Columbia University professor, Herve Varenne, wonder’s about the pedagogic and health effects of Oprah. In a world in which ‘experts’ are often derided, criticized, or just plain ignored, Varenne’s comments are a healthy inoculation to the reign of ‘common sense.’
In an earlier post, I asked a question, with a tongue in my cheek: “how could we tame Oprah?” I did not specifying who ‘we’ are, on what grounds ‘we” should try to tame her, and whether taming Oprah (and others like her) is something that could be done. After all, they are wonderfully extra-Vagant (as Boon, 1999, might put it) and likely to escape most forms of social control.
I leave the questions open for the moment in order to expand the puzzle triggered by a critique of the advice Oprah dispenses on matters like vaccination. There is every evidence that, from the ‘official’ public health point of view, her shows can be dangerous, particularly when she discusses vaccination. She may endanger the health of individual children not getting vaccinated, as well as the health of the public as these children get sick and may sicken others. At least this is what us, sober headed experts in public health as driven by medical research, might say (and have said). As a highly schooled expert myself, and someone who generally accepts what other experts tell me, I am uncomfortable at any challenge to my expertise, particularly when it comes from someone as powerful as Oprah. But I am not writing her to complain. I continue here to puzzle.