Stupid Political Pressure Groups of Yore: S.P.U.D.

From the so-stupid-it’s-hard-to-believe-it’s-true department, did you know that in 18th century Britain, there was an organization called the “Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet” (the acronym of which, S.P.U.D., may or may not have been a possible origin of the English nickname for the potato)?

The group was dedicated to keeping potato cultivation out of the United Kingdom. Its members had, in their minds, iron-clad reasons for keeping the potato out of the country, like the fact that because it was never mentioned in the Bible, therefore it had to be evil. As a member of the nightshade family, the potato probably contained atropine as well, which all God-fearing, upstanding citizens knew was the substance witches used to make themselves fly.

 

A lot of potatoes.

The face of evil, from Wikipedia.

 

So, obviously, one of the most nutritious foods on the planet had to be, to SPUD’s members, completely unwholesome, and it had to be banned. They would also make outlandish and unsubstantiated claims that the potato caused rickets, syphilis, tuberculosis, and obesity, not to mention rampant lust and general societal collapse.

Exactly how an obese tuberculosis sufferer with rickets was going to be filled with lust is frankly beyond my ability to comprehend, but at least “tuberculosis” has the word “tuber” in it. I’m sure somebody on television today could make a big chalkboard diagram highlighting that connection and demonstrating how it all relates to moral relativism and socialist conspiracies devised by the U.N. and anyone who ever met Bill Ayers to sap away our precious, but strangely undefined, American freedom.

Of course, while these fine moralists were trying to block the potato from Britain as part of their noble effort to keep lust and hyperbolic Witchcraft at bay, other, less fortunate people were dying of malnutrition that could have been prevented by the tuber’s widespread adoption. But, the fates of the little people didn’t matter when there were Big Ideas to defend at all costs.

Eventually, common sense won the day and the sanctimonious fools of SPUD were consigned to the ashbin of historical punchlines, but it took some time to do so — too much time for the malnourished unfortunates of their era.

Infer whatever parallels between then and now you’d like.

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