Everyone’s an expert these days, an expert on everything.
Is it the Dr. Phil effect or Wikipedia? Probably some combination of both, with a little WebMD thrown in for good measure.
With so much information at our fingertips, is it any wonder we consider ourselves knowledgeable on a topic after a thoroughly exhaustive 15-minute internet search? Google has made us all brain surgeons with a PhD in English Lit. Why bother actually studying anything for a considerable length of time to become an expert, when millions of Americans find themselves confident from their living room armchairs to diagnose a leading Presidential candidate’s health?
Death to Malcom Gladwell and the 10,000 hour rule.
From Facebook posts on your friends’ walls to commentators on any 24-hour news channel to your Aunt Betty, everyone everywhere seems to be weighing in on Hillary Clinton’s health.
Does she have a brain tumor, Parkinson’s, is it really pneumonia or perhaps as Bennet Omalu, better known as “concussion doctor” posited, she’s been poisoned by Putin. Hey, it’s probably happened before.
My question is, when did it become acceptable to publicly and carelessly make suppositions out of something we as the public know very little about. Most of us making these diagnosis are not medical doctors, nor do we know Hillary Clinton personally, and yet we feel confident—because of what we’ve read on the internet or heard from Susie’s brother’s dog walker—that we know what’s “wrong” with Hillary and her treatment protocol.
By now we’ve all seen the distressing video of Hillary seemingly swooning as she’s being helped into her van. Clearly she did have some kind of medical event at the 9/11 memorial. But, does watching split seconds of video qualify me to furnish an opinion on the state of her health? I think not.
Many people will say, but this is Hillary, she lies. Well, not quite, as has been proven true with fact-checking. But, why let the facts get in the way of a good story, especially when there’s viral video!
Does Hillary have a problem with granting the press more open access—well, yes, as we could see Sunday when anchors and pundits were breathlessly playing doctor from TV studios while waiting several hours for her campaign to give a fuller update.
But, after almost 40 years in the spotlight, many of them spent under intense scrutiny and investigations that have totaled in the hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s understandable that Hillary Clinton may be reticent about telling the public every detail about her health, when from her perspective, her every move is watched—waiting for her to stumble. Especially when, as a female candidate, any sign of weakness is used much more harshly against her and apparently getting sick is now a sign of frailty and possibly disqualifies one for the presidency. Someone should retroactively tell FDR he was unfit to be president with that pesky polio diagnosis.
Meanwhile, as the American public and the press was frantically googling the difference between viral and bacterial pneumonia, and Hillary’s campaign promised more transparency in regards to her medical records, Donald Trump still hasn’t released his tax returns, which is unprecedented for a presidential candidate. And his own medical history is light on information to put it mildly.
He won’t address the Trump University lawsuit, doesn’t want to answer questions about why his charity isn’t really a charity, and he continues to refuse to be pinned down on his immigration policy—but we can probably be assured it will be “great.”
None of us are experts on Hillary Clinton’s health, but what we all are is potential voters, and as voters it’s our civic responsibility to ask questions of both candidates about how they conduct themselves, their policy positions and how they would govern. This is what we should be making ourselves an expert in: the real issues facing this country in the short term and long term—global climate change, income inequality, crumbling infrastructure, healthcare and immigration to name just a few.
Soundbites are fun, viral videos are engrossing, faux concern is titillating, but they don’t do anything to advance real political discourse and that’s what should concern the media and we the public.
Author: Jen Camille
Editor: Catherine Monkman