I know two things: I’m fat and I’ve been on the internet long enough to know what a troll is. In a passionate editorial that’s quickly making the internet rounds, WKBT anchor Jennifer Livingston addresses a specific e-mail from a concerned writer who doesn’t actually watch her program. In it, the writer makes the point that as a local celebrity, she has an obligation to be a good example to those who would look up to her, namely by being in shape. Jennifer then replies, but despite her passionate plea, she fails to address a critical issue: America needs to lose weight.
First off, Jennifer Livingston is a beautiful woman. That’s correct. She’s also obviously confident and successful given that she’s a local celebrity (well, nationally now) and she’s a mother of three. That’s a lot of hard work and determination to get into that kind of position, but then to go in front of an audience and address a troll on the internet.
Secondly, on the matter of addressing an internet troll. I don’t know why she did. She explains why, but I still can’t fathom why she, or anyone else, would bother. Nevermind that the e-mail was particularly well worded and brings up some good points I’ll address in a second, dignifying one of the least-deserving people in the universe is silly at best and an emotional double-punch at the worst.
The bully argument. When I started posting on the internet, I was fourteen years old, which basically means I was an old man compared to the kids who use the internet now. Of course, at that ripe, young age I was completely ignorant of what it was like to be assaulted through text when I could obviously do no wrong, naive about my place in the world. Here, Jennifer reacts in the same way that I did at the age of fourteen: taking it square in the gut, then making the error of, as mentioned above, dignifying their comment by addressing it, which is fuel for any troll. She addresses discrimination and that now some kid will walk into school now and call a kid ‘fat’ because their dad wrote a letter to that ‘fat’ news anchor. In my experience, kids are going to continue to call other kids fat, probably through the Streisand Effect in which she addresses a ‘fat’ insult on a news program that kids will probably be seeing. We don’t need to go deep into the mindset of a bully to know that their behavior doesn’t need to be inherited or learned, it’s just easy to do. You see someone different and you don’t like it, just bully them. See? Easy.
In short, Jennifer deflects the e-mail. Jennifer passes the e-mail off as a ridiculous, hateful assault, but what about the contents? If you’re familiar with debate, the crux of any argument involves taking the opponent’s position and then objectively dismantling it. Jennifer fails to do this, instead relying on her gratitude for those who supported her, and subsequently failing to be an even better example for those who would be tuning in by simply being overweight.
I should know, I’m fat.
And I hate it. I’ve hated it for so long. I’m shameful of my weight. And unlike other discrimination she alludes to in her response, obesity is, virtually 100% of the time, a choice. Americans need to take ownership of this problem and become better examples for generations to follow, whether in how much physical activity we complete or the food we consume. We’re just not doing that. Instead of addressing one of America’s (literally) largest health crisis in years, Jennifer thanks people for supporting her nutritional lifestyle. She mentions people that ‘struggle with weight’, but it’s a mind game. If you want to be skinnier, the cure isn’t ‘give up’ when the results aren’t immediate or to your satisfaction, it’s ‘try harder’, and we fail at that. We’re an impatient culture.
Is it really any of our business what or how she eats? No. It’s not, we are all free to do whatever terrible things we want to do to our bodies at any time. I know this for a fact because I’m trying very hard to escape the lifestyle myself. And I’ve put up all the excuses.
My lifestyle doesn’t support it. I can’t make the time. I don’t know how. I need to buy this thing. I bought the thing and it isn’t working. I’m tired, I just want to eat. I don’t want to work out.
So no, it’s not our business what or how she eats, but when you’re going to put yourself on stage for critique, expect different standards to apply to you than to those who scoot around Walmart in motorized carts because they’re simply too large to walk. As a journalist, Jennifer has an obligation to be an arbiter of valuable information and use that to make America better by addressing the issues that matter most.