Myopia: Viewing Paleo-Libertarianism Through a Statist-Collectivist Lens

I’d received a link to this particular new journalist screed from some readers back when I was on vacation in Mexico over holiday. Scanned  through it, figured Atossa Araxia Abrahamian (nor Marlene Zuk, biologist at U.C. Riverside, who wrote: What Evolution Really Tells us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live) wasn’t really into paleo. Did a quick Google search (about her, not the article), chalked it up to ignorant/big student loan/daddy and/or mommy to please…any, all, or some of foregoing…youth, motivated by “journalism” prestige. I yawned; moved on. Dime a dozen: especially the young hot chicks, ’cause that’s the only place “journalism” is, now. A decent profile pic is dandy, now.

They just keep getting taken for whores; over and over. Are men moving out of journalism? I don’t know and really don’t care to search out a reference, but it would be interesting, if true. The article stayed in the back of my mind. …As an admonisher of just going all the way from statist libertarianism to statelessness, I supposed I’d have to put out a word or two, eventually.

First up, the lie in the title: Natural’s Not In It. It is a lie absolutely, but obvious enough to go unnoticed, taken as hyperbole at worst. But, I haven’t even gotten to the lede, yet. Very simply, whatever errors anyone may ever make as subjects of new articles written, always watch for the lie in the title of a newsy piece. When you know it is, you know the rest of the story is going to be filled with static truths of the most convenient fashion (Famous journalist H.L. Mencken could have taught you this in the 1920s).

Nature’s Not In It is published in “The New Inquiry.” I like the title of the publication on face; should you really live up to it and really do serious “Inquiry.” Otherwise, you’re just cheaper than all who’ve come first who didn’t need to bother to imply a lie in their name.

The tagline, leading to the lede: How do you make a food fad appeal to libertarians? Invoke human nature.

Food fad. Well, at least she reads, too, because that schtick is at least two years old or more. Whilst all of us watch daily, as we go to market and see most people and families filling their carts with sodas, frozen or dried stuff in boxes, cans, more boxes, fruit juice boxes and on and on—while we, differently, channel our inner grandmother or ancient ancestor and fill our cart with meat, fish, fowl, vegetables and fruits we’re gonna take home and cook at home in myriad fashion, maybe pic it—we’re doing the fad thing.

2nd sentence. 2nd lie.

The Lede.

Every dietary preference has its corresponding political stereotype. Vegans are to Ralph Nader as meat-and-potatoes types are to Dubya. Artisanal pickle-loving hipsters gravitate towards the Obamas, and anti-soda activists have a friend in Mike Bloomberg, at least for now. Omnivores, though seemingly agnostic, are split into two camps: those who will truly eat anything, and those who will eat anything so long as it contains organic ingredients their grandmother could pronounce.

Omnivores, lumped in with vegans, people who eat only simple meat & potatoes based, those who eschew sugar, and lumped in with omnivores who’ll eat anything. Which is simply not the same but a single long shot.

…Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t they teach in journalism school that three tight lies in a row = truth, as in, you can sell ’em? Well, if they don’t, they sure should. It works. The rest of the entire article is is just banal filler. You already saw all she had to offer. Three lies. The rest is just a random assortment of various random truths, some mildly relevant, others non-sequitur and I’m sure, one or two tossed in for contravention, to bolster the three initial lies that must stand as truth or the entire article is a bust.

It’s the title, the sub and the lede that’s important. She probably worked more on the rest, but it was all to bolster the three lies, because that’s all most people are going to read and at least half of them just look to the proceeding volume and make the desired conclusion.

Did I use the word whore, yet? Oh, yea, up above.

The filler is a bunch of stuff that taken alone, ought show how wildly varied Paleos are…and she’s 6 months to a year behind (it takes that long to research an article? I’m writing this in the space of a hour), as starches, often plenty of them, are now fairly mainstay for many Paleos. ….We’ve been looking for the catechism like everyone else has, but have yet to find it; and so we keep muttering & puttering along, mired in the morass of our own experience, learning from it, commenting about it on blogs and we’ll be damned but some people take up the charge and take it forward. We learn more and godammit but we’re off again. How so convenient it would be to have a Dietary Guideline(s) for All Americans.

It’s so fucking messy. It’s not neat & tidy. …Like having journalists edited by elites who get to go to important cocktail functions and so on.

So long as we can still buy meat, fish, fowl, vegetables and fruits we cook at home in various proportions that strike our peculiar fucking faddish fancies, we’ll be doing just fine and are happy to leave you to your boxes and journalism—but I repeat myself.

…Well, so much for that huge difference between Democrats & Republicans, but I digress, after having already repeated myself. I’ve already spent more time than a 3-strike liar is worth for a whole blog post. I’ll leave the rest to commenters. Fresh meat. Go for it if you like.

I’m full.

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  1. AminoKing on January 21, 2013 at 21:23

    Hey, off topic as usual, but I’ve just read Nassim’s latest book “Antifragile”. I can confidently report that it is his best work yet. Someone had mentioned that Richard N gets a mention in this book however I did not come across it. Art Devany is mentioned along with plenty paleo references here and there.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 22, 2013 at 00:21

      Nassim emailed me and send a draft PDF with a mention, back roughly a year ago, shortly after he read my book. It was a bit about how all diets are high fat, because you’re eating your own fat, I believe. But whatever, I know how these things roll.

  2. Richard Burian on January 21, 2013 at 22:50

    Your piece affirms my experience and realization that a lot of people really overthink this whole “Paleo” thing and try to dress it up in all sorts of labels and other stuff that they can easily dismiss. My response of late to skeptics who challenge what I’m eating and my “fad” diet is simply to tell them something along the lines of, “This isn’t a diet. I just cook . I don’t buy food in boxes, cans, etc. I just cook fresh food and eat raw vegetables and fruit.”

    Then they go back to criticizing everything and spewing bile about turmeric, fish oil, supplements, or raspberry ketones and other stuff they saw on Dr. Oz thinking they’re going to help me with more “health information.” They chalk up the weight loss to me exercising in secret or the wife withholding food from me in secret.

    It’s ok. I don’t mind. I’ll just continue cooking.

  3. Sean on January 22, 2013 at 01:43

    Actually I just read/half-skimmed the article and I didn’t think it was bad. She doesn’t take the usual condescending attitude towards libertarianism, and a lot of the quotes are good, or at least presented in a neutral manner. Compared to most of the hit pieces I’ve seen on paleo and/or libertarianism it was model journalism.

    Mostly it’s just bad in the parts where she quotes this blowhard Zuk:

    Zuk notes that even if the good old days were, in fact, good, there was no singular primal lifestyle or even period for us to mimic. And while it’s true that humans existed for hundreds of thousands of years before forming societies around agriculture, that doesn’t mean we’ve been wholly unable to adapt to the so-called ravages of modern life. Rather, the time that has passed since the shift towards agriculture — about 9,000 years, though estimates can vary — has provided our bodies with ample time to adapt to diets that include grains and dairy.

    There’s plenty to take apart there. First of all, it’s stupid to lump grains and dairy together. All mammals are adapted to dairy, at least when young. Not only adapted but it could be assumed through millions of years of evolution to be very close to perfect in macronutrient ratio for infants and young children. Adapting to dairy as an adult is going to involve a lot less adaption than adapting to grass seeds that have developed their own set of anti-nutrient defenses. Secondly, when was it suddenly obvious how long it takes to adapt to something like that? I’m not a PhD biologist like Zuk, but I do know that this is a highly contentious subject right now, especially with all the recent work in genetics and DNA decoding. Obviously, peoples who have agricultural ancestors are going to have some adaption to grains, and if those people are adapted to a grain like rice, they might still have problems with wheat. How far along to road to complete adaption to these things is impossible to say at this point, although in Zuk’s mind the science is apparently settled.

    “What we are able to eat and thrive on depends on our more than 30 million years of history as primates,” writes Zuk, “not on a single arbitrarily more recent moment in time.”

    What a vapidly idiotic statement. I’m not even sure what it is supposed to mean. One could just as easily say what we are able to eat and thrive on depends on our more than 120 million years as mammals, not some arbitrary point in recent time. It’s cultural Marxism parading as science.

    All viewpoints aren’t equal and all moments in our evolutionary history aren’t arbitrary. The neolithic era was a huge inflection point, it involved huge changes in diet, lifestyle, culture, it allowed the creation of civilization. It also caused huge decreases in health as measured by skeletal stature, dental health and other metrics. Just as leaving the trees to become scavengers/hunters was a huge inflection point before that. When huge changes happen, selection pressure necessarily increases and the species changes at a much more rapid pace.

    I don’t know why the idea that we might not be fully adapted to grains, therefore better off just skipping them altogether gets under the skin of people like Zuk so much, there’s certainly a political paradigm there, rejecting grains is correlated with a rejection of statism. And it doesn’t hurt that Zuk is planning on making money off of a book trashing paleo.

  4. Sean on January 22, 2013 at 02:30

    I just went back to the article and noticed she disappointingly closes with extreme Zuk idiocy:

    Many of the basic Paleo principles, as Zuk observes, are intuitive. She approves of “a simpler life with more exercise, fewer processed foods, and closer contact with our children” on common sense grounds. But we shouldn’t try to live that way just because our ancestors did.

    Let’s not say that eating processed foods is bad from an evolutionary biology perspective, because of the fact it is intuitively obvious. More exercise is better, but why? Duh, because it is common sense. Does this same common sense also tell us what kind of exercise is better? Lifting weights and running sprints or aerobics and the treadmill? Does this idiot realize that it was intuitively obvious a while back that maggots spontaneously arose from rotting meat? Or that common sense dictated that all disease was caused by an imbalance of humours?

    Evolution, Zuk points out, is continuous — not goal-oriented. Agriculture did not thwart a predetermined path towards enlightenment, and chances are, bread and rice aren’t stopping us from evolving, either. For better or for worse, there’s no undoing what’s been done — only coping as best we can with what we have before us.

    Massive straw man alert: who the fuck is saying that evolution IS goal-oriented, that agriculture thwarted enlightenment, or that bread and rice are stopping us from evolving???? Show me one single quote from a reasonable (or hell, even any) paleo-type making such statements.

    • neal matheson on January 22, 2013 at 06:22

      christ that lot hurt my head, this Zuk is a bleedin’ idiot

      • Sean on January 22, 2013 at 07:28

        And then some…

    • Sean on January 22, 2013 at 02:41

      only coping as best we can with what we have before us.

      Ironically, that’s actually the whole point of a paleo-type diet in the first place. Not hunter-gatherer re-enactment, simply optimizing diet (and perhaps other things like exercise) to be congruent with a genetic heritage that may not be fully adapted to neolithic foods and lifestyle and is certainly not adapted to such recent “foods” like industrial seed oils and processed sugar.

  5. beans mcgrady on January 22, 2013 at 08:11

    Is anyone else tired of the argument that says you aren’t paleo if you have a computer?
    I think your assessment of the article was spot on. I only read it to see the comments. . . Warning: No comment section. Not worth the trouble.
    I was hoping to read some funny people calling her an idiot.

  6. Val on January 22, 2013 at 09:51

    The poor grammar, it BURNS!!!

    “…we ought to subsist off of foods…”

    & like you, beans, I was disappointed there was no comment section.

  7. Contemplationist on January 22, 2013 at 10:53

    Demands of online ‘journalism’ appear to plague the piece rather than some ideological hostility – the offending paragraphs (apart from the ‘Zuk’ idiot) all strain to be cool and fashionable in language with those dumb comparisons.

  8. "Oh, the Pasta-Bilities" | Free The Animal on January 22, 2013 at 12:06

    […] Posts RSS ← Myopia: Viewing Paleo-Libertarianism Through a Statist-Collectivist Lens […]

  9. Klaatu on January 25, 2013 at 05:07

    Interesting that you all are willing to trash a book you haven’t read (not published yet) based on a few out of context quotes.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2013 at 13:36

      I had not noted that the author of the forthcoming book complained. Are you her surrogate bitch, Klaatu? It’s OK if you are. We just like to keep context, y’know?

  10. […] I hadn't even realized that I was reading an article by the subject author, also used as a source in this hit & run piece on Atossa Araxia Abrahamian I did a while back, Myopia: Viewing Paleo-Libertarianism Through a Statist-Collectivist Lens. […]

  11. […] book, I did already take on some of the stupid articles by her and a friend, prefiguring it: here and […]

  12. Zen on March 12, 2013 at 15:57

    She’s a little late to the anti-reenactment party.

  13. […] Myopia: Viewing Paleo-Libertarianism Through a Statist-Collectivist Lens […]

  14. Jake on October 10, 2013 at 11:55

    What do the diet police have to do with libertarianism? If I wanted to diet like crazy and have strangers tell me what I can and can’t eat, I’d be a fan of the First Lady or Bloomberg.

  15. Richard Nikoley on October 10, 2013 at 14:57

    “What do the diet police have to do with libertarianism?”

    Face. Palm.

  16. Jake on October 14, 2013 at 13:30

    Okay, I sometimes eat *gasp* fast food. Guilty. If I wanted people politicizing and telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat, I would be a Michelle Obama or Bloomberg supporter (both authoritarians, and their food statism helps demonstrate it), or one of the crazy PETA hippies. It’s got nothing to do with small government. Especially since I don’t have health problems.

  17. Jake on October 14, 2013 at 13:37

    I’m a creationist anyways. And I love pizza.

  18. Jake on October 14, 2013 at 13:43

    Arrogance towards meat-eaters or pizza-lovers is a trait I can see more in the First Lady’s supporters.

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