If you had your radio on at all on Labor Day, you enjoyed the news loop about not eating meat because it will shorten your life. Since I was in a vehicle a couple of times that day going over to move some cows at one of our rented properties, I heard it more than once.
The second time I listened more closely. When you're a wordsmith and debater like I am, you listen for key words that can show an argument is strained. It's deliberate deception in order to make a case.
Children are real good at this. "No, Mommy, I did not hit little brother," when actually I pushed him. All parents know how creative children are at picking words that aren't a direct lie, but they don't tell the whole truth.
So with the headline of don't eat hamburgers and hot dogs on Labor Day, the report went on to detail supposedly scientific findings that doing so could shorten your life. Here were the caveats: people who eat "extra" meat, who eat it "3 times a day." Now folks, I'm definitely in the meat business, but I sure don't eat meat 3 times a day.
And the extra? What's up with that? I heard it twice and couldn't believe it. What is that? How much? That, in addition to 3X a day, sounds like aberrant behavior. Further, the news release admitted that they made no distinction for processed meat versus unprocessed, nor for provenance (pastured meat versus factory industrial). And finally, they did use the honest word "correlates" rather than "caused."
Correlation is the bane of science. If people were eating this aberrantly, what else were they doing? Extra alcohol? Smoking? Voting for socialists? I don't know; nobody knows.
When you take all five of these carefully chosen messaging words and cover-your-tail caveats, you don't have much of a news story. But that's the way the news cycle works. Create a sensational headline, then back off in the fine print so you can back peddle if you have to.
People don't listen to the fine print. They listen to the headlines. I read a recent marketing analysis that confirmed cognitive positive bias toward anything that's repeated or a bit outlandish. Folks, we've got to quit believing any old stupid thing we hear. With social media, I think our instinctual critique filters are clogged because we simply don't have the emotional and mental energy to question.
Critiquing, and thinking critically, takes effort. Spoon feeding is easy. Analysis is hard. Let's not let our brains turn into mush.
A headline like "eating meat will shorten your life'" on Labor Day when the final big seasonal cookout is part of the cultural persona is designed to shock and awe. Why release that on that days' news cycle. I've worked in a newspaper newsroom, too, and timing is everything. It's all part of the game. Be dubious; it's a good trait to cultivate.
Did you eat grass-finished burgers on Labor Day? Or Polyface hot dogs?