Over its seven-year-plus history, I can think of three things that I've written for my blog, Deus Ex Malcontent, that have practically earned me death threats. I'm exaggerating a little about that, but suffice it to say the three posts I'm talking about drew all kinds of fire both in the comment sections and my e-mail inbox, as well as through pushback on various other websites. One was when I pretended to give away the ending of the final Harry Potter book. Another was when I attacked "weed culture." The last and most recent was when I made fun of people who refuse to eat glutens and who, in extreme cases, self-diagnose as possible sufferers of celiac disease. The first two I got told off for pretty indignantly. That third one, though: Jesus, did I get an earful.
Here's what I wrote at the time:
The whole gluten-free thing is the latest ridiculous food trend to put a stranglehold on our cultural imagination and of course the disciples of it proselytizing the loudest are the people who can most afford flights of fancy wherein they frivolously decide to chop an entire food group out of their diets: Hollywood celebrities. People like the insufferably aristocratic Gwyneth Paltrow. People like the comically melodramatic Jennifer Esposito.
No one's saying celiac disease isn't real, only that it's now fashionable. The number of cases of it have indeed increased over the past few years but that's very likely because impressionable Oprah fans -- the kind of people who can't go ten minutes without consulting a self-help book to guide their decision-making -- are going to their overwhelmed and exhausted doctors in droves with a self-diagnosis already in mind. This is often the reason diseases -- as well as the various "disorders" and "syndromes" that now apparently plague our country -- can become medical trends.
At the time, my quickie post was pegged off of a piece in Salon by Mary Beth Williams that took issue with Jennifer Esposito's battle with CBS over her own case of celiac. Esposito claimed that the network wasn't taking the disease and her apparent battle with it seriously and had put her on unpaid leave from her show at the time, Blue Bloods, because it wasn't willing to accommodate the shortened schedule she says she needed to work due to her illness. As I said at the time, Mary Beth never argued that celiac isn't an actual disease and that it doesn't cause pain and lead to lifestyle issues for a lot of people. Her argument -- and mine as well -- was basically that by conflating celiac with the more frivolous aspects of a recent dietary fad, it's people like Esposito who may be diminishing the disease and making it easier for those not affected by it to believe that it's not a big deal.
Put it this way: For many people, going gluten-free is a choice and nothing more, while for celiac sufferers it's often a necessity. But if you're one of those people who actually has celiac and you incessantly, condescendingly preach gluten-free to everybody -- irrespective of whether they need it -- by making the claim that it'll make them feel less bloated and icky, you're essentially making it appear as if your reasons for not eating glutens have little to do with the actual disease. You're carelessly combining a potentially life-or-death subject with one that's based almost entirely on personal vanity.
I bring all this up because Gawker's Hamilton Nolan has decided to wade into the poisonous gluten-free soup by posting a scathing piece of his own calling bullshit on the pseudoscientific crusade against glutens. In a post with the hornet's-nest-sticking headline "Americans, Who Are All Doctors, Embrace 'Gluten-Free' Crap," Nolan basically rolls his eyes at about the same height that Mary Beth and I did in response to the obnoxious gluten-free fad; this follows an admittedly entertaining little post over at Jezebel that made fun of a website for "gluten-free singles". What I can appreciate about both of these columns is that the whole gluten-free thing is so ridiculous at this point, with people who have way too few real dangers to concern themselves with suddenly making themselves believe that food they've eaten for years is their enemy, that it's almost not worth putting serious thought into pushing back against it anymore. Like all the fad diets that came before it and which turned into pop culture juggernauts for a brief period, it probably just deserves to be laughed off.
If you're anti-gluten in your own life because you have celiac it's one thing. If you're a pain-in-the-ass militant crusader against glutens because you believe that we were never meant to eat them and if you don't you'll feel all better and our bodies are temples and all that other horseshit, you sincerely need to knock it off.
Eat well but in moderate amounts. Get exercise. Avoid listening to celebrities and all the insane crap they swear by because they believe they're qualified to issue health advice to the masses. Simple as that.
Oh, and vaccinate your kids.