Nuts to You, Reader's Digest
After a while, it started showing up on the supermarket checkout racks, right next to the National Enquirer, with specially printed just-for-the-supermarket covers that blared "LOSE WEIGHT NOW!" The articles and condensed books degenerated into sensationalistic crime and disaster stories.
The slow slide of Reader's Digest into tabloid trashdom hit new depths in April 2006 when the magazine started printing a regular column called "Normal or Nuts?" The column solicits and answers letters from readers who describe their quirky behaviors and ask if they might be autistic, obsessive-compulsive, or otherwise "nuts." In most cases, they are reassured that they are "normal."
Allegedly, the column is intended as harmless humor and simply points out that it is normal to have a few quirks. Yeah, right... I wonder if they would print a similar feature called "White or (any racial slur)" and describe it as a lighthearted look at racial diversity?
When I first saw this column, I thought there was a possibility that the management of Reader's Digest might be genuinely unaware of how offensive it is. After all, if one adds up all the people who fall into the socio-medical categories of mental illness, developmental disability, stroke and brain injury, etc., and all of their friends and family members who care about whether or not they are described in respectful terms, that's a pretty big chunk of the population. Why would any sensibly managed company make a deliberate decision to offend a large percentage of its potential customers?
Then it occurred to me that Reader's Digest probably intended to target its marketing efforts toward a different and more ignorant segment of the population. To put it another way, we're not the potential customers they have in mind. Those of us who regularly face prejudice and discrimination by reason of being seen as "nuts," as well as our friends and family members, are not at all likely to buy tabloid-style magazines promising that we'll have a perfect social life if only we can lose a little weight.
You see, we know better.