All you hippie kids! Get off my lawn!

They make you feel so bad and grinchy, like you are kicking a puppy or something. With their big sad eyes looking at you like you are deliberately harshing their buzz, or taking the magic out of the world. Well, okay I am imagining the big sad eyes part because it is the internet and I can’t really see them. But still.

I am not going to stop though. They can unfriend me and take me off their damn mailing lists if they want to. If they send me an email thread about the latest (or usually circa 2003 NOT so latest) health scare I WILL send them back the snopes link saying it is full of crap. I don’t care if they are over 60 and not really clear on the concept of email alerts that have been circulating for over a decade. I don’t care if they are someone’s Nanna. Somebody has to stop the madness, and maybe they will learn to check things out before blindly sending them along. Okay. Probably not, but maybe they will learn to stop sending them to me. If I get fewer cute baby animal emails (complete with the exhortation to forward to 10 people and see something COOL! I tried it, and it really works! My cousin didn’t, and died in a ball of flaming hellfire the very next day! Seriously!) then that is a price I am willing to pay.

Canola oil is not going to make your skin split open. The fact that it is made from the rape seed is a linguistic oddity, not a plot. They changed the name for marketing reasons, not to make everyone consume mustard gas.

NO ONE needs to drink so much water every day that they can never be more than 10 feet from a toilet. Feeling thirsty does not mean you are on the brink of death from dehydration. It means you are thirsty. If any animal evolved so that it could only be healthy if it never left the water hole, the lions would totally win. 8 glasses of water a day may be a shrewd marketing move by the bottled water people (and the lions), but it doesn’t make any SENSE!

There is no rapist in the back seat of your car. Just like the couple making out by the lake never found a hook hand hanging off of their bumper. Sorry.

But all this is NOTHING compared to Facebook. I try to be nice. I do. But people persist in reposting every damn shiny thing they see. Funny stuff is great (all hail George Takei!), and I can even deal with the motivational self-helpy stuff. Not MY thing, but whatever, we all know I’m jaded and bitter and destined to die complaining to my cats about politics. It is the new-agey, pseudo-science, EASILY FACT CHECKED stuff that makes me… not as nice as I should be.

I’ll give a ferinstance. A picture of a bunch of berries. All kinds. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries mostly… and there is a caption. It reads: Grow your vaccinations! The word “vaccine” comes from “vaccinium” which is latin for berry!

There are a lot of implications to this adorable, and many would say harmless little memelet. Vaccines are bad! Big Pharma is out to kill you, and probably give your children autism. Natural cures are the best cures, and our ancestors who were in tune with nature knew this! Live off the grid and don’t poison your children with nasty vaccines! Give them wholesome berries instead. Don’t buy into the corporate lie. Those studies that claim no link between vaccines and autism? (All of them, really, except for the one that has been debunked by… everybody.) Those studies are lies bought and paid for by THE MAN. Owned by Pfizer and Monsanto, all of them. Don’t believe me? Sheeple.

Okay, maybe I’m reading a lot into it. But it is actually, completely and factually wrong. It so happened that I had been reading fairly recently about smallpox, you see, and I happened to be aware that the word “vaccine” does come from the latin. It comes from “Vaccinia” which is latin for of, or relating to, cows. Vaccinia is the latin name for cowpox. Cowpox happens to give the infected a partial immunity to its close cousin smallpox, and it was the discovery of this by Edward Jenner in the late 1700’s that lead to the first widespread use of inoculation against disease. Because of the use of the vaccinia virus to inoculate against the far more deadly smallpox (Variola Major), inoculations came to be known as vaccines. Vaccinium, so far as I was able to tell, was an archaic latin term for a specific kind of berry, and it came to be used as a genus name for a family of berry producing shrubs, one of which is the modern blueberry. The similarity to vaccinia (and therefore vaccine) is a linguistic coincidence. Sort of like those rape seeds some people get so concerned about.

My point here is that it took me less than two minutes to look this up.

My other point is that if you feed your children raspberries (which aren’t even IN the genus vaccinium! Come on people!), they will not harm your children. They are a healthy treat unless the little seeds get caught below the gum line. I really hate that. BUT they will NOT do a damn thing to protect them from whooping cough. Now the chances are that your berry eating little rugrats will still be safe from whooping cough, but only because the rest of us vaccinated our damn kids. If enough new age, science distrusting, homeopathic parents turn to fruit salad and skip the injections, guess what? We start getting outbreaks of those diseases no one gets anymore. Just like we have been. And if we get enough outbreaks, those pesky little viruses may evolve enough resistance to put everybody at risk. Viruses like to do that. They are good at it.

Now you may be thinking I am against herbal medicine. I’m not. Mostly. What I am against is people who think it is magic. The active ingredients in herbal remedies are drugs. That is where most of our drugs came from in the first place. And they are just as potent and effective and DANGEROUS as anything you get from your pharmacist. I am all for the knowledgeable and judicious use of them. Now I will tell you what I see as the problems. One: plants vary, so the amount of active ingredient in one plant can be vastly different from the amount in another. Two: the supplement industry is mostly unregulated, so dosage may or may not be constant from manufacturer to manufacturer or even from batch to batch. Three: the term “supplement” covers a wide range of products, and includes such snake oil as “homeopathic medicine”. Four: the people selling these products tend to be very well meaning but are often completely untrained. This last is particularly dangerous when it comes to drug interaction. There seems to be a pervasive idea that herbs are natural and therefore safe. When my stepfather was dying of a brain tumor, and had recently had brain surgery, a VERY well meaning worker at the health food store tried to sell him a product containing willow bark. He had been warned not to take any blood thinners or he could have bleeding in his brain. When my mother protested to her that willow bark (essentially aspirin) could kill him, this woman insisted that it was safe because it was natural.

She meant well. She was also completely wrong.

Just like the guy who made the little berry picture.

So no, I don’t point out to you that planetary alignments are neither rare nor mystical JUST because I am a know-it-all bitch. I mean I AM, but that isn’t the only reason I do it. I want you to stop for a minute and think before you forward or re-post something. If you are posting a picture of something that has not actually happened yet, the chances are pretty good that it is photoshopped. Just like your email cannot magically tell how many people you have forwarded it to, and then DO ANYTHING, let alone something really cool. (Also, the person you got it from had to have sent it to you BEFORE they could see how cool it was. Think about it!) Typing “I am gullible” into the comments thread of a jpeg image is NOT going to make the image do something magical. It just means that everyone will see the big sign on your forehead. I think you know what it says.

So go ahead and unfriend me. I am not going to stop pointing out bad science out of respect for sacred cows. I am not going to stop being snarky about homeopathy or creationism or bigfoot. Or libertarians. Though I will try to confine it to my own feed. Believe it or not I actually do bite my digital tongue on a lot of issues (like GMO’s) because I generally agree with the message even though I think the messengers make piss-poor arguments. I’m not out to make anyone feel bad.

I want you to make better arguments.

 

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3 Responses to “All you hippie kids! Get off my lawn!”

  1. Hear hear! Now, point me to a couple places to learn about GMOs. I haven’t decided if they are a big deal or not…

    • I’m not honestly sure where to look for unbiased research about GMO’s. For me it is just that the anti-GMO camp seems to have three main arguments.
      One (good): Monsanto should not be in charge of our food supply. They are using GMO technology to make farmers reliant on their products in a way that it insidious and harmful. Particularly harmful to third world farmers on a subsistence living.
      Two (questionable): Messing with nature is inherently bad and dangerous. This ignores the fact that we have been messing with the genetics of our food crops since the dawn of civilization, AND that said messing is the only way we have been able to feed a growing population. An argument can be made that the population is too high anyhow, but even *I* don’t want to be the one who tells the starving ones that they didn’t make the cut. It also ignores the benefits (like golden rice) that can be achieved. Basically a Luddite, flat earthy point of view that rubs me the wrong way. I don’t know why it’s bad, but its Bad! Baaaaaad. Feh.
      AND Three (idiotic): “But (insert name of non-scientist celebrity here) is against GMO’s!”

      But all that said, I have no problem with labeling. I would totally BUY a ham that said it contained human genes! Not only because I would be interested, but because I know all my friends would come to that party.

  2. All three points quite convincing. Though I don’t think I’m gonna eat that ham. I’m not crazy about ham anyway…

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