An advertisement for a trip in May 2022 to Israel and the West Bank

Have you noticed what appears to be a national obsession with a daily bowel cleansing?

We’ve all visited websites that include misleading clickbait ads disguised as informative news articles.

Among the several items vying for attention, one of the most common touts: “How to Empty Your Bowels Every Morning: Top Surgeon Explains,”

Or “Here’s How to Completely Empty Your Bowels Every Morning,”

Or “Empty Your Bowels Daily in 1 Min: Three Ways to Pressure Wash Your Insides and Provide Stomach Relief (Do This Daily).”

The ads often picture different foods: eggs, bananas, bran muffins, potatoes. You can bet that those foods are not the answer.

In some western states, prominent billboards have been featuring an empty roll of toilet paper or attractive young women proclaiming “Yay! I pooped today!”

Really?

Who knew that number two should be a number one cause for celebration?

Has there been a national outbreak of constipation?

Did our mothers fail to teach us the importance of a daily constitutional?

Would it be better if the coaches who challenged us to display intestinal fortitude had instead advised intestinal laxitude?

Is the medical community really keeping us sick on purpose because there’s no profit in making people well?

So says self-proclaimed “top surgeon” Alan Gundry in one of the most common ads. But is he really the only doctor in America who really wants to help us, and is daily defecation really the key to health?

In the interest of research (or possibly in desperation for a column topic), I looked into the purported potty problem.

It’s a crappy job, but someone has to do it.

As I guessed, and it should be obvious, none of the ads are motivated by an altruistic desire to improve our health through efficient excretion.

They’re all about selling expensive dietary supplements that are supposed to improve our gut biome with a combination of proprietary ingredients.

The importance of maintaining a healthy intestinal flora is no secret, but people have done it for thousands of years without overpriced pre-biotics, pro-biotics, and butyrate supplements.

Reviews of such products (outside of their own self-congratulatory websites) include a fair share of dissatisfied folks crying, “This is a SCAM: don’t buy it!”

What I found most troubling is not that people purvey poop promoting products, but the slick marketing techniques common to clickbait advertising in general.

It begins with a misleading but tempting claim designed to elicit the first click: “People on Medicare are Getting a Big Surprise This February,” or “The 1 Mistake Almost Every Mac User Makes Daily.”

A whole category starts with something inane followed by “I WAS SHOCKED!” or “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED!” or “SEE WHAT SHE LOOKS LIKE NOW!”

Some of these are not only rabbit-hole time wasters or thinly veiled product promotions, but also malevolent phishing scams. All of them are out to get your eyes on more ads or get their hands in your pockets.

The first click often leads to more ads. Or, in some cases, a video infomercial that hides all screen controls and doesn’t let you fast-forward or see how long it is.

Some accurate information can be mixed with come-on claims of just-revealed secrets designed to suck you in until you and your cash have been drawn down the toilet.

The apparent profitability of misleading clickbait is just one example of how incredibly gullible humans can be – the same characteristic that makes us susceptible to intriguing claims of conspiracies and clandestine cabals.

We like to be “insiders.” People can feel so empowered by being privy to “secret” information that they fail to use whatever critical thinking skills they possess to realize how badly they’ve been duped.

Sometimes I think the shady characters behind QAnon-type rumors get a kick out of seeing who can come up with the most ridiculous story that people will still fall for.

Child-trafficking pedophilic blood-drinking cannibals control the country? I can imagine maniacal laughter coming from lonely basements across the U.S. – and other countries.

The power of the internet to provide a free flow of information is just as dangerous as it is potentially beneficial.

It’s worth the effort to demand that news and social media platforms should impose controls to limit the spread of false, harmful, and predatory content, but the most important filter remains between the ears of the user, and those who claim to follow Jesus have an extra responsibility to use it.

The daily cleanse we need requires only the discernment to recognize what tempting flotsam should be unceremoniously flushed.

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