Monday, February 7, 2011

Unusual warning

I don't believe I have ever read a strong warning like this in a column in the NYTimes Sunday Magazine: "I now recommend that anyone except advertising executives whose job entails monitoring product monitoring actually block Web MD. It's not only a waste of time, but it's also a disorder in and of itself -- one that preys on the fear and vulnerability of its users to sell them half truths and, eventually, pills." [Italics in quote] Click here for entire article.

This from Virgina Heffernann who writes the "The Medium" weekly column. She points out that the site, WebMD, made $540 million from advertisers last year. She recommends the Mayo Clinic website,, as a commercially untainted alternate that will not try to sell you medications and will not try to scare you half into guying prescription drugs when you go to their symptom site. Many of you have also seen the WebMD magazine in your doctor's waiting rooms. Your doctors do not subscribe to the magazine, it arrives free every month. Medicine and commerce have long sold a panicked public all kinds of snake oil -- until the last century the stuff was not so much snake oil as alcohol and various other sedatives including large amounts of opiates. At least people felt better [while they slept off the dose] when they took those concoctions. Today people feel they need expensive prescription drugs for everything and they do not ask about side effects [alone or in combination with whatever else is being taken]. Big Pharma rakes in the profits, often insurance companies and Medicare pay.

A small example of the way we have been trained to panic when some medical problem arises is that one student at the Cape Cod Community College has been diagnosed with swine flu, as of yesterday. Today the college has a free flu shot program installed in the cafeteria for anyone who is frightened about swine flu whether or not he or she knows who the student is and has had any contact with the person. Fear and panic are among the major emotions of the early 21st century in the US.


Kass said...

Fear and panic have long been great motivators to purchase remedies based on anecdotal myths. It's amazing to see how intelligent people can be swayed by hysteria.


June -- If one stops and thinks when they feel like someone or some thing(like an ad etc), is instilling fear they might be able to understand that they are getting used for profit. However, the marketeers are masters at manipulation. -- barbara

June Calender said...

Kass and Barbara, I totally agree. I see so much fear-mongering in society right now in so many areas -- THAT is scary to me.