I am intrigued to see a Sunday newspaper now printing warnings to readers to ‘carefully scrutinise advertisements offering investment opportunities because the paper cannot vouch for the claims made by advertisers’.
Well I never. This august paper recognises that its readers are gullible and considers it necessary to caution unsuspecting elders against investment shysters. That being the case, surely there should be a blanket warning to readers against all advertising, not simply to those that offer investment opportunities? Because, by implication, the paper now infers that it vouches for the claims made by other advertisers.
The paper’s warning is a disclaimer, of course, printed purely out of self interest. The paper absolves itself from responsibility for publishing misleading information supplied by investment advertisers, just in case it gets roped into messy and costly litigation. Fair enough. During the recent economic meltdown some unfortunate folk lost their life savings following dodgy investment advice.
I share that bit of info with you because it correlates directly with my main bone of contention. But before I chew on this nasty bone, let me hasten to add that I feel deeply for the folk who have lost their life savings. I do. And I’m not making light of their plight when I say: but what about the daily horrors?
I mean the horoscopes. Seriously, I find it disturbing and disconcerting that an authoritative newspaper that claims to be socially responsible will also publish, as bona fide news, a regular column setting out your daily horoscope. It is not a paid advertisement, mind, and there is nary a cautionary warning. By doing so, the paper implicitly endorses the inane and absurd content in the horoscopes.
Now then, anyone with two brain cells to rub together will know that horoscopes are hogwash. Indeed, astrology belongs in the domain of superstition. It is a credulous notion, not based on reason, knowledge, or experience. And don’t just take my word for it. Mainstream scientists will tell you that horoscopes are humbug. Even so, belief in astrology holds firm today in many parts of the world: in one poll, 31 percent of Americans expressed a belief in astrology and, according to another study, 39 percent considered it scientific.
So, the newspaper will give readers their horoscopes, because that is what they – the readers – want. Hmmff! Surely the newspaper then has a responsibility to inform readers that this is light entertainment at best and that the gravitational effects of the celestial bodies cannot possibly influence their daily destiny or determine their personalities at the moment of their birth. At worst, the paper needs to tell readers – in bold print above every published horoscope – that the astrological generalisations are not substantiated by scientific research.
I mean, this is a family newspaper. Naive and unsuspecting teenagers read this stuff and I should think we would want to give them a fighting chance to get a grip on reality by alerting them to the fact that, as much as the paper cannot vouch for the claims made by investment advisers, it cannot stand by the banal predictions of pseudo stargazers.
Zander Heeger is a freelance copywriter and a sceptic to the core. As a caring Cancerian though, cross his heart, he will read your palm if you cross his palm.