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Ed Driscoll

Ten Years Gone

July 18th, 2013 - 1:47 pm

“Oregon Fluoridation: Proof that Liberals are the New Puritans,” the New Republic notes in the metatag to this article by Mark Oppenheimer:

Today, of course, while the right still dabbles eagerly in the anti-fluoride, anti-vaccination, and other anti-science pathologies, the left may be the even greater culprit. Certainly the anti-fluoride coalition in Portland depended more on self-identified liberal voters than on conservatives. But there are key differences in how liberals and conservatives come by their fears. On the right, these mental illnesses stem from fear of government. On the left, their origins are a bit harder to pin down, but as I see it, they stem from an old mix of righteousness and the fear of contamination—from what we might recognize as Puritanism.

Let me give another example of left-wing Puritanism in action, one less glaring than the Portland referendum but which will be recognizable to many of you. Last month, at a birthday party for a three-year-old, I was hit with the realization that most of the parents around me were in the grip of moral panic, the kind of fear of contamination dramatized so well in The Crucible. One mother was trying to keep her daughter from eating a cupcake, because of all the sugar in cupcakes. Another was trying to limit her son to one juice box, because of all the sugar in juice. A father was panicking because there was no place, in this outdoor barn-like space at some nature center or farm or wildlife preserve, where his daughter could wash her hands before eating. And while I did not hear any parent fretting about the organic status of the veggie dip, I became certain there were such whispers all around me.

Like any moral panic, nobody was immune to its contagion. Soon, I was fretting—but for different reasons. For all I knew, some of these kids weren’t immunized, and they were fed only unpasteurized milk. The other parents were worried about germs and microbes and genetically modified apricots—I was worried about the parents. I was surrounded by the new Puritans: self-righteous, aspiring toward a utopian perfectionism, therefore condemned to perpetual anxiety—and in their anxiety, a threat to me and my children.

The actual headline of Oppenheimer’s article is “The New Puritans: When did liberals become so uptight?” In the event that the author isn’t merely speaking rhetorically, but actually wants an answer to his query, perhaps the date that this Reason magazine article by Ronald Bailey on the left’s growing Dr. Strangelove-esque obsession with fluoride was published might begin to narrow things down:

In 1992, libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard reprised the Covert Action story in an article for the John Birch Society-affiliated magazine The New American. In that article Rothbard wondered, “It has always been a bit of a mystery to me why left-environmentalists, who shriek in horror at a bit of Alar on apples, who cry ‘cancer’ even more absurdly than the boy cried ‘Wolf,’ who hate every chemical additive known to man, still cast their benign approval upon fluoride, a highly toxic and probably carcinogenic substance.”

Of course, the answer to this conundrum is that the left couldn’t oppose fluoridation because it was originally promoted as a public health measure. However, as soon as it was reframed as a “capitalist ploy,” left-wingers could respectably begin to campaign against it. Fear of fluoride was on.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Green Party candidate and left-wing icon Ralph Nader came out against fluoridation. Now groups like the Sierra Club claim that there are “valid concerns” about the “potential adverse impact of fluoridation on the environment, wildlife, and human health.” Often-cited “adverse health impacts” of fluoridated water include bone cancer, depressed thyroid function, lowered IQ, weakened bones, and discolored teeth. As the perpetual unscientific environmentalist campaigns against trace amounts of synthetic chemicals show, the left is now the political tendency most desperately afraid of impurifying our precious bodily fluids.

In May 2000, the ideological environmentalist opposition to fluoridation got a further boost with the formation of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN). FAN founders include such alarmist luminaries as the late David Brower (former Sierra Club executive director and founder of Friends of the Earth), Teddy Goldsmith (founding editor of The Ecologist), Gar Smith (Earth Island Institute), and Terri Swearingen (Ohio anti-incineration activist).

That’s from “‘Impurifying our precious bodily fluids’ — Fear of fluoridation takes a left turn,” which, as you might have guessed from the years listed in the above passage, was published in Reason in December of 2001, well over a decade ago.

More on the puritanical left, right after our profit-induced page break.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Right on the money, both as to the science and the principles.

Most people are blissfully unaware that the fluoride compound that's put into our water is NOT the same fluoride compound that a dentist puts on your teeth.

In fact, the aluminum industry has to treat it as a toxic waste, one of the worst. Disposal is very expensive.

Unless, of course, they sell it as an additive to our water supply. Oh.

Never mind the communist plots on this one folks.

Just follow the money.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm with the liberals in Oregon.

You ought to learn something about fluoridation. The process is anti-science. One, fluoridation of teeth through drinking water is the most inefficient delivery of fluoride imaginable. Two, fluoride has been proved far less useful to teeth beyond the formative stages of children. So adults ingesting the fluoride in the water supply is pretty meaningless as a decay preventive, rather represents only a risk in terms of fluoride's effects on the body. Three, the industrial derivation of sodium fluoride used in the water supply is a byproduct of aluminum -- the cheapest, least effective and most toxic form of fluoride. Aluminum has also been cited as a contributing agent in Alzheimer's Disease (I won't conjecture on the correlation between the rise of Alzheimers and the modern spread of fluoride in water supplies. That would be kooky and conspiratorial). Stannous fluoride as opposed to sodium fluoride is more effective in strengthening tooth enamel, but should be applied individually and topically, not physically ingested.

As conseratives, or simply as common-sense people interested in our health, why would we support the government's introduction of a toxic element into our water supply rather than reserve the right and choice to do administer a treatment ourselves as the chemical is readily available to consumers?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I get the point, and I don't mean to throw cold water on anyone's chuckles about leftist busybodies, but to suggest that today's leftists are the descendants of 17th Century Puritans is false, and does a great disservice to the Puritans.

The Puritans lived under strict moral codes, parts of which might have been too legalistic, but many of them, including many of their pastors, were sincere Christians who believed in the dignity and worth of individuals. Those latter two points alone show how wide the gulf is between the Puritans and today's leftists. And contrary to stereotypes promoted by writers of Playboy and other modern "historians" of sterling credentials, Puritans were not anti-sex. They did strongly believe in containing sex within strict guidelines. And with regard to condemning holidays such as Christmas, they actually might have had a point, considering the mania that we now see at Christmastime. We might not want to swing the pendulum completely back to all Puritanical strictures, but our culture could sure use a lot more self-restraint.

In reply to teapartydoc, the Puritans would be horrified at today's "Reformed Churches," as you call them. The mainline denominations which descended via tortuous routes from Puritan times have strayed far from Scripture, and Puritans would sternly disapprove of that. Jonathan Edwards and earlier theologians would be horrified at today's liberal/left "Reformed" teachings. To say that today's United Church of Christ is just like the 17th Century Puritans is like saying that a heroin-addicted, Occupy-Wall-Street trust-fund-baby is just like his great-great-great-grandfather who worked his way from farm laborer to gilded age tycoon.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (35)
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Of course liberals are Puritans. Their overuse of the word "pristine" should be a red flag. They use it to discuss the environment they are trying to save, and they use it to describe the Baby Boom toys still in their packages, which they collect and sell on eBay. They are as obsessed with dirt and imperfection as a Puritan goodewife or a character in a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story. Their obsession with facelifts, free-radicals, anti-oxidants, toxins, exercise, aerobics and yoga in their quest for bodily perfection is terrifying.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Now you guys are getting smart. It is a religion, and it uses religious language and thought to frame its narrative. Look at all the reference to guilt and evil and so on and so forth. Look at the calls for heroic action mirroring Moses or Joshua.

It is also very regressive, looking backwards to such concepts as 'just value' now fairness or equity, all just empty words when killed during enlightenment. Schumpeter had it figured but who reads him now?

Worst of all the churches have hopped on the social justice dealio, so we are promised heaven right here on earth if we ignore the truth and are willing to kill enough of our demonized enemy.

I will be over when people realize again that it is empty lies, as we have before.

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
--Do children actually drink much tap water any more?

--The fluoridated chlorinated Seattle water, because it is soft, has daily peaks in the acid level. The peaks accelerate rust of iron an corrosion of copper. This is despite the water company adding lime to the water to buffer the acid, beginning in the 1970s.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Oppenheimer’s article is “The New Puritans"

The only problem is that the Puritan's kept their standards mostly within their own house of Worship. On the other hand the Victorians tried to push their standards upon all of society. So the article should be named the new Victorians.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
You'll find the "Victorians" were a pretty mixed bag, morally and politically. They argued about this kind of stuff as much as we do.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why do conservatives keep coming down on the statist side of the fluoridation issue? We don't have to agree on whether sodium fluoride is beneficial or harmful or neutral, but we should agree that the government has no right to compel everyone to ingest it on the claim that it helps children have better teeth.

There are plenty of fluoridated toothpastes on the market -- which, by the way, we've long been warned not to swallow. The challenge is finding a fluoride-free variety if you prefer. It should be up to citizens, in consultation with their dentists, to decide whether and how to apply fluoride to their teeth.

The fact that many on the left oppose something doesn't make it a good thing. And the government advocates of compulsory fluoride-ingestion are often not conservative.

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is not enough fluoride in the municipal water to be a toxicity issue. Seriously folks. Any of you in this thread who are coming out against fluoridated water are falling prey to the "particulate matter ratio" hysteria that has given us an EPA from Hell and assorted rabid environmentalists. Nothing bad will happen to you from drinking tap water with fluoride in it.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Adding fluoride to everyone's drinking water is not within the legitimate powers of government. The only legitimate additives are those that would neutralize harmful bacteria. Beyond that, free people have a right to decide what is beneficial to ingest and what is not.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Left-wing moral panic usually revolves around issues of personal health (other than STDs, since criticizing these illnesses would involve being judgmental about personal behavioral choices). Since the Left is secular, lefties fear illness and death much more than people of faith. Rigorously avoiding tobacco and sugar won't make anyone immortal. Lefties end up with the same fanaticism about health issues that the Saudi Arabian morals police demonstrate about unveiled women: the slightest deviation from the standard is a tremendous threat to everyone's well-being and can't be tolerated. This is just silly.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm with the liberals in Oregon.

You ought to learn something about fluoridation. The process is anti-science. One, fluoridation of teeth through drinking water is the most inefficient delivery of fluoride imaginable. Two, fluoride has been proved far less useful to teeth beyond the formative stages of children. So adults ingesting the fluoride in the water supply is pretty meaningless as a decay preventive, rather represents only a risk in terms of fluoride's effects on the body. Three, the industrial derivation of sodium fluoride used in the water supply is a byproduct of aluminum -- the cheapest, least effective and most toxic form of fluoride. Aluminum has also been cited as a contributing agent in Alzheimer's Disease (I won't conjecture on the correlation between the rise of Alzheimers and the modern spread of fluoride in water supplies. That would be kooky and conspiratorial). Stannous fluoride as opposed to sodium fluoride is more effective in strengthening tooth enamel, but should be applied individually and topically, not physically ingested.

As conseratives, or simply as common-sense people interested in our health, why would we support the government's introduction of a toxic element into our water supply rather than reserve the right and choice to do administer a treatment ourselves as the chemical is readily available to consumers?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Right on the money, both as to the science and the principles.

Most people are blissfully unaware that the fluoride compound that's put into our water is NOT the same fluoride compound that a dentist puts on your teeth.

In fact, the aluminum industry has to treat it as a toxic waste, one of the worst. Disposal is very expensive.

Unless, of course, they sell it as an additive to our water supply. Oh.

Never mind the communist plots on this one folks.

Just follow the money.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Be careful! Your ignorance is showing.

Well, actually it's bigotry.


You really ought to learn something about the Pilgrims. I mean, something other than the caricature the left has fed you.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Isn't there a difference between the Pilgrims, and the Puritans?
But then, to a lot of people, Dead White Europeans all look the same.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, to be fair, after enough time has passed, they DO all look the same.

;-)
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
You could argue that conservatives are puritanical about sex, drugs, and the Constitution while are puritanical about everything else.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...while LIBERALS" are puritanical..."

Note to PJM: Please give us the ability to edit and delete comments!

Thank you.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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