Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"You ain't crazy, you're just lazy!"

Does your child suffer from dyslexia? Have the docs been telling you they may have something called ADHD? Or food allergies? Breathe easy, because chances are, these conditions have just been made up by a bunch of spoiled kids and big pharma companies pushing drugs for non-existent conditions. According to this writer, dyslexia and ADHD are meaningless terms to cover for badly behaved or plain stupid kids. Too bad for Aamir Khan, he threw his weight behind the wrong kid-with-problems movie.

The author goes on to suggest that maybe even conditions like asthma might be fictional, because why not? Then our crusader for truth stops short for fear of unpleasant e-mails, but I'll go further. Are you depressed? Stop being lazy and get your ass out of bed. Insomnia? Cut down the coffee and you'll be fine. Bipolar? You're just nasty, snap out of it and behave yourself.

I worked for a Diabetes magazine for a while, and part of my job was to scan the mainstream newspapers for interesting news on the subject, and trace the story to its source in research. Often, I'd come across a grand headline like, "Diabetes? Forget pills, pop almonds!"* A bit of prodding would reveal that the research in question simply suggests that almonds may help regulate blood sugar levels. Not quite as sensational as a miracle cure for Diabetes, no?

This is how most mainstream media approaches research. Spot some interesting drift in some paper in some scientific journal, cherry-pick the bits that have potential to be blown up into something sensational or something to conform to your own rad views, and boom! You have a story. So you'll keep coming across articles that tell you to ditch anti-depressants and eat bananas. The 'research' quoted by our friend at The Spectator probably suggests that a healthy diet could tone down the chances or symptoms of ADHD. I'm unable to confirm right away because our genius author did not find it necessary to share any links. Hell, if readers could look up the facts and form their own opinions, who'd need writers?

So well, if your child has difficulty coping in school, don't treat them with any of that sensitivity shit. Be a good parent and get them to get their act together. If they still don't improve, maybe your child is just stupid. Never mind counselling, extra lessons, or medication, because little Timmy is only good for stacking cans in a superstore when he grows up. Don't fall for that sissiness about letting your kids be artists or athletes or actors because different people have different kinds of aptitude. If they are not good at math, they're not your problem. So maybe they don't have a shot at the great future you'd want your child to have, but at least you're not blowing your income on expensive therapy and meds. Have a happy retirement!

*When I first came across this story, it was featured on the website of one of the prominent mainstream newspapers in India. They seem to have taken it down.

P.S. For more on how journalists deliberately misinterpret research news, read this article on Cracked. And this one talks about misconceptions psychology and how they come about.

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