I am a blogger. I love being able to express myself through this forum. Someday I would like to work in the mainstream media. Not because I think there is something inherently better about traditional media forms, but because through that forum I would be able to make a living by doing the writing that I so love. But every so often, something is published that makes me question that aim. Something of such inexplicably poor quality and stupidity that it makes me wonder if I would like to work in the mainstream media. I present Exhibit A from today’s Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Eating their Words’ by Tim Elliott.
As you may, or may not know, I am a vegan. Veganism is a small but important part of what makes up who I am as a man, just like the fact I am a film blogger, I am an (amateur) athlete, a public servant, a music lover and a boyfriend to a woman I love very much. Elliott’s article “Eating their words” is subtitled “Tim Elliott meets the people who are defined by what they will – and won’t eat.” The article starts off mentioning that the author received an invite to the launch of the book Vegans are Cool. So maybe this is where Elliott meets the aforementioned people. But the article is so poorly written that it is unclear whether or not he attended the launch. I suspect he just launches into in ill-advised diatribe based on the title of the book. Essentially his target is not just vegans, but essentially anyone who subscribes to a diet that in any way restricts what they eat, for whatever reason. My diatribe in response is borne out of the fact that he is attacking something I hold dear. My response would be the same if he was writing this rubbish about film bloggers or any other facet of my being.
In the small part of Elliott’s article that he devotes to writing about the book (or its title at least) he states, “perhaps strangest of all is the assumption that anyone cares enough about vegans to bother finding out why they might be cool, uncool or roughly room temperature”. Besides the lame-beyond-belief attempt at punnery at the end, this statement is also wrong. Pretty much, without exception when I tell people I am vegan they take an interest. They may wish to convince me how wrong my choice is. They may want to challenge me with a hypothetical about a sheep and a desert island. They may simply be intrigued as to my choice, the reasons that I have made it and that question that has befuddled mankind for all time – where do I get my protein? Whatever their question, they are pretty much always interested. Elliott’s next task in enlightening his many readers is to engage in the type of stereotyping that I thought we were done and dusted with a decade ago (and even that was way overdue). Apparently the only people who have what the author refers to as “a special food-limited diet” are those “with a cardigan and a crocheted beanie”. Because in Tim Elliott land homosexual men all wear tight shirts, and blue collar workers all wear Bonds singlets and drink Bundy Rum. I’ve got a wicked crocheted beanie, but no cardigan. Can I still be vegan?
Elliott smugly writes that “notable fruitarians have included … Ben Klassen – the white supremacist and author of The White Man’s Bible – and Ugandan megalomaniac Idi Amin. But don’t let that put you off.” Oh Tim Elliott, you’re so clever, witty and funny. But what exactly is your point? Josef Stalin, Ivan Milat and George W. Bush were all meat eaters. What’s my point? I don’t have one. People do evil shit. Horrible things to their fellow man. These choices are not intrinsically connected to one’s choice of diet. Klassen may eat his fruit and go punch a black man. George W. Bush may eat his steak and go bomb an Iraqi school. Tim Elliott may eat whatever it is he eats and then go out and write a shit article. I just ate some hommus on Rivitas, and now I’m going to go and buy my girlfriend a Christmas present. Are these things connected? No.
Elliott writes that there is a “small, isolate tribe of grain eaters known as hegans – men who refuse to eat meat and animal products, yet somehow manage to hold on to their masculinity.” And please tell us, Mr Elliott, what your definition of masculinity is? Apparently it is intimately tied up with red meat. So perhaps it also involves traditional values you may be into like being able to beat people up and lift huge amounts of weight. Somehow vegans such as Mac Danzig, a UFC fighter, and Nick Diaz, the number one welterweight contender in the UFC, retain their ability to be ‘masculine’ despite their veganism. Diaz also talks a huge amount of smack, is this another of your measures of masculinity? Diaz, I suspect, doesn’t give a shit about posturing about saving the whales or wearing a crocheted hat. All he cares about is being the best athlete, finely tuned at beating up another man, and he has chosen a vegan diet solely for that reason. Pfft, what a pussy aye Elliott? And meet my friend Vegan Tank. The dude’s a tank. But hey, pretty unmasculine with all that animal activism work and caring for his animals. Would you prefer he punch a puppy rather than cuddle them? And then there is me. I have been vegan for approximately six months, but I have never really subscribed to, or cared about ‘masculinity’. I just care about being the best person and man I can. But even though I am vegan Mr Elliott I still “somehow manage to hold on to [my] masculinity” enough to grow a beard and make love to my girlfriend every so often. How do I do it?
You yourself may be wondering why people choose veganism. Don’t worry, our illuminating guide Tim Elliott can answer that too. It’s because this choice has “enabled thousands of inner-west arts students to send a powerful message that they, too, shop at Alfalfa house.” That’s it, thanks for reminding me. I had gotten so caught and brainwashed since I became vegan, that here I was thinking my personal choice was something to do with loving animals and believing it is wrong to kill them for food when I do not need to (a view that is mine alone and one that I don’t push onto anyone). But I’m in luck, because this choice also “enables the person to believe they are making a difference/reversing global warming/saving whales when all they are doing is eating a salad sandwich”. Could it not be possible that they are doing both?
Elliott finishes off his masterpiece with this: “And vegans are definitely not cool.” To make a blanket assumption of the worth of a group of people that they are not cool because of one facet of their being is stupid and hatemongering. Who else is fundamentally not cool? Cricket fans? Italians? Christians? I know many vegans who are cool. I know some who are not. I know many meat eaters who are cool. And hey, funnily enough, I know some who are not. But you, Tim Elliott are not cool based on the evidence before me. It’s not because you do not like veganism or vegans. That is your choice. It is because you are a narrow minded twat who gets published in one of our country’s biggest newspapers, and makes me question if I want to do the same. I think that in our country we should demand more than this garbage filling our sources of news and entertainment.
Also, SMH, if this is the quality of writing that gets a gig in your Saturday edition, surely you can hook me up with a job?