Link: Cracked.com Blog: How to Spot B.S. News Stories

Cracked.com Blog: How to Spot B.S. News Stories

What’s sad is that it is getting more and more common to see something like “real news,” in other words, appropriate, common sense analysis, being hosted by those who are normally devoted to straight comedy or satire: Cracked or, famously, The Daily Show/Colbert Report.

It’s sad because we shouldn’t NEED Cracked to point out to us all the flawed logic and misinformation inherent to online news sources. And yet, here we are.

Its good to see someone making the effort. After all, there are two types of people: Those who do not cater, in any way, to intelligent thought and those who seek to promote intellectual discourse and logic. The first indulge in puerile crap or rampant, douchey lies. Whatever sales is the theme of the first group. The second use their brains and want everyone else to do the same, even if it is only to spoof a political figure. The second group doesn’t care about “sales” or profits. It cares about intelligence, fairness, and actual truth.

Take this piece for instance, which spoofs the real actions of Eddie Lucio (who is making an effort, through a piece of legislation, to try to “educate” women about how to give their children up for adoption before having an abortion). The “article” literally takes something he is quoted as saying, replaces all the stuff about women and adoption, and swaps in men and masturbation. Hilarity ensues.

Or at least it should have, but it really went over the heads of the people who commented on the place where I first came across this spoof, via a link on one of the FB group pages I follow. I think it was RH Reality Check or Miss Representation. I can’t remember which, but I am sure the person who posted the link was like me: Wow, this is a funny spoof, I will share it.

And those who saw, read, and responded went, WTF? Well it is Texas, so I’m not surprised.

The first time I read the spoof, the bottom bit that points out it is a satire, WAS NOT THERE. Apparently that HAD to be added on later, to clarify that actually, no, Lucio isn’t that much of an idiot.

Those who took it seriously? Well… I’ll leave that up to your judgement. I personally wanted to pound my head into my desk upon seeing that disclaimer at the bottom.

So why is this analysis by Cracked.com important enough to repost? Well, mostly because we are so enamored of the internet as a great and holy provider of information that we rely and trust in it implicitly. We shouldn’t.

I think of myself as being the sort of person who tries to provide logic and intellectual discourse, even though what discuss is, admittedly, my opinions and perspectives on things. I don’t just form an opinion out of thin air, however, or even out of personal experience which has a definite emotional bias. I form my opinions out of what I have seen and read, and out of a desire to try to be rational when engaging with other people’s experiences, medical research, and society and the way it can be understood through social theory.

I repost this and some other Cracked.com stuff because want people to be able to deconstruct the media, especially anything that stigmatizes fat people or promotes a negative self-image, so that individuals can better reflect on the way in which the things we see and read have a profound affect on our mental states and well-being.

So, to me, there’s nothing more insidious than certain news sources, including blogs, which do things that cloud the truth about obesity and, generally, positive and accepting body images.

Cracked.com may not relate the “truth” but I do appreciate those times when the writers, who seem to be very well versed in the subject of “media”, actively deconstruct media. We all need to be reminded of this, again and again, because written news is like images that are created through CGI or enhanced in Photoshop: It is easy to manipulate words, information, supposed “facts” and expert opinions to say whatever the journalist wants.

Even when the writer isn’t directly making things up, you are subject to the writer’s interpretation of what they are being told from those who are being interviewed. Writers who are completely devoid of scientific knowledge are the ones writing stories about medical research into obesity, thus everything you read will be filtered through that person’s biases and his or her depth of understanding on biology.

Likewise, journalists depend on sources, and in doing so, may not necessarily write from a holistic perspective when it comes to obesity. Instead, the traditional informed sources that end up telling journalists why everyone is suddenly fat usually fall into four groups, which can only deliver a mishmash of conflicting, problematic theories.

1. Nutritionists: People who have some kind of qualifying education in nutrition, and who will tell you what you are “supposed” to eat to be “healthy” and slim. These are the Number One Food that Cures Belly Fat, group. They may not go that far, but you get the drift. To a nutritionist, it’s all about the “diet”, and so they will lay out a plan to eat a given quantities of calories from a small group of “healthy” foods and tell you to just EAT THOSE. No deviation, no in between meal snacking or if there is snacking it must be in small quantities from certain sources… but basically, just eat THIS, nothing more. While it can be good to refer to books written by nutritional experts (for instance the Schwarzbein Principle, which I read a few years back and which still remains, in my opinion, a better resource for those who want to learn the ins and outs of trying to have a balanced diet then some of the other takes floating around, like the Atkins diet, which came out at the same time as the SP and was vastly more popular because, even though they are both “low carb” solutions, Schwarzbein does not and never would suggest that high fat, high cholesterol foods are good to eat en masse!) such books can take you down a “diet” road where you aren’t necessarily eating a diversity of food, or fulfilling your own personal nutritional needs. Boredom, I’ve found in my own life, is one of the biggest contributors to me just going off a “diet”.  I don’t want to have to eat the EXACT SAME THING every day. I literally will feel hungrier if my diet isn’t diverse. It’s a mental thing I know, but a true mental thing. If what I eat isn’t exciting, I will want to eat something else on top of what I have already eaten.

2. “Fitness” experts, who may OR MAY NOT have a formal education in kinesiology or physical education, athletics or any other related field. These are the guys who would throw you into some kind of extensive, fast-paced, physically traumatic exercise regiment right off the bat, whether you bring them a doctor’s statement giving clearance for those sorts of activities or not. To this fit little group, there isn’t anything that can’t be fixed by a hour’s worth of working out every day, complete with weight lifting with “muscle confusion,” and different forms of “cardio”. My boyfriend bristles at these sorts of exercises, and tries in his own way to steer people on a better fitness path, via his website, internalforcefitness.com. To him, getting fit is a slow process, in which you do exercises that build up your endurance and muscle tone, without necessarily resorting to buying a gym membership, getting a personal trainer, or buying a crap load of expensive equipment to work out at home. He’s the sort of trained fitness guy that would tell someone like me: just start with stretches and walking. Mostly because he knows that “weight loss” does not equal health and thus jumping into some sort of advanced exercise regime geared towards quickly dropping pounds is counter-productive to long-term fitness, health and well being. Simply changing your lifestyle to include activities that promote building muscles, or enhancing your breathing or circulation, has a profound affect on your body and health, regardless of whether you lose weight or not.

3. Then there’s those interviews with medical doctors, psychologists or other more general medical personnel who may, or MAY NOT have specialized in anything to do with weight/weight loss/over weight patients. The give the same general spiel each time about diabetes or hypertension, or the shrinks will discuss compulsive eating or eating as a “maladaptive coping behavior” to stress or depression, etc., and suddenly you’re confronted with this medical diagnosis: “you’re depressed AND dying because you are fat, so just change!” Yeah, not helpful.

4. Then there’s the medical research scientists, who may know the most about how the body works, but whose results are always going to have a certain amount of professional detachment from their individual subjects, which means that they can come up with statistically-based assumptions from a random sampling, but the conclusions they draw may or may not be useful to an individual looking to holistically improve their own health, because we’re not all average. These sorts of averages will say women are all 5’4″ because they added my nearly six fee tall height to the 4 nothing height of certain other women, divided by the sum of all the people measured, and then converted that into 5’4″. The results these researchers come up with are basically the same. Literally, there have been studies that are set up just like this following little snippet of fiction: Out of the group of say 100 women whose brains were scanned while being tempted with chocolate cake, the majority or 80 women, had brains that wouldn’t stop making them crave the cake. The other 20 women stopped having the cravings after X amount of time. So when it comes to managing “cravings” the majority of women can’t.

How useful is that sort of information to you personally, especially if you are, for whatever dumb reason, trying to completely quit having cake, period, for the rest of your life?

So, regardless of whether the journalist in question is knowledgeable on a subject or has done a fair job of interpreting what he or she has been told by the “expert”, you still have a certain level of bias going on if you only talk to one type of expert. And then, of course, there is always a bigger problem: All of the above experts have a serious investment in assuming and drawing conclusions from the notion that fat is a PROBLEM, and so every fat person HAS ONE OR MORE SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUES.

Yeah, its true, a lot of us have a lot of health issues. In fact, most of us have one main health issue, and its a mental health issue: We’re all fucking sick and tired of being stigmatized. For some people, however, that is the ONLY health issue they have!

Fat individuals can be just as healthy, or more healthy, than skinny individuals. However, statistics love to state otherwise because statistics are all a sort of kosher form of stereotyping. Statistics generalize from a large group of individuals, but these generalities are always applied to a singular person when they are quoted. Some story will now say that fat people have a higher risk of getting diabetes than “regular” people, because out of a selected group of people who are either fat, or regular, diabetes was more common in the fat people. Yet, this sort of generalization doesn’t look at life style, such as differences in sugar consumption among fat people, skinny people, nor does it look at biological factors that could cause both diabetes and obesity, such as a genetic tendency among certain groups of people toward handling processed sugar differently than other groups of people (ie retaining it as fat instead of “burning” it off).

As I noted in a story about height and cancer risk, there is literally a growth hormone that is tied to cancer that is both really prevalent in tall people AND fat people. So, if this is in fact the cause of cancer, then saying that 60% of obese people have a higher risk of catching a specific type of cancer linked to this particular growth hormone is misleading. It suggests that fat is causing the cancer. Fat is NOT causing the cancer. The hormone is, and it just happens to be more present in fat people… one might even go so far as to suggest that it is CAUSING THE FAT!

However, if a person can’t even deconstruct that story about Lucio enough to know that it is farce, how is anybody able to analyse all the crap obesity-scare stories that are being tossed around like crumbs!? If one cannot recognize farce, then one also cannot recognize “truth”, “logic” “opinion” “stereotype” “generalization” “misleading information” “inappropriately used statistics” or any other news story pitfall.

It’s no wonder fat people are stigmatized. When so many depend on the notion that the “the internet is an all knowing resource for general health knowledge” then it is hard to argue that fat people deserve anything other than being treated badly, because of all the non-fat people who have pumped the internet full of fat-hate like a baker pumps jelly into a doughnut!

Because society is now currently invested in making sure that people ARE NOT FAT, research and articles published on that research, are all going to be based on flawed hypotheses that cloud actual truth in favor of a social accepted party line. When research into “obesity” comprises of one basic idea that is accepted as truth, even though it isn’t necessarily true (“FAT IS UNHEALTHY!!!!! I SPEAKS ZE TRUTH”) then all the conclusions that are drawn from any data obtained from research undertaken on this supposition is going to be colored by this supposition.

Don’t think that’s possible? Well then take a look into our own history. I am sure you can find plenty of research being done before WWII that will say that Jews are PHYSICALLY different and thus inherently bad. There is “research” done and conclusions drawn, within the last ten years, that say black people are stupider than white people (read this fine tale). And of course, women are still biologically inferior, gays can still be “cured”, etc. etc. Pay a researcher enough and he’ll prove anything for you, including that the MMR vaccine causes autism (TOTALLY DEBUNKED FYI).

So, doctors, the media, food companies, etc., are all heavily invested in the idea that fat = unhealthy. It is easy to see why institutes like the NIH or the CDC hand out “calories in calories out” advice like a pedophile hands out candy. It’s also easy to see why even Yale Rudd, who is otherwise so logical in its conclusions about how bad fast food is, and how it has become the insidious staple of poor Americans… will still talk about “obesity, obesity, obesity.”

Everyone in on the conversation is looking directly at fat people, like me, talking about me and other fat people, pointing fingers, and whispering to each other an every escalating wave of fat hate… all because it continues to support a system that is profiting from FAT!

Because misinformation can be profitable, or politically expedient (think of all the anti-Jewish propaganda tracks that Hitler read EVEN BEFORE coming to power, which helped direct him toward the best people to totally scapegoat then decimate) and you can get some idea of the way in which science is making fat people it’s bitch, because it is already a bitch to society.

It seems extremest and crazy to posit such ideas (ie, that information can be used to justify genocide), but what is science, statistics, and information for if not to use to demonize and scapegoat groups into taking the blame for ALL OF SOCIETY’S PROBLEMS.

And now, the chosen group are THE FAT! Why is the economy still trudging along so poorly? It’s the fat people. Don’t believe me… look at this!:

INFOGRAPHIC: The Business of Obesity

Yep, there you have it, a damning graphic to tell you exactly why you CAN hate and discriminate against fat people without having to deal with the whole “I’m such a bigot” perception weighing you down.

Unfortunately, if you read the above Cracked.com story, then you’ll learn that actually, this graphic, taken off of Forbes, is suspect… because it was posted on one of their open access “blogs”: http://www.forbes.com/sites/bethhoffman.

Feel dirty now? Feel like you have just been manipulated by that graphic? You have. I have. Everyone is being manipulated by special interest groups who squirrel their way onto the sites of what were once legitimate “news” sources, to spread stuff like in the above graphic.

The message its sending LOOKS SO GOOD! After all, here is all the costs to a person’s personal health, and all the costs to society as a whole, and oh, oh, look at these companies PROFITING! from the fat.

Except at the end of the day, this does nothing to actually change the obesity issue. It just conveniently enables people to continue spreading hate around, in colorful graphic form.

So, when you repost this Forbes.com graphic (and come on, you KNOW you will), you can take pride in the fact that you are doing your civic duty to spread propaganda and bullshit. You are being all you can be to spread hatred, point fingers, scapegoat, and push the sort of society that leads toward violence and hatred against a single group.

It’s despicable. Yet here it is and Cracked.com has done more, from what I can see, to point it out than other, “legitimate” news agencies.

Welcome to the internet. Please, remove your brain before entering. It has no place here.

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