February 5, 2024

I've Looked At Arsenic From Both Sides Now

Imagine there are two or three people who, for unknown reasons, think arsenic is good food for babies. In the meantime, there are at least 99,763 chemists, 1,567,984 doctors, 258,000 professors of chemistry, and 701,422 nutritionists who know that arsenic is poisonous. The pro-arsenic guys are very busy, writing letters, making podcasts, self-publishing books, and posting all over social media about how great arsenic is. They manage to convince another eight people to join them. One works in a health food store.

The online arguments get the attention of a news network, which decides to explore "both sides of the arsenic issue". Out of the roughly 2,628,169 experts who know that arsenic is poison, they invite one doctor, and out of the twelve arsenic lovers, they invite the store clerk. The interview with these two makes it look as though the pro-arsenic and anti-arsenic groups are equal.

After a few of these interviews, more viewers start to think that maybe arsenic isn't so bad after all. Conspiracy theories arise, claiming that "they" don't want you to have access to healthy, clean arsenic because "it's all about control." More people become convinced, and even a few of the anti-arsenic experts (who are disgruntled because they couldn't get tenure) change sides.

The controversy heats up on social media, fueled by people who claim their children died or suffered permanent brain damage because they were denied access to arsenic. When shown evidence that arsenic sickens and kills, they call it fake news and come up with documents purporting to show that anti-arsenic studies were falsified. One of their doctors writes a book claiming that pharmaceutical companies want to suppress arsenic because it's a natural substance and not profitable.

By now, hospitalizations for arsenic poisoning have tripled. The pro-arsenic faction claims the statistics have been manipulated; all those people got sick or died for other reasons. Many people are afraid to go to Thanksgiving dinner because they suspect Grandma will slip some arsenic into the turkey. Others refuse to attend because their hosts have declared the kitchen an arsenic-free zone. A few mass poisonings occur at church picnics and political rallies. The people most likely to succumb to arsenic poisoning are the elderly, infants, and people with pre-existing conditions. The arsenic lovers say those people were weak and would have died anyway. Portable arsenic test kits become popular. Restaurants lose business. Politicians claim that immigrants are bringing arsenic across the border. China is blamed.

The news media continue both-sidesing the issue.


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