Did you know that my undergraduate degree is in Journalism and I actually served a stint as the editor of The Daily Maine Campus back when it came out on stone tablets? I had aspirations of being a political columnist or foreign correspondent. Eek. I’m so glad I didn’t head that way!
On my way to that degree, I spent some time studying marketing, thinking that was where I was heading, and then some time pursuing photojournalism until finally settling on the news/editorial track. I think that’s why I’m so critical of what we call “news” today and the clear bias, left or right.
I still like the process of doing a little fact-checking and checking sources. It’s a nerdy thing. Plus, since I can play around with Photoshop a bit, I even check photos whenever I think, “what? No way.”
That pic of the 30-foot boa constrictor? Nope, not real. Cat the size of a calf? Nope. People at the ocean swimming with masks? Nope, Photoshopped. There’s lots of cool photoshop magic available.
That explains why I’m a little bit obsessive compulsive about this information stuff. I’m an old guy from a time when Walter Cronkite was our hero, libel cases were real, and there were consequences for bad reporting. You couldn’t just take your audience to another network. I’m old enough to remember seeing my grade drop if my personal bias was evident in my reporting or I failed to represent both sides of an issue.
I check misinformation reports on a daily basis. Today’s big viral stories that don’t stand up to scrutiny:
1) ALL PCR COVID tests were recalled for false results!
Nope, not even close. But, yes, doing what the FDA does for our protection, it reviewed the results of the Curative SARS-Cov-2 Test and found too many false results being generated. The biggest concern was FALSE NEGATIVES leaving patients untreated and the virus spreading. The manufacturer of that test quickly issued a recall. Thankfully, the FDA regularly issues reports of everything from pet foods to cheese to medications to medical devices. Now, for fun, what things do we consume or use that have no FDA testing or oversight?
2)”Vitamin B1 repels mosquitoes.”
This would be awesome if it were true. I live in Maine where mosquitoes are big enough to carry babies away. (exaggeration) Unfortunately, B1 does nothing to discourage mosquitoes. The only thing this claim appears to do is boost supplement sales. How do we know this? Remember your neighbor’s kid who spent 8 years in college to get that bug Ph.D.? They spend all day with creepy-crawlies now to see what impacts their behavior. They find no evidence that B1 does anything at all. I would not want to spend all day, day-in and day-out, with bugs.
3) Depressed Mother Tiger Adopts Piglets
Aww. Have you seen this one? How sweet that a depressed mommy tiger who lost her litter, adopted a bunch of baby piglets and nursed them as her own! Except, that wasn’t what happened. Momma Tiger wasn’t depressed. The viral pictures being shared thousands of times are actually from a 2004 study at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Chonburi, Thailand where they wanted to see if animal mommas would feed other animal babies. A sow fed the disguised baby tigers. Why did they do this? I don’t know. Ask your neighbor’s kid who went to school forever to get that Ethology Ph.D. (animal behavior).
4) LOCAL WARNING! Infestation of giant hippos in Gorham, Maine.
This one hasn’t gone viral yet but I have a firsthand, eyewitness report of two GIANT hippos living in a small pond off Harrison Lane. They are there with American Bullfrogs. My source, Ethan Da Beethan, told me they appear to be friendly hippos but, knowing that hippos are dangerous and aggressive from reports out of Africa, I figured I should warn you. One more thing? Ethan has no formal education and no degrees of any kind but he does watch Storybots, loves dinosaurs and is an expert on Paw Patrol so I think he’s believable. Plus, no one has proven that hippos aren’t invading Gorham so … share this information with everyone you know.
Today is NATIONAL COAST GUARD DAY. I’m thinking the Coast Guard must be slacking. How else would hippos infiltrate our state? They obviously swam here! Plus they missed the Chinese Army moving into Maine last year. (That was a funny one. Click for the bizarre story.) Come on, Coast Guard, we need you to step it up!
There you have it. Now you have some explanation for what makes me so intrigued by this crazy time we are in where we can say anything we want and present any information we want, regardless of evidence or accuracy. Qualifications no longer matter, educational achievement is unimportant and expertise is dead.
The information age has led us to this bizarre reality where the burden of proof has shifted from “prove this true” to “prove this untrue” where, if we cannot prove something untrue, it must be true. (For example: the majority of dinosaurs were rescued from the ice age by aliens from another galaxy who are now on their way back to return them because Earth is warming. Can you prove me wrong???)
Why does any of this matter in the transplant community?
Misinformation that causes us to lose trust in our transplant centers is a matter of life or death. I’m serious. I had a friend offer me some miracle, antioxidant elixir discounted to $90 a month. He counseled me to stop taking all the “dangerous chemicals poisoning” my body, including my anti-rejection prescription, and replace them with just an ounce of his elixir every day.
That’s nuts! There are studies underway to see if, under medical supervision, we can wean off our antirejection meds someday but that’s not now and certainly not without observation. Still, my friend was so confident in his product and his hate for Big Pharma that he truly believed my drugs were killing me at worst or, at least, keeping me a slave to the “lie of modern medicine.”
In the midst of this global pandemic that has killed millions, false information, snippets taken out of context and blatant lies are actively undermining the confidence we have in the very doctors and medical processes that saved our lives through transplant. Some in our transplant communities are refusing vaccination against COVID and buying into the anti-vaxx propoganda. That risk is bad enough for healthy individuals but for those of us with suppressed immune systems it is a HUGE risk that could cost us our lives. What’s worse is that some in our transplant communities are now actively joining the fight against vaccines even within our fragile circles.
Unfortunately, this entire pandemic was, and continues to be, politicized. The top medical minds in our country, many of them known personally to we who were fortunate enough to have them intervene on our behalf, are united in urging vaccination for all, especially solid organ transplant recipients.
If you believe in them enough to have them cut into you, cut out an organ and sew in a donated one, why would you refuse to believe them now when it comes to vaccines?