You’re the one for me, fatty…

Posted: October 17, 2010 in Blogging, Freedom of Speech, Uncategorized

The following article is by Mic Wright, journalist and writer. It caused a bit of a storm in a biscuit tin. Read the article and then see what the fuss was about…

Attack of the flying fatties: why demanding rights for the obese just baffles me

 On international flights, I am catnip for the seriously obese. Remaining within the allotted bounds of my seat, they see the opportunity to take up the space I’m not using, seeping across the border beneath the arm rests with so much blubber that it is more like an entire love control panel than love handles. This is the story of my fight with the flying fatties…

Flying from Newark to London Heathrow I was hemmed in for seven hours, unable to get up as the whale like married couple beside me slumbered, waking only to inhale their inflight meals. “We don’t have to pay for this do we?” they spluttered as the lilliputian provisions were sucked up from the trays and into the huge spittle flecked singularities of their mouths – no light or fried goods can escape their gravitational pull.

The smell was what hit me first about this pair: a mixture of slightly off butter, broken biscuits and bacon grease. Pinned against the window by their encroaching girth I couldn’t help but eavesdrop as they bitterly complained that airline seats are too small like a pair of inverted Norma Desmonds: “I am not big. It’s the seats that got small.” I know that I’m meant to be sympathetic but I just feel put out.

Pushed into half the space I’m entitled to, unable to get up to walk around because they sleep so deeply and are crammed so tight into their seats. Both sprang for seatbelt extensions just to circumnavigate their vast waistlines. Across the aisle their normal sized son looked on like a Fraggle adopted by a pair of Gorgs.

The world is being rebuilt for these behemoths. The Harry Potter ride at Universal’s Island Of Adventure in Orlando, Florida is currently being refitted to add seats for its more sizeable riders (the linked article is particularly great thanks to its reference to an “obesity sufferer”).

Buses are being retrofitted to add seats capable of dealing with the ginormous rears of a ballooning population. America is the empire of the eaters and gluttony is one of its biggest exports. Chocolate bars get bigger, burgers get taller, people get fatter. Soon, this will be a world designed for larger people.

Those of us who can hold off from that fifth piece of cake, that heart attack on a plate – watch the Food network in the US for more than five minutes and you’ll see that it’s raison d’être is creating new combinations of butter, fat and sugar – will be the unusual ones. We’ll have to ask for a shorter seat belt or slop about in the huge restraints of the huge people around us.

Sure we’ll benefit from bigger seats too but not without the creeping invasion of the guts and side flab of the flying fatties. You’re welcome to accuse me of being prejudiced. I probably am.

The idea that there is some inalienable right to overeat and expect special treatment sticks in my craw. I’m not arguing that there’s not a wide range of healthy weights but people topping 20 stone and demanding rights for the obese as if they are fighting this generation’s great civil rights struggle are kidding themselves. Just declare yourself People For Pie and be done with it.

Addendum: This post was originally published on the site but pulled. The discussion about that decision and ‘freedom of speech’ on blogs can be found here:

QRG says: I was very annoyed on Mic’s behalf when his article was pulled from the collaborative blog, that he writes for, which was set up for tech writers to write about other things apart from tech. Some of the contributors (about 60 altogether) have said they enjoy the opportunity it gives to express themselves more freely, away from the constraints of their day jobs and other restrictions they face in ‘RL’.  In my opinion, taking this post down is just one more example of writers’ freedom of speech being threatened. As far as I can tell the post was pulled after one comment by another contributor, who took offence at Mic’s description of ‘fatties’. I have written about freedom of speech before:  If I worried about causing offence before I wrote anything, I wouldn’t write anything at all! So I am posting Mic’s article in solidarity and to remind  myself, and you, dear reader, that writing is a form of expression available to all of us who have the privilege of literacy. We should not treat writing as a threat. It is the restrictions imposed on writers that are a threat to our ‘human rights’ , not what writers may or may not choose to say. Ask Hitler, ask Stalin, ask Senator McCarthy. And, you know, if you really are incensed by what some people write and say, you could always write your thoughts down…

“The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes. ”
Michel Foucault
  1. Andrew Lim says:

    Just a quick note re: “is supposed to be a place where writers can express themselves freely, away from the constraints of their day jobs” – it was actually set up for tech journalists to write about something other than tech – and it’s evolved beyond that which is why I decided to open up the discussion around what it is and where it should go. Thanks for your intelligent comments on the piece, I appreciate the feedback.

  2. thanks andrew i have changed that in the main post now.

  3. BenSix says:

    A pedant writes…

    The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes.

    “Offensive” isn’t the same as “threatening”. Much I dislike the jailing of Gerald Töben, Peter Sotos or Joseph Pecchiarich that doesn’t mean Holocaust denial, writings on the joys of child rape or stories about pre-pubescent sex are necessarily worthwhile. (Nor does it mean they’re not, of course.) A better example, perhaps: if there was a comment website on which I put up a charming ditty titled “The Editor Is A Fetid Penis”, would its deletion indicate value on my part?

    I’m not entirely sure of what my point is. Perhaps that if we’re to uphold the freedom of speech we need to be aware we’ll have to do it for some rotten trash.

    • well I think editing and oppression are different things. The problem here was there was no ‘editor’ but someone decided to remove a piece as it caused ‘offence’ to one commenter.

      Lets face it the world is full of rotten trash. It’s not rotten trash that seems to have a problem being given a platform, but critical viewpoints and discussions…

  4. Although I agree about your point about free speech, I don’t like this article one bit. It’s so full of crap! Rife with prejudice and hate.

    Uhg, I too annoyed to even counter-point.

  5. the only reason I posted it up was because of free speech. for me the content is not relevant it was an illustration of people being told not to say stuff because it offends other people. I find most things I read offensive!

    I didnt post it to support the content specifically.

  6. That might be true, but had the content of the article been something that you were against I doubt that you would have posted it to make a point about free speech without commenting on the content itself if it were something you found horrendously offensive and un-factual.

  7. A fair point. the problem with this and many other articles I read is I only ever get to see them in the context of someone having already decided it is offensive. I like the writer in question, and so I was probably biased in his favour, yes.

    But I think the whole debate about ‘rights’ is really important. I don’t even really believe in ‘women’s rights’! I will go as far as to support human rights…

  8. BenSix says:

    Yeah, something that offends is all too often seen as being unspeakable. Heck, if something’s sincere/challenging being offended can be damn worthwhile.

    If we don’t have the rights the idea of a freedom of speech is shaky. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean we do.

  9. Mic Wright is without a doubt an opinionated, offensive arsehole.

    But he has the right to be so, in public, if he so chooses – and we other people have the right to form our opinions about him based on what he displays.

    We can say firmly why we believe him to be in the wrong, and indeed, what we might wish in our dark fantasies to do to him, or any other response we might wish to make. Therein lies the essence of free speech.

    For the record, this fatty does take great offence at the gentleman’s comments – and his comments are ignorant (I believe the reported experience of flying next to overweight couple, but the generalisation is unfair in the extreme). Some overweight folks do behave that way, of course, but in my experience (and certainly in my behaviour) many try hard to make ourselves take up as little space as may be achieved, and I at least resent the needless elbow in my side or being forced to scrunch up even further into a corner to make space that a thinner person doesn’t need but wants to take anyway!

    • Thats the thing isn’t it at least we can call each other opinionated offensive arseholes or fatties, and still have the right to do that.

      I would not have written this article myself. But I have written things that have offended people just as much. and I was interested in why Mic came under attack and why his article got used to change the whole editorial policy of a blog.

      and I am interested in the discourse of ‘rights’.

      Thanks for commenting snowdrop. and for continuing to read.

  10. JenniferRuth says:

    I don’t know. is a collaborative blog – they can pull what they want and publish what they want. Free speech is not oppressed by having an article on a blog pulled. It can be (and has!) been published elsewhere. It can be published on the authors own blog. You can get a blog for free!

    Oppression of free speech would be occurring if Tumblr itself (or wordpress, etc.) denied the content or if someone was prevented from saying something legally. But just because you can’t say it in one place on the internet? Well, people have their own rules about what they want on their blogs. Tough break.

    Yeah, I can understand someone being pissed off about having their article pulled but free speech is still alive and well.

  11. I used this as an example of a general phenomenon whereby people are told their views/writing/speech is ‘offensive’ or ‘invalid’ due to the reactions it gets. It wasnt so much the post being taken down but the surrounding situation/discourse. I will write more on this. I do not think free speech is alive and well at all! My words get blocked/removed from blogs all the time. I know the blog hosts are ‘free’ to do that but it is a problem I believe.

    • Hi,

      It is the very “offensive arsehole” who wrote the original piece. Really interesting to read the debate over here.

      For the record, I’ve not complained once about being censored. I’m part of the team that put PressThe together in the first place and supported Andy’s decision to have a discussion about just what the site is for.

      Olga Wolstenholme – I dispute that the piece is full of hate. It’s full of anger but I don’t hate anyone. I think there’s a distinction.

      SnowdropExplodes – I totally see your point and understand your perspective. What you’re talking about with people elbowing you in the side is a version of what bothers me though – people asserting their rights over yours.

      The original post was not about overweight people in general but about a subset of obese individuals who assert that they’re entitled to extra rights at the expense of others. I have friends of all shapes and sizes. I don’t believe thin is automatically good and I don’t think there’s one ideal size.

    • JenniferRuth says:

      Well, that’s where I disagree I guess. Having comments removed from blogs is not an issue of free speech because no-one is actually preventing you from having your say. They’re just preventing you from having your say THERE. Your speech is still free.

      It’s like, if you went to someones party and started talking about something no-one else liked/wanted to hear about/found offensive and they ejected you from the party. Well, you might think “those guys are dicks!” (and you might be right) but they aren’t oppressing your right to free speech. They just don’t want to hear what you have to say. So you have to go find somewhere else to say it.

      If you don’t like blogs that have a particular policy to block or remove comments then it probably isn’t the type of blog you should comment on. People have the right to run their blogs and invite people to parties the way they want to. It doesn’t interfere with free speech.

      Of course, you have every right to say that you think the way they run their blog sucks 🙂

  12. Jen says:

    I think having a discussion about the right to free speech is perhaps a bit of a red herring in the context of individual privately-run blogs on big corporate privately-run servers.

    What I think it is relevant to ask is whether it’s a good idea for people privately running their blogs to just pretend, when something is said they don’t like, that it was never said, or to be afraid to confront stuff we disagree with strongly, or indeed to disagree with ourselves at a later date. I used to be a massive gnarly libertarian tory (back in my late teens) and some of the best writers make me throw the book across the room. It’s something very valuable to be able to do that and take the time to analyse it afterwards. I think that whole process is incredibly valuable part of the intellectual process, and we lose a lot if we bypass it or turn away from it.

    Actually, this article doesn’t make me throw the book across the room, I’ve read it a zillion times in the International Herald Tribune or the Times or the Guardian written by other folks, and there’s stuff in it I’m okay with and a lot I find un-compassionate and individualistic. But I don’t think it should be deleted because it might offend someone (although being offended by is a bit like being shot across an airfield at jet-propelled speed after someone prodded you with a dead sheep). It should either be picked apart or left to sink like a stone. If anything, deleting something you don’t like makes it louder, gives it an artificial importance.

    I’ve taken the time to engage with stuff on blogs before and had comments deleted. I don’t mind being ignored – either I talked nonsense or babbled too much, or was long-winded, big deal. I do sort of mind when I put effort into something and it gets obliterated. That’s a pain in the arse, and also, depending on the context, being told that your words were ‘offensive’ or ‘hurtful’ can be really disturbing. That’s when this kind of thing can become a weapon: no one likes to be told ‘your words splatter baby seals all over the walls’. Unless you’re the kind of prick who gets a sense of importance out of the idea that your ideas are so powerful that they Cannot Be Named, like the true name of God or some such bullshit.

    The whole area of censorship bothers me because censoring is right-wing and crying that you have been gagged, using that for power, is very questionable also. But refusing to discuss, hiding away and taking offense at the slightest thing, is definitely very reactionary.

  13. For me ‘freedom of speech’ is not just about getting posts or comments removed from blogs. It is our freedom. of. speech. in all contexts and arenas.

    I get my comments blocked on blogs regularly, not because they are offensive or long, but because they challenge the authority of the blogger. This I think affects my ‘freedom’ of speaking my mind. If I have to resort to only speaking my mind on my own blog, that does not feel like freedom of speech to me.

    I understand the two Jens points. I just don’t quite agree that there is no issue of freedom and the lack thereof here. If I blocked your comments here today, you would not have been free to speak with me on this subject.

    Also I get called names for having the views I do. I don’t know if this curtails my freedom of speech but it seems some people think its ok to associate what you say with the type of person you are, whereas I don’t tend to do that to others.

  14. Jen says:

    Hmmm, yeah but I don’t really agree with Jennifer Ruth either. Although, I hadn’t really got my thoughts in order when I commented yesterday.

    I just think we’re talking about the public issue of ‘freedom of speech’ and forgetting that the internet is very much a private arena. I mean, to what extent can anything related to blogging or online publishing be considered ‘freedom of speech’? We’re talking to each other, we’ve got all these radical revolutionary ideas and so on, we’re going to liberate speech and sex and bring about world peace and so on – do you really think we would be able to do that if there was any possibility of us acting on it? If huge capitalist interests didn’t own our means of communication? I mean, there are all these political campaigns on Facebook, which is notoriously the brainchild of a couple of Ayn Rand fucks capitalising on people liking each other and caring about things. Obviously, we have freedom of speech in that particular forum to the extent that we’re not a threat to them. You know, so radical anti-capitalist organising on Facebook, I don’t think so. Also, employers google that shit. How much free speech do you have then? Free speech becomes a measure of how much you really need to be employed.

    With blogs it’s the same thing. Half of us are on Blogspot, which is Google – then the others are just as big. Is freedom of speech even possible here? Sure, we can say anything we damn well want. But doesn’t that say something about how much ‘power’ this supposed free speech really has? Who owns the means of communication? As soon as we put our words up on here – someone owns them. Evidently it doesn’t matter that we can then take them home and meditate on them. Of course, it’s also all we’ve got in terms of means of communication, so we go with it. But still.

    In fact, talking of ‘free speech’, I don’t know if you heard about this french news story recently: a dude got caught drunk driving, had a disagreement with the cops, had to pay a fine, went home, ranted about them on his Facebook wall, paid the fine, all forgotten. Six months later, the cops find his ranting about them, and he gets done for ‘insulting the forces of order’: three months in jail. In terms of restrictions on freedom of speech that don’t happen within the protected private playground, or aren’t limited to it, this is the deal.

    In terms of this article, I don’t think freedom of speech applies exactly, because as a professional columnist (I’m assuming), what he had to say was never important: who he was writing for, and their advertisers, are what was important, and that’s why his article was pulled, not through any issues with how favourable to debate or how intolerant or upsetting his article was or otherwise.

    And sure, on a visceral level, it’s really fucking annoying to get stuff you wrote obliterated cause someone doesn’t want to hear it. But I don’t think that’s entirely relevant here.

    So, I don’t agree with Jen Ruth at all, in fact pretty much I’m saying the opposite. What she’s saying is that if it’s someone’s blog or your blog it’s entirely your deal or their deal on an individual basis, and that’s the breaks, and you deal. That’s assuming we each have total individual choice in the matter. I’m saying we don’t: we have an illusion of total individual choice which proves if anything that most of what we say here is an ant farting in a vacuum.

  15. Jen says:

    … and that the whole point of us doing it, to us, might be hugely political, but to the people providing the means of communication, they get our radical chic for the advertisers, and they get to say ‘see, thanks to us people can even say that and get away with it! Isn’t it great?’

    So it’s a perfect system wherein whatever we say, it benefits the people providing the arena. Kind of like, if you take ‘patriarchy’, you have someone’s wife holding forth about a whole bunch of radical feminist ‘world family revolution’ Lenore Goldberg stuff, quoting Simone de Beauvoir, paraphrasing Angela Davis, and her husband saying ‘isn’t she great’?

    Which is kinda why the feminist movement at the moment fails (or succeeds, at this point I’m not sure what they think they’re fucking doing), because it’s married to these means of communication, the private interests owning them, and the attendant daddy complexes.

  16. you have lost me a bit Jen. But I think this shows it is all complex, and ‘freedom of speech’ is not just about allowing blog posts or not.

    The post here was not part of a professional publication, just a group blog. BUt now it is going to be an edited publication, partly as a result of this hoo-ha.

  17. Jen says:

    Er yeah, I did kind of go off on one a bit.

    To sum up some of it, we’re speaking as though we’re frankly exchanging views in a public forum whose purpose is to encourage debate and crossfertilisation and so on. We’re talking like no one is making profit from this, when in fact our words in this forum are essentially fuel for someone else’s money-making venture, and unimportant of themselves in the scheme of things: if they were important or powerful or had much revolutionary potential, this forum would not be provided to us for free.

    Of course it’s also all we’ve got, so we use it. But I think it’s probably wrong to talk about it as an issue of free speech in a democratic forum, when it’s everything but. Really, that applies whether the dude is a professional columnist or not. Bloggers are basically unpaid professional columnists.

    • hmm says:

      Toute proportion gardee.

      To the extent that wordpress benefits by our activity, it’s relatively small: more popularity for the open-source wordpress software, which only benefits the developers as consultants for implementing their software and actual users of the software.

      Controlling the secondary effects of your voice is pretty impossible, no matter how commercially and legally resourced you are. In fact it may be harder to have an audience just for your voice, the more resourced you are. Nobody but people who delude themselves that they are political “players” care about what a president of a country or a corporation personally “think” only what they “do”.
      The board of directors of google, who wield enormous informational and commercial power, have less ability to project their personal voice across their medium, the more their medium is the message. They maintain enormous power to act, but not to speak.

      Maybe that’s why personal bloggers love to be dictators on their petty blogs: their power comes less in the form of a rebuttal (which nobody cares about but their dedicated fans) and more in the fact that they can log in to a page with a secret key, organize the layout, the deadlines, the content and then virtually project or imprison all who pass through. Like a feudal toll for crossing a bridge between estates.

      • hmm says:

        You can see how the illusion of great power, which the internet gives you, can disempower people as never before. Why revolt against anything. You have some income and it’s hard work to get out there and move real physical people around (who are ugly, nasty, boring, slothful, inert). If you want to feel powerful, just post a word or a clip on a page and watch it shine in the virtual broadway lights of the superhighway. Who knows, maybe 1, or even 2, people will read it ? Maybe 100, 000? Dare to dream.

        Speech moves people to vote, their only solid moment of power that isn’t fraught with struggle. When people are out of real power but have a public name, they “endorse” candidates. It’s nice that the human organism, even if it once knew real power, deludes itself just as readily as if it never had any.

      • i like your feudal toll analogy, hmm. You make some interesting points. I am going to go away and think about them.

        I am not quite as jaded as you and Jen seem to be about the potential of using the internet for resistance. But like you say, this could be due to me actually having no power. I don’t even vote!

  18. Thats very depressing Jen. even more depressing than my original thesis!

  19. JenniferRuth says:

    Oops, got busy with work yesterday and sorry for dropping out of the conversation!

    Shorter me: I think private blogs are like people’s own house and that means they get to say and do what they want there. I mean, I’ve been blocked from blogs before for disagreeing but I don’t think it’s that big a deal. People have a right to tell me that they don’t want to hear me in their house just as much as I have a right to speak in my own.

    I don’t understand this though:
    “some people think its ok to associate what you say with the type of person you are”

    Why is it not ok to associate? Why would I assume that everyone is lying about their views all the time? I take what someone says at face value unless it’s obviously a joke or satire or something.
    If you don’t agree with what you are saying then why say it? I mean, isn’t that what language is for? Communicating who we are, what we think, what’s going on, etc?

  20. welll its a judgement and a way of categorising people whose views you find difficult to take. eg I have been called ‘mad’ ‘shallow’ ‘contrarian’ ‘rapist by proxy’ ‘stupid’ etc etc… not because people know me as a person but because of views I hold.

  21. JenniferRuth says:

    Ah, right, I get what you mean. I thought I was misreading something there!

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