August 7, 2003 (Ira Pilgrim)


The media believe --and I can't say they're wrong-- that people just enjoy being scared, and because their readers and viewers enjoy it, the media play to it.

David Baltimore, 2003

A large number of people ride roller coasters and similar scary rides. They go to horror movies and read horror stories. The only thing that I can conclude from this is that a lot of people get their jollies out of being scared. I find it hard to believe that anyone would deliberately allow himself to be frightened. Since I hate being frightened, I don't understand why someone would deliberately court terror. There are also people who enjoy pain. I don't understand that either. I simply have to accept it as a fact that some people are just that way. I also accept it as a fact that it is not only the news media and the movies that make part of their livelihood by pandering to those who like being afraid. There are organizations that depend for part of their financial support on donations from people who spend much of their lives in fear; particularly fear of cancer and heart disease.

Right now, the thing that people are afraid of is SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). If they had called it Chinese flu, it wouldn't have had the impact of SEVERE and ACUTE. At the moment, SARS is a threat to people who are working with people who have contracted the disease and the close contacts of people who have the disease. In this country, a person has a much greater risk of dying in an auto accident than he has of dying of SARS. In Los Angeles, he has a greater chance of being shot to death.

In the April 24, 3003 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine was an article titled "Overweight, Obesity, and Mortality from Cancer in a Prospectively Studied Cohort of U.S. Adults." People considered it newsworthy enough to talk about in on the evening TV news on both major networks. What the authors of the study found was essentially that the fatter a person is, the greater the chances that he/she would die of cancer. This study does not tell us why this is so. There are many possibilities. For example, fat people may eat a large amount of broiled meat which contains cancer-causing chemicals, or the early diagnosis of cancer may be impeded if a person is fat, or.....we just don't know. However, the authors of the study seem to believe that obesity causes cancer and conclude that, "From our results, we estimate that 90,000 deaths due to cancer could be prevented each year in the United States if men and women could maintain normal weights. It is unlikely that this goal can be achieved without concerted effort and substantial investment on the part of policymakers, educators, clinicians, employers, and schools to promote physical activity and healthful dietary practices as a cultural norm." Where did this call for a crusade against fat come from? The American Cancer Society. It figures. The ACS sparked the fear of breast cancer and the mammography craze. Now it is fat. The American Heart Association hyped a fear of both fat and cholesterol.

I would like to enlighten my readers to a simple fact: Every single one of us is going to die! While it is foolish to do things that make it more likely that you are going to die earlier rather than later, it also does you no good to worry about dying.

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