Alternative Facts: Brainwashed in a Democracy

The Dr. Oz Show has an estimated audience of 2 million. He shares his “miracle” diet products with the vigor of Oprah sharing her new favorite novel. And not unlike Oprah, Oz’s words carry a lot of weight with his viewers. Americans spend an estimated $40 billion a year on weight-loss products. Almost every time Oz peddles one, sales spike. This phenomenon even has a name: “The Dr. Oz effect.”

Under pressure from Congress, Dr. Oz appeared before the Senate’s consumer protection panel and was scolded by Chairman Claire McCaskill for claims he made about weight-loss aids on his TV show. “The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles,’ ” McCaskill said. “When you call a product a miracle, and it’s something you can buy, and it’s something that gives people false hope, I don’t understand why you need to go there.” The Congressional hearing changed neither the content nor the popularity of The Dr. Oz Show. “The Dr. Oz effect,” like the effect of his mentor, prevailed!

When the mind is trained to accept alternative medicine and pseudo-scientific spirituality, it becomes prone to all forms of irrationality. The surge in the belief in conspiracy theories and the ratings of media outlets that promote these theories is, if not directly the outcome of more than thirty years of listening, hearing, and reading Oprah, then at least assisted by her.

When a man loses his mind, he may harm one or two or several people around him. When the public loses its mind, it harms hundreds of millions of people who are — and will be — affected by the irrationality that hinders the scientific and technological development that could otherwise be encouraged by a public with a sound mind. Wouldn’t the $40 billion wasted annually on weight-loss products be better spent on cancer research?

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