Rush Limbaugh has done it again. He's lashing out at yet another "overeducated and single" woman, but this time it's Tracie McMillan, an author (he calls her an "authorette") who recently published, The American Way of Eating. In her book, McMillan goes undercover for a year at Walmart, Applebee's, and works in the fields harvesting garlic, grapes, and peaches to look at our food systems from the bottom up. She ends up advocating for a more equitable food system that allows everyone equal access to good, fresh, healthy food. Limbaugh read the review of her book in the New York Times on his show Tuesday and declared that he's just discovered the liberal elites' next target: food justice. Limbaugh said:
Google 'food justice.' You think it's a new term? Google it! You get 1,810,000 hits. This is happening right in front of us for years, this kind of thing. Food is the next front in the left-wing war on the private sector. 'Food justice,' mark my words, will soon be joining the term 'social justice.' It will be appearing in news stories.
Limbaugh's a little late to the game on this one, the term food justice is hardly news and he joins an already long line of conservatives who criticize any attempt to reign in Big Food. Most famously, there's Sarah Palin, calling out "nanny state" as Michelle Obama attempts to bring healthier foods into our schools and greater attention to the health and nutrition of American children.
Limbaugh's latest rant against McMillan fits right in with the way many other conservatives are intent on defending the American right to eat corporate, processed, and unhealthy food. I wrote about this last year on Grist and called this line of reasoning the American Fast Food Syndrome:
There's some perverse logic at work here, and it strikes me as vaguely similar to 'Stockholm syndrome' -- a paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express adulation and positive feelings towards their captors. While Americans are not experiencing a physical captivity, they are deeply mired in a psychological condition in which they're captive to industrial food products and the corresponding ideologies that are ultimately harming them. Call it the American Fast Food Syndrome.
I would argue that the advertising agencies that work hand-in-hand with the big players of industrial food should take much of the blame for this change. Within the span of three short generations, Americans have come to accept industrial food as their mainstay -- not only have they accepted it, they defend it like they'd defend the American flag as a symbol of their patriotism and allegiance to the 'real' America.
The amazing thing about what Limbaugh purports is that he'd have his listeners believe that liberals are trying to control our food systems -- that liberals are trying to take away Americans' freedom to eat what they want. He says:
Everything about it is deceit. Everything about it is a trick designed to get you to give up your freedom because you get angry when you hear that Walmart's screwing you or Applebee's or the Big Oil companies or whoever. And who gets to ride in and save the day? Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, whoever, on a white horse.
It's not hard to see what Limbaugh stands to gain by defending these corporations, but what about the average American who has nothing to gain financially and a lot to lose in terms of health and real options when it comes to food choice?
Maybe Limbaugh is so irritated by someone like McMillan because she's an affront to the natural order of things. Rather than be married (he remarks on her being single several times) and at home dutifully preparing dinner, she's out in the world reporting on the inequities in our food systems. The irony is that part of what McMillan shows in her book is that the nature of our food systems makes it increasingly difficult for anyone, man or woman, to prepare a healthy dinner at home.
In fact, the food issue is so emotionally charged because many people still view household duties -- like cooking -- as the domain of women. And to someone like Limbaugh, "overeducated single women" have no place criticizing the food industry. I suppose they should be at home tearing open a microwaveable dinner that they bought at Walmart or picking up dinner for their families at the local Applebee's?
But who really controls our food? It's certainly not the government as Limbaugh suggests is looming in our near future -- and it's definitely not the people. In 19th century America, 90 percent of the population was involved in food production -- either by farming or growing their own foods in home gardens -- now that number is near two percent. So who's doing all that work now? Large scale industrial farmers and the corporations behind them. Isn't this the real assault on our freedoms? Shouldn't we want more diversity in our food supply rather than less?
Freedom from the tyranny of the few is supposed to be the foundation of our democratic nation. As it stands now, just a handful of corporations control our food supply. Who is Limbaugh kidding? Why should we defend these corporations who do not have our best interests in mind? Limbaugh can continue to do so at his own peril but Americans need to wake up and see behind the real trickery at work -- and it's not coming from the liberal elite with some conspiracy in mind for Big Government to come in and socialize our food system. The real trickery and affront to our freedoms sits in the hands of the corporations that control our food supply and have duped people like Limbaugh into doing the dirty work of defending them.