The Byford Files

Drinking the Bacterial Soup

If you know me, I’m especially hard on news anchors and news organizations. I just don’t believe them anymore. I don’t think they’re giving us the news. I think they’re giving us opinions or selected facts. I think they’re just trying to sell us products. Everything is a sales pitch. And that’s because they’re competing for ratings. And ratings mean money. It’s like radio. They’re gonna play what’s popular because what’s popular gets ratings and ratings gets advertising and advertising gets revenue. Everything’s a paper chase. If it’s not a product, it’s a mindset. It’s a political affiliation or agenda. Sometimes they’re selling fear. Fearmongers. Almost every last one of them.

I started becoming particularly keen to this notion, however accurate or inaccurate it is, by noticing the Oprah Effect of the late 90s and early 00s. I watched her show once and became infuriated at how much fear she struck in her viewers. I thought it was actually pretty insulting to women. She treats her viewers as timid, submissive, fearful dimwits who go through the world thinking the worst of everyone and then, after earning their trust as the watchdog for the free world, she empties their pocketbooks to the benefit of people who are her partners and pay her to pitch their products. I’m not saying she’s an altogether evil person, but I think anyone who is that powerful of a position and has that much influence usually has hidden (they hope) agendas which serve a number of different interests. The end user/consumer comprises probably the smallest part of that interest.

Geez, how my mind wanders on Sunday mornings. Where was I?

Oh yeah, fearmongers. As you enter parenthood, I’m finding, the amount of fear and its many related products that are marketed towards you increase greatly. In fact, the tone is often goes one step further and suggests that you’re a bad parent if you don’t take the action that they suggest. They build their trust by being the first to break every stroller recall, crib death, health warning, every deadly bee sting. Their the watchdog. We don’t want you to lose sleep. But if there’s a reason to worry, we’ll let you know.

Otherwise, enjoy your life.


Now, that they have your attention, you have to wait until the second hour for them to get to this terror that lurks in our very homes. They’ll build up to it. You don’t tell the punchline first and then the joke second.

In their exposé entitled “A Sickening Stew,” they proceeded to take items in the bathtub where your own child is bathing, swipe them and then televise the results for the millions of drones to shudder in horror at what is living and breathing in their bathtubs. In the squeaky toys that your child is playing with not only did they find E-coli, streptococcus, staph aureus, but they found (the highly marketable and responsive) FECAL MATTER! The words “fecal matter” on the Today Show are like the money shot. Mention E-coli or staph and you’ll barely get a yawn, but mention “fecal matter” and there’s massive pandemonium. Society comes completely unhinged. Armies of fearful mothers head to the store to buy carts full of products to annihilate these killers in the bathtub. Or, as they pitched on the show, bath toys that don’t have squeakers. Genius. They’ll have you believing that there’s fecal matter on everything around you. There’s fecal matter on your grocery cart. There’s fecal matter on the playground. There’s fecal matter in the baby seat (duh). There’s fecal matter in that Nerf football your little kid’s chewing on. There’s fecal matter in the rug. They suggested that your bathtub is a “bacterial soup” with more contaminants and ick than your toilet.

It actually looks pretty harmful, but I don’t know about everyone out there, but I’ve handled a turd with my bare hands as a kid. Dog turd. Not much has more fecal matter than feces itself. And I’m not entirely sure I washed my hands afterwards. I consider myself pretty healthy. I’ve kicked a dead animal as a child and then took my shoes off with my bare hands. In fact, I probably rolled around on the carpet that I walked on after I kicked the dead animal. I don’t think I’m dying of anything here, uh, almost 30 years later.

But what about product recalls, are you going to ignore those?

No, not totally. But notice the numbers they quote sometimes. “The faulty mechanism has been linked to four deaths.” Okay, not to belittle those deaths, but four out of how many? Four out of half a million? Most statisticians would consider that to be largely insignificant. Yes, bacteria can cause nausea, diarrhea. Okay, so a kid puked because he got a bacteria in his system. Is this news?

Is this what parenthood is about? The barrage of fearful headlines intended to spark interest? Create commerce? It used to be so nice being the market that no one really wanted. A 14 year old male. Only Joe Camel and Death Row Records really wanted anything to do with you. Other than that, you were pretty much ignored. The older you get, the more they hawk at you. And then when you become responsible for someone else, you’re more valuable than you’ve ever been before because you make purchasing decisions for someone other than yourself. Ugh.

Matt Lauer, otherwise, is a fine man except that I caught him hitting on my lovely wife when we were in NYC. Bro, don’t encroach, you little homewrecker.

No, seriously, he’s like four feet tall. George Strait is taller.


One thought on “Drinking the Bacterial Soup

  1. Todd says:

    I ain’t playin’ around…kids need germs. It’s good for their system. You may have a few more colds and sniffles in her first year, but long term it’s way better for them. I’ve actually been guilty of seeing a child of gerbaphobe parents drop their pacifier on the carpet where the dog just shedded it’s fur (and whatever dead animal they’ve been rolling in) and popped that thing right back in it’s mouth…it’s for the baby’s own good. Don’t believe the hype…but don’t bathe your child in the toilet.

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