I had planned on beginning this Blogcritics feature on TV news with a brief history of broadcast journalism. But I find myself sidetracked by raging anger regarding a current “minor” news story about an issue that has long been a pet peeve of mine: the discrimination against and demonization of fat people.
The story that has fired my ire is the one regarding Lincoln University in Pennsylvania’s stated refusal to allow two dozen academically-qualified students to graduate, because they’re fat. Have you seen much about this on CNN or anywhere else on TV news? Except for a brief mention in the distracting bottom-screen crawl, I have not.
This is an important story, because it significantly ups the ante on an ongoing story: fat people have long been discriminated against by employers, life and health insurance companies, and society at large, which considers fat to be ugly as well as unhealthy. Now, with health care reform on the front burner, we are becoming a society that believes people are obliged to alter their private behavior in the name of the greater good and the creation of social change. In short, it is now irresponsible to be fat — and, apparently, grounds for academic punishment.
While this specific story has caused something of an uproar in print and on the Internet, it’s getting scant attention on TV and certainly no one I’ve seen is making important connections. For example, it is by no means a coincidence that obesity in general is getting even more attention than usual by health insurance companies just as Congress blunders its way through an attempt to craft health care reform. The insurance companies are doing everything they can to 1) stymie reform, 2) convince the public that reform will result in increased health insurance costs for most of us, and 3) attack one of the conditions – obesity – that they claim costs them the most. And since the public generally agrees with the insurance companies in this regard, it only serves to fuel the existing antipathy toward fat people. As a result, this population is getting a lot of Nanny State heat, which I regard as illegal, undemocratic, and a social outrage — but you wouldn’t know it from watching TV news tonight.