Butter, Beef, And The Yale Daily News

Butter, Beef, And The Yale Daily News
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I keep turning up in the Yale Daily News lately. I wouldn’t necessarily know about it, because I don’t read the Yale Daily News- but well-intentioned friends and colleagues point such things out to me, as they did this week.

It’s not necessarily surprising I should turn up in the Yale Daily News from time to time. I’ve been at Yale for 25 years, and along the way have been involved in some fairly significant things.

For instance, the current US Surgeon General is not just a former medical student of mine, but a former advisee who lists me as one of his mentors, of which I am, of course, proud. When Dr. Murthy was consigned to a protracted confirmation purgatory by the gun lobby, I campaigned publicly on his behalf. The Yale Daily News took neither apparent notice, nor interest.

Some years ago, I led the development of what has since proven to be the world’s most robustly validated nutrient profiling system. When it was launched in 2007, it made the front page of the New York Times. But it did not, apparently, impress the Yale Daily News; they made no mention of it.

In 2014, I collaborated with a then Yale medical student to publish a review addressing diet and health that has gone on to be the most down-loaded article in the history of that journal (nearly 97,000 downloads, and counting). It resulted in a major story in The Atlantic- but, nada in the Yale Daily News.

I even rescued an elderly neighbor who got lost in the woods. He was missing since the day prior despite a full-scale police search, helicopters and all. When I found him, and helped him out of the woods, it was, predictably, covered by pretty much all of the news outlets in Connecticut, both print and television, but – you guessed it- no mention in the Yale Daily News.

There’s more, but only my Mother would be interested. You get the idea; I’ve done some good stuff, and the Yale Daily News has consistently not given a hoot.

I would never have thought twice about that, except that lately, they can barely seem to make it through a news cycle without me. Alas, the coverage is all negative.

What have they covered? They reported that I wrote a blog in the 3rd person about my self-published fantasy/adventure novel (which, by the way, my Mother and I think is very good) when the publisher suggested it. In a bizarre story in The Guardian allegedly about the history of sugar, which the writer got substantially wrong, I was horribly misquoted on a topic that was never on the record in the first place. The Yale Daily News never even asked me if I said what I allegedly said (I did not), but they did repeat it, and built a story around that, too. Most recently, I challenged the propriety of a local grocer’s ads for maximizing meat intake, and linking it to ‘invincible’ health against all evidence. That third item was in the Yale Daily News this week.

I can think of two potential explanations for YDN’s sudden, concentrated interest in, and coverage of, me.

The first is that I have, indeed, suddenly launched into a phase of utterly random bad behavior. My wife has not noticed. My children have not noticed. My staff has not noticed. None of the dozens, and indeed hundreds of colleagues I work with routinely in my various roles, all around the world, has noticed. But the Yale Daily News, thank goodness, has noticed- and they are doing the world a favor by pulling these nefarious shenanigans out of the shadows!

I did not say it was very probable, just one of two potential explanations.

The other is that none of this is in any way random. Rather, YDN’s negative interest in me began exactly when I took a prominent, public position in support of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report; when I campaigned for the inclusion of sustainability in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; and when I confronted the cabal working to undermine these very things, and peddle more meat.

That’s the common element in this otherwise random coverage: meat.

The silliness about my novel, of interest to just about no one, was made into an issue in social media by members of the very squad that dissuaded the US Congress from including sustainability in the dietary guidelines. The second item related directly to the very same players, who showed up in the Guardian piece. And the third, obviously, was directly about my attention to the harms to people and planet alike of peddling meat aggressively.

That the agents of meat should come after me should surprise no one. When Oprah Winfrey highlighted some of the abuses involved in the mass production of beef in the U.S., they went after her. If Oprah’s platform does not dissuade attack, mine certainly will not.

The third of these –the ad campaign for meat piled on a pizza- is the focus of YDN’s latest coverage, and it all seems to be about why I expressed my concerns about the ad campaign when I did. The so-called journalists at YDN speculated on that, but never asked me. Had they, I would have told them: American Idol.

The timing was due to American Idol. My wife and I don’t watch much TV, but we did watch the final season of American Idol. (We thought both Trent and La’Porsha were great, but were rooting for Trent in the end.) Consequently, we also saw a lot more TV ads than we usually see. A very high proportion of them were for Big Y, the local grocer- and a high proportion of those Big Y ads were for the meat-laden pizza and sandwich I wrote about. I wrote about them then, because they were being peddled to me in my family room then on a regular basis.

In any event, if this is all about meat, and not at all random- that still leaves something important unexplained. What has Yale got to do with it? Why should the Yale Daily News get involved?

Well, some rather high-profile media attention to the assault on the Dietary Guidelines process, and in particular on efforts to undermine including sustainability, traced the funding of it all to a billionaire couple with ties to the beef industry, to Enron, and – yes indeed- to Yale.

The agents of meat, apparently, sift social media daily looking for dirt on me, and have done so for the past two years at least. They don’t find much, because there isn’t much- but they make the most of what they find. And when they can’t make a story of the latest fleck themselves, they peddle it to the Yale Daily News, which is apparently always ready to buy it, few if any questions asked.

Why? Well, that’s the second of the potential explanations for all this. Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the Yale Daily News actually has no legitimate beef with me. Rather, somewhere in the mix, decisions are apparently being made for that most time-honored of reasons: which side of somebody’s bread is most prone to get buttered.


Senior Medical Advisor, Verywell.com

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