With friends like these

Example #1 is the Globe and Mail review of Devra Davis’s The Secret History of the War on Cancer.  Oh boy, there’s a lot of scary stuff here.  About how technological and medical corporations lie, and how doctors eat the lies up, and how we’re all being poisoned by our pots and pans and god knows what else.  Did you know that a CT scan gives a dose of radiation equivalent to 400 chest x-rays?  And that physicians who prescribe these things for children mostly don’t know this?  The review goes on and on in this vein.  For me the most frightening part is about aspartame.  Did we know that Donald Rumsfeld was CEO of the company (since purchased by Monsanto) that forced or bought aspartame’s US certification?  Or that “the US Air Force still reports that aspartame can cause serious brain problems in pilots”?  Did we know this?!

But wait a second.  Much as I’d like to be against anything Rumsfeld ever made money off, I simply can’t believe that aspartame causes serious brain problems in pilots.  I mean, I drink this stuff every day, and while I know I have serious brain problems I also know they are not caused by aspartame.  Sorry, I just don’t buy it.  And from this wellspring spouts a fount of disbelief:  how, Devra Davis, can I believe anything you say if you say dumbass crap like this?  I want an account of the techno-medico-corporate conspiracy, because I believe in it.  But I can’t make use of an account written by an alarmist.

Example #2: an article from SF Gate titled “American kids, dumber than dirt/ Warning: The next generation might just be the biggest pile of idiots in U.S. history” by one Mark Morford.  Sounds like the kind of thing Oonae enjoys, yes?  Yes.

And I did enjoy it.  I agree with Mark’s teacher friend who speaks “not merely of the sad decline in overall intellectual acumen among students over the years, not merely of the astonishing spread of lazy slackerhood, or the fact that cell phones and iPods and excess TV exposure are, absolutely and without reservation, short-circuiting the minds of the upcoming generations [but claims] that we are, as far as urban public education is concerned, essentially at rock bottom.  We are now at a point where we are essentially churning out ignorant teens who are becoming ignorant adults and society as a whole will pay dearly, very soon.”  The teacher describes an upper level class in which not one student is able to define the words “democracy” and “agriculture.”  And I find this as frightening as the techno-medico conspiracy.  Actually, more so.

But once again I’m thrown by a single line in the article.  “He [the teacher] cites studies, reports, hard data, from the appalling effects of television on child brain development, i.e. any TV exposure before 6 years old and your kid’s basic cognitive wiring and spatial perceptions are pretty much scrambled for life…”  Wtf?  Any TV before 6 and a person can’t think?  No.  It’s simply not true.  So… can I buy anything else you say, or are you some kind of fanatic?

I am craving responsible journalism.  My techno-paranoia remains firm.  But I’m not happy about being in bed with these extremists, for whom aspartame and 5 minutes of TV before age 6 are the devil.  People, this is not helping the cause!  Or in other words, with friends like these…


3 thoughts on “With friends like these

  1. Thanks you two. You’ve clarified for me what I was *really* writing about which is that I *don’t* know what can hurt me, and I don’t know whom I can trust to tell me, since there are crazy conspiracy-theorists out there mingling with and masquerading as clear-eyed whistle blowers.

    Dana, my evidence for aspartame not causing serious brain problems is that I consume aspartame. Weak evidence you say? Indeed!

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