Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Our Media and Health

Last week the BBC reported on Curcumin, the herb that has been a pharmaceutical product in India for quite a while, due to its amazing health-promoting properties. Researchers at Sinai Cedars Hospital in Los Angeles showed that Curcumin lowers the risk of strokes and improves the chances of recovering from one. Curcumin thins blood, much like aspirin does. It also heals the lining of blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Oh, it does a lot more, like lowering the risk of cancer and also allows one to walk on water… ok, it doesn’t do the latter. Still, the researchers concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to recommend it just yet: “more studies are needed.” Really; how about the studies carried out in India? How about the millenniums’ worth of natural testing on human beings consuming Curcumin on a daily basis with no ill effects?

But, never mind all that about Curcumin; the point I wish to make is that our American media, which is controlled by 5 corporations, did not make much noise about the Curcumin study. Why not? Could it be that those 5 conglomerates depend heavily on advertisements promoting Big Pharma’s agenda? Surely you have noticed that drug commercials take up a big chunk of all TV commercials. Could it be that our supposedly unbiased media cannot afford to upset Big Pharma with any hint of competition?

To make matters worse, proposed budget cuts in the USA may eliminate funding for PBS and NPR, the very venues that carry the BBC and other non corporate programming. Sure, we will need to make painful cuts to get past the financial crisis that grips our nation. All of us will need to tighten our belt. But, cutting back on education and news programming that may teach us to be healthy and make sense of the politics and economics that perpetuate our “Disease Care System” is neither wise nor economically sound in the long run.

But, the plot “sickens:” the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” proposed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as US Senate Bill S.3804 intends to create an “off switch” on the internet. This means that our government, if it feels threatened, could just turn off the net, much like Mubarak did for a while in Egypt. This doesn’t sound good to me; but, considering that most people only “surf” the net and seldom “dive,” it may not be a big deal to block access; some may be upset that they would not be able to post pictures of themselves doing the laundry….
Of course, I am being facetious.

But, there is a grain of truth behind those tongue-in check comments. Great books like “The Dumbest Generation: how the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future,” by Mark Bauerlein and “Alone Together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other,” by Sherry Turkle do a great job documenting how Americans are at risk of abdicating our freedoms by relying too heavily on “mainstream media” and internet content. As presently established, they mostly to promote “bread and circus,” or cheap food and cheap entertainment, two of the main factors that lead to chronic diseases.

Surely you have seen the TV ads sponsored by “Nofoodtaxes.com.” “Get the government out of my kitchen,” they shout. The first thing we should ask about that “Consumer Advocate” organization is who funds them. Would you be surprised that it is the Soda Pop industry? The JAMA recently reported that too many corporations like Big Pharma are fronting such consumer groups without revealing their involvement. Why would they? Besides, said corporations own the American media.

OK, OK, let us argue that we should indeed “get the government out of our kitchen.” Fine; then let us eliminate the Farm Bill, which subsidizes the very crops (corn, wheat and soy) heavily used to produce cheap, refined, end empty processed foods. This is why poor people tend to be obese; they can only afford those foods, instead of veggies, a huge factor in chronic diseases. By the way, the corporations who own the media also own industrial agriculture and food processing businesses… and, perhaps, the politicians who vote for the Farm Bill. This is what is known as “Corporate Welfare,” with its beneficiaries loudly demonizing, in their media outlets, the working man for wanting a break….

While you read this our nation argues about our right to organize and express ourselves in Collective Bargaining, which our corporate-owned media covers with a biased tongue. Surely Fox News is not the only outlet whose reporters internally accuse each other of biases that influence their “objectivity” on these vital issues.

No, we cannot afford to cut funding for Big Bird.

1. “Few Advocacy Groups Disclose Grants From Drug Companies,” JAMA 2011;305:662


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