Webagoguery Alert: Why Am I Hearing About This?

by | Jul 13, 2014 | General Health, Reflection

It’s a question everyone should ask.

Have you heard lately that there have been now a couple of reported cases of MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome – a disease with something like a fifty percent mortality rate) in the United States?

Hot news, this!

Something we all needed to know.

Well, it did manage to keep some viewers watching that 24-7 news channel for a few more minutes… at least long enough to get through the next commercial break (right after the teaser). Slightly more newsworthy is the outbreak of Ebola Virus in parts of Africa, a truly terrifying plague the fear of which conjures up in real life those grotesque images we formerly entertained ourselves with only in science-fiction disaster movies. Well, it kept me watching.

So, why am I hearing about this?

Answer number one: Someone is selling you something. If they can get you through the next advertiser, they’ve done their job as TV newscasters.

Next, I refer you to – as an example – my previous blog about cholesterol as the (presumed) cause of heart disease. It’s in the best interests of pharmaceutical companies to be sure that you know about all sorts of diseases (and the special remedies they have for sale): heart disease and stroke, atrial fibrillation, various types of arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, COPD, GERD, and my personal favorite initials on prime time TV: “E.D.” (“Daddy, why is that happy couple worried about E.T? I think a little guy from outer space around the house would be fun!”)

So, why am I hearing about this?

Answer number two: Someone is selling you something.

Oh, and in juxtaposition to the previous example I hereby refer you to an earlier blog about 1-800-BAD DRUG commercials. You know, those lawyer ads that capitalize on the FDA-required fine print and Black Box Warnings that are to be found in a little scotch-taped scroll enclosed in the package of wonder remedies that you were prescribed to cure you of extra-terrestrials. Not to mention those compassionate-sounding “we’ll-go-to-bat-for-you- because-you-might-be-entitled-to-compensation” if you contracted such-and-such a disease because you worked in a bubble-gum factory or suffered such-and-such an injury because you drove an Acme mule wagon manufactured between 1895 and 1923.

Why am I hearing about this?

Answer number three: Well, you know the answer.

Not that there’s really anything wrong with someone selling you something. It’s just prudent to enter that bit of knowledge into your own personal calculations of whether or not that information is worth your believing and that something worth your buying. Selling and buying is a pretty good way of judging the value of a thing or a service. Making a sale and a profit is the American Way, after all. Capitalism is a good thing in my book.

So, using this criterion alone, there are certain groups that are hard to trust. Politicians, for one. Since they are not (overtly) selling you anything, what they are telling you is harder to evaluate.

Naturally, by this criterion you can absolutely trust me. Because I am selling you something: my time, my services, advice, diagnostic tests… (okay, and maybe a vitamin here and there.)

Oh, one more thing. Don’t trust someone who is giving you information out of the goodness of his heart because he is loaded and doesn’t need the money and believes he is acting in the public good. Rich idealists can be very dangerous. (“The preceding public service announcement was brought to you by the Save The Kudzu Society and the John and Judy McNosey Foundation”). 

Just remember, there are few pieces of information that are offered for absolutely free that are worth even that price. Unless, of course, the information is price-less and in the giving of that information the Person giving it forfeits His life.