And Now, Our Winner In the ‘Most Contemptuous’ Category …

And the winner is ...

By Tom Gilson Published on April 14, 2018

Here’s my theory. I could be wrong, but it makes sense of the data: The New Yorker ran a contest to see who could manufacture the most farfetched, contemptuous way to malign a person, place, or group. Dan Piepenbring won by covering all three categories — plus a bonus one! —with his article Friday on Chick-Fil-A in Manhattan.

Just watch how inventive he is with his contempt.

Contempt for the CEO

The restaurant’s new Manhattan location “feels like an infiltration,” he says, “in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.”

It’s so “traditionalist,” I’m surprised Piepenbring didn’t tell us Ol’ Dan Cathy the CEO wears bib overalls to work. He does remind us that Cathy has been “accused of bigotry.” That’s all it takes, you know: an accusation. And you’re done.

That covers the “contempt for a person” category.

Contempt for Chick-Fil-A

Overalls or no, the author makes it quite clear Chick-Fil-A doesn’t fit in the city. I mean, it really doesn’t fit. “Its arrival in the city augurs worse than a load of manure on the F train.” I’ve heard of groups not being welcomed into town, but that’s really unwelcome.

And the comparison there is contemptuous beyond compare. I tell you, he was going for that award. No one could be that smug, intolerant and crude without some ulterior motive.

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But wait! It’s Chick-Fil-A that has the ulterior motive! You can tell, because they emphasize community. (Yes, he says that, in so many words.)

Recall, now, “ulterior” means “hidden.” Apparently it’s only by digging deep, deep into Chick-Fil-A’s dark underground networks that you’ll find what they’re really trying to purvey: Chicken sandwiches. Well, okay, that’s not much of a secret. Here’s the real hidden one: They want to glorify God. They keep that a secret. Cunningly. In the corporation’s public purpose statement, where no one will ever find it.

No one could be that smug, intolerant and crude without some ulterior motive.

The same statement also says Chick-Fil-A seeks to “have a positive influence on all who come into contact.” So I wonder, is that why Piepenbring thinks it’s a poor fit in the city? Personally, I have a much better opinion of New York than that, but you never know.

Contempt for the Suburbs

But no, there’s something else that’s out of place: the “suburban piety” with which Chick-Fil-A’s “politics, its décor, and its commercial-evangelical messaging” are all “inflected.” But that’s quite a pretty pair of words, isn’t it? Suburban. Piety. Who knew the suburbs were pious? Well, they must be. Suburbs are dark benighted places; pious persons are dark benighted persons; hence the suburbs are pious. That follows logically, right?

It does if you’re trying to win a contest for far-fetched contempt. At least he covered the “contempt for a place” category with it.

Contempt for Christianity

Piepenbring shows that he knows his way around piety. Chick-Fil-A on Fulton Street “has the esatz homespun ambiance of a megachurch,” he writes. I wonder which megachurch. I’ve been in a lot of them, and I can’t think of one that exhibits “homespun ambiance,” ersatz or otherwise. I would describe some Christian TV studios that way, though. Which leads me to wonder whether the only megachurch he’s ever been in is the one he sees on his TV when he’s trying to click past the Christian channels.

But “if the restaurant is a megachurch” — a fact he seems content to have established with his ersatz metaphor — “the Cows are its ultimate evangelists.” Granted, the Cows do tell the restaurant’s story. But what kind of evangelists are they?

And Finally: Contempt for the Cows!

Here, I think is the point at which Piepenbring must have earned his “most far-fetched show of contempt” award. The Cows — oh my oh my oh my! — are “one of the … most morbid advertising campaigns in fast-food history.” Just how morbid are they? They’re part of “an ad in which one farm animal begs us to kill another in its place.”


Really. “Most restaurants take pains to distance themselves from the brutalities of the slaughterhouse; Chick-Fil-A invites us to go along with the Cows’ Schadenfreude.”

He had to reach so hard for that one, he must have fallen out of his chair. Do you see now why I think there must have been a contest?

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