Tilting at Controversy

food babeI was going to write a blog post on an entirely different topic, but then something very interesting is happening right now on Amazon and it deserves a few words.

A book by Vani Hari (The Food Babe Way) was released today and if you have a bit of time go over to Amazon and read some of the reviews. For the most part, the reviews fall into one of two categories, 5 stars or 1 star. There’s very little in-between.

What’s really interesting is that most of the 1-star reviews are nothing short of personal attacks on the author. The book was released today, and unless you received an advance copy (like I did for my review) I seriously doubt how some of the reviewers had the chance to read the entire book. And yet they appear to be out in full force.

If you are new to the Food Babe, she is a young woman (not a scientist, not a medical writer, and not a political reporter, but then she never claims to be any of those) who exposes some of the dangerous (in terms of health) chemicals in some of our foods. She’s passionate about her work and some of her statements come from that place of passion.

But you know what? As a writer, she’s allowed to let her passion fuel her writing.

Above all else, a writer is allowed to write what she believes. We, as the reader, don’t have to read it or even agree with it. We can always put the book down. We have that right.

Due to her activism, Hari’s gotten some big food companies to change the ingredients they include in their foods. Sounds like a good thing, right? She was able to get Kraft to take a dye out of their American Mac and Cheese that had already been removed because of health concerns in their European products.

It’s a good solid message – try to avoid added chemicals. Know what’s in your food. Follow good health habits.

And yet, she is taking a double-fisted beating both on Amazon and Twitter. Hari is tilting her lance at the big food industry and they seem to be pulling out some big guns in return. If they get caught in her cross-hairs, it won’t be good for business and the results could prove costly. Big food has a lot invested in discrediting this particular author.

As a writer, I hate to see this. I’d like to think that if you have a disagreement with my writing that we could enter into a civilized discussion about it. Criticism is one thing, hate attacks are quite another.

Spoiler alert – here’s the moral of this post just a little bit early – If you try to change things, you will receive interference from people who do not want things to change.

I’m not going to defend Hari in this post, if you want to know what I felt about her book go here. I’m just going to say that as writers, if you take on a controversial topic (like I have with chronic Lyme disease) you will need to develop a thick skin. When it comes to controversial topics there will always be those who are out for blood.

In a time when anyone can create a fake account (and in this case, there is talk of people creating several accounts under which they are posting reviews) and when the internet is so open that it invites anonymous personal attacks under the guise of reviews, then you’d better be quite certain you’re ready for any and all consequences before you publish your work.

I’m not trying to scare anyone, and I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from writing about a controversy (just as I will continue to write about the multitude of failures with regard to Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment), but I do want to caution you that if write about a controversial topic, you absolutely must be prepared for controversy in response.



Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

20 thoughts on “Tilting at Controversy

  1. Good luck to anyone who skirts controversy. If it’s any help, if people are attacking your personality, it’s because they don’t have a logical argument. At that point stick to your guns, because you’re probably in the right.

  2. It’s sad that people hide behind a computer with fake confidence and try to blast someone to make themselves feel better. I don’t know anything about this woman so I won’t say anything but if she is helping our foods to become less processed, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Who would? I’ve learned to make a lot of my own foods (granola bars, cookies, coffee creamer) because I can’t stand the ingredients they put in some of these things.
    Kudos for her taking on a huge industry. It’s not easy.

  3. Hi Wendy,
    I am a fan of Vani and what she’s standing up for because artificial everything is making this world and the folks in it, ill. No doubt about it. I even passionately go into this subject in my book, ‘The Last Wave, A NDE’, because after I came back from ‘the other side’ and survived a near-drowning, I was more spiritual and more hypersensitive than before the near-death experience. It cued my body’s search for real food so I started doing research and what I found was shocking. These are things she is revealing and the trolls have no foundation because everyone knows now that fake food kills.
    This is very serious stuff and you are right, armor and a shield is necessary when in the ring.
    p.s. please check on the mac n cheese thing, she did her best on that one but in the end Kraft is still adding the yellow numbers of fake dye.
    Great article and this got my blood pressure up because this is the one of the most important causes for humanities health.

  4. Well… I am always in shock when I see the term “controversy” which seems to sound more as “conspiracy”. Isn’t it natural to want to eat food without crap in it? Isn’t it natural to denounce those big companies who put all these toxic chemicals in our food just for their profit? Are we in a society of “zip the lips” and eat and do what I say? I think the real controversy/conspiracy is what they are doing and not the fact of talking about it and demanding that they take it out… We are in a reverse world where it is real BAD to stand up against the stupidity of these companies… in a world where we are expected to just crawl in front of their decisions and gobbled their s..t without even a whisper.

    As a vegan/raw, a teacher and one who is speaking out too, I agree 2 million % with Vani and admire her courage to stand up for all the ones who don’t know, for the ones who believe in these companies lies, or who are too afraid to look up and say something. We all have to stop bowing down in front of those who think they have power over us and straighten up.

  5. I will be brief. I am currently in college studying to be a nutritionist. Her ‘studies’ are not from credible resources, she fear mongers our food supply and has absolutely ZERO credentials in the field. Yet she is making millions duping people into buying her claims. People are upset because she goes against logic and science and I can’t blame them. She is just another flash in the pan putting out false information and she needs to be stopped. People who have degrees and spend their life committed to securing our food supply are shocked at the awful claims she puts out. Its sad. Im so tired of internet sensations like her making false claims. Before you follow anything else of hers, I beg you to look at both sides of the story. You will be shocked at how off base she really is and how many lies she is spreading. Stop giving her your money and time and invest it in better resources. She disgusts me!

  6. “For the most part, the reviews fall into one of two categories, 5 stars or 1 star. There’s very little in-between.” This statement hit me. Wendy, isn’t this a picture of our society? We are all for or against something…very little moderation. As a writer, we all should be prepared to be criticized, but personal attacks are really not necessary.

  7. Actually, they don’t hide any of it. It is right there on the label, all people need to do is read it. I stopped buying Kraft Mac & Cheese over 20 years ago. The reason companies put the stuff in the food is it gives them an edge over the competition. People buy more of it. So then they “enhance” something else. And on and on. Read the labels and vote with your dollars. I’m a big supporter of Vani because she brings awareness to something that is right in front of people’s eyes and they don’t see it.

  8. Sounds like the book reviews have devolved into a typical online comments section instead of actual reviews. I remember this happening with other controversial Amazon products in the past.

    I will point out that the Food Babe isn’t all that popular among scientists, either, and that some of their criticisms are based on legitimate arguments. I wouldn’t let the trolls color your opinion of all her dissenters.

  9. I think good on anyone who can successfully publish a controversial book, whether fiction or non-fiction. It’s a pity when people attack the author personally rather than with legitimate arguments.

  10. Thank you Wendy! Through your advice to this writer (me), I have new found courage to write what I was meant to write on my blog! No more second guessing myself and I start fresh tomorrow. 😀

  11. Well said, Wendy! I like how you pull the topic from this author controversy without really taking a side, instead pointing to the flaws in our society. You are right. We must — as writers and simply as citizens — stand for what we believe and remain standing when criticism and attacks come our way. Great post!

  12. Vani, I am a thrice-married, thrice-divorced loser. I put that out there solely because you are good looking and may be interested in me the way my ex-wives were.

    Anyway, you keep standing up for the truth, what you believe is right. On the day of reckoning, there will only be one question asked. “Are you for The Man? Or Against The Man?” OK, that was two questions, but you get the point.

    Come visit me at http://www.FinneganDaley.Wordpress.Com when you are done putting those bullies in their place!

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