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Don’t Atlantic writers have kids? Atlantic writer wonders why people buy milk before blizzards

January 25, 2016

From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Swarm

Pre-storm shopping: Intellectuals gotta intellectualize about it.

Atlantic editor Joe Pinsker decided that people who stocked up on bread, milk, and eggs just before this weekend’s Northeast blizzard were 1) psycho survivalists; 2) victims of a mass buying panic; 3) ignorant rubes who don’t know that it’s silly to hoard perishable items like milk and eggs; 4) all of the above.

In a virtue-signaling article titled “Milk, Bread and Eggs: The Trinity of Winter Panic-Shopping,” Joe waxes humorous over all those silly people who mobbed the supermarkets shortly before the flakes started falling on Friday afternoon:

“Which led me to wonder: After people hear a message so ominous, and after reminders of their employers’ inclement-weather policies hit inboxes, what do they buy to prepare for spending a good deal of time indoors? I called up the managers of some grocery stores in D.C. to find out, and they all had more or less the same answer: bread, milk, and eggs. This holy trinity of winter-storm preparedness is not some quirk of the nation’s capital—bread, milk, and eggs are popular panic-buys everywhere from Knoxville to New England.

“Now, I get bread. It doesn’t need to be cooked or refrigerated, and it goes with just about anything. The CDC even recommends it as something to have on hand for storms. But milk and eggs? Why, when the concern is that the power might go out, do people hoard things that need refrigeration, or even cooking?

So Joe decided to call up some clinical psychologists to help him armchair-diagnose all the pre-storm crazies:

“There are some theories out there about the roots of pre-storm hoarding, most of them reasonable enough. ‘We spend a lot of time and energy trying to feel in control, and buying things you might throw out still gives the person a sense of control in an uncontrollable situation,’ a psychotherapist told How Stuff Works. And one clinical psychologist suggested that buying things that might spoil is an assertion of optimism: It’s ‘like saying, “The storm will be over soon and I won’t be stuck in this situation for long.”'”

What would we do without clinical psychologists?

But Joe wasn’t satisfied with psychoanalysis, so he phone another kind of expert–a public intellectual.

“But those explanations cover stockpiling in general, not why people particularly like hoarding bread, milk, and eggs. Peter Moore, the author of The Weather Experiment: The Pioneers Who Sought to See the Future, told me that while he didn’t have any definitive answers, he did have an idea. ‘We’re encouraged, both by the modern media and by our primitive survival impulses, to project these extreme narratives—”We’re going to be buried in the house for a week,” etc.—and people generally end up feeling very vulnerable,’ he wrote to me in an email. ‘It must have something to do with the perceived comfort and safety of [those] particular products.’”

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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