What Was Mark Bittman Thinking?

Stephen Dubner has drawn my attention to a recent comment by Mark Bittman, the main food writer at the New York Times (the most prestigious and influential newspaper in the world), on his NY Times blog:

Sysco is the latest food giant . . . to come out against gestation crate confinement of pigs. . . .

Speaking of pigs, the VP of PR for Chick-fil-A dropped dead of a heart attack the week after the chain’s latest homophobia/anti-gay marriage scandal.

As Dubner says, my first reaction is: Was the Times website hacked? Apparently not. My second reaction: Is Bittman in good health? If so, I hope he will explain why he thought it was a good idea to call a person a pig. That the person in question recently died and his family is grieving makes this even stranger. Dubner emailed Bittman about it but got an automated reply.

More. Bittman removed the comparison and apologized.

13 Replies to “What Was Mark Bittman Thinking?”

  1. The apparent joke/gibe was inappropriate and insensitive. Ethically, it’s maybe questionable, depending mainly on whether the spokeman’s family is likely to happen upon this comment.

    The behavior of Cathy and Chick-fil-A is simply appalling. Ethically, it’s utterly out of bounds.

    It’s important to call things out, but also to note the relative perspective.

  2. What is wrong with calling a person a pig? Just because someone died doesn’t mean we have to pretend they were fabulous. Maybe the guy was cruel & evil. Maybe his family isn’t grieving, but celebrating. I’m not saying it is likely, but it is possible.

    Seth: Bittman called him a pig because of the company he worked for, not because of his personal traits. Why is calling a person a pig a bad idea? Because I believe it usually does more harm than good. Leaders, of course, love conflict — it empowers them. For them, from a purely selfish point of view, treating other people as dirt really works. But the conflict (e.g., war) they cause by this behavior — which their followers imitate — is usually a terrible thing for everyone else (e.g., lots of people die). Most people aren’t leaders. Bittman, for example, gains nothing by calling anyone a pig. He merely looks bad. The simplest answer to the question “why is calling a person a pig a bad thing” is: It makes you look bad.

  3. Yes — a man’s early death is only a relative tragedy, which must be carefully weighed against the fact that his boss’s religious belief miffs you.

    Because the dead person is obviously a baddie. No way he might just be a decent African American executive nearing retirement after decades of just doing his job & providing a better life for his kids than he’d had.

    Read this and and see if you’re still as delighted by his death:


    Oh, BTW, what specific part of Cathy’s personal behavior was out of bounds or appalling, and why?

    And what specific corporate behaviors are you referring to?

    Has the corporation even expressed an opinion? Or are you just offended that they’re not open on Sundays?

    A whole lotta conflation/sloppy thinking/bigotry on this issue.

    And it’s kind of amazing how quickly a sense of entitlement has grown around gay marriage.

    It might be better to make sure Obama wins before you demonize people for expressing their religious belief….in an interview with a Baptist magazine, no less. (Pardon the relativism.)

    If Obama loses, gay marriage might not be as inevitable as some are thinking.

    (Hell, Obama only went all-in because Biden forced his hand by not being able to shut up!)

    How inspiring!

  4. Tom wrote: “No way he might just be a decent African American executive nearing retirement after decades of just doing his job & providing a better life for his kids than he’d had.”

    He might be, I don’t know. Maybe Bittman can clarify what makes Don Perry a pig in his eyes.

  5. Yes, “demonizing people for religious belief” those poor poor victims who hide behind religion to justify hatred and discrimination. As the Westboro Baptist Church has shown, there is no limit to the depths that people will sink to justify these hatreds in the name of religion.

    Women shouldn’t have access to birth control? Religion! Two consenting adults shouldn’t marry? Religion! Evolution didn’t happen? Religion! There is really no end to what a certain sector of society will be satisfied with when hiding their baser beliefs behind their “religion”. Certain members of our congress actually felt emboldened to say that insurance companies should be able to refuse coverage for any procedure, pharmaceutical etc that they didn’t believe in. Sorry Aunt Millie, no cancer treatment for you, it’s against my religion!

    I don’t think Bittman picked the best way to express his opinion on Dan Cathy and his restaurant, but I do think think it’s time for to for people to stop cowering in front of clearly discriminatory and hurtful beliefs just because they’re done in the name of religion.

  6. Again with the sloppy thinking. I guess being right means never having to reason anything through.

    it’s time for to for people to stop cowering in front of clearly discriminatory and hurtful beliefs

    Wow, this is insane: “clearly discriminatory and hurtful beliefs” BELIEFS? You contend you deserve dominion over what they BELIEVE?

    Good luck with that. I’m sure it’ll be an effective use of your time on Earth.

    Or does “people” not mean you, but merely gay and/or vegan columnists you agree with? In which case an end-zone dance on the occasion of another person’s heart attack — an EMPLOYEE tasked with cleaning up his boss’s mess — is hunky-dory?

    Please tell us: how many degrees of separation from the guily party are required before death becomes too harsh a penalty?

    And what does “stop cowering” actually mean, since it makes no literal sense?

    Does “stop cowering” mean deface their outlets with 10 foot high graffiti? Because that is a literal crime, but inside the jurisdiction of your skull is merely the cessation of “cowering”?

    Or does “stop cowering” mean a closeted CFO from an unrelated company interfering with another company’s business, harassing its helpless minimum-wage employee from the safety of his Lexus, then posting video of her on the web without her consent? While loudly and defensively asserting his heterosexuality?

    My hero! Way to not-cower!

    Back on Earth, what you think of as “not cowering” actually looks like boneheaded, vicious, tone-deaf narcissism.

  7. For someone who talks about reason, your post is certainly devoid of any. Sheesh, what a big pot of word soup teeming with hyperbole. Ten foot high graffiti? Harassing helpless employees? That’s like accusing every pro-lifer of approving the gunning down abortion providers. I already stated that I don’t think Bittman picked the best way to express his opinion about Dan Cathy, but why pay attention to anything I’ve stated when you can off on an outraged rant?

    I never stated that I wanted dominion over anyone’s beliefs, I stated I wanted the right to question those beliefs without being told they are off bounds because they are religious beliefs. If someone doesn’t believe in two consenting adults having the right to get married, let them make a coherent argument for why instead of hiding behind “my priest/pastor/religious text told me so”.

    I really don’t care what anyone believes until those beliefs start affecting other peoples lives that don’t share those beliefs. Believe in heaven? Fine. Believe Jesus rose from the dead? Fine. Believe gays shouldn’t marry? Why? Believe woman shouldn’t have access to legal reproductive health care? Why? What gives you the right to have your religious beliefs negatively affect the lives of others? No one is forcing you to get an abortion or marry a same sex partner if you don’t believe in those things. The same respect should be afforded to others who don’t hold the same views.

  8. Seth, thanks for calling a spade a spade.

    As a Christian I believe what Christ says, which mentions nothing about hate, but love. Some who are hateful are not true Christians, but want to belittle others to make themselves feel self-righteous. As a single man, i’m not zealous about the subject, but many parents do not want to live in a culture that promotes ideals that go against our beliefs and have their children believe what is not taught by our faith.

    The best solution would be to have the government get out of the business of sanctioning marriage. It is not biblical to put politics in the Christianity forefront. Christ said as much. God is love, that means everyone. I do not expect for one second for unbelievers to accept my ideals, or should anyone else who knows scripture. I do have difficulty understanding why those who are not religious to believe marriage to a same sex partner is necessary for happiness. Sorry, that so many on my side have come across as intolerant, but the same can be said for the other side.

    Also, where is the outrage against Muslims who put to death and are truly hate mongers of homosexuals.

    We ALL have done wrong and should not judge or expect others to believe as we do. If you do not believe as I do, then there is no reason to accept my view, but calling us all a hate group is not a good reason to condemn us for our beliefs. Tolerance.

    I hope we can all express our views without so much anger and hostility, but with open and honest discourse.

  9. BlueMorrissey:

    Thanks for most of that! (Mostly) quite reasonable. However, I would say:

    “where is the outrage against Muslims who put to death and are truly hate mongers of homosexuals” Well, they’re not doing that in my town, or state, so I guess that’s why we don’t get as upset. What people do wrong here in America is more upsetting than what people do on the opposite side of the planet. It’s just human nature to care more about things closer to oneself.

    And this? “I do have difficulty understanding why those who are not religious to believe marriage to a same sex partner is necessary for happiness.” Well, why would one believe that marriage to an opposite sex partner is necessary for happiness? Or perhaps, since you’re a single person, you’d rather not answer that. Anyway, what’s the difference? Presumably many people, gay or not, wish to be married. Is that so odd?

  10. I understand we do not get outraged at Muslims because we do no interact with them much in this country. As a matter of fact I do not know any. By the way, they treat Christians in the same matter as homosexuals, so we can both agree that intolerance is wrong in every sense.

    You have a point about heterosexuals wanting to be married for happiness. I guess my own personal bias is that marriage is a religious ceremony and those who are not religious want marriage instead of a civil union. It’s not odd I suppose. It doesn’t affect me or Christians in the grand scheme of things. We believe Christ is God and all the other matters are societal and not a big concern of mine. I pray for Christians and non Christians all the same. We are all the same in some sense, but we just have different worldviews and should respect our differences.

    I just believe we can express our beliefs without being called a hate group just like gay people do not like being told God hates them, which is totally false. I do not have hate in my heart for anyone and I am sure many of those with different views feel the same. There are radicals on both sides.

    I do live in a bit of a cocoon, but have gay friends and relatives who I care very much for. I think the majority of true Christians feel the same way.

    Thanks for you reasonable response.

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