It doesn’t matter what for, there’s a new cure and it’s the best thing ever, heralds all the news media every day. Somebody somewhere discovered something that is going to turn you beautiful and let you live forever as a skinny person, trust me.
It seems every day there is another news story about another pill or research study that is going to impact people’s lives in meaningful ways. Medical flimflammery is timeless, I read on Twitter, so it must be true.
It’s true. Medical science is propelling human knowledge into uncharted territory rapidly but one thing’s for sure: there are always gullible people and the internet holds powerful sway over health insecurities and apprehension about appearances. And until now, there’s been no one to police it. The health benefits of chocolate are touted on regular intervals on television network morning shows, so it must be true, eh? Why do we keep falling for these snake oil salesmen and can we get a Truth-O-Meter?
“Maybe there’s something they want to believe…they like chocolate, therefore, if they hear that chocolate is good they’re going to say, ‘That proves it!’” suggests Jon Greenberg, a Senior Editor with Politifact, talking about the enduring popularity of quick fix cures. An overload of information without curation is creating high-tech quackery galore on the World Wide Web.
The Poynter Institute’s Politifact is partnering with Kaiser Health News to fact-check health related claims. If you hear about something new that’s too good to be true, now you’ll have a resource to check and see if it really is. Admittedly, the blame for sensationalism can be placed on the people who bring some of that news.
“News organizations say, ‘this is so cool and we’re going to show you that chocolate makes you healthy,’ and they’re going to run with it because it’s fun and interesting, and relates to people’s everyday lives,” adds Greenberg. Ratings and revenue are the name of the game for media business models and just like Facebook, Twitter, or any measurement of public interest, consumer interest drives the conversation.
You like chocolate? They’ll tell you about chocolate. Short, bald or wrinkled? They’ll tell you about that too. Trust me, but from now on…verify.