In 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” It’s no accident that freedom of the press is one of America’s most cherished liberties. Today, the “press” includes both traditional sources such as newspapers and magazines, and also the online press—both in established news outlets and in blogs and other sites (much like this one), where practically anyone with an Internet connection can hit “publish” and speak to the masses.
The Problem with the Media in the 21st Century
The best part about the Internet? We have access to tons of information with just a click of the mouse. The worst part about the Internet? We have access to tons of information with just a click of the mouse. Most of us don’t have the time or energy to sort through this mountain of information—and the Internet contains a LOT of misinformation.
Sensationalism isn’t limited to tabloids, and media outlets have long sold “sizzle.” Even major publications have headlines that sell doom and gloom. Because of the competition and the pressure to “publish first, fact-check later,” there’s a tendency for a media outlet to be first to publish a story, even if the facts aren’t 100 percent accurate.
So what happens when these stories aren’t correct? And what happens when they go viral?
The answer is simple: A lot of people get misinformed. Readers “share” or “like” a story, inaccuracies spread like wildfire, and correcting the information becomes nearly impossible. Even after people find out the truth, the damage has already been done. Imagine what happens in the minds of the public when news reports, on an almost daily basis, have headlines like the following:
- “9 Terribly Disturbing Things About Electronic Cigarettes”
- “Electronic Cigarette Safety Clouded”
- “Fire Marshal: E-Cigarette Batteries Cause Fires”
- “E-Cigs Carry Harmful Side Effects For Smokers, Nonsmokers”
- “Dangers Of E-Cigarettes, What’s Really In The Vapor?”
You get the idea … sensationalism sells. You capture attention with a “shock and awe” headline. Some of the headlines above are from major media outlets, and others are from local news affiliates and blogs. But they are all blatantly anti-electronic cigarette, and the subject matter of the articles is often seriously flawed.
I say this because each article contains much speculation passed on as fact, misinformation falsely construed as science and logical fallacies presented as sound argument. The result is gross miseducation of the public, which is relying on these articles to contain accurate information.
I am sure many of you are aware of other scientific studies that treat electronic cigarettes in a more even-handed manner. Unfortunately, these studies don’t generate the same attention-grabbing headlines as those I mention above. The recurrent major messages and themes are far more anti-electronic cigarette. So again, the general message the public is given about e-cigarettes is, in short, that they’re “bad.”
As I’ve continued to say from the beginning, it’s imperative that adult smokers who are looking to switch to e-cigarettes do their own research. Evaluate all the information you hear and read (even the information I’ve presented in these blogs) carefully. Weigh the evidence and make your own educated decision.
In the end, I think you’ll side with me: If you’re an adult smoker, an electronic cigarette helps you take back your freedom. Beware, though. A growing number of forces are attempting to take back the freedom you took back!
Something has to change. Educate yourself. Get involved and speak out to your local representatives. Ultimately, it’s up to us to take back the freedom they took away.
More later …