Afternoon InquisitionSkepticism

Sunday AI: How would you handle it?

So, earlier today I was on a LIVE radio show, talking about insects.  I know that nothing shouts “FCC Lawsuit” louder than me on live radio, but it went fairly well, and probably no obscenity charges will be filed.

When I agreed to go on the show, I quickly glanced at their home page, and they were a company I recognized in biocontrol.   It wasn’t until later that I realized that their show was part of the Genesis Communications Network.  That…made me worry a little.

But I figured I was there to talk about gardening and insects, so it would be ok.  And then the show started…with a commercial for Colloidal Silver. Oh dear.

So, I was sitting there waiting for the news break/commercials to end, and trying to decide what to do.  And I figured that the interviewer had no control over the commercials, and the audience didn’t want to hear a bug person talk about a medical issue, so I let it ride.  And, I was a guest on the show, and guests don’t start off by saying “BTW, the folks that pay your bills are full of shit.”  I was a bit rattled, which you can hear in an above average “uh” and “er” rate in a rather sub-standard interview performance. (Also possibly prompted by the concealed-carry gun advertising. Not sure what that was about, unless they thought that since plants had pistils, gardeners needed them too.)

I did directly address the claim of a garlic pill commercial that claimed to repel mosquitoes during the show, and I did get my main message across, that there were cool free resources for gardeners and farmers that would help them promote pollinating insects.  I also fired my agent.*

I mentioned the dangers of colloidal silver in a blog post I later put up at the Bug Blog in case any radio listeners did wander by.   I’m happy with that as a compromise.

What would you have done? Would you have handled it differently?

* I don’t actually have an agent. I just have millions of insect minions.  In fact, they are pooping in your sugar bowl right now. Sorry.



Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. Ummmm….maybe you learned a valuable lesson there. Check things out thoroughly before accepting interview invitations? Since you were already there when you found out who you were with, you were kinda stuck with it. I’m assuming here that you were there as a representative of your academic employer and that just refusing st that stage was not possible.

  2. You handled that well. Keeping in mind what you are there to talk about is a difficult skill to master. Bill Nye demonstrates it beautifully on Fox and you demonstrated it beautifully on the radio show.

    If you were given a chance to plug your blog, however, I would have mentioned that I would be putting up an article on C. Silver just so that anybody interested in the ad could check that out. (I realize that this is not always wholly realistic, though)

    Bug Girl remains one of my biggest heroes.

  3. Thanks Cabbageman!
    I just spread the gospel of insect love wherever and whenever I can, and rarely turn anything down. I may…rethink that :D

    QA– I actually *can’t* mention my employer, or act in an official capacity, because of state employee lobbying laws, among other things.

    1. I like explaining things to a difficult or adversarial audience. Those experiences are hardly ever as fun as we would like them to be when they are happening but they make great stories and they help us build our skills in argument and public speaking.

      (On insect love, I got it bad. I am down to just one tarantula now, but she’s a biggie and a pretty one at that. Always feels lucky to have such a docile/calm individual, as well. Costa Rican Zebras can be a bit jumpy, I hear.)

  4. Debunking all the advertising BS would have probably been going too far off topic since it’s a gardening program. If the topics were more general it would have been fine to unleash a swarm of skeptical facts. It’s best to assume the host was just paying bills. There’s probably not much you could have done in any event, the site where you can listen to the show also has Alex Jones, plus several other shows with cranky titles, all part of the same radio network.

  5. It sounds to me like you handled it wonderfully.

    In the various little battles of ideas we all engage in, our efforts to get certain ideas out there in the hopes that they’ll win out over other ideas, we sometimes find ourselves in weird, awkward situations where we’re paired alongside those same other ideas we don’t like, or are working with organizations we don’t wholly endorse, or are supported by organizations we don’t wholly endorse, etc.

    We just have to negotiate that stuff… figure out which compromises we can make and which we can’t. Figure out when the good we’re doing outweighs the harm, etc. Let’s say this hour of radio programming contains 20 seconds advertising colloidal silver, but ALSO contained 45 seconds of you discussing this garlic pill and getting across a point that alternative health companies’ claims are not always accurate. And the commercial is probably going to receive less attention and be given less clout than the featured speaker, by virtue of the fact that one is just a paid commercial and the other is the actual content of the program.

    So more good was done than harm, right? Even if it did involve a slightly annoying compromise.

    But…like… let’s Hypothetical Non-Profit Women’s Reproductive Health Organization has been handing out condoms and doing free gyno exams and offering pregnancy / termination options for low-income women in Michigan and doing a whole bunch of good. One day, one of their employees finds out that a big chunk of their funding comes from a Ford Foundation grant. She looks into it, and it seems Ford Foundation ALSO funds a bunch of things she doesn’t like, like Hypothetical Pro-Life Organization and Hypothetical Sanctity of Marriage Organization, and that a bunch of the money filtered into the foundation comes military profits. She might get kind of upset about realizing all this nasty stuff she’s in bed with, but does it undo any of the good she did for those low-income women in Michigan? Does it mean she should quit? How does her conscience negotiate that?

    Can we ONLY do good things in a strictly, 100% no-compromise kind of way, where we never, ever accept dubious sources of funding? How much could we accomplish if that were the case?

    Would our ideas ever get heard if we insisted that they only ever bump up against similar ideas?

    And if we aren’t willing to be around the kinds of ideas we’re trying to combat (like silly alternative health things), don’t we run the risk of debating in a vacuum? Only discussing skepticism and science and other coolness to people who already share our views?

    Isn’t it EXACTLY the people who just heard a commercial for colloidal silver who MOST need a good dose of healthy, critical, ever-doubtful science?

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