''Quid est veritas?''

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Posted by HSG on March 05, 2005 at 02:49:18:

("What is truth?")

It is a historical truism that no matter how false a notion may be, if it is repeated again and again, consistently and with total disregard for any opposing viewpoint, people will come to believe it.

Here are two examples of hoaxes that have acquired believability simply through incessant repetition--and of notable efforts to debunk them.

* * *

Not long ago, we posted about the Center for Consumer Freedom (www.consumerfreedom.com), which combats diet propaganda and related social ills.

Lately, the Center has targeted the infamous CDC "study" that individuals who wish cloak their size-bigotry in the mantle of health concerns usually cite. The current epidemic of weight hysteria is directly traceable to this one lone study, which has been thoroughly discredited by the scientific community.

In a recent editorial (linked below) in the Washington Times, the newspaper highlighted the fact that although the glaring flaws in this study have been exposed, the CDC refuses to retract it.

The Center for Consumer Freedom has repeatedly called on CDC to publicly withdraw the study, and the CDC's refusal to do so prompted the newspaper to conclude that

apparently the CDC doesn't consider methodology to be of much importance. Last week, CCF Director Richard Berman wrote an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that was highly critical of the CDC's conduct regarding the flawed report. In response, CDC chief science officer Dixie E. Snider wrote, "[W]e cannot and should not let this discussion of scientific methodology detract from the real issue." This is dangerous reasoning indeed coming from a scientist.

It's clear that over the concerns of its own researchers the CDC shamefully pushed a scientifically flawed study to reach some politically correct end. Since then, it has not given contrary evidence publicity equal to the original report. Nothing less than a full retraction of the original study and an apology to the American people can amend these egregious mistakes.

However, no "full retraction" will ever be able to remove the lingering impression left in people's minds by the thousands of articles that have followed this study, all taking its erroneous conclusions as gospel truth, and huffing and puffing about "epidemics" that simply do not exist.

In this, as in so many things, the media relies on the fact that few readers will ever examine their source material, and that most readers will simply assume that "if it's in print, it must be true."

Thus, the shoddiness of the original study becomes a moot point. The alchemy that transmuted its fiction into a popular "truth" was the propaganda campaign that followed. Incessant repetition, rather than factual evidence, was what turned this lie into public dogma.

Nevertheless, the Center for Consumer Freedom deserves a round of applause for prompting at least one major paper to see the light.

(Incidentally, some have criticized the Center because it is funded by the food industry. In response, we say, thank heavens someone is funding an organization such as this. It is desperately needed. Arrayed against it are the virtually limitless resources of the multi-billion-dollar diet industry--an industry whose sole purpose is to make women hate their bodies--and a media which aids and abets the outrages of that industry. No group of devoted amateurs could ever hope to combat forces such as this--for who among us can invest the time to do the kind of in-depth research that this topic requires? If anything, we wish more commercial organizations would help fight this worthwhile fight.)

* * *

Moving along to the second hoax that we wish to highlight--the second example of a misrepresentation that has acquired credibility simply through incessant repetition--we turn to a letter that we recently received from a reader calling herself "Author_Grrrl." She writes,

Thank you so much for making these images [of plus-size models] available online. I have been searching high and low for pictures of beautiful women who are not twigs and I was having terrible luck. Most pictures involved these women staring at refrigerators or with tape measures around their middles. It is such a comfort to see that beauty comes in my size, too.

Precisely. It is not at all difficult to find representations of "women who are not twigs" in the media, but "beautiful women who are not twigs" are all but invisible.

Instead, when plus-size women are represented, they are made to look as homely as possible, and presented as individuals who are consumed by self-doubt, and who loathe their own body image.

It is far worse than just a stereotype. It is a caricature.

But it is hardly surprising that the media continually revives this caricature, in one form or another. Not to do so would mean that the public would become aware of the true situation of plus-size women today--i.e., they are popular, confident in their own appearance, and inflame the most ardent passions in any man who glimpses their beauty.

The media has ever used satire and caricature to diminish that which has power in our culture. And the vivid femininity of curvaceous goddesses is indeed a powerful force. It is a testament to human essentialism that confounds the cultural materialist world-view that is so prevalent among media elites. It is a flesh-and-blood repudiation of modernist ideology.

That is why the Caricature is ubiquitously promoted, while the Goddess is shrewdly suppressed.

But not for very much longer . . .

William Clarke Wontner (1857-1930), Safie; One of the Three Ladies of Baghdad:

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