It’s not uncommon to see health stories that turn out not to be valid. Sometimes one study is later contradicted by others, which is a lot of what science is about. Sometimes the science news cycle / game of telephone adds confusion. Sometimes a computer model invents something wonky, but with an appealing hook.
And then there’s things like Ars Technica noted today:
Reports appeared in The Sun, The Telegraph, and The Daily Mail, and were picked up by Fox News and spread as far away as India. The articles describe the tormented life of a British DJ who is convinced that WiFi signals set off a variety of health symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, and nausea. With the proliferation of wireless devices, not only has this individual found it difficult to pursue his career, but also simply to find a house, shops, and pub that he feels comfortable occupying. And he is apparently not alone; the reports consistently claim that two percent of the population suffers from the same issues.
There’s a fundamental problem here: the condition, electrosensitivity, doesn’t appear to exist. […] Why would reports of a purported victim suddenly appear around the globe? Only the story in The Sun provides any indication. After the article proper ends and the text invites readers to comment on their own experiences with the apparently nonexistent disorder, there’s a sentence that indicates the DJ being profiled has a new album coming out. It’s name? Electrosensitive.
This wasn’t a health story. It was entertainment PR.
It’s a funny tale, but I think this is one real-life example of PR going a bit wrong — the “hook” (electrosensitivity) beat out the product (Electrosensitive).