My complaint about Salon seemed to resonate with a lot of people…but then we acquired some wackaloon named Johny in the comments, raving about auras and magic energy sources and all kinds of idiocy, and then he reminds me that there is a site far worse than Salon: the Huffington Post. Ariana Huffington plunged deep into the worst aspects of tabloid journalism and, damn it, she was successful…and now every left-leaning news site seems to be diving in right after her.
Johny cited this article as some kind of touchstone of reason: 8 Ancient Beliefs Now Backed By Modern Science (yeah, notice the listicle click bait — I am now so conditioned by hatred of that format that I avoid any link that begins with a number, but here I go, linking to it.)
It’s an awful list.
There are things that are trivial in it, things that are ambiguous and misinterpreted, and things that are just plain wrong. Here’s what Huffington says has been confirmed by science:
Helping others can make you healthier.
She cites a single study that somehow confirmed that helping others improved your health and longevity on a genetic level. The study was done with phone interviews.
Acupuncture can restore balance to your body.
Again, she cites a single study, a meta-analysis of the whole dubious mess of acupuncture studies. It concludes, actually, that acupuncture is no better than placebo.
We need the support of a community in order to thrive.
Again, another meta-analysis that found that health is correlated with strong social networks. There is a big problem with these studies: they don’t know cause and effect. It is unfortunately true that one common consequence of serious illness is loss of mobility, loss of connection, and changes in social activity, so yes, if you study sick and dying people, you often find that they are isolated and alone. It doesn’t mean that being alone makes you sick.
Tai chi can help alleviate a variety of health conditions.
Same story. Physical activity and maintaining mobility are good for you. Tai chi is nothing special — get out and take a walk, go square dancing, swim.
Meditation can help you reduce stress and discover inner peace.
Right. Taking a break and focusing on something other than the stressors in your life helps you relax. You don’t need to babble about Tibetan Buddhism to know this.
Compassion is the key to a meaningful life.
Compassion is part of it. But I’ve found a little rigor, aggression, and pursuit of uncomfortable truths to be far more meaningful.
Accepting what you can’t change is key to reducing suffering.
All you need is love.
Yay! Beatles lyrics!
Turns out you also need oxygen, food, water, shelter, good health, and security, but I’m happy to allow these loons to try to live on Tai chi, acupuncture, kumbayah, and love. And since it is the HuffPo, apparently you also need celebrity gossip, clickbait, and religious fluff.
So as all media descends into lowest-common-denominator Idiot America noise, where do we go for actual information? This is what worries me. All of the media, not just the obvious examples like the History and Discovery channels on TV, seem to be sinking into the abyss of patent misinformation. Don’t tell me about the New York Times, which publishes kooks like Douthat and Brooks; it used to be the national standard, but it’s long been crippled by an attitude that it can do no wrong, and by a pretense of false objectivity.
I’m a little happier with the BBC and Al Jazeera; if I want informed opinion, I turn to Maddow or Pierce. Who or what do you read to keep abreast of news and politics? Let me know; we’ve got to start ignoring the idiots like the HuffPo, and start corrupting a new set of opinionators with popularity.