In Which I Have To Swear I Do More Than Just Read Headlines

This one isn’t even about grammar or spelling.  It’s about Yahoo! coming this close to manufacturing the perfect scare headline:

“TV Raises Blood Pressure in Obese Children.”
I’m not even going to dignify this with a link.  This could be a more perfect example only if the little tykes had gotten all elevated watching a TV show in which married gays play violent video games.

What on earth causes us to be so interested in ridiculous news stories like this?  I think it’s two things:

1) People think they can achieve immortality through merit points.  Silly on its face, but in the last few decades alone, science has come so far.  We now have cures, or at least ameliorative measures, for so many diseases which for our ancestors would have meant sitting around and waiting to die.  If your heart isn’t working right, we can put in a new one, for God’s sake.  So I think this trend toward super-orthodoxy in health — this (to me) unconscionable regulation of everyone’s personal habits — really stems from the fear that you, yes you, will die of smoking/eating too much/eating the wrong things/not enough exercise just weeks before they cure death.

2) People have no sense of history.  This is the one that bugs the most in the context of this headline.  Television has been around for over sixty years, and yet every few months a study comes out as though it’s a new lurking menace to Our Society.  And you’d think from recent news stories that the first plus-sized person appeared on the planet maybe 20 years ago and has been causing nothing but trouble ever since.  Has anyone looked at a picture of Henry VIII lately?  William the Conqueror, who was supposed to have been on his way to the medieval equivalent of a reducing spa when he got the injury that killed him?**  Catherine the Great?  Anyone who was ever a model for a Rubens painting?  People have been coming in all shapes, sizes, heights and shades of skin for a really long time now, but only one size seems to get all the bad news coverage!

Honestly, headlines like this are the equivalent of those horrible Onstar Commercials (“Onstar?  I’m lost and wrecked and stranded in a blizzard and I think I’m in labor and my name is Dave!”)  Their intention is to scare you into buying something, even if it’s just a bizarre idea like taking food and fun away from children.  Me, I’d like some actual news.

Provided it’s spelled right.

**I knew I’d use that information someday.  Charles Panati’s books rock.


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