The science writers at The Economist discuss the American Psychiatric Association’s new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (below the fold because it auto-plays when you load the page):
May 22, 2013
It’s cleverly entitled “Scholars in Bondage”:
Three books from university presses dramatize the degree to which once taboo sexual subjects have gained academic legitimacy. Margot Weiss’s Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality (Duke University Press, 2011) and Staci Newmahr’s Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy (Indiana University Press, 2011) record first-person ethnographic explorations of BDSM communities in two large American cities. (The relatively new abbreviation BDSM incorporates bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism.) Danielle J. Lindemann’s Dominatrix: Gender, Eroticism, and Control in the Dungeon (University of Chicago Press, 2012) documents the world of professional dominatrixes in New York and San Francisco.
[. . .]
Furthermore, Weiss is lured by the reflex Marxism of current academe into reducing everything to economics: “With its endless paraphernalia, BDSM is a prime example of late-capitalist sexuality”; BDSM is “a paradigmatic consumer sexuality.” Or this mind-boggling assertion: “Late capitalism itself produces the transgressiveness of sex — its fantasized location as outside of or compensatory for alienated labor.” Sex was never transgressive before capitalism? Tell that to the Hebrew captives in Babylon or to Roman moralists during the early Empire!
The constricted frame of reference of the gender-studies milieu from which Weiss emerged is shown by her repeated slighting references to “U.S. social hierarchies.” But without a comparative study of and allusion to non-American hierarchies, past and present, such remarks are facile and otiose. The collapse of scholarly standards in ideology-driven academe is sadly revealed by Weiss’s failure, in her list of the 18 books of anthropology that most strongly contributed to her project, to cite any work published before 1984 — as if the prior century of distinguished anthropology, with its bold documentation of transcultural sexual practices, did not exist. Gender-theory groupthink leads to bizarre formulations such as this, from Weiss’s introduction: “SM performances are deeply tied to capitalist cultural formations.” The preposterousness of that would have been obvious had Weiss ever dipped into the voluminous works of the Marquis de Sade, one of the most original and important writers of the past three centuries and a pivotal influence on Nietzsche. But incredibly, none of the three authors under review seem to have read a page of Sade. It is scandalous that the slick, game-playing Foucault (whose attempt to rival Nietzsche was an abysmal failure) has completely supplanted Sade, a mammoth cultural presence in the 1960s via Grove Press paperbacks that reprinted Simone de Beauvoir’s seminal essay, “Must We Burn Sade?”
[. . .]
What is to be done about the low scholarly standards in the analysis of sex? A map of reform is desperately needed. Current discourse in gender theory is amateurishly shot through with the logical fallacy of the appeal to authority, as if we have been flung back to medieval theology. For all their putative leftism, gender theorists routinely mimic and flatter academic power with the unctuous obsequiousness of flunkies in the Vatican Curia.
First of all, every gender studies curriculum must build biology into its program; without knowledge of biology, gender studies slides into propaganda. Second, the study of ancient tribal and agrarian cultures is crucial to end the present narrow focus on modern capitalist society. Third, the cynical disdain for religion that permeates high-level academe must end. (I am speaking as an atheist.) It is precisely the blindness to spiritual quest patterns that has most disabled the three books under review.
The exhausted poststructuralism pervading American universities is abject philistinism masquerading as advanced thought. Everywhere, young scholars labor in bondage to a corrupt and incestuous academic establishment. But these “mind-forg’d manacles” (in William Blake’s phrase) can be broken in an instant. All it takes is the will to be free.
May 10, 2013
There are lots of bullshit artists in the wine trade … and a lot of what is written about wine is definitely bullshit:
The human palate is arguably the weakest of the five traditional senses. This begs an important question regarding wine tasting: is it bullshit, or is it complete and utter bullshit?
There are no two ways about it: the bullshit is strong with wine. Wine tasting. Wine rating. Wine reviews. Wine descriptions. They’re all related. And they’re all egregious offenders, from a bullshit standpoint.
[. . .]
In 1996, research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology concluded that wine experts cannot reliably identify more than three or four of a wine’s flavor components. Most wine critics routinely report tasting six or more. The wine review excerpted in the top image for this post, for example (which is a real review, by the way – somebody actually wrote those words about a bottle of wine, in earnest) lists the following components in the wine’s “principle flavor” profile: “red roses, lavender, geranium, dried hibiscus flowers, cranberry raisins, currant jelly, mango with skins [Ed. note: jesus wine-swilling christ – mango with skins?], red plums, cobbler, cinnamon, star anise, blackberry bramble, whole black peppercorn,” and more than a dozen other flavors that I refuse to continue listing lest my head implode.
Fun fact: MIT behavioral economist Coco Krume recently conducted a meta-analysis of the classifiers used in wine reviews, and found that reviewers tend to use “cheap” and “expensive” words differently. Cheap descriptors are used much more frequently, expensive ones more sparingly. Krume even demonstrated that it’s possible to guess the price range of a wine based on the words used in its review.
Even with all the evidence that the wine world is replete with marketing bullshit, there’s still great wine experiences to have, and you don’t need to wear an ascot and fake a snobby accent to enjoy it. As I wrote last year:
There are good wines and bad wines. There are good wines and better wines. But my experience has always been that there’s a point of diminishing returns beyond which you’re paying more money for no appreciable improvement in the quality of the wine. In other words, beyond that point, you’re paying for the prestige of the label or the mystique of the brand not for anything intrinsic to the liquid in the glass. [. . .] If you’re buying wine to have with a nice dinner, find your point of diminishing returns and don’t go beyond it: you’ll save yourself a lot of money over time and still enjoy your wine. If, on the other hand, you’re buying wine specifically to impress then go as expensive as you like.
May 9, 2013
Although James Delingpole concedes that Ferguson pretty much had to apologize for his off-the-cuff remarks on Keynes, he still thinks it was the wrong thing to do:
I don’t think there’s much doubt about Keynes’s latent gayness: not without reason was he known as the ‘Queen of King’s’. And I’m not really sure that the fact that he later married and attempted (unsuccessfully) to have children proves anything very much. Unless, of course, you’re a modern, professional-offence-taking gay activist, in which case it’s the final clincher in your compelling argument that Ferguson is totally evil and really should lose his Lawrence A. Tisch professorship at Harvard right this second for — as one angry commentator put it — taking ‘gay-bashing to new heights’.
New heights? Really? As Jonah Goldberg has noted, it’s not like there’s anything particularly new or controversial in Ferguson’s theory, tossed off lightly in response to a question at an economics conference. ‘He was childless and his philosophy of life was essentially a short-run philosophy,’ wrote Schumpeter in his obituary of Keynes.
[. . .]
Which is why, of course, Niall Ferguson was forced to issue an apology. Not, I suspect — or rather, I hope — because he thought he’d done anything wrong, but because all too easily it could have become the chink in the armour into which his many enemies were able to insert their fatal stilettos. (I know whereof I speak here, you may recall.)
Here’s how it works: lots of liberal-lefties utterly loathe Ferguson for having committed the unforgivable crime of being an articulate and prominent exponent of right-wing views. Unfortunately, we don’t (yet) live in an era where voicing right-wing views is an indictable offence; so the way to get at such dangerously outspoken defenders of free markets, liberty and small government is through the back door, a bit like Al Capone eventually being done for tax evasion. Racism would have been the ideal charge (except Ferguson’s marriage to Ayaan Hirsi Ali scuppered that option); as too would perceived sexism (which did for Harvard president Larry Summers, remember); but the homophobia charge — had not Ferguson nipped it in the bud — would have surely worked its poison just as well in the end.
I perfectly understand why Ferguson apologised but I wish he hadn’t and I’m sure in his heart he knows he shouldn’t have done. As an economic historian, he’ll be familiar with Danegeld: the more you concede to the enemy, the more they’ll demand next time round.
May 5, 2013
Historian and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson has issued an apology for some remarks he made about John Maynard Keynes at a conference in California:
I had been asked to comment on Keynes’s famous observation “In the long run we are all dead.” The point I had made in my presentation was that in the long run our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are alive, and will have to deal with the consequences of our economic actions.
But I should not have suggested — in an off-the-cuff response that was not part of my presentation — that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes’s wife Lydia miscarried.
My disagreements with Keynes’s economic philosophy have never had anything to do with his sexual orientation. It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life. As those who know me and my work are well aware, I detest all prejudice, sexual or otherwise.
May 2, 2013
We’re awash with statistics, 43.2% of which seem to be made up on the spot (did you see what I did there?). Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers offer some guidance on how non-statisticians should approach the numbers we’re presented with in the media:
So how can non-experts and policy makers separate the useful research from the dross? Allow us to offer six rules.
1. Focus on how robust a finding is, meaning that different ways of looking at the evidence point to the same conclusion. Do the same patterns repeat in many data sets, in different countries, industries or eras? Are the findings fragile, changing as one makes small changes in how phenomena are measured, and do the results depend on whether particularly influential observations are included? Thanks to Moore’s Law of increasing computing power, it has never been easier or cheaper to assess, test and retest an interesting finding. If the author hasn’t made a convincing case, then don’t be convinced.
2. Data mavens often make a big deal of their results being statistically significant, which is a statement that it’s unlikely their findings simply reflect chance. Don’t confuse this with something actually mattering. With huge data sets, almost everything is statistically significant. On the flip side, tests of statistical significance sometimes tell us that the evidence is weak, rather than that an effect is nonexistent. Remember, results can be useful even if they don’t meet significance tests. Sometimes questions are so important that we need to glean whatever meaning we can from available data. The best bad evidence is still more informative than no evidence.
3. Be wary of scholars using high-powered statistical techniques as a bludgeon to silence critics who are not specialists. If the author can’t explain what they’re doing in terms you can understand, then you shouldn’t be convinced. You wouldn’t be convinced by an analysis just because it was written in ancient Latin, so why be impressed by an abundance of Greek letters? Sophisticated statistical methods can be helpful, but they can also hide more than they reveal.
4. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about an empirical finding as “right” or “wrong.” At best, data provide an imperfect guide. Evidence should always shift your thinking on an issue; the question is how far.
5. Don’t mistake correlation for causation. For instance, even after revisions and corrections, Reinhart and Rogoff have demonstrated that economic growth is typically slower when government debt is higher. But does high debt cause slow growth, or is slow growth in gross domestic product the cause of higher debt-to-GDP ratios? Or are there other important determinants, such as populist spending by a government looking to get re- elected, which is more likely when growth is slow and typically drives debt up?
6. Always ask “so what?” Are the factors that drove the observed negative correlation between debt and GDP likely to exist today, in the U.S.? Does it even make sense to speak of “the” relationship between debt and economic growth, when there are surely many such relationships: Governments borrowing simply to fund their re-election are likely harming growth, while those investing in much-needed public works can provide the foundation for growth. The “so what” question is about moving beyond the internal validity of a finding to asking about its external usefulness.
April 19, 2013
At sp!ked, Tim Black reviews the latest environmental doom-mongering tome from Andrew Simms:
All of this ought to leave Simms & Co looking like the boys who cried climate catastrophe. Yet somehow, as Cancel the Apocalypse shows, they are continuing, unabashed, to preach environmental doom despite its palpable absence. In fact, the hyper-pessimism has even been ramped up a bit. ‘The horsemen are galloping and there are more than four of them’, Simms chirrups. ‘Climate change, financial meltdown, the global peak and decline of oil production, a mass extinction event of plant and animal species, overuse of fresh water supplies, soil loss, economic infrastructure increasingly vulnerable to external shocks — it’s the age of the complex super disaster.’ It seems devastating climate change is no longer enough for Simms; he wants to solicit a whole host of other unrelated, and highly debatable, phenomena for his narrative of woe. Cancelled? No way, Simms chortles: the apocalypse is back on.
So how is Simms able to maintain his unshakeable belief in our imminent destruction? What makes him and his tweedy, right-on puritan mates different to, say, William Miller, founder of the Second Adventists (later to become the Seventh Day Adventists), who, as Simms tells us, believed the day of reckoning would fall in 1843, 1845, 1846, 1849, 1851, 1874 and 1999?
The ostensible answer is that whereas previous doomsayers derived their predictions from ‘gobbledygook floating up from patterns of words and numbers dimly discerned in books about faith and belief’, Simms and his followers rely upon ‘verifiable scientific experiment’. Of course, The Science.
Which is funny, because Cancel the Apocalypse does not contain much in the way of ‘verifiable scientific experiment’. What it does feature, though, is a scientistic use of the authority of science to justify a whole range of dubious assertions. In Simms’ hands, science is no longer science. It is a metaphor, an authority-bolstering gloss, allowing him to talk, for example, of socio-historical phenomena such as the economy in terms of the laws of nature: ‘Just as physical laws constrain the maximum efficiency of a heat engine’, he writes, so ‘economic growth is constrained by the finite nature of our planet’s natural resources, the variable but ultimately bounded biocapacity of its oceans, fields, geology and atmosphere’; and later on, ‘the laws of physics mean it is not possible to create the order of such [economic] exchanges without a little something being lost [Simms is referring to the biosphere]’.
April 17, 2013
As American kids grow up, authority figures all around them — public school teachers, local and national political leaders, the broadcast and print media, ministers and priests, and other useless busybodies — are always very enthusiastic about the idea of compromise.
Compromise, these Judas goats and stable ponies always proclaim in the most glowing terms, is the one absolutely indispensable, magical key to living and working within that best of all possible political worlds, a democracy. If everybody takes a stance and won’t budge, if nobody is willing to give at least an inch (if not a mile), why, then nothing will ever get done! This, of course, overlooks the obvious fact that there are a great many circumstances — almost all of which involve government in some way — in which nothing ever should get done.
Somewhere around the fourth grade, if we have anything like half a brain left after all the indoctrination, we begin to notice certain things about this compromise bonnet-bee that make it clear that it is something less than the wonderful notion its proponents always say it is.
The first is that, since neither side can reasonably expect to get what it really wants. The best that anyone can ever hope for, from a properly engineered compromise, is that both sides will wind up equally dissatisfied. This is not, I submit, an acceptable way to run a civilization. It is a recipe to guarantee the perpetuation of bitter conflict, creating the ideal breeding ground for politicians (like puddles for mosquitoes), for whom solved problems are a threat to their livelihood.
[. . .]
The third thing that even a nine-year-old kid notices is that, having finally been badgered and brow-beaten into accepting a glorious compromise of some kind, whoever has been sucker enough to do it will be expected to do it all over again, the next time the subject comes up.
“What’s mine is mine,” goes the saying, “and what’s yours is negotiable.”
Which is exactly how we ended up in the mess we’re in now.
L. Neil Smith, “Compromise: Political Poison”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2013-04-16
April 9, 2013
David Friedman comments on a controversial blog post by Steve Landsburg:
Steve Landsburg’s piece [link], responding in part to the Steubenville rape case, makes the same argument from the other side. We — at least Steve (and I) — don’t feel that the argument for banning pornography or contraception is a legitimate one. Our reason is that the “harm” in those cases is purely subjective — I haven’t actually done anything to you, so your unhappiness at my self-regarding behavior is your problem, not mine, and you have no right to use the legal system to make me conform to your wishes. And even if you argue that I have done something to you — acted in a way that resulted in your knowing what I was doing, knowledge that pained you — that doesn’t count, because “knowledge that pains you” isn’t injury in the same sense as causing you to get cancer is.
Which gets us to the part of Steve’s post that gives lots of people reason, or excuse, to attack him. Suppose an unconscious woman is raped in a way that results in no injury — in the Steubenville case, “rape” actually consisted of digital penetration. She only finds out it happened several days later, at which point the harm is purely subjective, consists of her being offended at the knowledge that it happened. Why is this different from the subjective harm suffered by the person offended at someone else reading pornography? It feels different — to me and obviously, from his post, to Steve. But is it different, and if so why?
That, it seems to me, is an interesting question, one relevant to both law and morality. It is ultimately the same question raised by Bork, although from the other side. Bork was arguing that the harm caused by the use of contraception and the harm caused by air pollution were ultimately of the same sort, that it was legitimate to ban pollution hence legitimate to ban contraception — his article was in part an attack on Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court case that legalized contraception, a fact I had forgotten when I started writing this post. Landsburg is arguing that rape that does only subjective harm is of the same sort as reading pornography that does only subjective harm (unlike Bork, it isn’t clear that he is thinks his argument is right, only that he thinks it interesting), that it is not legitimate to ban the reading of pornography hence not legitimate to ban that particular sort of rape.
I agree with both Bork and Landsburg that there is a real puzzle in our response to the legal (and moral) issues they raise. Hence I disagree with the various commenters whose response to the Landsburg piece was that it showed he was crazy, evil, or both.
April 8, 2013
The agreed meaning of words is critical to communication. Redefinition of meaning can be a useful political tool to shift an argument or to delegitimize an opponent:
A huge quotient of the seemingly endless cultural and ideological wars hinges on how terms are defined. Those who claim authority to declare what words mean are able to shape public thinking like a sculptor molds clay. Although facts — which are what news organizations are supposed to peddle — seem immutable, words are forever in flux. Both “liberal” and “progressive” now mean almost the opposite of what they did a century ago. Such semantic squabbling also leads to absurdities such as how the phrase “colored person” was deemed hateful and replaced with the far more sensitive “person of color.” Terms such as “racist” are almost never applied to nonwhites, and if you dare tell a militant feminist that she’s “sexist,” she may scratch out your eyeballs. And don’t even dare to ask for a quantifiable and consistent definition of “Semite” lest you be deemed “anti-Semitic.”
What’s worse, many of these politically charged terms never seem to achieve stasis. Over the past generation there’s been a ballooning expansion of terms such as “racism,” “sexism,” “white supremacy,” and, the granddaddy (sorry — Earth Mother) that supposedly spawns them all, “hatred.” Yet if you dare to ask anyone for a concrete definition of such terms, they’ll consider you automatically guilty of all the cultural sins these derogatory terms are intended to describe. As US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously explained, although “obscenity” may not be readily defined, you’re supposed to know it when you see it.
And if you persist in claiming that neither do you know it or see it, these words will be used as hammers to pound you into submission. In the sort of foam-flecked hyperbolic insanity that seems to suggest a culture either ready to implode or finally yield to ideological totalitarianism, you will be accused of ranting, slamming, bashing, and scaremongering merely for asking questions — even if you ask them in a timid and sincere voice without a wisp of malice.
April 3, 2013
March 28, 2013
For example, a budget would actually provide you with comprehensible statements of anticipated revenues and spending for all the big ticket items:
I work in Ottawa and I try to stay on top of things, but this was news to me. In fact, I didn’t even notice it until four days after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released his — er — plan on March 21. Of course, there was much chortling in the press gallery at the government’s insistence on calling its annual account of revenues and expenses something besides a budget. But the significance of the thing took a while to sink in. Flaherty and his boss, Stephen Harper, do not call their big annual document a “budget” anymore because it is no longer a budget.
A budget, as anyone who has tried to run a household knows, is the moment when you stop telling yourself soothing tales and inject a note of reality into your life. On page 64 of the 1997 budget, for instance, the government of the day gave us an “outlook for program spending” with multi-year projections for spending levels in defence, Aboriginal programs, “business subsidies” and so on. It was that straightforward.
Harper’s Economic Action Plans, by contrast, are carnivals of fantasy. EAP13 — we will use the government-approved hashtag, which I assume is pronounced to sound like a shriek of terror — is 200 pages longer than Budget 1997 but finds no room for a one-page program-spending outlook, nor indeed for a program-spending outlook of any length. Like the best funhouses, this one depends on its volume for much of its amusement value. The decision to merge CIDA into the Foreign Affairs Department is announced on the 31st page of a chapter on “supporting families and communities,” and I can only assume it is there as a reward for perseverance. The morning after Flaherty’s speech, a diplomat asked me how it is possible for a G7 country to release a budget that does not at any point say how much the government will spend on defence next year. I gave the fellow a long answer. I should have said his premise was wrong, because — stop me if you’ve heard this — it’s not a budget.
March 20, 2013
March 18, 2013
Actually, just ignore all the stuff about the new film, because I think he’s really writing about the original Wizard of Oz:
I remember how hard the first part of the movie felt. The unsympathetic and careworn Auntie Em, the vicious Miss Gulch — we laugh now and say “dee-dee-dee-dee-deee deee” as a little joke for someone with a nasty personality, but when that dessicated = bitch showed up and took the dog, Dorothy’s misery broke your heart. I mean, she was taking the dog away to kill him. No one stood up to her. No one could.
The Kansas farmhouse was more ramshackle than my grandparent’s farm, but we had chickens and dirt roads, and every summer we feared the twister. The mindless twister scribbling destruction in the distance was our worst nightmare, because it could happen. It had happened. They tested sirens every month because they knew it would happen. When it came for Dorothy, she was alone; everyone else had taken shelter in the earth, leaving her to the winds.
[. . .]
It was the font of childhood terrors that were unstinting in their horrors, unmodulated for younger audiences: the implacable guards, the gibbering monkeys, the horrible moment when the witch upended the hourglass: that’s all you have longer to live, my pretty. Oz himself was terrifying, and he was supposed to be the guy who’d help them all.
There wasn’t anything else like this in the other things they let us see, and I’m not sure grown-ups realized how unreal and bizarre these things seemed. But they trusted us to process the morality of an extended song-and-dance sequence that celebrates the death of an oppressor. Not too many other shows we got to see had a coroner with a certificate who had good news, and the townsfolk shouting that the tyrant is in hell.
This was a good thing! Really. It was.
- The bittersweet and painful end, which was resolutely irresolute: the first time you see it as a kid you don’t know the farmhands are the characters from Oz, not really, and when they appear at the end at everything’s great because she’s home. But it’s not happily-ever-after, because no one but Dorothy knows what happened, or admits they knew; everyone’s face is a friend from the most wonderful dream she ever had, fading away before her eyes, replaced by the joy of being home in a world without color. A place she vows never to leave.
March 15, 2013
Tim Black reviews Consumed: How Shopping Fed the Class System, by Harry Wallop.
In short, class has stopped being the basis for a political identity; it has become a form of identity politics. As Wallop puts it: ‘Class is no longer what we do with our hands nine to five, it is what we do with our wallets at the weekend. How that money arrives in our wallets must play a part, but how we define ourselves and how others view us mostly comes down to the weekly drive to the local retail park, rather than the daily trudge to the factory.’
Consumed is a snarking and sniping attempt by Wallop, a consumer affairs writer at the Daily Telegraph, to anatomise these new consumerist class identities. At the upper end are the super-rich Portland Privateers, named after the private Portland Hospital in central London, where pregnancies come to fruition with the obligatory C-section at the cost of several grand and the toiletries are Molton Brown. Then in descending order come: the Rockabillies, defined by their love of a British holiday, ideally in the Cornish town of Rock; the Wood-Burning Stovers, who love a wood-burning stove almost as much as they love the Guardian; the Middleton Classes, who – like Carole Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’s mother – have vaulted up the social ladder, usually taking in a grammar school en route; the Sun Skittlers, a resolutely old-school working-class identity devolving upon reading the Sun, playing skittles, and earning enough to have bought one’s own home; the Asda Mums, who spend wisely, but take safety in big, well-known brands; and the Hyphen-Leighs, whose much sneered-at social aspiration is marked out by the unusually spelled double-barrelled names and the commitment to high-status brands, from Burberry to Paul’s Boutique. Other monikers crop up throughout, but these are the main ones.
If Consumed sounds rife with all forms of snobbery, from the inverse to the outright, that’s because it is. And this ought to be expected, too. In a society in which how you consume has been allowed to determine your identity, then snobbery, which was always a vice of the consuming class par excellence, the non-productive aristocracy, is bound to flourish. It allows groups to include initiates and to exclude the vulgar. Hence, as Wallop relentlessly details, the consumption choices of other people (and it is always other people) have now become objects of mockery and often condemnation.
[. . .]
As Wallop records, eating out in the 1950s was for many limited to Lyons Corner Houses or fish-and-chip shops. And it wasn’t just the high-cost of restaurants that deterred many; the arcane rituals of the hotel dining experience were equally off-putting. This is why, argues Wallop, the British embraced the classless, ritual-free environs of the fast-food joint, first in the form of Wimpy and latterly in the shape of McDonald’s or Burger King. ‘Of course, eating out in fast-food places, or indeed any places, never became a classless activity’, writes Wallop. ‘Classless merely became a euphemism for working class. No more so than with fast food, which over time took on a demonic quality, at least in the eyes of those who refused to eat it. Junk food for the junk classes.’
Junk food for the junk classes. In that one sentence, Wallop touches upon the crucial conflation of the object of consumption with those consuming. When Wood-Burning Stovers complain about McDonald’s, they are really complaining about the type of people that eat there.