Why the Heck Would Anybody Listen to Rob Schnider?


I just got home from seeing a talk given by Timothy Caulfield, the author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?. The talk was on celebrity culture and pseudo-science.

During his talk Timothy Caulfield mentioned how people are more willing to listen to celebrities than doctors where health is concerned, and how people are incredibly confused about health. I understand that confusion. There is a lot of information out there, and a lot of it is contradictory. But I can’t understand why anybody would turn to a celebrity for advice on anything other that what they are famous for. If you’re confused about what to eat, why wouldn’t you ask you doctor? They may not have all of the information, but they do have the training necessary to decipher the information. I can understand not fully trusting your doctor: Dr. Oz does apparently have a medical degree and he got rich off selling people “cures” that don’t do anything. But surely a doctor is more likely to give sound medical information than, say, Rob Schnider. Unless, of course, Rob Schnider has a medical degree that I’m unaware of.

Timothy Caulfield studied that very phenomenon. He looked into why people are so confused about health (surprise, surprise, the celebrities cause more confusion than anything else) and why people are so quick to follow them rather than their own doctors. His findings: it’s a culture thing. Celebrity culture is our culture. This means that we are more likely to follow the celebrity advice then the advise of those who actually understand the science. What’s more, this culture is caused by lack of social mobility. Americans often think of the United States as the land where all dreams are made possible. In the US, you’re supposed to be able to go from poor to rich with nothing more than hard work. But the fact of the matter is that this is not true. The United States has very little social mobility, so you are more likely to stay in the social class you were born into than anything else. So people idolize celebrities because they are seen as defying this odd (despite the fact that most of them have famous parents or relatives). In countries with more social mobility, this celebrity culture doesn’t exist. Which countries have the highest social mobility? The social welfare states! Denmark, Finland, Canada, and Sweden are the highest respectively.

So what does all this mean? I’m not really sure, but it certainly suggests that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

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38 responses to “Why the Heck Would Anybody Listen to Rob Schnider?

  • fennecfawn

    AHHH, I just found your blog and I love it!! I love that you do research but also write with a personal voice. I’m glad I found you ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

  • Liz Ferguson

    Interesting comments here. I must say, I don’t think it is as ridiculous for actors to talk about politics as it is for them to talk about medicine. Medicine is a science. Politics seems to be more about money, and power, and “fooling most of the people most of the time,” etc. They might well have the fooling down to a science, but not the governing.

    Granted, you can indeed get a degree in “Political Science” at a university, but I don’t think it is regarded with the same esteem as a medical degree. It doesnt give you the right to “practice” anything, does it? Most politicians seem to have law degrees, anyway. On the other hand, you might say that politicians and actors have a lot in common, because many politicians are often pretending to be someone that they are not – that is, someone who actually cares about the voters and the country. I am sure that SOME do, but how many?

    Social welfare states? I agree, happily and with gratitude, that we seem to have more of a “social-safety net” here in Canada, as compared to the U.S. But as far as I know, Denmark, Sweden and Finland are way ahead of us in that regard. I had assumed, though, that our social mobility was about the same as it is in the U.S. If it is better, then hurray for us! Do you have figures for that?? Just curious, not trying to argue.

    Also, not trying to be obnoxious, but the actor’s name is Rob Schneider. (Copy-editor here. . . can’t help but notice)

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    • Liz Ferguson

      Forgot to say, I don’t particularly enjoy Rob Scneider’s acting. So not only would I not take his medical advice, if he WERE handing it out, I would not go to his films, either.

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    • equippedcat

      “Social safety net” sounds like a good thing. The problem is when it goes beyond a “safety net” and becomes an encouragement to people to not do anything to support themselves or better themselves. It can become a poverty trap, and even eventually bankrupt a society.

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      • hessianwithteeth

        Funny think is if you guarantee people a lively hood, most people use that as a chance to take risks and improve themselves and others. Sure a minority will do nothing if given half the change, but they do that anyway.

        Though I’ll go find some stats when I have a change, but the basic principle is this. Make sure people don’t need to work about shelter and food, and society thrives.

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        • equippedcat

          Define “thrives”. It is my impression that if a few support the many, it may look good from a height, but is not healthy or sustainable if you look closely.

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          • hessianwithteeth

            In that case you have the many supporting themselves, everyone pays in, and it’s not like your getting anything great, all you’ll be promised is a spartan house hold, and enough to get by. If you want more you work, and everyone get heavily taxed. I don’t know who are the few your talking about paying for this because like any system it will lean heavily on the middle class.

            Basically it’d look something like Every adult is garuenteed ~20’000 (the ultimate price will vary) a year and every penny after that you have to earn and is taxed. The benefits of this on the medical system are immense. It also functions as a important safety net for the elderly, the mentally I’ll, those out of work, ect. It’s expensive, but everyone is paying in except children and the most unfortunate of us, plus a few slackers, but they aren’t going to balloon in numbers long term, as the money they are making isn’t much to live on (1666 a month). Though is does gaurentee No one in the system lives under the poverty line.

            Though your comment doesn’t really make sense, who’s this few. No society is supported by the few nor would this one be.

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          • equippedcat

            I’ve always been impressed by your ability to think. I’m not seeing that with this scenario. It is a very human centered concept but appears to not take into account any aspect of reality. There are so many problems with it, I’ll just start with the most obvious.

            Where does this 20,000 per person come from? “Everybody pays in?” Even those whose only income is the 20,000? Every penny of income above that is “heavily taxed”? How many people are going to work hard when most of their gains being taken away from them? I’ll bet not a large percentage.

            But let us say that 50% of the people are willing to work for a fraction of their worth. On average, each would have to pay 40,000 in taxes just to cover the 20,000 paid to each person. Does that really sound likely? Particularly since they would actually have to pay a lot more than that to cover the other costs of the government.

            The “few” I am talking about is the every dwindling number of people paying in, compared to the ever increasing number of people who are taking out. At some point in time, any system with reduced income and increased outgo has to crash.

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          • hessianwithteeth

            Well the think is that your running off a bunch of assumptions that don’t actually represent how humans behave.

            This is not communism, people who work more earn more, simple as that. High taxes don’t reduce productivity, heck a lot of common “knowledge” about how economics work are based on false premises about how humans behave.

            Though if done correctly (and I have doubt I have a perfect method, I’m a biologist not a economist) are your really doing is providing a safety net for the bottom 15% of a population.

            It’s also not like you have to pay out all this money all the time, rather you can just tax people 0% on the first 20’000 they make.

            As for the the 20’000 it was an arbitrary number that’s based on the rough expenses of an average university student in Alberta. It was just a reasonable number to work from, and obviously it would change based on the country, and possibly even the area.

            Back to what your saying “But let us say that 50% of the people are willing” Every single worker that does own a major corporation is working so significantly less then what they are worth, we can tell this by the fact wages haven’t hardly raised in the last 40 years, and have not even come close to matching inflation, yet profits for large businesses have increased to levels never seen. People are willing to work cents on the dollar. so that 50% number is probably above 90%, and then with unemployment that means you have something like 85% (this is extremely conservative estimate based on world stats) of the adult population working.

            Suddenly it get to be a lot more feasible.

            People in Canada and the US act like these things are impossible, but the Nordic countries taxes their people through the roof, and their economies are doing great, and they top the chats in every positive metric (Education, health care, quality of life, mean income, income equality…).

            Though this has inspired a post or three, so I’ll go into further justifications later on. Trust me when I say this isn’t based on a simple flight of fancy.

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          • equippedcat

            I’m not clear. is it that there is 0 tax on the first 20,000 earned, and if you don’t make 20,000, you are given the difference between what you make and 20,000? That is a bit less problematic than just giving everybody 20,000.

            I’m not an economist either. By the way, I’ve heard that if you laid all the economists in the world end to end, they still won’t reach a conclusion… ๐Ÿ™‚
            But I have personally observed that in the U.S., at least, high taxation stifles effort. I don’t know how those other countries do it (perhaps they are “bred” to it over a long period of time), but here, working for an hourly return or the equivalent, and having most of it taken from you is quite depressing, and discourages extra effort. Not everyone gives up, but some do, particularly those on the lower end of the scale. If a person earns 10 million and 9 million is taken, they still have a million, which might lessen the blow. But if you struggle to earn 10000 and 9000 is taken, it hardly seems worth the effort.

            The reason that wages have not risen, but profits have, is simple. Supply and demand. On the one hand, there is cheap foreign labor. Businesses are not dumb. Why hire someone who has been brought up in a consumer society and needs a salary which supports that, when you can hire someone from another country who will work for 2/3 or 1/2 as much because they are used to poverty and poor working conditions. Or even an illegal foreigner who will not only work for 1/3, but is happy to be paid in cash so nobody has to bother with pesky taxation. On the other hand (in part because of foreign workers), there are many people vying for what jobs there are, so there is no incentive to offer higher wages.

            There is a difference between “working cheap” and “having most of your earnings taken from you”.

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          • Liz Ferguson

            Let’s be serious here. People who only earn $10,000 would not have to pay $9,000 in taxes anywhere. What with the tax code as it is, and high-priced accountants and lawyers, I highly doubt that anyone in the US who earns $10 million is paying $9 million in taxes, either. If wages have not risen I would say that outsourcing to other countries has more to do with it than immigration (legal or illegal). With fewer and fewer workers belonging to unions they can be fired for no reason at all, though this seems to be a much bigger problem than in the U.S., far as I can tell. Remaining workers are told to “DO more with less.” How I hate that phrase!

            I am amazed at how upset people get at the idea of helping living, breathing (so far) citizens, when they don’t seem to mind all the “corporate welfare.” On top of all that, the TRILLIONS spent to wage wars in another countries, to buy planes and weapons, pay private contractors, prop up “your” dictators, etc., could probably go a long way to help the sick and the unemployed, along with those who barely make enough to live on even if they do have jobs.

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          • equippedcat

            I’m not saying that it happens here, now. We are talking about a potential new system, which has implication of “high taxation”.

            Perhaps this would be an interesting research project.

            Ask people:

            Assume you were making 20,000 a year tax free for a full time (40 hour/week) job. By spending an additional 10 hours per week, you could earn an additional 10,000, which WOULD be taxed.

            1) Would you?
            2) If yes, at what percent of taxation of this additional income would you then decide not to? 50%, 75%, 90%?

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          • hessianwithteeth

            Hehe I’d probably cut the line at 80-85% doing something I enjoy (there are lots of options for me) Though I’m not representative of the general population.

            Though in a system I’m thinking of would use progressive taxing.

            probably starting at 30-40%, but really we are getting to the point where I’m guessing. As well my idea is based around what would work in Canada not the USA. The States would on aggregate be far less accepting and the republican party would scream bloody murder for a decade at least for even an attempt.

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          • equippedcat

            I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am perfectly happy to help people who are willing and dedicated to improving their circumstances. “Helping” people who are not (yet) willing to improve their circumstances often does them more harm than good, and this does upset me, both because of the waste of resources, and because the real problem is seldom addressed.

            The problem is, there are really no problems which can be solved by “throwing money at them”. Most problems have solutions, many of which do cost money, but the tendency is to concentrate on handing out money rather than finding and implementing the solutions.

            Here is a controversial concept: People are not poor because they don’t have enough money. People are poor because they don’t strive to maximize their income (increase their worth, not whine that they should get more), and fail to use what they do have in an effective manner.

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          • hessianwithteeth

            Sure that’s a controversial concept, conservatives and the aristocracy have been saying that since we started recording history.

            Here’s another, the poor on verge don’t have to time or knowledge or access to opportunities to make good use of the limited resources they have access to then, and are actively exploited (think payday loans) by the rich so that they will never escape poverty.

            Now for taxes so we are clear, I fully support progressive taxation, flat taxes hurt the poor and don’t affect the rich (because losing 10% of 10’000 hurts a lot more then loosing 10% 250’000).

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          • equippedcat

            Are the poor exploited? Of course they are. And payday loans are not the worse culprits. How about the unrelenting insistence that a person MUST have “X’ in order to be considered “worthwhile”. I’ll bet some payday loan money does not go to basic food and shelter, but “luxuries”, and more may actually be spent on basic necessities, only because the money which should have gone for the basics in the first place was misspent.

            Giving money to a poor person (or most people, for that matter) very often does not help that person, and sometimes can makes things worse. There is indeed very often a lack of time for improvement, or worse, lack of knowledge on how to go about improving, and THESE, along with lack of basic money management skills, are some areas which help could really benefit some people.

            Then there are people who are not willing to change even if such help were available. How is it of benefit to society to support them?

            I like the concept of flat taxation (seems “fair”) but I don’t insist on it, but I do insist that everybody pay something. If a person is not paying into the system, then how are they a valid part of it? To merely take from the system does not encourage any interest in the health of the system (until it can no longer provide the goodies). For instance, we had a bond election here, for “parks”. Now parks are very nice, and I have no problem with paying my fair share for them. I’m not thrilled about paying 3 other people’s fair share for them. Particularly when they are then mostly unusable due to the homeless, gangs and even a few perverts.

            The way this was to be paid for was by an addition to the property tax. The issue passed by a huge majority, because a very large percentage of the people voting for it pay no property tax (that they know about). Then they whined when their rents had to go up..

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          • hessianwithteeth

            Well your right about that difference, people behave like it’s different, although the result is the same. Well except one your government gets it, or a business pockets the difference.

            The business unless is the rare exception will still fire you the moment it’s convenient, and you’ll never see the money you lost, governments are largely stuck with you.

            Though this brings us to the USA economy and well, shit you folks have it very very bad, if you’re a CEO your rolling in it, but if your a general citizen no one works for you but you. And that’s before we get into the culture.

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          • equippedcat

            You are right, it is pretty bad. My wages were absolutely flat for 5 years and then they ceased entirely (the job moved to China). No other opportunities in this area; I’d have to move to someplace intolerable like Florida or New Jersey (or even out of the country) to even have a chance at a position.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      No figure handy other than Norway recently hit 800 billion in savings from their oil reserves. making every citizen a millionaire by that fund.

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  • amberlisa

    I mean it’s getting really, really bad here…and the sad thing is there are so many stupid Americans who refute just think and trace the cause and effect of the situation and solve some problems.

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    • equippedcat

      Yes, things in the US are getting worse. But not just here. I follow a blogger from the UK, and it seems they are further down the worse road than we are.

      Not that we won’t get there. The people in charge have no incentive to make things better (for us; they continuously make things better for themselves), and as you say, some of us are too stupid to know that (or what) changes are needed, and many of the rest of us won’t give up things we have to in order to facilitate change. Not that we won’t eventually lose them anyway.

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  • amberlisa

    America land of the free? Home of the brave? More like land of the greedy, home to the beleaguered.

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  • amberlisa

    Celebrities are our Modern day versions of Greek Gods. They are larger than life but ridiculously fallible and human. doctors really don’t know all that damn much about good health either, this from someone who has been ridiculously intimate with the American medical industrial complex, which is no different than any of our industrial complexes. Highly profit driven and could give a f@ck less about people.

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  • JojoBean

    Angelina Jolie – perfect example… as soon as she had her mastectomy, the number of women having breast cancer screening went up… sad though it is to admit it, we do need more celebrities like her out there, i.e. honest ones, on the right path – good role models – because let’s face it, there are some real nasty ones out there…!

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    • theprozacqueen

      I agree it’s good for celebrities to raise awareness about various issues. I think it’s silly, though, for some people to be more willing to listen to a celebrity simply because they’re a celebrity instead of listening to “private people” who are actually experts in the field they’re talking about. It probably isn’t as common as it looks, but it just seems odd to me when I *do* see it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • JojoBean

        Totally agree! Having said that, humans are humans, so we do – more often than not – just have to deal with all of our idiosyncrasies, therefore catering to individual learning needs. For some people, it’s through celebrity gossip (can’t stand it myself, or understand most of it either) and for others it’s through intellectual thought and discussion. I do agree it is sad that most people believe celebrities over qualified professionals, but that’s who we are as a society, right or wrong.

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  • Nathaniel GE

    I think its quite simple. When you are really engaged with a celebrity they become like a friend, somebody you really feel as though you know. Especially with social media these days. Daily tweets and Vlogs. So you end up building this level of trust in them as a person. So if they blog or tweet about this new health regime they are doing which is really helping them, what reason do you have to doubt them? Make sense?

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  • glenn2point0

    I think that critical thinking needs to be taught in schools as that would allow people to understand what is credible information and what is absolute ridiculous pseuodoscience. But there will always be those who magically think and no amount of critical thinking will overcome that.

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  • The Brain in the Jar

    Welfare State VS USA is a common topic, and I’ll only believe a side which has citations.

    I’ve seen too much emotional Anti-Americanism that sounds too much like a product.

    People listen to celebrities because, if we do what they’ll do, maybe we’ll become famous and rich them. Maybe, if we’re boring enough, we’ll get on Perez Hilton.

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  • theprozacqueen

    I don’t see why anyone would listen to actors about dieting either. Ditto politics…

    …actually., *especially* politics.
    I remember how a bunch of celebrities said they’d leave the country in 2004 if
    Bush got re-elected. I wasn’t surprised that they said this since some of them were very outspoken about the war in Iraq, but I *was* surprised at the number of people online who said they’d follow them. Maybe I just read forums that have a lot of idiots, but that was just insane! It’s like, they’re actors, not politicians! Why should I give a toss what they think?

    Sorry to go on this long…suffice it to say I agree with you!

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  • Kit

    This is definitely the face of someone I’d trust to give me important medical advice.

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  • clubschadenfreude

    humans seems to love to follow people who give us simple answers.

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  • Avril

    Thank you for calling out Dr.Oz. I am a medical professional and I am so tired of my clients acting as if he is the next coming. It is amazing that we give so much credit to people because they are winning a popularity contest.

    Liked by 1 person

  • luciemuses

    This is really interesting. The question of why should an actor or pop singer know more about anything apart from acting and singing. You don’t ask your dentist to fix your central heating! Or you plumber to fix your teeth. At least I don’t. So why should I care what my favourite actress thinks about diet, health or politics?

    Liked by 1 person

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