memories, musings

Repost: Ghosts of writings past… and so-called fake news

I am reposting this article from January 24, 2017 as I reflect on some changes that may be coming about soon. Ever since I moved this blog from Blogger, my “income” from writing, such as it was, has dried up. I don’t mind so much, since I never wrote for the money, anyway. It’s just something I’ve always been compelled to do. But, you know, no good deed goes unpunished. I just think this is an interesting look back, so I am sharing it again, as/is.

For about eleven years, I wrote articles for a variety of online publishers.  I was like a lot of people, making a few extra bucks writing about what I know or about subjects that captured my interest.  I sold a number of articles and, for awhile, writing served as a steady source of pocket money.  Then all the content mills dried up.  Now I only write on my own blogs and make whatever Google pays me every few months after I earn over $100 in ad revenue.

Every once in awhile, I find old articles I’ve written on the Internet.  They are always credited to “contributor”.  It’s weird, too, because they always have a copyright sign next to them, even though I’m the one who wrote them.  Some of the articles that turn up include my own stories.  I’ll give you an example of what I mean. 

Many years ago, I remember reading an article about a celebrity who engaged in a practice commonly referred to as “chew and spit”.  I want to say it was Glen Campbell, but I can’t be certain, since I’m pretty sure I read the article in the 80s.  Anyway, I absolutely do remember that in the article, “chew and spit” was referred to as oral expulsion syndrome (OES).  Both terms refer to the practice of chewing up food and spitting it out rather than swallowing it.  
In the 80s, I was fascinated by the idea of chewing and spitting food.  In those days, I flirted a bit with eating disorders myself and was always looking for tricks to shed pounds while indulging.  Eventually, I mostly grew out of my obsession and completely forgot about OES, having never tried it myself.  

Then, maybe six or seven years ago, I was a featured health and wellness writer on a Web site.  I had to write three articles a week and was trying to come up with an original topic.  That obscure memory of OES suddenly popped into my head.  I scoured the Internet for articles about it and came up with only a few very obscure references.  Jackpot!

So I started writing my article, aided by the fact that I’d recently read Dolly Parton’s 1994 book My Life and Other Unfinished Business after a trip to a thrift shop.  That was during a time when Bill and I were broke and I was getting a lot of reading material at used book stores.  I’m sure at the time I read Dolly Parton’s book, it was long off the best seller list and most people’s radar.  But then, I was also writing book reviews on a site where I could even make money if I reviewed old books, as long as the review drew readers.

In her 1994 memoirs, Dolly had included a passage about dieting.  One of the techniques Dolly suggested was the practice of chewing and spitting, though she didn’t refer to it as such.  So I wrote my very anecdotal piece and quoted direct passages from Dolly’s book in which she recommended chewing and spitting.  I found information as to why this technique might be more harmful than she let on.  I added links from reputable health related Web sites.  Voila!  A new resource was born to be used and abused by the masses! Below is a passage from the article I wrote for Associated Content about ten years ago. My original text from that article is in bold.

Those of us who have been around awhile know that Dolly Parton used to be significantly heavier than she is today. Indeed, in the 1980 film 9 to 5, she was downright plump. But several years after she made that film, she lost a dramatic amount of weight and now sports a thin body to go with her famously large bosom. Parton doesn’t share too much specific information about how she lost the weight, other than a passage she writes on page 255 of her autobiography:

One other hint I’d like to pass on has to do with chewing. Our taste buds are only in our mouths, after all, and we don’t really taste the food when we swallow it. You can get a lot of the satisfaction from the taste of things you love by just chew, chew, chew, chew, Chattanooga chew-chewing and then not swallowing. “Wait a minute,” you’re thinking. “If I don’t swallow, won’t I have to spit the food out?” You’re right. “That’s disgusting,” you say. That may be, but what’s more disgusting? Spitting out food or being a lardass?

As Dolly Parton puts it, “If you’re going to lose weight, you’re going to have to eat less food” (254). According to her book, Parton believes that heavy people are heavy because they eat a lot and, while she agrees that exercise is important, Parton seems to think that the real trick to weight loss is to not eat much. But even as she encourages eating sparingly, she admits that eating is pleasurable.

After she passes along her tip about chewing up food and spitting it out, she adds:

I’m not suggesting for a moment that you spit up food. That’s very dangerous, but it doesn’t hurt to spit it out. I know for a fact that many stars and models chew and spit. The first time somebody told me that, I was so shocked I dropped a whole Styrofoam cup of chewed doughnuts.

I’m pretty sure I sold that article to the publisher for a paltry sum.  Then, a few years later, the publisher went under.  But that article and others I’ve written are still out there, attributed to “contributor”.  What’s even funnier is that I’ve found that article referenced in other places, or hacked up by people who are claiming it as their own.  In fairness to the person whose article I just linked, I suppose it’s possible that she also read Dolly Parton’s book and decided to write about chewing and spitting, too.  It just seems eerily reminiscent of what I had written several years before.  Besides that, Dolly’s book was twenty years old by the time this person wrote about OES.  

I guess it doesn’t bother me to much to know that a lot of my work is out there and I’m no longer credited.  I think I’m more amused than anything else, especially since that article I wrote about OES was hatched from a very old memory and obscure details.  This is not to say that what I wrote wasn’t factual.  I did do as much research as I could for the original article.  I would not have published it if all the information I had found were anecdotes or blog entries about chewing and spitting.  It’s just that my article wasn’t exactly peer reviewed or vetted by experts.  And now I see that information is being disseminated by others.  Maybe I’m partially to blame for “fake news”.

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