Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Astroturfing

My brother sent me this 10 minute talk by investigative journalist Sheryl Attkisson and it changed my life, and scared the shit out of me. As a person who avidly researches, this floored me. I understand that information is widely manipulated, but I had no idea that it was this bad. It's terrifying, and disgusting, and it makes sense. I hope you find it as interesting as I did, and half as disheartening. Think again about what you think you know, and who you think you can trust.

"In this eye-opening talk, veteran investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson shows 
how astroturf, or fake grassroots movements funded by political, corporate, 
or other special interests very effectively manipulate and distort media messages."

So what do you do? How can you protect yourself? How do you know what to believe? How much further can you really get with a discerning mind if there's so much conflict of interest, and little disclosure? Sheryl has some tips at the end to help you analyze distorted media.

This is a major issue for me with research studies. There are drug companies that fund studies, or they donate [endowments] to [medical] schools within colleges. It's blatantly a conflict of interest. Everything is so tainted, so tangled. Where's the truth? How is it that our knowledge base that is our researchers, and scientists are so exploited? You could even go as far as say they're bought. It's getting uglier and uglier, and I don't see how people can wade through the sludge to protect themselves. It's just gross.

12 comments:

  1. As someone who has worked at drug/device/biologics companies I can tell you that its not in all cases that a doctor that we are paying to perform research or lecture for us is actually a big user of the product, meaning just because we are paying them doesn't mean that they are choosing to use our product over others with patients. This might be a minority, but it hasn't been too uncommon from my experience. Also, not sure if you're aware of the Sunshine Act which is supposed to increase transparency about these things, but you can look up any of your doctors if you want on the Open Payments website. I looked all of mine up of course. :) https://openpaymentsdata.cms.gov/

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    1. Monkia, thank you! You're totally right, and it's nice to hear from an "insider". I had forgotten about the Sunshine Act, and looked at Open Payments and the data for my doctors are almost three years old, not to mention some of my main ones (ie: neurosurgeon) isn't even listed. I tried to dig to see if doctors are required to disclose which it appears they don't. Am I right? I love it that we're working toward transparency. I think patients deserve to be able to make a choice, or have a discussion about the doctor's partnerships. It doesn't mean the doctor isn't the right fit for you, or a seedy doctor, we just deserve to have the information to make informed decisions. Thank you for those links, I know other people will find it helpful too. I think I'll add them to my resources page too!

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    2. "The lawsuit claims that attendees did jack up their prescribing of the drugs involved--various cardiovascular meds, including Lotrel and Valturna, plus the diabetes med Starlix. Doctors knew that if they didn't, they wouldn't be asked back as speakers, the lawsuit claims."

      - "Novartis kickbacks case 'explodes' with feds' demand for backup on 80,000 doctor events" (March 28, 2016, By Tracy Staton) - www.fiercepharma.com/story/novartis-kickbacks-case-explodes-feds-demand-backup-80000-doctor-events/2016-03-28

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    3. Thank you Anonymous, very interesting link you shared!

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  2. Jess - I meant to comment on your last blog entry, about your "story." I want to share with you that, while I don't have cancer, I so value your high minded thinking, intelligence, your search for truth, your willingness to change your view, your soul searching. Time and again you have helped me take stock of the bigger picture, use more discernment and wisdom to look more deeply at all sorts of life's quandaries and find better answers. Your authenticity, honesty and openness are so beautiful. It is a pretty chaotic and confusing world and so many folks operate in such a mindless and automated fashion, you offer a lot of sane advice and have such a gift for crafting together words in such a readable and pertinent manner. You have increased my understanding, given me many insights, helped me be a more capable "navigator" and enriched my life, time and again, simply by sharing your incredible "story." Thank you, C.

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    1. Dear C, You have no idea how gracious that comment is. The thoughtfulness, and detail - the compliments - thank you. That I have "enriched" your life is the biggest compliment. I will carry this with me. Thank you for supporting me, for reading the blog, for digesting the things that I write, and for taking the time to comment. It makes me feel incredibly special, and fills me with gratitude!

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  3. So, so, so incredibly disheartening. However, I am so glad to be exposed to something I never knew existed at this level. I mean, anyone with a bit of cynicism could imagine this existing, but I guess I never thought it was happening on such a grand scale with so many layers to it. At least we walk away from this video better informed on how to spot this "astroturfing" and we can approach any information with a more discerning eye. But make no mistake, this really does take the wind out of my "researchers" sail...

    John (Steph, O and X)

    P.S. We miss you like crazy!

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    1. John, can I call you all JOXS? I'm so excited you have a vowel to play with! We can go a lot of places with your family acronym. ;)

      How messed up is the information in that video?! Terrifying. Like you, with a discerning mind, knew that things had gotten absurdly manipulative, but I had no idea how bad things had gotten. How are we going to raise kids to find the truth, when the truth is slipping away? Seriously, when I watched this video I wanted to post it immediately, but it ended up messing with my head. It made me really sad. So, it took a few weeks to get my act together and just go for it. I don't know how, in this day and age, to accurately evaluate information. How to properly research if there aren't more disclosures.

      I miss you guys too - so much! Please hug Steph, and tickle those little bellies for me!

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  4. Was she referring to this article ?

    "New poll says large majority of Americans believe Redskins should not change name" (By Scott Clement September 2, 2014) - www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/new-poll-says-large-majority-of-americans-believe-redskins-should-not-change-name/2014/09/02/496e3dd0-32e0-11e4-9e92-0899b306bbea_story.html

    If so, this other part of the same aritcle could also be interesting; "A partisan divide on the issue that was absent in previous polls is clear in the latest data. Democrats’ support for keeping the name has dropped from 85 percent in 1992 to 58 percent, while independents’ support has also dropped by double digits, from 92 to 74 percent. Fully 89 percent of Republicans say the Redskins should not change their name, little changed from 92 percent over two decades ago."

    Mean while, a lighthearted take on the same subject by a career comedian; "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The Washington Redskins (HBO)" - www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJKfs4ZnbNE

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    1. Statistics are a difficult thing to quote, as she did. Depending on who is polled, the demographics, etc. views can be incredibly diverse, but skewed. Numbers, specifically, statics are, practically by definition, manipulated. I cringed when she used the Redskins statistic because there are too many variables to make such a blanket statement. Thank you for sharing both links, I love the serious then the funny! Great choice to wrap it up at the end. :)

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  5. Jess, you can call us anything you want ;) Hugs and tickles given :)

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    1. Yesssss! Hopefully we can connect in May. xoxo :)

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