lovehate: In Drugs We Trust

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, do not play one on TV, do not pretend to know many doctors, and really am just making shit up... ENJOY!

In many posts about internet and web culture, I've often lamented about the about how the dominant nature of authority in social media is misplaced. One viral video or well-placed link by another authority figure can vault Twitter followers into the stratosphere or blog hits through the roof. Another thing I always maintain is that as much as we call social media "new" by examining the technologies, proliferation and aggregation of ideas, age-old problems that have plagued media (and in many cases society) have not been, and will never be, eliminated from the model. I am, however, starting to gain a new appreciation for the marriage of new and old, and how the old proclivities of trust with authority figures is bleeding through an API near you.

People have always held a reverence for doctors. There is an unbridled trust that washes over someone upon walking into a doctor's office that is perhaps only ever present in two other places in your lifetime, grade school and church. Put a "D" "R" "period" before someone's name and they instantly become an authority figure on any number of subjects that they may or may not have ANY expertise in whatsoever.

But guess what folks, there are crappy doctors out there. And I'm not talking bad bedside manner or someone who can't get their system to work with your benefits plan. I'm talking about people who just plain don't know what they're talking about because almost EVERYTHING about their profession is an educated guess. There are some who are great at making those guesses and others who seem to choose "All of the above" in order to prescribe you everything from placebos to poison in an effort to weed out some of the things that MIGHT be the actual problem.

I'd never even claim that they don't care. I'm sure they do, to the extent that their knowledge allows them, but their lives are consumed by paranoid patients, pharma sales reps and hypochondriacs who will ingest or inject anything that gets written onto a little white pad in a language that isn't discernable to anyone outside of the sterile community.

We are told the pandemic is coming as doctor's quotations are trotted out across news tickers on cable news networks and interviews are replayed of how many people could die if it spreads. We're told to wash our hands and report strange issuances of sneezing and coughing and fever. We're told that help is on the way in the form of an injection that you MUST have once... alright, maybe twice... alright, maybe with a spray or bottle of pills to boot. We're told it's coming and we cower in our living rooms, basking in the warm glow of our television sets hyping up our own paranoia with every throat scratch, sneeze or cough. We try to think of ways we can get to the front of the line when they dole out the miracle injection that will save us from the disease that's sure to kill millions but leave us and a chosen few to pick up after the earth has died screaming. We believe that if a drug company tells doctor's the injection will work, and the doctor's tell us it will work, we'd be foolhardy to disbelieve.

We buy into the marketing of diseases. How can big pharma sell a "swine flu" vaccine? Everyone will believe that if they haven't been in contact with livestock, they won't need the shot. They'll only be able to convince between 10% to 20% of the population that it's necessary. 

Let's re-brand it. Cal it H1N1. No one knows what the hell that means, but it sounds science-fictiony and futuristic like THX-1138. Let's say that it resembles the regular flu so much that it'll be tough to distinguish between the two... but make sure they know that the regular flu shot won't do on its own. Let's upsell. It's not just Barbie, it's the Barbie in the Barbie convertible.

Let's tell people it's killing thousands of people overseas, where the common cold kills tens of thousands every year. Let's elevate the threat for young people and the elderly so that parents fret for their children and their parents. Let's release statistics to news agencies that ignore that normal deaths from regular flu every year and tell stories about all-star student athletes dying of this disease. Let's get people primed up because we're going to stick them and then stick them with the bill.

Above all, let's hope the strain runs its course because we don't want anyone to know the awful secret that if we actually had a treatment or inoculation that worked we probably could've saved the all-star student athlete. If we REALLY had a viable shot, wouldn't it make sense to roll it out immediately instead of playing a political and marketing game of building up enough supply... but not QUITE enough to prevent people from scurrying to line up for it right away. Would we be able to finally convince the huge demographic that chooses NOT to get a regular flu shot every year, and still NEVER gets the flu, that this is Armageddon?

They don't have to convince us. They have doctor's as their front line. We are the home team crowd. The Pharma League sets the rules. The Lobby Franchise prints up the tickets. The sales force coaches send in the plays. And the team of doctors take the field. They are ready to give it their all. They are ready to do their best. But they don't call the play. They don't make the equipment. They don't set the rules.

Think about that as you're bent over taking a needle in the ass from the second team nose tackle.

lovehate: The CRTC and Protectionist Television

While I know that many readers south of the 49th parallel will have no idea what the CRTC is, and probably many Canadians won't either, I've had it with their ridiculous protectionist practices when it comes to primetime television.

I'm an avid television watcher. Some might call me an addict though I can't hear them because I'm watching Big Bang Theory. While many of you in the US are used to having local affiliates broadcast network shows and take advantage of being able to sell and show local ads to garner their revenue, the permissions of the affiliates only extend to their own channel.

The Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission employs methodologies that have been prompted by the lobbying efforts of local Canadian stations and cross the line from logical to manipulative and destructive to the medium. In essence, the CRTC mandates that where a Canadian station is showing the same show as a US station that can also be seen by a viewer, the Canadian channel will "take over" the US channel for the entirety of the broadcast.

For example, I cannot watch Lost on WKBW from Buffalo (Cable 9) because at 9pm my local CTV affiliate is showing the same episode and Cable 9 becomes Cable 16 for the entire hour. Essentially, the cable providers have been ordered to redirect feeds to accommodate this protectionist regulation. Why shouldn't I have the right to watch to the show through a US feed if I want to? What harm does it do to CTV but for the chance their advertising will go down... and there's the rub.

Some of you might be thinking "what difference does it make if they're showing the same episode on both channels?" There are a few problems that are not clearly evident unless you are subject to it, but I'll try to illuminate:

  1. I should have the right to watch US commercials if I wish. Paying for cable gives me that right. While I admire the fact that the CRTC on one hand restricts the amount of paid ads a station can show each hour, this merely subjects me to the mind-numbing repetition of station promos every commercial break to fill in the gaps.
  2. Many primetime episodes from US networks are now tinkering with start/end times. Sometimes an episode runs for an extra one or two minutes (usually where a cliffhanger happens). Canadian stations don't only broadcast shows from one US network; they mix and match. If the 63 minutes broadcast of Fringe ends at 10:03 on Fox, but on Global Canada they've got an episode of Lipstick Jungle set to start at 10:00, the feed will often jump to the new show before the previous one fninished - ON BOTH CHANNELS. That means that even if I was watching Global, saw the switch, frantically switched to FOX, I'd still be watching the beginning of Lipstick Jungle instead of the end of Fringe.
  3. During a big television event (read: Superbowl, Oscars, etc.) US networks often debut new ad campaigns with high-end commercials that we will never get to see. I know that some of you can't understand the allure of seeing a new commercial, but trust me, it far beats seeing another promo for Corner Gas during the two minute warning of the big game.
  4. The Canadian uptake on HDTV has been very well implemented in some cases but annoying faulty in others. In watching the CTV-HD feed of the NFL yesterday the HD dropped out at least a dozen times down to SD for half a minute or more.

When I emailed the CRTC with this complaint earlier this year, they claimed Canadians wanted it this way and it was the law. First, if Canadians wanted to watch Canadian feeds, they could still do so. Second, laws evolve and are prone to change when people realize how wrong they are.

The CRTC has a place. The CRTC has a purpose. Its place should not be on a US channel that I pay for. Its purpose should be to offer me choice, not restrict it. If you're Canadian, go to the CRTC website, register a complaint and see how little they're willing to even discuss remedy. If you're American, be happy we don't spend billions of dollars each year on television programming, because if you wanted to watch our stuff, your government would probably be lobbied to do the same thing.

no crtc