The battle cry of the conspiracy theorist or the lab manager ordering around the technicians. One requires only part time study at Google University, while the other is the culmination of years, sometimes even a lifetime of formal education. So aside from one having government, private and independent industry backing to the tune of literally billions of dollars, the endorsement of every major country and recognised institution, the latest equipment, knowledge and being responsible for the technological and intellectual advancement of the human race, and the other having a website full of tear jerking testimonials and an online shopping link…..what’s the difference?
We see it every day, a friend shares a meme warning that the government is sterilising the population through chemtrails, we see tweets of how swishing oil in your mouth can remove toxins and help you lose 10kg, even our mainstream news cover stories about patients who are now cancer free through miracle diets, coffee enimas and quinoa. With so many outlandish claims, what are those of us without a PhD to believe??
Firstly, follow the money. We all want to make money right? That’s why the cardiovascular surgeon has endured 15 years of study and examinations and why the physiotherapist survived on two minute noodles and hairy men’s groin strains through a masters degree. However once these people have attained their professional accreditations they are expected to comply with strict advertising guidelines, especially in the health services field with regards to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Whereas your charlatan who secured their accreditations through an unrecognised online institution for a couple of hundred dollars and a few plagiarised essays is free to endorse whatever unproven product they can get royalties from, sell these products directly from their website and coalesce more advertising dollars than a Formula One driver.
Speaking of accreditations, when trying to decipher the accuracy of a claim, one of the first avenues to be checked is the credentials of the claimant. Do they hold qualifications from a major university, recognised college or government body or do they provide a link to some unknown online diploma course?? Furthermore, certified professionals most always have affiliations with related organisations (like the Australian Medical Association for example) rather than links to their latest YouTube rant, so be sure to check whether the person providing this information has gained their knowledge through reliable means. If my TV breaks down I’d get the appropriate information from an expert repairer rather than some pimply blogger with a CAPS LOCK BUTTON.
Ultimately however, our best defence against the tsunami of misinformation is our own common sense. For example, when confronted with a page stating that a few drops of lemon juice in your water can balance your bodies pH levels, we must take pause and think logically. Doesn’t our stomach contain hydrochloric acid? Isn’t that a lot more concentrated and corrosive than lemon juice and the citric acid it contains, yet those few drops are meant to strongly manipulate our internal pH levels once dissolved in a much stronger solution?
In our haste to revel in the glory of being the first among our circle to produce new, exciting information we sometimes forget the need for critical thinking, culminating at best with the innocent passage of disproven wives tales. However more tragically when very sick, disabled or terminally ill people have exhausted all recommended options and are overwhelmed with desperation, they can become prey for manipulative, monetary driven individuals – while the spread of this misinformation can ultimately have far more grave outcomes than a lifeless wallet. So in the interest of saving lives, our bank balance and our sense of pride, can we all please promise to think before we post, and maybe…….. do some research.