"Tivo-ifies the web" Paul Kedrosky

Confidential File: Medical Quacks

A half century old exposé on medical quackery from the television show Confidential File hosted by Paul Coates.

I’m putting this up to illustrate the point I’ve been banging on about in the comments thread under the clip of present day quack, Gary Null: that harmless things like homeopathy can kill people because they prevent them seeking proven treatment.

The interesting thing about this film from the 50s is that it was an era where science was perceived quite differently from now. Science was held in high esteem in the US, but for cultural rather than rational reasons. This was the post war era of scientific spectacle that stretched from the Atom Bomb to the Apollo Program.

The quack medicine in this clip is more stylistically modern than today’s, being based on science itself and machinery and terminology from the atomic age. Today’s quackery is more often based on a reaction against the clinical aspects of science and is more likely to use rustic, ‘natural’ terminology. However, with this fashion, comes a rejection of reason itself, everything becomes relative and expressions like ‘proven treatment’ are taken to be a matter of opinion rather than evidence. This often makes today’s pseudo medical practitioners very difficult to pin down.

Today reason is unfashionable. But it shouldn’t be a matter of fashion, either way. We have regressed, by mistake.

2 comments FEBL, pseudo science

Gary Null’s Anger Management

Today is FEBL day, and our last example is this from Gary Null. Null communicates all manner of nonsense about health and has a huge axe to grind against doctors. His ideas are widely accused of being very dangerous.

Null speaks in a a very soft, unnaturally calm voice, which scares me, and runs a class on anger management which we show at the top.

In the clip below, we see him becoming very angry and losing his shit altogether. The anger is directed against vaccination, something that individuals undertake for the welfare of the community, an act which has saved the lives of millions.

Null has a problem with the astronomical amount of evidence about the benefit vaccinations which seems oddly personal, and his rage seems to point to a slight flaw in his anger management teaching. Like many of the people in the FEBL category, however, he doesn’t seem to have a sense of irony or humor.

This for me sums up Null as an extremely unstable charlatan. He goes into the FEBL hall of shame.

32 comments FEBL, pseudo science

Ben Goldacre Interview

I’ve just finished Reading Ben Goldacre’s book, ‘Bad Science’, that lambasts various forms of quackery and pseudo science. Here is a New Scientist interview with him. I have also embedded a clip of Gillian McKeith a well know TV presenter in the UK, who encourages people to eat healthily, but does so in a way that is wrong and deceptive. A whole chapter of Bad Science is devoted to her.

For example, McKeith calls herself (or used to call, before the Advertising Standards Authority had a draft adjudication against her) a doctor and refers to her patients. She is neither a medical doctor, nor does she have a PhD from an accredited university. She does have an accreditation from a Nutrition institute that Goldacre managed to obtain membership for his dead cat for $100. The award hangs in his toilet.

Gillian McKeith is our latest recipient of the Smashing Telly FEBL (Fucking Entertaining Big Lie) award, which consists of being tagged FEBL

3 comments FEBL, pseudo science, science

Uri Geller Debunked by James Randi

Contrary to what people might think, I am not some kind of anti-copyright nut. Most of the things I link to are items I would be watching if I were either located in the part of the world they showed for free, or at home when aired. SmashingTelly is, if you like, my VCR.

I don’t link to block-buster pirated movies, and I often end up buying better video quality DVD’s, where available, of my favorites (although region restrictions seem to conspire to put people off buying them). Someday, I hope, I will be able to watch the BBC iPlayer in the US, Hulu in the UK, and embed items from these great services. Hulus’s asynchronous, ad-supported, time limited, service seems to be the model for TV, in future, period.

But this clip is to do with copyright. It’s a 13 minute Youtube clip, debunking the fraudster, Uri Geller. He sued the creators because it contained a 10 second snippet of one of his performances, and has just lost.

According to Cory Doctorow:

“The EFF has really made Geller eat it here: not only has he been forced to withdraw, but they made him license the clip in question as non-commercial Creative Commons to boot, so as to freely aid the efforts of other skeptics.”

Geller’s tactic is the same as the Scientologists’ – to abuse copyright laws to suppress the truth. In other words, to use laws against stealing to protect lying, where the lying is protected because it is possibly a belief.

Thanks to Lester for the Randi Tip.

2 comments pseudo science

Primal Therapy (FEBL media)

Watch the first clip for as long as you can stand it – I lasted 3 minutes, then watch the one below it. Even better, hit play on them both at the same time.

Like much cultish nonsense, primal therapy makes a case that sounds consistent (mad, but consistent), and then assumes that this equals the truth. What I like most about this, is that the woman above (who has all the left-bank, professorial moves down: using glasses as pointer; snapping her fingers for answers; nodding sagely; genuine French accent) is actually talking about the stuff below.

Remember folks, established cults do this stuff even more strangely.

4 comments FEBL, pseudo science