Darkness and Light

Moving Beyond Weight Bias Into Vile Hate

We’ve known for a while that weight bias is especially strong in the UK. But with a viewpoint in Radio Times, Michael Buerk is breaking new ground. He has moved beyond simple weight bias into vile hate. Let people with obesity die to save the state money, he says. “They’re weak, not ill.”

Bubbling Ignorance and Hostility

Buerk’s viewpoint is overflowing with ignorance and hostility for people. To depict obesity, the Radio Times chose an image of a dirty man in dirty socks and underwear on a recliner. He has a bowl of popcorn in his lap and a huge mug of beer in one hand. With his other hand, he’s stuffing a sandwich into his mouth.

A picture is worth a thousand words and this one has all the demeaning stereotypes.

Just as bad, though, are all of his ignorant statements. It’s greed, not genes, that explains obesity, he says. Wrong. Studies have shown over and over again that genes explain 70 percent of the likelihood a person will have obesity. Most of the rest is explained by environmental factors. The food supply, restrictions on physical activity, and a host of other factors all contribute.

Personal choice plays a role, just as it does with any other health condition. Some people become obsessed with beating it. Some find it futile. As with any life challenge, most people simply do the best they can.

Whether Buerk is ignorant or just trying to be provocative doesn’t really matter. He’s wrong.

Vile Hate Speech

Imagine writing to call for the deaths of persons with disabilities or other chronic diseases. Hate speech is a crime in the UK. And Buerk’s viewpoint sounds a lot like hate speech. He expresses pure contempt for people with obesity. Contempt is toxic to our our lives and our communities. He – and we – must do better than this. Indulging and tolerating contempt must stop now – in every part of our lives. We can follow a better path.

Click here for Buerk’s commentary and here for further reporting on it.

Darkness and Light, photograph © Sarah Horrigan / flickr

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August 7, 2019

4 Responses to “Moving Beyond Weight Bias Into Vile Hate”

  1. August 07, 2019 at 6:53 am, Angela Meadows said:

    Hate speech may be a crime in the UK, but not when the target is fat people. Nobody cares. Not authorities, not charities fighting hate speech, nobody. I’ve tried. I am genuinely open to ideas on how to address this really problematic issue in the UK (and elsewhere).

  2. August 07, 2019 at 7:46 am, Ted said:

    My only thought about how to address it is tirelessly and relentlessly. And I admire your doing that already, Angela.

  3. August 07, 2019 at 8:45 am, Michelle Vicari said:

    As you said this guy is either ignorant or going for the shock value with his views but the editorial staff of The UK Times and all the affiliates both print, radio, and TV that published it believed it was OK (or didn’t care) is even worse. They gave hate and stigma a global forum. I’d ask them to replace the word obesity in the article with any other disease or condition and see if it would have made it to print. I doubt it. We must let them know it’s not OK. Loudly.

  4. August 07, 2019 at 10:16 am, Will Hignett said:

    Weight bias is difficult to combat but targeting news outlets with boycotts of products they sell has been effective at times. This is a more direct approach to examine; a difficult but perhaps effective way to oppose hate speech is to create a coalition of other disease advocacy organizations to join you to either picket or demonstrate in a press conference that hating people for their disease is wrong, harmful and cruel. Giving a voice to hate speech is irresponsible for news outlets.