And it’d help greatly if you are dumb enough to believe anything you hear.

We have a radio station here in our state that typically plays your normal fare of “90’s and now” programming that is so popular everywhere.  I will occasionally listen to it when I’m surfing through the stations, but I don’t really follow it as much as I do my favorite one.  I hadn’t really listened to it before at night, until I was driving down to the gas station the other evening.

John Tesh has a radio show that broadcasts at night on this station.  I sort of knew that it was there, but hadn’t ever really paid any attention to it until my gas run the other night.  Billed as “Intelligence for Your Life”, it’s a syndicated program (that sounds like it was recorded in his basement, “unibomber-style”) designed to educate people with little factoids that he finds interesting.

Now, I’m young enough and from a different circle of  . . . whatever, to not be really familiar with John Tesh.  I know he used to be the host on Entertainment Tonight, and he’s made some songs or something.  I honestly don’t know enough about him, and wouldn’t dare to assume anything, to try and guess why his resume is all over the place; maybe he just does what he wants to do at the time.  If that’s the case, more power to him.

Thing is, it’d really help his image if the facts he was giving on his show (and by extension, his site) were accurate.

  • Cell phones emit radiation even on standby, because they periodically search for the nearest cell towers. The fix: Make calls only when you have strong reception, hang up before your phone heats up – which is a sign of radiation – and keep your phone at least 8 inches away from your body when it’s not in use.
  • Electronics consume 75% of their power while not in use.  To save electricity, be sure to unplug everything you aren’t using.  Better yet, plug everything into a surge protector and shut it off from there.
  • If you call 911 from a cell phone, they can’t tell where you are and so it’s harder to send help to you.  So make sure to keep your landline and call from there.
  • You are more likely to over eat when you buy larger portions of food at the store.  To be healthier, buy single-sized meals!

These were all tips I heard in 7 minutes of listening.  It was like someone who had NO IDEA what they were talking about knew everything about everything and was trying to tell me how backwards I am!  Even the name of the show itself felt condicending.

Here’s the facts:

  • Everything emits radiation.  Using your cell phone will not turn you into the Hulk or Mr Fantastic.  Modern digital phones use the same amount of power when they have one bar of service as they do when they have a full set of bars.  When you are out of a digital service area, your phone switches to analog mode, which is less efficient and requires more power.  If your phone is heating up, it’s more likely to be the inverter to the backlight in your screen, and not radiation.  Either that, or your phone is shorting it’s battery and it’s time to replace it.  Of course, if we’re going to get technical, it could be argued that heat is, iteself, a FORM of radiation.  Maybe he meant that.
  • No matter how much power you think you save by turning something off, you ruin that idea as soon as you turn it back on.  The amount of energy used to turn on most devices can be up to 4 times as much as what the device uses while just running (TV’s and microwaves are great examples of this).  This principle holds true with most mechanical things too; turning your car off in the drive through will only make you use MORE gas when you have to start it again.  Also, turning off devices from the surge protector is possibly the worst thing you can do; when you turn the strip back on, you SURGE all the devices plugged into it, thereby rendering the whole point of having a surge protector moot.
  • Only calling 911 from your home land line sort of assumes you will only ever be calling from your home.  That little gripe aside, cell phone towers typically overlap in their coverage areas to ensure that cell customers always have a strong signal as they move from cell to cell (hence the name “cell phones”).  Using the practice of triangulation, cell companies and 911 operators can calculate your position whenever you make a call.  On top of that (since that can take awhile if done manually), nearly all modern phones either include an on board GPS chipset that only activates when 911 is called, or are programmed to calculate thier own position using the aforementioned triangulation and send it to the 911 operator in a burst of data before you even talk to them.
  • Everyone who has EVER bought food at the store knows that single serve meals are more expensive, contain more preservatives, more sodium (sometimes for flavor, sometimes AS a preservative), and are typically less healthy than anything else on the shelves.  A good example is the Boston Market Meatloaf Dinner (a personal favorite); 2000 grams of sodium in a single serving is enough to shorten your life.

The truth of the matter is, he’s getting all these inaccurate facts from other sources who don’t have a clue themselves.  Reportedly, the inspiration for his show was seeing all his wife’s magazines that were filled with really great information, but she never had a chance to read them all.  When you picture some of these half true “facts” coming from Redbook or Oprah, it suddenly all fits together.

The problem is, somewhere out there people are either reading these things in their original form or listening to him spout them on-air and thinking to themselves “Whoa, that totally makes sense!  I SHOULD water my lawn all night to save water!”

No, you shouldn’t!

Now, I know the demographic this is intended for; they’re the ones who are driving to bingo night after an enthralling day watching Matlock and worrying that AARP is cheating them out of their money.  I know this sounds horribly biased of me, but it’s either that or “a bunch of people who are too stupid to read an actual book themselves”.  I felt better going with the kinder description.

This leads me to a rather pointless revelation which is that none of these “sources” have any sort of experts on their staff.  Not a single article is written by a person with any sort of authority on the subject; they’re just staff writers.  In the end it’s sort of like that game “Telephone” you used to play as a kid, where people try to pass a message down a line of kids and laugh at how silly it ended up sounding.  Here, I’ll take you through the steps!

  1. Expert writes study on something.
  2. A scientific journal with a moderate understanding of the subject matter compiles the study with other studies into an article.
  3. An underpaid staff writer for a housewife’s magazine with NO understanding of the subject matter at all is given 3 days to produce an article on that something.
  4. The editor who has even less understanding (since he didn’t even do the Google search to find the references) then hacks up the article to make it fit somewhere in the magazine.
  5. A staffer at the radio show thinks it looks interesting and writes it down on a 3×5 card and puts it in a pile on John Tesh’s desk.
  6. John Tesh, who didn’t even know he was about to talk about chemicals, expertly tells you to immediately stop using dihydrogen monoxide because it will kill you.
Six degrees of separation suddenly doesn’t feel so close.
This is known as a zohnerism.  No, I did not just make that up, and it’s not named after our writer, zohner.  It’s an actual term and it loosely means “the use of a true fact to lead a scientifically and mathematically ignorant public to a false conclusion.”  Rush Limbaugh likes to do that a lot.  Well, ok: everyone in politics does that.

About The Author

Co-founder of and Executive Producer for Stolendroids Podcast. Also resident ‘tech-head’ and de-facto leader of the group.

Related Posts

  • zohner

    Zohnerism is one of my favorite terms.  It was coined about ten years ago by a relative of mine that basically fooled everybody into thinking that water should be illegal because of its many dangers.  While I can’t take credit for it, I do have a sense of pride in my bloodlines.