A few weeks ago I watched Making a Murderer, the latest Netflix binge bait that’s been the subject of so much water cooler talk. Phew! I’ll keep my opinions to myself, but I confess, I watched all ten hours bingily, then spent a few more reading media accounts of the film-making itself as well as the trial(s) that served as subject of the film.
I will say it is blood curdling. This is my tribe, my paunchy Wisconsin peeps, laid bare for all the world to scoff at.
Why did I say that?
Throughout this epic documentary, the filmmakers found it necessary to provide on-screen subtitles whenever the salt o’ the earth cheeseheads were talking most privately. This wasn’t due to hushed tones or bad audio. I could hear and understand just fine without the subtitles. In fact, I didn’t realize what was afoot until I’d nearly completed my zombie transformation around hour nine: Wisconsinese requires translation, because it is a distinctly different language from fluent American! And it’s not an improvement to the general vernacular.
I wasn’t the only one to notice. In the reader comments that follow many e-media pieces on the documentary, the discussion often detours briefly into comparisons between the menacing hillbillies of Deliverance and the cast of characters (accused, police and councel alike) in Making a Murderer. There are also many derogatory comments on the prevalent, Packer-garb-stretching Wisco-physiques. Seems this is all related (in the commenters’ minds) to, at best, perception of a widespread boneheaded gullibility in a specific upper Midwestern demographic west of Lake Michigan.
The dim view of the collective intelligence of my in-state biomass got me to thinking. What else, as a band of brothers and sisters, have us brain-frozen Wisconsinites fallen for, hook, line and hole in the ice? There has to be more, and, if my gut is correct, it has to do with just that. Our big ol’ guts.
There are a lot of big guts in Wisconsin, as even a casual stroll through any of our beloved ruralscapes will reveal. Cityscapes, too. Why? Are we a herd of hopeless overeaters and underexercisers? More so, I mean, than citizens of other states? Not according to my sources. Is it a Great Lakes glandular thing? Maybe our cleansing bio valves have frozen shut due to lake effect. Perhaps, but I suspect prevailing westerly winds make that more of a Michigander malady.
If recent missives from scienceville are correct, or even close to correct, our collective Wisconsinite spare tire may have more to do with all the cows in the background as Avery is shuttled from prison to courthouse to home and back to prison again.
Antibiotics. They’re in the cows, and we eat the cows.
Here’s the short of it. The beef industry has taken advantage of a weird observation it made while the ’57 Chevy was still on the drawing board. When cattle are given antibiotics, they gain weight really fast, which means money in the bank really fast, so cattle get a lot of antibiotics. Today, seventy-five percent, give or take, of all antibiotics administered, are given to farm animals, not humans—and not to make them well, but to make them fat.
Google “Antibiotics and weight gain,” and you will find yourself facing a full month’s worth of bedtime reading on this disquieting topic. You’ll learn that many scientists suspect more than a casual link between broad agricultural antibiotic use and broad American waistlines. In a December, 2015, Atlantic piece by James Hamblin, titled “Are Antibiotics Making People Larger?” I find this sinew:
…similar evidence [fecal transplants that turn skinny mice into fat mice] has begun to win over many scientists, including…Lee Riley, chair of the division of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the University of California, Berkeley, who comes off even more assured that the relationship is affecting humans. “We’re animals, just like food animals,” Riley said “We give them antibiotics so they get fat. We are exposed to those antibiotics. It seems like a very common sense idea.”
… Of course, most people who are overweight have not had a fecal transplant. Most people will never need a fecal transplant. But the idea that a person can essentially contract obesity because of a change in gut microbes is at once exciting and unnerving—because exposure to microbe-altering drugs [antibiotics] in day-to-day life has become almost inevitable.
Good science or common sense matters not to street-cred-less me; this is a blog and I can say just about anything. I might be making this up for all you know, sort of the way the creators of Making a Murderer are accused of making stuff up—or, more precisely, leaving stuff out.
The wise and even-keeled will wait for more evidence before switching to organic meat, right? The jury isn’t even close to deliberations yet, and it will be a long wait. This expensive corner of research—where many individual long-term diets must be controlled and analyzed in clinical trials and weighed against a lifetime of antibiotic exposure—is profoundly difficult to execute. In fact, it may never happen. But we’re prolly all right, though, ‘cause food companies usually try not to mislead anybody.