Carrie Fisher ruled
As a Blues Brothers and Starwars fan, of course I was a very disconcerted to learn that Carrie Fisher had passed at such a young age. She was such a likeable actress with a solid sense of humor and seriousness that made her characters come to life. Shared below is one of my favorite scenes of hers..
However, it's really not unexpected with the lifestyle she lived. Anyone who has ever watched "Behind the Scenes" of her career, knows full well her history of drug indulgence and partying. Almost all the movies she worked on in the 80's were basically cocaine parties behind the scenes, especially the Blue Brothers. As Dan Aykroyd states himself, "We had a budget in the movie for cocaine for our night shots."
So, unfortuantely, she has now passed away. It's a pretty big deal as she made a huge impact. Thoughts go out to her family, friends, and fans around the world.
The unfortunate twist
However, isn't a tribute. This is a call to point out completely and total bias posted by Next Avenue by Emily Gurnon and shared by PBS. So bear with me as what I have to say about critical thinking in science journalism, will extend from breaking down the article titled, "Carrie Fisher's Heart Attack Should Be No Surprise."
You see, every major news outlet that posts a story, does so in order to gain something from their readers. Credible news agencies typically post articles that are well researched, and less shocking. Less credible bloggers will typically post whatever they want without citing sources and may have an extreme bias or message of missinformation they attempt to pass in order to get the most viral reach across the vast internet. The end goal is always the same: make as much money as possible. This area can become a bit grey as freelance journalists are often rushed to get articles completed within the publics' window of caring about the tragedy at hand.
Disclaimer: No one pays me to write and there's no ads. I do appreciate if you share the articles however.
The clear agenda: money
Unfortunately, this article ignores facts, presses a research center's agenda, and uses Carrie Fisher as the main platform to press their shock and awe.
In this article Emily uses Carrie Fisher's death to push the focus on heart disease. The problem starts right in the first paragraph as the only interviews and opinions gathered are from heart disease researcher centers who downplay and ignore other risks. Which means, you are reading a bias where these research centers are essentially promoting their research all while riding Carrie Fisher's corpse to money town. They even cite the recent death of George Michael, who's death remains a bit mysterious at the time that this article was published.
So, just how much money goes towards heart disease research and why should they press it? 33 billion dollars in 2016.
So yes, there's plenty of reason to down play other causes into beloved celebrities deaths when it comes to dividing that money in favor for what people care about. An incredible amount of competition exists in the science world and this money is divided across all research centers, so naturally by interviewing only Women's Health Clinic researchers who study heart disease, we're left with heart disease as the only cause of her death.
Missinformation about drugs
Further into the article, there's even a section titled, "Don't Blame Cocaine," which shocked me as years of school taught me how dangerous cocaine was to the human heart. I was pretty interested to read this section, but again the article only presents you biased information provided by Dr. C Noel Bairey Merz, the medical director of the Women's Health Center. Dr. Merz states that cocaine isn't a risk factor for heart attacks and again presses the heart disease agenda. The problem here is a basic google search comes up with sources that says otherwise. I tagged one for you which cites cocaine's effects in the abstract of the research paper. The general concensus is that cocaine hardens heart muscles and arteries, and contributes to heart attacks. Many famous actors, actresses, and musicians have all passed in their 50's now, and just about all who suffered heart attacks were known heavy users of the drug in the 80's. Go figure.
The doctor interviewed further ignores genetics, as Carrie's mother avoided the same fate, and discredits herself by the end stating that they do not know Carrie's medical history either. Leaving the entire claim, as an assumption. In science we don't operate with assumptions or that's how you lose credibility...
Always think critically
So what I want to stress about my article, is simply that well sourced and cited articles, can still be biased. As scientists, it's our job to read through the bias, but unfortunately for the average reader, this bias goes unnoticed and you're left with the wrong message. It's very important to always ask yourself while reading any article, what is the journalists' goal with this piece? More often then not, it's less to inform you and more to press an agenda.
Rest in peace Carrie Fisher.