Did you hear that President Joe Biden is going to ration hamburgers and steaks and force red-blooded Americans to consume horrible things like Brussels sprouts and tofu in a bid to reduce carbon emissions?
No? If you weren’t watching Fox News this weekend or took a Twitter sanity break, you may have missed this mini kerfuffle in the bizarro world of conservative media.
Sorry to break it to the suddenly hopeful vegan activists out there, but it’s a bunch of, ah, baloney.
Biden has not proposed any restrictions on red meat as part of his climate plan or even hinted at such a thing. Frankly, the idea that this middle-of-the-road president would even contemplate such a radical agenda item is just so wacky it’s hard to believe it got any traction. This isn’t Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders we’re talking about.
So what’s the beef? It seems to have stemmed from a recent article in the Daily Mail, a U.K. tabloid so notoriously unreliable that even Wikipedia won’t use it as a source. The article conjectured that in order for Biden to meet his climate goals he may have to force Americans to reduce their red meat consumption in the U.S. by 90%, to about 4 pounds per year — which just goes to show you that after more than two centuries, the British still don’t quite get how we Yanks roll.
The story was based entirely on a University of Michigan study, conducted long before Biden was president or even the Democratic nominee, that explored the climate implications should Americans suddenly and without explanation replace half the animal-based foods in their meals with plant-based food. It never suggested government restrictions, and as far as we know Biden has never seen the study.
It’s the kind of clickbait-friendly fodder that audience engagement managers dream about. But the speculative nature of this article seems to have been lost in translation on this side of the pond by the conservative outrage machine, which isn’t very keen on nuance.
Fox News, various conservative commentators and elected officials shared the “news” with their followers, knowing it would be red meat to an audience that has been marinating for years in the narrative of how Democrats are trying to turn the country into some sort of communist hell by restricting everything that makes life worth living, such as guns, deadly viral infections, plastic straws and diesel-spewing monster trucks.
Before long the meme took on a life of its own. People like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reacted as if this was a real threat to the country for which they would just not stand. Overworked fact-checkers, like Daniel Dale at CNN, were forced to waste their time explaining in detail why this claim was manifestly untrue to people who were probably hearing about Biden’s supposed beef ban for the first time.
The irony here is that if Biden did restrict red meat, it would probably help many Fox News watchers avoid the coronary heart disease they are courting by consuming so much larded-up news.
Mariel Garza is an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times.
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