Remember Mabel? The charming centenarian who hit the headlines after swearing the secret to long life was drinking six gin-and-tonics a day, but devastatingly died from alcohol poisoning after downing one too many bottles of free gin sent by kind-hearted distilleries? If not, you’re not alone. But I will never forget that cautionary tale, largely because the moral of the story was not to drink less gin. Hurrah!
That said, most of us would take that advice to long life with a pinch of salt (and perhaps a tequila) right? A centenarian suggesting that gin can be healthy isn’t that dangerous surely? But what about when the MailOnline, the most visited English-language newspaper website in the world, publishes an article suggesting that gin is healthy? Is that dangerous? I think it might be. Particularly when it isn’t true.
I’m sorry to do this to you my gin-loving friends, but gin is not the secret to long life and nor will it speed up your metabolism as you may have read, time and time again, in the last fortnight. Just like Mabel herself, that story was nothing more than a good old April Fool (and not even a particularly good one at that).
Back on 1st April 2017, Yahoo News UK published a story from Prima Magazine (that well-respected hot-house of academic research) with the headline “Drinking gin can speed up your metabolism, say scientists“. Yes! Researchers from the University of Sigulda in Latvia discovered that drinking a shot of gin could “cause an ‘after-burn’ effect that speeds up your metabolism and boosts your body’s calorie-burning potential for up to an hour after consumption”. Sounds great, right? We all want to believe it but, guess what, The University of Sigulda doesn’t exist. I wouldn’t blame you for not knowing much about further education options in Latvia but you’d think the quoted study author “Professor Thisa Lye” might have raised a few eyebrows?
Apparently not. The story has been republished online by many outlets from The Scotsman to The New York Daily News, and shared countless times on Twitter and Facebook by both gin-lovers and gin distilleries. Just four days ago the Daily Mail Health Section no less also published the story online, swiftly followed by Yahoo’s own Indian operation reporting the Mail’s story as fact. You couldn’t make it up. Except, of course, someone did!
Now, I’d like to think I’m not (yet) some bitter and twisted gin-addled old thing that can’t laugh at a good April Fools’ joke (or even an average one) but I do think this matters. Clearly gin isn’t good for you, and isn’t going to help you lose weight either, unless you follow Mabel’s rather extreme course of action, so that’s a little worrying. But, frankly, I’m more concerned about the proliferation of this story in a world where we are all supposed to be concerned about fake news and encouraged to be more diligent and thorough than ever (yes, I’m thinking about Trump; no, I’m not going there). And yet, not one of those so-called journalists clicked on the attribution link to discover this gem?!
That’s nuts isn’t it?! And before you assume I’m suffering from delusions of grandeur, I don’t consider myself a journalist. I know I’m just a blogger. But I know many, many talented journalists (disclaimer; I’m married to one) and this is a career, a profession, under serious threat from lazy and incompetent writers and editors, the internet at large and multi-billion dollar industries more interested in a few thousand YouTube hits than a properly researched and well-written informative piece of literature that might just open some eyes, minds and even hearts.
So let’s not stop raising our martinis in memory of Mabel, and let’s not stop having a good giggle either but perhaps it’s time to be just a little more rigorous with our writing and our sharing on social media too? And perhaps we can aim a little higher with our April Fools’ next year as well? For what it’s worth, That Boutique-y Gin Company’s story was my pick of the bunch from 2017!