Lies, damned lies, etc.

Lying is, like swearing, a social behaviour that is theoretically disapproved of, but is nevertheless extremely rife. Most people, when told how rife, are shocked to the point of incredulity.

H. G. Wells famously characterized advertising as “Legalized lying”. How right he was. We are subjected daily to hundreds of advertising products which use every possible mechanism of mendacity to persuade us to spend, spend, spend. Even pharmaceutical products are not immune. Indeed, looking around the average pharmacy, you will find literally hundreds of products for which claims are made for which there is no credible evidence. There are magnetic wristbands that are claimed to ease arthritis pain, products which are claimed to “feed” hair, “probiotic” capsules which are claimed to contain millions of “good” bacteria which will make your gut healthy, but which you need to take every day. This last example illustrates the breadth of strategy of the liars. Surely, these healthy bacteria would rapidly reproduce in your gut and settle there for the long haul. Ah, but if that were so you would never need to buy another bottle of capsules. And isn’t it odd that practically every product that claims to kill bacteria deals with 99.9 percent of them.

A particularly sad phenomenon is that some products that apparently have backing from governmental sub-departments make claims which are most unlikely given that all they are is salty water at absurdly inflated prices. Furthermore, the label on the (spray) bottle cannot have been read by the recommending authority because it makes plainly nonsensical claims about the contents.

Campaigns for honesty in advertising are unlikely to evoke sympathetic governmental responses, as long as we have governments that are hooked on the idea that economic growth is the ultimate criterion for success. Anything, including honesty, that might reduce retail turnover will currently be rejected by all political parties.

One thought on “Lies, damned lies, etc.

  1. My bugbear is the vitamin industry. Recently, Swisse was pulled into line by the TGA and had to stop assuring people they would feel better and/or sleep better with Swisse. Yet there are so many out there! Children must have special vitamin pills, women with children must have special vitamins, Men who jog and men who don’t have their own needs for vitamins – it just goes on and on. Try being a public health nutritionist looking for a nutritionally challenged population to study in any urban setting in Australia – I bet you can’t find a large enough sample. In most of the 22 million size population of Australia, excluding cases of metabolic disease or malabsorption problems, if you can afford the exorbitant prices they are charging for these lollies you are almost certainly not suffering from nutritional inadequacy!

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