
It’s not an exaggeration to call this nutritional battle plan “Orwellian” because of the mindset that clearly motivates it: Michelle Obama rejects the crazy idea that choosing what and how much to eat is part of freedom of choice, and she dismisses with nary a thought the even more risible notion that we ourselves must be held accountable for the consequences of the choices we make. Rather, the Fist Lady sees the federal government as the nation’s health conscience, substituting its judgment of what is best in place of our own, and in place of parents’ judgment on behalf of their own children.
The terminus of the arc of this mindset was expressed very clearly in an Italian pronunciamento of the 1920s: “Everything inside the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State” — and chillingly analyzed by Robert Anton Wilson in his 1977 book Cosmic Trigger: “Everything not compulsory is forbidden…. Everything not forbidden is compulsory.”
The mindset — don’t think, don’t choose, just sit quietly and wait for instructions — has likewise been explored in detail in works as varied as classical-liberal Friederich Hayek’s the Road to Serfdom, 1944, and modern-liberal Philip K. Howard’s the Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America, a full half-century later.
Simply put, the more government decides, the less taste the citizen has for making his own decisions. In very short order, an infantalized people begin to avoid making any decisions at all, waiting all the while for someone to tell them what to do. The end result is a craving for order-taking and the self-immolation of will; we become, in Ayn Rand’s term, truly “self-less.”
Ironically, Mrs. Obama enunciated a structurally identical argument in her harangue to the National Restaurant Association:
But here’s the catch. See, feeding those cravings [doesn’t] just respond to people’s natural desires, it actually helps shape them. The more of these foods people eat, the more they’re accustomed to that taste, and after a while, those unhealthy foods become a permanent part of their eating habits.
What we see here has been noted by many that passed before us: Liberals reject moral reasoning; they want total “freedom” (license) to do whatever they want, then preen about it. But they must fill the “rules” gap with something; it’s scary not to have any rules at all. So they elevate health concerns to moral imperatives: Thou shalt not eat too large a portion; thou shalt not eat anything made with white flour; and this above all — thou shalt not eat the deadly poison, salt! (Or breath the deadly pollutant carbon dioxide; but that’s a rant for a different post.)
To the war on portions, white bread, and salt, add the wars on fat, peanut butter, sugar, sugar substitutes, mac & cheese, Mexican food, Chinese food, Italian food, fast food, tobacco, war, doctors, playgrounds, sunshine (skin cancer!), and recreation (as in recreational use of any natural resource) — a war on everything but the lawyers, praise Burger (but not burgers).
(Exceptions granted to the Anointed, of course: They’re saving the world, for Gore’s sake; they can’t be expected to hew to the same laws that govern the rabble.)
All the little wars collide into a giant Ur-war in which every enemy behavior, activity, or comestible is condemned for being “bad for children and other living things.” The freak show that composes the Committee for Science in the Public Interest (and how’s that for an Orwellian name!) is revolting, and has already seized the presidency, cabinet, and much of the Congress.
Of course, to maintain loyalty in war, governments often resort to wartime censorship; the State must keep a lid on opinion-mongering, especially opinions about the war itself, its necessity and conduct. In the case of the vital Ur-war against unauthorized freedom for the unenlightened, it’s already here; Mrs. Obama announces the plan:
Our kids don’t learn about the latest fast-food creations on their own. They hear about them on TV, advertisements, in the Internet, video games, and many other places. And as any parent knows, this marketing is highly effective.
As a mom, I know it is my responsibility, and no one else’s, to raise my kids. But we have to ask ourselves, what does it mean when so many parents are finding their best efforts undermined by an avalanche of advertisements aimed at our kids.
A study last year found that only a small percentage of advertising aimed at kids promoted healthy foods, while most promoted foods with a low nutritional value. And let’s be clear: It’s not enough just to limit ads for foods that aren’t healthy. It’s also going to be critical to increase marketing for foods that are healthy.
And if there’s anyone who can sell healthy food to our kids, it’s all of you, because you know what gets their attention. You know what makes a lasting impression. You certainly know what gets them to drive their poor parents crazy because they just have to have something.
So I’m here today to ask you to use that knowledge and that power to our kids’ advantage. I’m asking you to actively promote healthy foods and healthy habits to our kids.
Everything because of the kids. Nothing apart from the kids. Nothing against the kids.
Today she only “asks,” as your teacher might “ask” you to hand in that overdue book report; tomorrow, she — or her minions at the FCC and FDA — will command, using the full force of government action, action, action.
The penchant for controlling all speech and communications becomes a compulsion; compare this amusing directive from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to the president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, which lobbies for private health insurers. Sebelius (I don’t think she’s in Kansas anymore) was infuriated when AHIP issued a report noting that ObamaCare had already driven a number of insurers to raise their rates, in order to pay for expanded benefits demanded by the new law. The secretary responded:
It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases….
Given the importance of the new protections and the facts about their impact on costs, I ask for your help in stopping misinformation and scare tactics about the Affordable Care Act. Moreover, I want AHIP’s members to be put on notice: the Administration, in partnership with states, will not tolerate unjustified rate hikes in the name of consumer protections….
We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014. Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections.
Americans want affordable and reliable health insurance, and it is our job to make it happen. We worked hard to change the system to help consumers. It is my hope we can work together to stop misinformation and misleading marketing from the start.
Recall, when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was passed, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) informed us that we would have to pass the bill in order to find out what was in it. Who knows? Perhaps it did give Sebelius authority to regulate private speech about ObamaCare. (The Sedition Act “was good for Woodrow Wilson, and it’s good enough for me!”)
More generally, the Harpy Brigade of nanny secretaries appears to be well along the path of total control over new media. Now Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (I don’t think she’ll ever take off her rainbow shades) appears to covet the power to “police the world wide web” and even “shut down parts of the Internet” if she perceives a cyberthreat.
How long, I wonder, before Napolitano’s lidless eye begins seeing blogposts or online newspaper stories critical of the Obama administration as exactly the sort of threat that needs nipping in the bud? The administration has already informed us it has “zero tolerance” for “misinformation.”
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” And who controls communications controls the present. Of course any liberal-fascist State, or any other form of socialism or socialism lite, must control and ultimately own all communications to have even a hope of implementing its directives — which will tend, with every passing season in the natural progression of “five year plans,” to become more irrational, unpredictable, and against basic human nature.
The Obamacle and his acolytes in the administration and Congress must realize that the popular front for Capitalism and against government expansion and intrusion depends upon the ability to communicate, particularly over the internet. Ms. Napolitano must be greedily eyeing that medium and longing to get her mits on it, particularly if she harbors any dream of running for President of the United States herself. Certain things are better left unsaid; it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
But in the end, it will all go for nought; because Team Obama long ago lost the battle for communications when its excesses and failures lost even the normal channels for liberal-fascist policy: the antique media of newspapers and television. Today, one is as apt to read a denunciation of Obamunism in the New York Times (or see in on Jon Stewart’s the Daily Show) as in the Wall Street Journal or the National Review.
Today, it’s the popular front that controls the present… from which you may draw your own conclusion.
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…
Recently in the Green Room: