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Culture War Roundup for the week of March 25, 2024

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Health, Fitness, Obesity, and Politics

Something that’s been bouncing around in my head for quite some time is how people relate their politics to their personal health. This story from The Daily Beast on Wisconsin Senate candidate Eric Hovde has resurfaced this for me by providing a clear illustration of what I perceive as a current difference between the American left and right on this issue:

“Look, we have an explosion of Type 2 diabetes right now. Explosion. Obesity is off the charts. You know, we’re removing people from being responsible for their own health,” Hovde said.

“If they all of a sudden started to realize that they’re going to pay more for their health care by consuming, you know, by consuming massive amounts of soda every day or fatty foods and not exercising, maybe they would change their behavioral patterns.”

Hovde then claimed obesity was a “personal choice.”

“It’s a personal choice,” he said, “but there should be consequences to those personal choices. Fine, you want to do that, you become obese, your health care is going to cost more. Or, the quality—or not the quality, but the amount of health care may go down, because you may not have the money to afford it.

“You have to force personal responsibility back to people, and also make them smart consumers.”

The Daily Beast helpfully loops in a putative expert on the matter, a professor at NYU:

Jay said that Hovde’s comments singling out obesity as something that should raise people’s insurance rates reveals that “either you’re not understanding or you’re really discriminating against people who have a chronic disease.”

“It’s assuming that obesity is some sort of moral failing that people need to be punished for,” she said. “That’s not true.

She added: “It’s a pretty awful and dangerous thing to say.”

This is the latest spat about these sorts of things and probably lays the dichotomous beliefs out about as clearly as possible. There is a policy angle (some people think insurance should be risk-based, some don’t), but that is comparatively dry relative to the beliefs in personal responsibility and how those views extend into political beliefs. There was an old throwaway post from the dissident right blog Dividuals that stuck with me a decade later because of how clearly it captured something that I felt when I read the left-leaning positions:

One realistic way to parodize liberals / lefties / Progressives / feminists / SJWs etc. would be to present them as narcissistic, solipsistic, self-absorbed people with huge and fragile egos who demand that everything should revolve around themselves.

The simple fact that feminists tend to be fat would only make, in itself, a weak joke. But when you find they run around parading their fatness, and make it a political goal to make men somehow adore it – imagine it, human beings making it a political goal that other should have a positive opinion of their own personal fsckups! “I have crap for character, now praise me for it, oppressor!” Imagine programmers making it a political goal to convince people that bugs are actually good!

At the time, I wasn’t particularly right-aligned, so this wasn’t really an ingroup-outgroup thing, but an articulation of a growing frustration I had with people on the left, this absolute refusal to ever tell people to own up to their situations, take responsibility for where they are in life, and fix it. Everything, always, forever is just contingent on circumstances, completely outside of their control. While I could understand the arguments about this sort of thing when it comes to wealth accumulation or crime, to be so extreme as to not grant that people have agency over what they eat was the kind of thing that was just steadily pushing me away from having any inclination to share goals with the economic left.

Since then, there has been a steady (if not particularly large) genre of articles characterizing fitness as a right-wing phenomenon. Some of these are really silly things about how gyms are gateways to far-right extremism, but let’s look at one example that’s a little more self-serious and not obviously ridiculous:

The study found a significant correlation between those men who were heavier and stronger and the belief that some social groups should dominate others. These men were also less likely to support the redistribution of wealth, a typically left wing principle.

Specifically, the researchers found a specific correlation between the number of hours spent in the gym and having less egalitarian socioeconomic beliefs.

Dr Michael Price, a senior lecturer in psychology at the university and the lead author of the study, suggested the findings could come down to three things: The result of the men “calibrating their egalitarianism to their own formidability”, that less egalitarian men strive to become more muscular or there could be a third variable at play.

“Our results suggest that wealthier men who are more formidable physically are more likely to oppose redistribution of wealth,” he said. “Essentially, they seem more motivated to defend their resources. But less wealthy men who are still physically formidable don’t seem more inclined to support redistribution either. They’re not demanding a share of the wealth.

Vice covers the same thing, but with an oddly smug glee:

To all you gym-bro haters amongst us, come, be seated. This one's for you. Science—objective, empirically tested science, the science that tells us that the ice caps are melting—has confirmed what many of us have long suspected: Gym bros are right-wing jerks.

Price's findings? That rich muscle dudes are the worst! Under those rock-hard abs lie the rock-hard souls of men who doesn't believe in spreading their riches around. "It's basically your tolerance to the idea that wealth shouldn't be redistributed," Dr. Price explains. "Some people thought it was horrible; some people thought it was fine."

If there was ever a line that called for a YesChad.jpg response, it’s that one. While I am not a particularly big guy, I will self-report that I do believe my work as an endurance athlete has substantially shifted my views against egalitarian perspectives and more towards personal responsibility. Rather than modeling that as being about domination and aggression, I would propose that the mechanism is the personal sense of accomplishment and mastery coupled with knowing how much of it is a direct product of your internal locus of control. I’m not decently fast because of some random freak accident of nature - I wasn’t fast when I started running, I’m much faster now, and I keep getting faster in almost perfect concert with how much work I put into the sport. Others will fare better with less work, such is life, but we all have a great deal of control over our outcomes. So, yeah, I am inclined to believe that pursuing fitness as a hobby will tend to lead one to the right of their current positions.

The belief that fitness is a right-wing thing doesn’t stop with this sort of relatively modest claim about egalitarian tendencies though. The Society for Cultural Anthropology has a weird writeup on Gym Fascism. To go nutpicking a bit, the Manitoba University newspaper has Fitness culture and fatphobia are fascistic - Our obsession with looking the same is culling joy and body diversity:

Prof. Brian Pronger points out that almost everything that we stress about physical education centres around maximizing the body’s performance. It’s the way that we are all expected to structure our lives around our fitness regimens, and those five days a week when we’re supposed to work out must be in service to making ourselves as strong as possible.

Fitness fanaticism constipates our personal growth. Think about what it means to “work on yourself.” It often means to work out, as if your character is tied to your physical strength and muscle tone.

OK, too much nutpicking. Back to a serious journalistic outlet, Time magazine. Just before the New Year, Time published a story that might dissuade people from making an ill-advised resolutions for 2023 titled The White Supremacist Origins of Exercise, and 6 Other Surprising Facts About the History of U.S. Physical Fitness:

It was super interesting reading the reflections of fitness enthusiasts in the early 20th century. They said we should get rid of corsets, corsets are an assault on women’s form, and that women should be lifting weights and gaining strength. At first, you feel like this is so progressive.

Then you keep reading, and they’re saying white women should start building up their strength because we need more white babies. They’re writing during an incredible amount of immigration, soon after enslaved people have been emancipated. This is totally part of a white supremacy project. So that was a real “holy crap” moment as a historian, where deep archival research really reveals the contradictions of this moment.

Oh dear.

Anyway, to return to that Hovde story that kicked things off, I find it pretty interesting to think about how these things play with different crowds. Something that’s kind of obvious is that Red Tribe America is not actually very fit at all, while Blue Tribe power centers consistently have quite a few fitness-minded individuals. Nonetheless, when Hovde says that fat people are responsible for their own bodies, it seems to me that most Red Tribers basically agree and accept that they’re fat because they like burgers and beer a little too much, while the Blue Tribers recoil at the suggestion that people are responsible for eating themselves into Type 2 diabetes. This reminds me of how discussions of marriage and morality play out as well - educated elites, regardless of political persuasion, stay married at very high rates and seem to be well aware that this is the correct way to live, but are hesitant to say this about the underclass. They hold standards for themselves that they believe don’t apply to others. As far as electoral politics goes, I doubt this little newscycle item means much of anything, but it does provide a fun case study and litmus test for perspectives on the topic.

Dissident right loooves hbd but not when believing in it would stop you from feeling good about yourself. No, chain of cause and effect doesn't stop at the neck, 45% of your fellow citizens becoming obese in a century can't be explained by their bad moral character. You are mostly fit because of your genetics, like any other fit person.

And discussion about healthcare costs is, of course, meaningless. People already written below about this, if you want to save taxpayer's money tax healthy people, not smokers or obese ones.

P.S. Please, before writing any counter argument, especially in the form of personal anecdote ask yourself: "Why?". "But my friend was fat all his life and then lost weight on this diet" - Why your friend lost weight when others in his situation didn't? What was different about him?

in a century can't be explained by their bad moral character. You are mostly fit because of your genetics

Genetics not only affects metabolism, but but moral character too. In humans, there is much more diversity of moral character than metabolism.

45% of your fellow citizens becoming obese in a century can't be explained by their bad moral character. You are mostly fit because of your genetics, like any other fit person.

This objection doesn’t seem to hold. If fitness were determined by genetics, then ~45% of the population should have been obese a century ago, unless obese people have a massively higher fertility rate than healthy people, which seems doubtful. Whereas if the rise in obesity is more about lifestyle choices (e.g., eating way too many carbs, never walking more than 1,000 steps per day, and never even dreaming of exercising), well, those are all personal choices deserving of scorn.

This isn’t to deny that some people have an easier time losing weight than others, but the unprecedented rise in obesity pretty clearly shows that there are factors other than genetics at play.

No, chain of cause and effect doesn't stop at the neck, 45% of your fellow citizens becoming obese in a century can't be explained by their bad moral character.

Nonsense. Widespread availability of pornography may make it considerably more difficult to not become a degenerate coomer than it was a century ago, but it is still a choice to consume pornography or not. I'm more sympathetic to modern coomers than I would be to ones 100 years ago because it's much easier to access and fall into, but it still doesn't change the fact that it is physically possible to go without masturbating, or at least to not consume all kinds of degenerate porn to do so, and ultimately it is a choice to do so or not.

The same applies to obesity, there may be all sorts of factors like more easily available food, more fattening food, and even genetic disposition to pig out or to retain fat. But it's still ultimately a choice to consume too many calories.

I think my own position regarding the role of genetics in life outcomes is pretty consistent with common biodiversity positions, which typically aren't hard genetic determinism. The effects of both environment and personal choice are sufficiently obvious that I don't see how anyone could sustain a serious claim that everything is genetically determined, environmentally determined, or under complete individual control. Genetic and hereditary characteristics define outer limits of capacity and shape tendencies. Environments define the range of available outcomes. Personal choices and elements of randomness fill in the rest. Using that toy model for most outcomes, including fitness and weight, provides results that are pretty consistent with observed reality.

I don't know how anyone that has ever put meaningful effort into improving at anything could land on hard genetic determinism as the only governor of their outcomes. I have literally zero doubt that if I elected to shift from my primary sport being running to weightlifting that I would lose aerobic fitness and gain muscle mass. I suppose the claim is that the only reason I'm even capable of doing that in the first place is purely deterministic and then we're into some goofy argument about whether free will exists. Suffice it to say I don't buy the claim that decision-making literally doesn't exist.

With regard to the accusation that my positions are shaped by what results in feeling good about myself - yeah, sure, probably, that seems like an unavoidable consequence of being human. Even so, I don't think that desire to feel good about myself has twisted my understanding of the world to anywhere near the degree as the morbidly obese individual that claims they're healthy anyway and that weight can't be controlled.

Dissident right loooves hbd but not when believing in it would stop you from feeling good about yourself.

If I've understood your comment correctly, you seem to be making a permissible and even potentially interesting point. But your approach brings a bit too much heat and not enough effort. Less of this, please.

I will self-report that I do believe my work as an endurance athlete has substantially shifted my views against egalitarian perspectives and more towards personal responsibility.

It's interesting that we seem to equivocate between "lifting", "not being fat", "aesthetics", "the gym"/"gym bros", fighting sports and fighting ability, strength, and "being in shape" in this thread and discussions of this nature generally, as if they were all more or less equivalent, while endurance gets ignored, briefly passed over as "oh yeah, you gotta do some cardio too", or downright dismissed as a PMC affectation. At least some online endurance spaces are pretty normie left bluepilled (TrainerRoad forums spring to mind), though LetsRun is regularly accused of being problematic. Meanwhile, you yourself are a fairly performance-oriented endurance guy IIRC (I don't know if you own a power meter, but I wouldn't be surprised), there was at least a brief period in the 70s-80s when marathons and triathlons filled pretty much the same subcultural niche that Crossfit (and its knockoffs) and BJJ do now, and long-duration endurance is notoriously a limiting factor in most of the higher-speed parts of the US military. I don't really have a point or even a question here, it's just an observation.

See also:

(Edit, that came to me while out running: also, participation in endurance sport is exceptionally white-coded, and indeed competition at the highest levels is dominated by whites outside of running at marathon distance and below.).

Cycling is seethingly, maddeningly blue-coded, to the point where major events provide "scholarships" to anyone who's not a white male and demand the latter pay more than asked.

On one hand, yeah, fair. On the other hand, I guessed before I clicked that it was a gravel event doing this.

Meanwhile, you yourself are a fairly performance-oriented endurance guy IIRC (I don't know if you own a power meter, but I wouldn't be surprised)

Only for indoor training. I stand by Zwift as the killer app for indoor cross-training and having a good trainer makes "hills" feel pretty comparable in-game to being outside. I'm not a competitive cyclist though, so outdoor rides are almost always just fun with friends. But yeah, I'm generally fairly serious about running performance, at least within the confines of being a too old never-was that's not willing to change my diet meaningfully.

It is interesting that these sports don't code right-wing the way that bodybuilding and fighting do. It might just be idiosyncratic, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is a hormonal element - living increases testosterone and endurance sports taken to extremes actually suppress it (although my impression is that it takes quite a bit of high-effort volume for that to be an issue). There are some striking similarities between the cultures of running/cycling and powerlifting/bodybuilding though even if the politics don't jump off the page:

  • The guys in these sports are just absolute nerds. Bro-nerds, but nerds nonetheless. If you want an earful about physiology, just ask a bodybuilder or a runner.

  • Highly welcoming of newcomers. The fastest guy at the track and the biggest guy at the gym go out of their way to make newbies that show interest feel welcome, to try to make sure that they know it's a journey for everyone, and that no one's looking down on them as they get started.

  • These are places where you can find something of a männerbund. Guys work hard together, encourage each other, drive people forward when they're feeling lazy, celebrate successes together, and commiserate in failures and injuries.

Some of this is just that sports are generally excellent, but I wouldn't say the same things are as true in basketball or golf. There's something about the sports where everything is stripped away other than pure physicality and the numbers simply don't lie that's a little bit different.

living increases testosterone and endurance sports taken to extremes actually suppress it

I was going to mention this as another example of sloppy equivocation but it seemed like it was straying a little far afield. I'm reasonably familiar with the relevant literature, and it seems like we're awfully ready in conversations of this sort to ignore other androgens, androgen receptor status, the differences between acute and chronic effects, what actually counts as a clinically significant effect size, etc. etc. This might be a reasonable analytical approach if you zoom out far enough (pretty obviously in the case of men vs women, for example) but that's surely too coarse a level of resolution to distinguish between "lift 2x, run 5x" and "lift 4x, run 2x" within the same individual.

The guys in these sports are just absolute nerds.

There's definitely a performance engineering mindset out there in Line Go Up activities, and I appreciate it. But I also see a kind of religion mindset, where as a trainee you do the thing because it's virtuous, a form of worship, and as a coach or advisor you tell people what they should want and what the virtuous thing to do is and baldly assert that one thing or another is true without empirical evidence or sometimes even without a priori logical argumentation--pretty far removed from methodically figuring out how to get from a well-defined A to a well-defined B and rebuilding Neurath's boat. Rippetoe is an obvious case in point, and I say that as someone who pretty much got into lifting thanks to Starting Strength (in fairness, he got a lot worse after 2017 or so). Older heads make it sound like the HIT types of the early 2000s were like this as well. Alan Couzens is an example from the endurance world (and I actually agree with quite a bit of his advice.).

are places where you can find something of a männerbund.

True, though probably 99% of my training has been solitary so it doesn't seem terribly salient to me.

also, participation in endurance sport is exceptionally white-coded, and indeed competition at the highest levels is dominated by whites outside of running at marathon distance and below.).

Do you mean anything longer than a marathon is dominated by whites?

Do you mean anything longer than a marathon is dominated by whites?

There are no gold medals or large prize pots so Kenyan's don't bother competing in them. Basically realtively affluent whites make up running categories no one else cares about.

Yeah. Also cycling, rowing, XC skiing, triathlon, and I'm pretty sure swimming.

These all are more expensive than shorter distance running, and snow is also not found in African countries. Longer than marathon running is very rare and pays less, so probably we don't see East Africans dominating it.

Eh, maybe, maybe not. "Kenyans would dominate Western States if they showed up" is a perennial LetsRun flame post. Every 15-20 years someone tries to build a pro cycling team in East Africa with lots of sponsorship money and it never amounts to much. Rowing, swimming, flatter cycling events, and by extension of the latter two triathlon, and possibly xc skiing as well all favor somewhat burlier body types than the typical East African runner.

Swimming favours long torsos. That means cold adapted people. Also tall.

Black people tend to have longer limbs and shorter torsos, so they have a reach advantage in a lot of sports.

The mechanical device probably eliminates the reach advantage in cycling and rowing.

I wonder if you could adjust the gearing and crank length to field a Kenyan team.

It is a running joke in British sports policy that we can only win Olympic medals in sports where you compete sitting down (rowing, canoeing, sailing, equestrianism and cycling). This isn't entirely fair - the modern UK is diverse enough that sometimes a Caribbean immigrant like Linford Christie wins a sprinting event or an East African immigrant like Mo Farah wins a long distance race. It also looks like we have been picking up medals in swimming since Rio.

You guys had an absolute murderer's row of middle-distance runners in the '80s. Seb Coe remains one of the all-time greats from any country. That little burst of greats really illustrates the impact that a group of elite competitors can have on each other.

I find it pretty interesting that those middle distances are still generally pretty favorable for white runners. East Africans dominate true long distance and West Africans dominate sprinting, but if we're going a mile, it's a mishmash. Jakob Ingebrigtsen has what is likely the fastest clean mile (or at least post-EPO mile) ever run, and won the 2020 gold. The mile is a stubbornly diverse distance!

Thank God for Andy Murray, I guess.

This little quote from NYU professor

discriminating against people who have a chronic disease.

People who are fat because of a chronic disease is in an absolute minority. The majority have issues with their size is because of eating too much ultra-processed foods full of subsidized crops like corn that is cheap and exercising too little compared to their energy intake. Is it a personal choice? Well if you are poor living in a "Food Desert" (i.e. a place where grocery stores with non ultra-processed food are far away) eating what ever is available, how much choice do you have? If you don't live near a grocery store it usually means that you are poor. Is poverty a choice?

As I see it the polemic of "personal choice" vs "chronic disease" is a faux debate disguising the fact that the options for the poorest urban areas and poorest "flyover country" don't have options with getting food without subsidized crops with high energy content. The only chronic condition they have is being poor.

So where does that leave "gym fascism"? Perhaps "Cui Bono" selling ultra processed foods to the poorest population is a multi-billion dollar business and it is also subsidized by politicians, they get to sell medicine for the consequences of that food(insulin for diabetes, pills against hypertension and so on) and so on. What happens if people notices this, that they are essentially being poisoned by the food supply? Better nip it in the bud the notion to have less processed food and more exercise cause losses. Lets call anyone who has that idea fascist? I don't know... It is a conspiracy theory...

Maybe you are not aware of it but many countries - including USA since 2013 - declared obesity itself as a disease. The decision makers in American Medical Association openly admit, that they completely abandoned long-standing criteria for diseases such as disease having some symptoms as opposed to being symptom by itself. Imagine for instance declaring malnutrition itself as a disease, it makes no sense. Malnutrition can be simple lack of food and thus not caused by anything special, or it can be a symptom of some other metabolic or psychological disease. The same with obesity, we can create a "cure" that will work 100% of the time, just admit people into anti-obesity camp where they will have their food intake as well as exercise managed. As the saying goes, there were no obese victims in Gulags or other prison camps, the "cure" is easy.

Instead what AMA did was stick with "utilitarian" definition of a disease in order to "destigmatize" the condition as the word "disease" suggests, that people may not have a control over it such as with some pathogens. Additionally if we allow this definition we can now direct the whole infrastructure used to treat diseases into this new problem. I guess this it the precursor of the new trend such as when CDC declared racism as a public health threat, who knows maybe in the future racism will become an official disease that will treated institutionally or by some brain surgery or pills.

I keep coming back to the fact that Japan does actual fat shaming, on an institutional level even (employers fined if employee waist sizes are too big) and as a result doesn't suffer from high obesity.

This should put the disease model of obesity to bed, unless we believe the Japanese, who love 7-11s and convenience perhaps even more than Westerners do, are somehow genetically immune or their food is still so much more pure.

Anecdotally, when I lived in Japan for a year I lost a lot of weight without even really trying. I don't think my diet was very healthy either, I was consuming a lot of cola, fried chicken, ramen and beer. I was walking a lot more so maybe that's it? But it could equally well be something in the environment, maybe all the second-hand smoke.

Living in a modern Asian city (or New York) definitely has a lot more walking built-in and I absolutely believe you lost weight. But were you... Japanese guy thin?

Hahaha no of course not. Still, it was amazing how easy it was to lose weight there. I wasnt going to the gym or watching my diet or anything.

They also walk more and their portion sizes are way more reasonable.

Don't Asians have some gene that makes them less likely to get fat (but more likely to get diabetes and heart disease) as well?

There's a documentary I watched recently regarding Japanese longevity, and one of the people they interview remarks on how the introduction of western diet is having an effect on young Japanese people, making them more obese.

Genetics can play a part, but there's a point where we need to at least consider that there's something whonky going on, here.

Are Japanese-Americans much fatter than their mainland brothers? From what I see not by much(23 VS 24, but it's including all Asians).

Do you know what a sumo wrestler is?

or their food is still so much more pure.

I wonder how much HFCS you can find in their food that they get from 7-11s? The options for good food at 7-11s AFAIK better than anywhere else ( not that I've looked myself but know people who have lived in Japan and talked about the cultural difference).

At world market prices, HFCS was more expensive than cane sugar, so the only products which contained HFCS are ones that are intentionally made to American recipes. HFCS was an originally an American work-around for a cockamamie government sugar policy, and is now the driver for that policy (because of the lobbying power of Archer-Daniels-Midland).

This is starting to change as cane sugar prices have increased since 2010 and the Chinese are getting into the HFCS business in response.

I mean, Japan probably does have stricter food purity than the USA.

Yeah, those sandwiches you can get at 7-11 or Lawson probably are just literally built different compared to how it'd be done here in the US.

Hey, if they took a half hour walk to the supermarket and brought their groceries back with them, that would be enough exercise to keep them in shape!

I don't disagree but I'd like to register that drivers in my particular region of the Midwest drive like they want to kill everybody, including themselves. I have two grocery stores practically two blocks away but I'm not walking it if I can avoid it. I don't have a sidewalk for most of it and I'd have to cross an intersection that's constantly handling traffic from the freeway exit.

The thing that really kills me is that the town is actively working on updating road infrastructure, but they didn't put a sidewalk in when they added two more lanes to the road.

Interesting. I guess I just assumed there would be space to walk - I'm not American.

So you think that "food deserts" don't exist because you can walk an 30 minutes to yours? There doesn't exist places where people live where they have to drive an hour to get "real food" while passing various corporate fast food chains on the way?

I didn't say that food deserts don't exist, in fact I agree that a lot of American food is chemical slop not fit for human consumption. Yet there's also a level of personal responsibility (and social shaming) that's clearly absent. You can see it in this libertine 'whatever floats your boat' attitude many Americans seem to have:

A real food desert is somewhere like Niger or Ethiopia. While there are structural problems, there are also solutions. You can order groceries to be delivered in some places. I imagine there are farmers markets out in rural USA.

I can see an argument for saying that the obese are people with a chronic disease tautologically: arguably being obese is a disease, and it's certainly not an acute condition (nobody gets obese overnight, and nobody stops being obese overnight). Of course if you take that perspective then I'm not sure how you can square it with "fat pride." Nobody goes around being proud of having multiple sclerosis, or saying that goiters are beautiful. And the fact that it is a chronic disease does not absolve someone of responsibility for acquiring that condition: cirrhosis of the liver is another chronic disease that is almost always the result of personal choices.

If you look at the history of "fat pride" it essentially started as dating for guys that loved fat women. And the post-modernist got its claws into it and gave it the social construct treatment and here we are: "healthy at every size". But the greater point I tried to make that some of the obese people have less choice in becoming obese, because their options are limited with what food is available to them. Yes being obese is a disease but I'm just making the claim that it is in big part caused by ultra-processed food much like cirrhosis is caused by overconsumption of alcohol, but it is much more reversible with better food and more excercise.

But what caused those personal choices? If you were them, you would have made the same ones.

Only if you assume first that free will doesn't exist (and if it doesn't then this discussion doesn't even matter but it's not like I could stop us from having it).

Well we have proof that they made those choices based on the life they lead. Given the same factors the same thing would happen exactly the same way, because it did happen that way. If you were exactly the same as them in every way then the outcome would be the same.

I agree with you that if you were them, you would have made the same choices, but that comment didn't respond to what @ChickenOverlord was saying.

That is:

You: if you were the same as them, you'd make the same choices

ChickenOverlord: Only if choices are indeterminate

You: if you were the same as them, you'd make the same choices

That merely repeats your argument. It doesn't address his.

That said, I think both of you assume too much about the implications of determinism, saying that it strips one of responsibility.

@ChickenOverlord, you say, "and if it doesn't then this discussion doesn't even matter but it's not like I could stop us from having it." This does not seem true. This discussion, under the belief that we have no free will, does at least matter in the sense that it is a part of the set of influences upon us that shape who are and contribute to our choices. And, depending on what you mean by "could stop," you certainly could. If you wanted to, you could get up and leave, the only question is whether you will decide to, which is itself based on such features as who you are.

@AhhhTheFrench, you bring up causal influences upon choices to argue that this absolves one of responsibility for one's choices. I do not see any reason to think that that is the case. You were still the person who made those choices, which reflects on one's character, etc. It seems entirely reasonable to cast blame on someone for acting badly, according to their own character. That their own character was shaped by other factors is irrelevant. That doesn't make them better.

Actions will still have reactions even if they were unavoidable. We still need to lock up dangerous people and encourage healthy lifestyles. We should still punish the evil and reward the good. It was just always going to turn out the way that it does.

Once again, only if you discount free will/individual choices/agency/whatever you want to call it. You're assuming that the same person in the exact same circumstances would always make the exact same choice.

Other than quantum mechanical shenanigans this seems like a settled fact of existence?

Seeing as it's been an open dispute in philosophy for at least 2,500 years I'd say no?

They always will, as long as it was at the exact same point in time and all other factors were exactly the same, because that is what happend.

I agree with you, and not with him, but you're not addressing his claims at all.

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If I was them I would be them and not me. I cannot think of a meaningful sense in which you could say "If you were them".

I'm sympathetic to the idea that environmental or genetic factors may make it more or less difficult to not make choices that will give you a chronic disease. That would change the level of responsibility, but unless someone held a gun to your head you've still got some responsibility.

There but for the grace of God, go I.

If you were born with the same genetics and raised by the same family and had the same exact life and experience you would be in the exact same place as them, because you would be them.

Yes, if I was them I would be them.

And the same things would happen to you. We have the data, it happened. If you were them you would be in the exact same situation. They can't have made other choices, or they would have.

If I was them I wouldn’t be me, as you’ve said, so it’s a pointless statement to say “if you were them”. It’s like sayin “If X was Y, then X would be Y.” Which is tautologically true, but provides us with no new information. If I was a cat I’d be a cat. If I was Hitler I’d be Hitler. If my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle.

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The reason for calling it a "chronic disease" is simply instrumental; it allows fat activists to use laws meant to provide accommodations to sufferers of disease to get accommodations for fat people also.

The causes of the obesity epidemic are also worth considering. From reading slime mold time mold, it seems pretty clear to me that there should be more emphasis on the importance of your body being properly calibrated towards whatever your proper weight is, and we should be more aware of what is causing them so much more frequently to diverge.

Of course, willpower also can suffice, should the first fail; that just becomes progressively harder to make oneself do the more they are misaligned.

SMTM's 'a chemical hunger' posts were quite bad, see here for more. I haven't followed their later posts but I doubt it was much better.

To be clear, I was not asserting that their lithium thesis was correct; the concerns you listed seem quite serious.

I was just asserting that there's more to the story of the rising rates of obesity than "everyone has less willpower than they used to"—that many are calibrated worse, for whatever reason that may be, and so weight gain is fairly common, and we should probably try harder to figure out what exactly is going on.

there's more to the story of the rising rates of obesity than "everyone has less willpower than they used to"

This is the strawest of straw men.

The thing that I took away from SMTM that seems most important is that something weird is going on, and it's getting worse despite our best attempts to fix it. People are getting fatter and fatter, and as a society we've been putting more and more resources into not getting fat. This does seem mysterious, and I do think something more is going on then just "food is cheap and corporations make food taste great".

Until someone figures out what that thing is definitively, though, the best I can do is employ willpower to try not to get any fatter than I am now.

It’s quite possibly endocrine disrupters.

A place where I've noticed the whole "self-improvement is right-wing" meme being true has been in fictional media. In recent years, a number of films (e.g. Star Wars, Captain Marvel) and TV shows (e.g. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Rings of Power) - all of them made by openly progressive people openly pushing a progressive agenda - have been criticized for what some have disparagingly called the "HER-o's Journey," wherein the heroine, often fairly boring or unlikeable from the start, goes through a character arc where she discovers that she was actually always as awesome as she always believed she was, realizing that all her problems were the fault of everyone else who couldn't see her innate awesomeness that was always within her. This is obviously meant to contrast with the classic "Hero's Journey," which tends to involve a hero going through a character arc where he struggles with and overcomes some flaw he has, allowing him to overcome some obstacle at the climax. It'd be easy to say that this is a projection of how women and men relate to each other IRL, where women judge if men are good enough for her while men improve themselves to become good enough for women, but I don't think it's that simple, since, AFAICT, fictional media that follow this type of narrative tend not to be particularly liked by women any more than they are by men. But to add on to this whole "refusal to self-improve" phenomenon, when these works underperform commercially, usually the creators of these works tend to blame the fans for failing to understand their value, rather than blaming themselves for failing to deliver something that fans would want to give money for.

More broadly, these phenomena both tie into something Jonathan Haidt has talked about with respect to modern leftist politics, which is that he sees it as "reverse-cognitive behavioral therapy." One well known trope in CBT is that one reframes "this person caused me to feel this way" to "this person did this, and I responded by feeling this way," which obviously shifts the locus of control from external to internal. Much of the modern left is informed by the idea of discovering one's true self and being in touch with one's emotions, which often rounds down to just trusting every feeling that goes through one's mind as true and valuable and projecting it onto the world - this is something we obviously see coming from all sides all the time, but the modern left particularly encourages this as virtuous for people who have been deemed oppressed.

Another disparate thought I have is that the left has long been associated with support for religious and sexual minorities, who have traditionally been oppressed by a society that would treat them as second class citizens for believing the things they believe. In such a setting, trusting one's own feelings over what society tells you is considered a righteous act of rebellion, and it's not at all a leap to go from that to the belief that any sort of belief in improving oneself is actually an internalized form of the oppressive standards that society imposes on you. I also wrote in another comment that the connection to postmodernism makes it so that it's easier to disconnect one's beliefs from base reality, which in this case is the belief that any negative health effects of being fat or obese are purely imposed by society and disconnected from biology or physics. This also connects with beauty standards, where the notion that skinny, fit women being considered attractive is deemed to be a purely arbitrary societal invention.

I don't know that there's any theory that neatly ties all this together. I'll just say, as someone who's been a leftist Democrat all my life, seeing Democrats whine about Republicans for so many decades without taking responsibility to improve themselves has largely made me check out of politics over the past half-decade to a decade. The idea that it's our responsibility and only our responsibility to shape our message to win over Republicans and independents to our cause, and that these people who disagree with us have no responsibility to be convinced by a message they don't find convincing just doesn't seem to occur to them. That said, I'm seeing this from the inside of just one side, and so maybe this exact same type of passing-the-buck phenomenon happens just as much in the other side.

This seems connected to the more recent idea that competency isn't real, and that all jobs are rewards/punishments that grant privilege/status and nothing more. The idea is that we can just redistribute status by just giving members of oppressed groups prestigious jobs to do, and that will work out fine because nobody is more competent than anyone else at anything. It's not even believing that people might have equal capacity for competence when brought up with equal privilege, but that they actually do have equal competence regardless of their life history. There is no need to improve or work hard to earn something; we just need privileged people to get out of the way.

This comment from back when we were on the reddit by @SerenaButler (not sure if they're still with us) discusses the idea you're talking about, and is imo very insightful. Original:

Text: As a somewhat aside, for the longest time as a kid and/or student I never understood why "Access to jobs" was a cause celebré for advocacy campaigners. Jobs are shit and no sane person would ever want one (at least, absent The Man's omnipresent conditioning that you must work for his profit). Money, sure, everyone wants that. Jobs, no. It's like campaigning to be given sickle cell anemia rather than a malaria vaccine: you are asking for a horrible things that coincidentally happens to be upstream of the result you want, rather than asking for the result you want.

The solution to this problem became apparent the first time I'd worked a few jobs: to wit, many jobs are sinecures where you doss about with your work friends, get paid mostly for "presence", and are not actually required to exert your muscles (intellectual or literal) at all. So that's why people want """jobs""". Government's promising to deliver """jobs""" is really a promise to deliver what people actually want, money-for-nothing, with merely the most tissue-thin sop of "labors to be performed" in exchange for these monies to keep up appearences.

To bring this back around to the quoted point: yes, having understood the above logic, campaigners absolutely would have no problem pushing for unqualified people to get jobs, because, outside of a very limited subset of jobs, like, nuclear power plant technician or something, the accomplishment of the task is irrelevant because the task is essentially a fiction. It does not really need to be completed and no-one will suffer if it is not completed so it doesn't matter if the people assigned to it are unqualified. Most jobs (especially public sector ones) are just dolled-up wealth-transfer programmes, and campaigners understand this, and governments understand this, and """generate jobs for the X community""" is a dog-whistle for "free money for X".

EDIT: Through this rubric, lots of (apparently very irresponsible) Blue Tribe campaigns suddenly snap into focus as perfectly reasonable. Women in front line infantry? Well, if you believe that government jobs are all sinecures and tasks to be performed are fictitious and everyone knows this, therefore all these Red Tribers complaining about "upper body strength" or whatever probably are dealing in bad faith misogyny; they just wanna keep the wealth transfer in the hands of /their guys/ burly dudebros rather than letting women sup from the greenback firehouse. Affirmative action Ivy League admissions? Why not, qualifications = credentialism = fake, there's no real tasks to be performed at Harvard or in post-Harvard employment, so therefore all these Red Tribers complaining about "meritocracy" probably are dealing in bad faith racism; they just wanna keep the wealth transfer in the hands of /their guys/ Good Old Boy WASPS rather than letting minorities sup from the credential spigot.

If you really believe in the bullshit jobs thesis, and you really believe that everyone else is in on the open secret too, then when someone makes the "muh objective competence qualifications" against you, it is perfectly reasonable to believe it's an argument that could only ever be made in bad faith.

because, outside of a very limited subset of jobs, like, nuclear power plant technician or something, the accomplishment of the task is irrelevant because the task is essentially a fiction.

Except that’s very definitely not true; most jobs have actual accomplishments that need to be done. Sure, diversity coordinators are figures no one would miss if they all called in for months at a time, but almost all of the common jobs need to actually do something. Even the HR lady could perhaps be routed around but there are actual things she does; if she quit on short notice management would have to do it until they found a new one.

It seems like this idea is limited to very high status jobs- and truthfully I don’t know if replacing CEO’s with a block of wood in a suit would make any difference, I suspect it depends on the company- and we only notice it when it applies to things like ‘surgeon’ and ‘airline pilot’, where, not knowing how to do there jobs even in very broad strokes, I can tell you that a block of wood in a uniform powered by chat gpt could not do it. Honestly I’m not actually sure if diversity advocates believe these jobs are less skill-heavy than commonly assumed or if they’re just high on their own supply about the massive untapped potential of black women.

I think the government/academic jobs vs private sector jobs is doing most of the divide there. As Ghostbusters said, "You don't know what it's like out there! I've worked in the private sector. They expect results."

I've worked government jobs (low level ones) and I've worked private sector, and in the government job I just had to do the minimum required and follow the rules and I could be sure not to be fired. Private sector there have been times I've worked my butt off and still went home scared that I'd be unemployed next month because the company went belly up.

The wider concept of bullshit jobs also includes jobs that need to be done quickly and well because your employer is competing with other employers, not so much because the job would demand efficiency and high competence even in a vacuum (such as a nuclear plant operator).

This is a textbook example of someone failing the intellectual Turing Test.

Jobs are shit and no sane person would ever want one (at least, absent The Man's omnipresent conditioning that you must work for his profit)

But we live in a world where the Man and/or thermodynamics requires you to work in order to avoid death. Where jobs confer economic benefits (getting paid) and social status (not being an unemployed loser). Certain jobs confer not only money and status but a non-trivial amount of societal level power. Maybe we shouldn't value jobs but we absolutely do. And thus it makes perfect sense for someone to be concerned with access to jobs*. As an individual, you want your peers and broader society to stop humiliating you. As an advocate, you're trying to break generational poverty and what you see as inequities in the distribution of wealth/power in society.

In short, it doesn't require you to think that competence or effort are fake. It requires you to believe that discrimination is real.

If you really believe in the bullshit jobs thesis, and you really believe that everyone else is in on the open secret too, then when someone makes the "muh objective competence qualifications" against you, it is perfectly reasonable to believe it's an argument that could only ever be made in bad faith.

They seem to be confused about both what the bullshit jobs thesis is and how popular it is. As near as I can tell, SerenaButler subscribes to the theory more closely than their imagined blue triber.

In general, I don't think this post is insightful. It makes a number of assumptions about the beliefs and motives of the people it is attempting to describe that just do not track. Or it hits on surface level beliefs but fails understand the underlying content, e.g. it is probably correct to say that a lot of blue tribers don't think much of arguments from meritocracy, but it isn't because they think qualifications are fake. It's because they think we don't have a functioning meritocracy.

*there certainly seem to be no shortage of red tribers concerned with protecting their jobs.

In short, it doesn't require you to think that competence or effort are fake. It requires you to believe that discrimination is real.

This is not credibile. If it were true, I would expect progressives to participate in efforts to measure skill, qualifications, and merit. In fact, despite the many difficulties of doing so (Good heart's law, etc ), the urgency should inspire tireless ingenious effort to that end. Instead, everywhere I look, the opposite is true: progressives direct their energy towards frustrating the project of improving meritocracy, often enough ridiculing the goal itself.

The historical treatment of black Americans is a stain on our country and the progress we've made combatting discrimination fills me with pride. The job is not complete, but is close.

Certain jobs confer not only money and status but a non-trivial amount of societal level power.

Being valuleless in the sense of not accomplishing anything isn't the same as valueless in the sense of you not getting anything from it.

So there's no contradiction between thinking a job is valueless, and wanting the job because it provides you with money and power. But if you think the job is valueless (in the first sense), you'll think of being "unqualified" for a job as just an excuse to deny you money and power.

I haven't read this comment before, but I've had thoughts similar to this rattling around in my head for a while. I think the thought first occurred to me with respect to affirmative action, that the justifications were based around the notion that individuals belonging to demographics deemed as oppressed had been treated unfairly and therefore, at the individual level, deserved benefits to be tilted in their favor in things like school and job applications*. Obviously, the point of these filtering mechanisms is to select for individuals with the skills, ability, wherewithal, motivation, etc. to make the most out of the school and/or perform the job well, which are not dependent on whether or not someone belongs in a demographic group deemed as oppressed. So the benefit that we get better be worth the tradeoff of taking away these educational or employment opportunities from more qualified people to give them to less qualified ones.

But what is the benefit? Ultimately, it's mostly money. There's little benefit people get out of being assigned homework or going into lecture halls to take tests or sitting in front of computers to crunch numbers. People do these things so that, in the long run, they end up making more money. So why not just give these individuals money and let the work be done by people who are qualified?

Well, the problem there then is the "dignity" of the thing or whatever. People don't like to feel like charity cases; they like to believe that they earned the things that they have, through their own hard work, will, resilience, talents, etc. And so we have to get them to play-act the part, to go to classes and offices, to give them the plausible deniability that they actually earned the money that they're getting. This is also why AA is framed as helping people who are disadvantaged, rather than giving people bonus points for happening to belong to particular demographic groups, even though those are literally the exact same things.

And it's this dishonesty that gets me. I wish the left would just say that we should give people free money as a way to make up for injustices we presume they must have suffered due to belonging to certain demographics. We can then discuss and argue about which individuals deserve free money and how much, and there will be plenty to disagree about there, but at least everyone would have an open and honest understanding of what is at stake here. Trying to launder the free money through subverting our ability to put competent people in positions where they can contribute the most to society seems strictly worse than this.

I think this sort of enforced kayfabe is also at play with, say, the whole "transwomen are women" thing. I think it was Scott Alexander who argued that, regardless of how we see things, we should respect transwomen's identities by using their pronouns and such, because it's just the nice thing to do, and we ought not contribute even more to the suffering that they clearly must experience merely for believing that they were born in the wrong sex. I'm not sure if I agree with this, but I'm sympathetic to it, at least. But that kind of honesty is unacceptable in the modern left - the only line that's acceptable is that transwomen are women in every way that matters. This necessarily comes with it many implications about things like sports or pregnancy that many/most people aren't willing to accept. Like how AA only makes sense if you believe that competency isn't relevant in school/work, this kayfabe only makes sense if you believe that sex differences are purely socially mediated, and if we just twist society enough, then transwomen could live lives that are indistinguishable from females.

Again, I just wish people would state these honestly so that everyone can, with informed consent, place their votes on how they want society to be run instead of constantly obfuscating with this sort of play-acting fakery. But I suspect that, to some extent, the fakery is an essential component of the whole structure, and perhaps even the entire point.

* There are multiple justifications, of course, one of which is that, due to systemic oppression, our current filtering mechanisms erroneously judge individuals who belong to demographics deemed as oppressed as being less qualified than they actually are. However, assuming this were true, this, in no way, can support affirmative action; rather, what it would support is fixing our filtering mechanisms to make more accurate, more precise assessments of individuals, which is the opposite of the blunt tool of AA.

This strikes me as a great example of something passing the intellectual Turing test. I think this is exactly how a woke person would justify their opinion. Their opinion is misguided because it's based on an inappropriate generalisation, but I think a woke person would read the description above and think "yes, that's what I'm getting at". And of course, you're right to point out that the opinion contains a grain of truth: competency really isn't a core requirement for some jobs. and many jobs really are sinecures.

Oooh finally something I have personal experience on.

I was in one of the bluest parts of the country, and maybe the planet, Campbell California and yet when training at the gym the politics of the gym goers were... far to the right of the city but probably slighly left of the country as a whole (though at the magnitude we're talking here it's basically impossible for any actually Right wing opinion to be even discussed since things like "what about that city supervisor" have basically universal agreement. The few times national issues were discussed (mainly oct 7 when the isreali guy said that he has to take some time off to talk to his family) the opinion was definitely in the "RW but mainstream" group. Like they'll talk about Jocko Wilnik's podcast, or Huberman lab, or they'll watch Rennisance periodization and other right ish aligned groups. Not crazy people but definitely not... super mainstream left. I'm somehow a normal guy for getting my news from Wikipedia instead of the NYT

I have no idea as to mechanisms, but the phenomenon is VERY strong, I remember a slatestarcodex article that discusses how you can get into very strong filter bubbles, going and playing a sport with other guys possibly the gayest sport ever produces some of the strongest filter for Right wing opinion in the state of California yet there we go.

I'll note something odd, there's sort of this weird valley effect, the "mildly fit by incidental lifestyle" people (other than construction workers) were mostly college educated yuppie (I really wish there was a better word than Yuppie/Redneck for the rural city split)but then when I go to the place where people are active to a level most people haven't seen (I lost 50 pounds via pure fat shaming by being around them) are quite right wing . It's like if your lifestyle incidentally makes you more fit (or you only try a little bit) you're much more likely to be Left wing, but those who are actively trying super hard are pretty right wing for the city.

One thing I will note is that every one that took Testosterone replacment therapy (TRT) instantly became more right wing soon after starting TRT, they also became dramatically stronger faster and trained way harder, I do not know if this is the actual effect or if it's more of a "people who do sports are just straight up built different" effect. But I would like to see a study on that, does taking TRT change behavior? is hard to read, but indicates plausibly yes, but I'm so bad at google that i can't find any studies on TRT directly impacting behavior.

possibly the gayest sport ever

I know BJJ stands for "Brazilian jiu-jitsu". I've known that fact for at least a decade.

But every time I read it, my mind instantly goes to "blowjob-job".

There is an undying faction of TMA (traditional martial arts) which refers to BJJ as blowjob jujitsu or similar, as though some rhetorical win can possibly reverse the steamroller that modern MMA represents. Reassuringly, this faction gets smaller every year as the evidence rolls in.

It doesn’t surprise me. Most TMAs are basically LARP at this point, and they definitely feel the cognitive dissonance of watching MMA/BJJ fighters learn how to fight properly while they are awarded multiple belts and even half-belts for learning to play fight. You can get pretty high in the ranks of most TMAs without actually needing to demonstrate that you are a good fighter, where in MMA and BJJ rank comes directly from winning matches.

Modern BJJ is nothing like modern MMA and I'll fight you (literally) on that.

For starters as far as I can tell, basically every current MMA fighter focus's on Just standing up out of bottom position rather than fighting from bottom position.

Next from top position MMA guys emphasize holding the other person down and punching them, prefering to remain with their legs tangled in wrestling rides rather than passing the legs

BJJ's big 4 submissions are the Rear Naked choke, The armbar, the inside heel hook and the outside heel hook, when was the last time you saw a heel hook win an MMA fight? It's literally the 2nd and 3rd most common submission in top level bjj yet in mma both combine to about 6th? Like the Arm triangle is more common than both combined, when the arm triangle is 9th in bjj.

My MMA skills are rusty and I'd need to get back on the juice before I'm ready to fight anybody for real, but modern BJJ and modern MMA grappling have diverged to such an extent that to call the 2 the same is crazy.

I don’t know much about this at all, but aren’t you really just describing how MMA moved from a free-for-all mix entered into by fighters of various background to what is increasingly a specific martial art of its own?

As evidence of your claim that BJJ has fallen by the wayside in modern MMA, as well as a fun historical artifact, feast your eyes on Rousmiar Palhares's career record. Five heel hook submissions in the UFC! Five more in other pro fights! Of course, his last one in the UFC was over a decade ago, which kind of makes the point. Still, an impressive career that includes kneebarring Jon Fitch and tapping Jake Shields with a kimura.

I think there's a reasonable argument that MMA grappling has diverged from BJJ largely because bjj has been incorporated into the training process. Sort of a pareto effect thing.

Is Renaissance Periodization really a "right ish aligned group"? Or even huberman lab?

Mike's got this alt channel, quick perusal makes me think either right or far off the beaten path left. I don't think he'd qualify as mainstream right either actually. Not that his exercise videos really push any agenda, way too many gay jokes for someone like Ron Desantis to ever be comfortable around him.

Hilarious, I can't believe he's got a separate channel for Noticing.

I didn't pick up on any political lean in actual RP videos, maybe a few jokes that would get you kicked out of a faculty lounge but that doesn't really mean anything.

He talks about this topic a bit here:

Talks about noticing "Willpower and generics take you really far — at least."

My interpretation is he is at least libertarian leaning. There are strong Kolmogorov complicity vibes whenever he butts up against a topic that would get you hard core canceled. I suspect because his business is primarily selling his apps and programs/books and getting canceled would probably hurt that.

Huberman surely isn’t, he’s more of a granola lib with some lifting optimizer tech bro flavor.

TBH I might be completely wrong but that's the minor impression I get when watching their content.

Back to a serious journalistic outlet, Time magazine. Just before the New Year, Time published a story that might dissuade people from making an ill-advised resolutions for 2023 titled The White Supremacist Origins of Exercise, and 6 Other Surprising Facts About the History of U.S. Physical Fitness:

It was super interesting reading the reflections of fitness enthusiasts in the early 20th century. They said we should get rid of corsets, corsets are an assault on women’s form, and that women should be lifting weights and gaining strength. At first, you feel like this is so progressive.

Then you keep reading, and they’re saying white women should start building up their strength because we need more white babies. They’re writing during an incredible amount of immigration, soon after enslaved people have been emancipated. This is totally part of a white supremacy project. So that was a real “holy crap” moment as a historian, where deep archival research really reveals the contradictions of this moment.

Oh dear.

After actually reading "The White Supremacist Origins of Exercise, and 6 Other Surprising Facts About the History of U.S. Physical Fitness", I'm not sure how you can honestly think that your two extremely cherry-picked paragraphs are representative. The article is decidedly not anti-fitness (despite the click bait title), and phrasing it as

a story that might dissuade people from making an ill-advised resolutions for 2023

seems pretty misleading. I'm going to charitably assume you were Google-search-and-skimming for examples of outrageous outgroup behavior, and not deliberately trying to mislead us.

I think somebody being able to write those two paragraphs and also not condemn exercise goes against your thesis that the wokes are crazy, and is a nice example of somebody not being mind-killed.

I suppose I just disagree. The quoted paragraph is the most egregious example, but the article has quite a few lines that are at least adjacent to the kind of silliness I'm poking fun at:

Until the 1920s or so, to be what would be considered today fat or bigger, was actually desirable and actually signified affluence—which is like the polar opposite of today, when so much of the obesity epidemic discourse is connected to socio-economic inequality and to be fat is often to be seen as to be poor.

I don't want to relitigate this at length, but a quick search of "beautiful women Edwardian era" should disabuse observers of the idea that women who "would be considered today fat" were desirable. Women who would today be considered fat were practically non-existent outside of freak shows in 1910.

Another big turning point is 9/11. You see a boom in the CrossFit mentality of almost like militarized fitness and girding yourself and your body for a fight—not necessarily, by the way, in the 1950s/1960s way of fighting for the U.S. Army—but more like “you need to know how to perform functional fitness to protect yourself if things go wrong.” At the same time, you see [an emphasis on] wellness, self care and healing and being meditative in an increasingly traumatic and unpredictable world.

This isn't silly and the first part doesn't even seem wrong, but referring to the world as "increasingly traumatic" is a decidedly woke perspective.

But it’s important to point out that access was never totally equal, if you lived in a neighborhood that didn’t have safe streets or streets that were not well lit. Women were catcalled. People of color were thought to be committing a crime.

The “running is for everybody” discourse still quite often leaves out the fact that depending on where you live and the body that you live in, it can be a very different kind of experience.

This framing isn't anti-exercise, but it includes the trope that a lot of people aren't exercising because they lack access, which is a distinctly left-wing position. Again, this isn't stupid, it isn't even necessarily wrong, but it's certainly casting a side-eye at jerks like me that think you actually can just put on your shoes, walk out the door, and go for a run.

Sure, I quoted the most ridiculous part and did it in a way to make fun of the interviewee's perspective on fitness. If journalistic outlets don't want to be mocked for referencing the "white supremacist origins of exercise" they shouldn't title their articles "The White Supremacist Origins of Exercise" and quote a guy that says that exercise has white supremacist origins.

I’m not arguing that the author isn’t woke. I’m arguing that the author never says “exercise is bad, don’t do it”, which is what you claimed, and which is not true.

If you think the rest of the article lets you similarly argue that the wokes have lost their minds, then you are welcome to use those other parts in your original post.

I don't want to relitigate this at length, but a quick search of "beautiful women Edwardian era" should disabuse observers of the idea that women who "would be considered today fat" were desirable. Women who would today be considered fat were practically non-existent outside of freak shows in 1910.

Is he says if that fatness was considered beautiful in 1910, or is he saying that it was in general considered to be a good thing, perhaps particularly for older people?

I think the correlation between class and fitness is likely substantially greater than that between politics and it. I suppose red tribe fatties are less likely to be HAES activists, but that doesn’t mean the obese Republican cop doesn’t have his own set of cope ideologies to explain why being fat isn’t actually his fault, or why he’s not even fat at all.

There’s fitness and then there’s fitness.

I agree there’s a likely correlation between male SES and fitness-when-it-comes-to-lack-of-obesity in Western countries, but the correlation between right-wingedness and fitness-when-it-comes-to-aesthetics can be on a similar magnitude or even higher, especially when holding some confounders equal.

Weight-lifting and belief in sexual dimorphism is highly right-coded, and male aesthetics fitness lore heavily invokes sexual dimorphism: Wide and capped delts, portruding traps, thick and wide back, strong chest and arms, relatively thin waist.

Grab a random guy from a gym who has less than 15% BF and can bench-press >1.5x his weight. Is he more likely to be right- or left-leaning relative to a randomly selected peer of similar geography, age, education-level?

The modal “in-shape” guy among the PMC, who does some running, cycling, or squash when he doesn’t have a Dorsia res conflict, maybe some light weighting from time to time, is still a DYEL and/or perhaps skinny-fat compared to what might be considered aesthetic.

Sure, I agree, but you’re talking about the 96/7/8th percentile or higher of male fitness if you’re talking about men who can bench 1.5x their body weight and have low enough body fat percentage to have visible abs while doing it. These people are probably right-leaning relative to peer group because hardcore lifting culture tends to the right, and young men with something to prove do also. Plus there are possibly hormonal or other reasons, as some have theorized.

The real problem in the West (and much of the rest of the world) is obesity and overweight-ness. The PMC DYEL guy who lifts once a week and does some cycling and squash while staying skinny isn’t the issue, if the whole country was as healthy as him we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. Actual bodybuilding is a vanity niche for a small minority of men. That doesn’t make it wrong or bad, but it isn’t really the ‘physique issue’ that is plaguing a lot of the world.

Obese red tribers mostly cop the blame for getting fat, even if they think losing weight is too difficult to be a reasonable expectation.

It's silly for right-wingers to be like "can you BELIEVE these insane leftists saying fitness is a gateway to the far-right?" when "fitness is a gateway to the far-right" is the whole schtick of guys like BAP, and I say this as someone who lifts weights 3-4 times a week. On that note, I haven't noticed myself turning into any sort of right-winger as I get stronger. But for me it's not a hobby, it's a chore that I do purely out of vanity, not because I enjoy the activity itself at all.

It is possible, even probable, for both BAP and those leftists to be insane.

Okay, but it's undeniable (and why would they want to deny it anyway?) that the fitness 'aesthetic' is a very integral part of a certain type of online right-wing politics and fitness influencers/youtubers/etc. tend to lean right.

Great post, but I think the pattern you briefly mentioned at the end bears a much deeper examination.

Red Tribe America is not actually very fit at all, while Blue Tribe power centers consistently have quite a few fitness-minded individuals.

This really understates the phenomenon. As a conservative from a blue tribe stronghold, my visits to red tribe strongholds like the deep south are extremely disillusioning. It's hard to overstate what a dramatic difference there is in the obesity levels everywhere you go. And this in turn leads to much higher consumption of public health resources.

It's hard to square these realities with common sense arguments which ring true to me, like the ones you made above. It doesn't seem debatable that self-sufficiency is more a red tribe value than a blue tribe value - so why are blue tribe individuals, as a class, more self-sufficient when it comes to diet and health?

There are a number of explanations you could hypothesize: maybe personal belief in the importance of self-sufficiency is irrelevant in a system that doesn't incentivize it. Maybe if you controlled for poverty / IQ the differences are explained or the sign of the correlation flips. Maybe it's a Simpsons paradox thing where within a given region, right-wing beliefs are correlated with fitness, but the correlation doesn't hold across the whole population. But it feels like it's crying out for some sort of explanation.

It's possible that those on the left value being skinny and attractive more than those on the right do. The urban left is more likely to be interested in casual sex with strangers, and more likely to be going from relationship to relationship as opposed to settling down with someone. Also more likely to get divorced and try to find a new partner. With that environment in mind, it is advantageous to maintain your attractiveness so you can continue to attract mates.

In contrast, the further to the right you go the more likely you are to have a culture valuing finding someone to settle down with and start a family. Once you've bagged a mate and said your vows, staying physically attractive is much less important for your day to day happiness. What's more, on the right you're more likely to have broad family and local networks to fill your social needs: people who don't need to find you attractive to be in your life. For the urban left, I can imagine you have to build your social network more from fostering relationships with new people rather than leaning on your family and the people who have known you since you were a kid.

All that is speculative, of course. What I can confirm is that in right wing cultural spaces if someone is fat they'll usually say something like "I love to eat, that's why I'm fat!" or "I know being fat ain't healthy, but eating food is what makes life worth living." It comes from a place of personal responsibility, including the personal responsibility to accept the consequences of your actions and the trade-offs you have made.

Also more likely to get divorced and try to find a new partner.

Is this true? I don't think this is true. Maybe it's true after controlling for education, but when we look at the most stereotypically Blue people (urbanites with graduate degrees, either in academia or comfortably adjacent to it), the divorce rates are low. I might even suggest that staying fit and attractive helps people stay married.

I'll first note that your comment seems to reinforce my point; the idea that staying fit and attractive helps people stay married goes hand in hand with the idea that your partner becoming less attractive is reasonable grounds for divorce. That's much more of a left wing than right wing perspective on marriage. But you're right! We should find some actual data and check.

Pew found that when it comes to the statement "Couples who are unhappy tend to stay in bad marriages too long" 69% of Democrats agreed compared to 41% of Republicans. That divide gets wider the further to the right or left you go: for Republicans that described themselves as "conservative" (as opposed to "moderate" or "liberal") only 35% agreed, compared to 76% Democrats who described themselves as "liberal".

Of course that's just stated attitudes, what about actual divorce rates? A study from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia found that for people who had ever been married at all 41% of Republicans had been divorced compared to 47% of Democrats. They also found that 57% of Republicans are currently married, compared to 40% of Democrats.

Another study found that the divorce rate was higher in red states than blue states, but they also noted that the marriage rate was much higher in red states than blue states which may account for it. A smaller percentage of divorces among a larger number a marriages may mean that Republicans divorce more per capita, but divorce less as a proportion of all married individuals.

divorce rate was higher in red states than blue states

Red states vs blue states is an apples to oranges comparison, because the south is dysfunctional, poor, and very red, and most non-southern red states are very rural.

Huh. That seems pretty dispositive that my impression was just wrong. Thanks for enacting the labor.

Thanks for asking for data. It's easy to armchair philosophize about things that we actually have data for, and I usually forget to check.

I think you are overthinking it. A lot of it just feels like cars versus no cars to me. When I am in a city anything 10 min away is a walk but everything suburban is a drive.

I also think the food industry has optimized for taste and gotten really good at it and these things are readily available everywhere and an easy pleasure in rural areas.

I think you are overthinking it. A lot of it just feels like cars versus no cars to me. When I am in a city anything 10 min away is a walk but everything suburban is a drive.

Philadelphia's SEPTA buses are full of extremely fat people.

Unfortunately while there's plenty of data on rural vs metropolitan obesity (rural is higher), there doesn't seem to be all that much on suburban vs urban (both are metropolitan).

Are young, wealthy, educated people in Alabama actually much fatter than young, wealthy, educated people in Oregon, though? It’s not like SEC sorority girls are (typically) fat. I’d be interested in @Walterodim’s opinion too. It’s true that the Deep South is much fatter than the Northwest and Colorado, but it’s also much poorer. There are also ethnic differences in obesity rates that obviously affect Mississippi’s rate vs, say, Washington.

Or, put otherwise, are poor, trailer trash, people-of-Walmart whites in Colorado actually much skinnier than their peers in Missouri?

Southern food is much more calorie intense than other parts of the country.

Sure, but there's a limit to that. McDonalds is available everywhere in the country.

Sure, but most, even poor people, don’t eat McDonald’s every day.

They also aren't eating homemade cornbread and fried chicken every day. My bet is that beer, soda and french fries have a lot more to do with it than regional cuisine.

There’s definitely a regional tastes and cuisine thing going on, like prevalence of sweet tea or certain southern deserts. I tend to agree that junk food varies less across the country than home cooking, but, like, incidence of grocery store fried chicken or likelihood to drink sweet tea(which usually has more calories than regular soda) probably makes enough of a difference at the margins to be noticeable.

My first guess is that a lot of this is urban/rural just because of the fact of public transit. When I visit my sister in DC I walk and take the subway, while when I am at home I drive everywhere, just because of the material realities of where I am. So urban populations will, all things being equal, probably have a more active default lifestyle just because of this and thus I would expect they have lower levels of obesity even if both have the same diet and inclination to exercise.

Subjectively, I would guess they are, but it certainly narrows the gap. There's such a consistent pairing of urban environments with concentrations of young, wealthy, educated Blue Tribers that the layers of confounds are too much for me to tease apart mentally. One anecdotal addendum to that is that the secret right-wingers that I know deep in Blue territory are an unusually fit and healthy group, with a concentration in masculine-coded sports like powerlifting and fighting.

I agree completely that I understated that population-level difference by far too much! Having had a travel-heavy job that took me to quite a few parts of the country, this difference is really, really obvious. The reddest part of the country have a lot of what I've heard people refer to as "Walmart obesity". In stark contrast, the fittest places I've been aren't just blue, they're so blue that they're stereotypes, literally the punch lines for jokes - Eugene, Madison, Boulder.

There isn't a great explanation that I'm aware of, but my working hypothesis is that it just really does turn out that the Blue Tribers are correct about built environment massively influencing how people interface with the world. What do the three places I just mentioned have in common? Huge numbers of bike trails, hiking trails, running trails, parks, climbing gyms, and so on. These opporunities and cultural reinforcement drive behavior. If we want to test that by hunting for a Red place with similar surroundings, the best place that I can think of to check is Utah, and sure enough, Utahans are an unusually healthy group. There are obvious confounders in Utah, but it's a start anyway.