To Jenny McCarthy, Gwyneth Paltrow and all celebrities who make baseless claims to promote health, beauty and anti-aging nostrums, understand this: “You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Although late-Senator Daniel Moynihan’s admonition was initially politically motivated, the message applies justly to celebrities who disregard science while exploiting their fame and gullibility of their followers.
University of Alberta professor Timothy Caulfield asks (and answers) Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? in his new book by the same name. Using his expertise in health law and policy, Caulfield’s research debunks Paltrow and others’ assertions about health, diet, and secrets to success and happiness – calling them “disconnected from reality … and socially problematic.”
Caulfield also denounces marketers’ use of vague and unquantifiable language in pitching their products. With regard to “anti-aging,” some of the nebulous words and phrases he identifies include revitalize, rejuvenate, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. If you see any of these terms, he cautions, “You are entering a science-free zone.”
The author is cautious not to blame celebrities entirely for what is a more cultural, systemic phenomenon. “Gwyneth may be a kook,” he writes, “but she didn’t create the social and psychological conditions that give celebrity culture its considerable influence.”
There is no doubt some celebrities are truthful and convincing messengers on important social issues: Leonardo DiCaprio on climate change, Marlo Thomas for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Seth Rogen on Alzheimer’s disease and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on race relations, among others. The distinction is that socially conscious individuals base their strong opinions on facts not fears; with goals to educate rather than peddle.