Does Cory Booker want to ban the eating of meat?
No, of course not. And it’s such a preposterous suggestion, most people would roll their eyes and ignore it. But that didn’t keep a local Iowa TV station from running a story based on the fake controversy that generated from an online right-wing freakout over an old Booker interview.
KCCI put out a story after Booker’s first trip to Iowa about the online chatter over the Veg News interview where the senator talked about his veganism choices. In the station’s defense, it didn’t repeat some of the more ridiculous conservative attacks on Booker.
But a big question is whether such a story should even get started based off the disingenuous, false attacks from the political fringes. Because when you start off with a certain framing, it dictates how the rest of the story reads.
The situation began in part thanks to a Daily Caller story that focused in particularly on one quote of Booker’s:
“The tragic reality is this planet simply can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture because of environmental impact,” he said.
That then quick turned around into right-wing memes of “Booker will ban meat.”
Spartacus wants to ban eating of meat, cheese and eggs. I guess Beto won't be going Keto! What's wrong with these people? Do ppl like Spartacus, AOC, and the vile anti-Semitic Omar and Tlaib really represent the views of the Dems? https://t.co/ygMN3lG8PG
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) February 13, 2019
Now, as you might imagine, the actual interview that Booker gave with Veg News was far more nuanced and interesting than what a bunch of right-wing provocateurs reduced it to.
“None of us want our government or elected officials preaching to us and telling us what we can or can’t eat,” Booker also said. “This is the United States of America, and I, for one, believe in our freedom to choose. So, I don’t want to preach to anybody about their diets; that’s just not how I live. But I am who I am.”
He also spoke about problems with big, corporate agricultural practices.
“So, legislatively, I want to continue to be a part of a movement of folk who are fighting against corporate interests that are undermining the public good and the public welfare,” Booker continued. “So, I’m going to continue supporting bills that are about public health, whether it is pumping in all these antibiotics into animals that are literally threatening the safety of Americans.”
And his actual full comments on the challenges that the planet faces when it comes to consumption wasn’t anything out of left field. It was a recitation of the pretty well-accepted facts around where industrial, corporate agriculture is headed. He made an extended point of how China is importing large quantities of pork produced on large-scale, polluting, industrialized operations in America, essentially outsourcing pollution to this country.
“This doesn’t mean, in any way, getting rid of animal farming, but in many ways, it means lifting up the voices of small farmers again,” Booker said. “Lifting up the voices of midsize farmers who are being beaten and killed by this corporate consolidation that’s taken over … of American farming as we know it because of the incredible power of these large corporate animal agriculture monopolies. It’s just crushing our ideas of family farms, crushing our ideas of the power of the American farmer.”
Talking about fighting for small family farms is typically what plays well in Iowa and something that even Republican politicians do here (whether their policies actually match up or not). The Register noted his comments on agricultural issues during his first Iowa stop in Mason City. And the senator has introduced legislation that would put a moratorium on corporate ag mergers.
Booker is most certainly not the only candidate that has gotten his share of ridiculously-framed stories bouncing around both the mainstream and far-right news bubbles this year. Sometimes, though, those “controversies” are largely quarantined to political Twitter and right-wing fringe sites. The worrisome part comes when it filters down into the more traditional and local media.
Because it is important on how any media story starts out. And sure, there are plenty of policy concerns that every candidate will have to deal with. But how differently does a news article sound if it starts with a candidate’s talk about fighting corporate ag mergers instead of one based off of quotes that were wildly distorted by the right-wing noise machine? Always consider the source of the outrage.
by Pat Rynard