Except it’s not.
Even the academic paper didn’t assume a scenario in which beef consumption is legally curtailed; it simply looked at what would happen if we radically cut down the amount of beef we eat.
Cue the right-wing meltdown anyway. The UK tabloid The Daily Mail ran the first story, ludicrously asserting that Biden’s climate plan could force Americans to eat as little as four pounds of beef a year. Fox again decided to dispense with the “news” part of its name, with several hosts simply repeating that false claim on-air, apparently with no fact-checking or confirmation. And then Republican politicians picked it up and ran with it, fueling a cycle of misinformation.
None of this happens by accident. American conservative politicians have proven themselves less and less interested in engaging on policy questions on the merits, perhaps because their positions are increasingly radical and unpopular. To distract from what they actually stand for, they latch onto a series of often make-believe culture war claims that have no bearing on leadership and legislation, from “cancel culture” to “wokeness” to, now, red meat.
If you dig deep enough into at least some of the claims meant to rile you up, you’ll find a kernel of real debate — not typically a policy dispute, but an outsized reaction to a genuine cultural shift.
In other words, there’s more robust discourse around meat-eating, and Americans are shifting their individual choices. What there is not: Any effort to legislate how much beef we can legally eat.
Conservatives don’t seem to want to have these nuanced conversations, though, and instead turn them into malign distractions. Indeed, the Republican Party and right-wing media have so thoroughly devolved that they barely stand for anything — though they stand against plenty, and the primary thing they stand against is “the libs.”
Liberals are questioning how much red meat we should eat? Well, then red meat becomes a right-wing rallying cry.
If you want to understand why the country is so paralyzed by division, look no further than this moment. Liberals and Democrats didn’t actually do anything to limit anyone’s right to eat or enjoy red meat. Joe Biden didn’t propose a single policy to limit beef consumption. He simply recognized that climate change is real. Separately, but relatedly, scientists recognized that the American rate of beef consumption probably isn’t great for us or our planet’s future.
In a saner society, individual citizens would be looking at the scientific evidence in front of us and wondering if we should perhaps cut back on the burgers. Instead, there’s an entire media apparatus and political party lying pretty much all the time in order to froth up anger and reaction — and to cement some bizarre idea that gorging on red meat is foundational to being a Real American.
Conservative media and even members of the Republican Party have concluded that it benefits them to pretend that they’re being victimized. The reality is that no one is coming for anyone’s hamburgers. But bad-faith actors on Fox News and in the GOP are coming for the truth itself.