Tag Archives: Tesco

Fight the quacklash

We in the reality-based community always wonder why quacks and cranks are unable to understand any motive other than profit. After all, it’s not as if their entire industry is founded on charlatans seeking to profit from the misery of others, is it?

Oh, hang on…

As a loyal “pharma-sponsored troll” it would be remiss of me not to alert you, my fellow minions of the drug overlords, to this blatant effort to stir up a quacklash against W. H. Smith, who have apparently at last done the decent thing and dropped the “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine” McTaggart’s Andrex substitute from sale.

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There’s an email address there. You know what to do.

Don’t bother commenting on WDDTY’s Facebook wall, though, it will be censored for free speech.

Also:

  • If you are a member of the Consumers’ Association, you might like to ask them what their views are on conspiracy-mongering quack advertorial masquerading as health and consumer advice.
  • If you are a listener or viewer of consumer affairs programmes such as You And Yours, you might like to pick one or two of the grossly misleading and inaccurate stories in recent issues and invite their views.
  • The “electrosmog doctor” has another advert repeating the claims adjudicated as misleading by the ASA – no need to report this as it’s already been done, but you might feel motivated to comb the pages and highlight any other repeat offenders.
  • A few supermarkets (allegedly including Tesco again) stock WDDTY. If you are on good terms with the in-store pharmacist, why not show them some of the more egregious stories in the issues on sale? Their professional reputation is being trashed by a product their employer is selling.
  • Finally – and most important – if you are being paid by “big pharma” please put us in touch, we could use the cash.

Meet the people who would dictate your health care

It’s time for the double-barrelled WDDTY-McTaggart spam shoot again. Seriously, what idiot imagined that sending subscribers to one list exactly the same emails from a second list they never signed up for was a smart marketing move? Oh, right, McTaggart. Who else?

McTaggart’s clearly getting jittery, and it’s everybody’s fault but hers that her precious monthly bundle of lies is under  attack. This is just in:

Meet the people who would dictate your health care

Dictate health care? Isn’t that a bit over the top? I haven’t seen anybody in Parliament sponsoring a Bill to prevent people refusing treatment, even for serious conditions, and opting for dumbfuckery.

As you know, we have been the target of a concerted campaign to get the store chains to stop stocking us. The architects of this campaign are the same people who spend a good deal of time attacking and harassing alternative practitioners of every variety.

Nope, they’re not being targeted qua fringe therapists. They’re being targeted qua blatant liars in their marketing blurb. And being asked for evidence. I know Sandra Hermann-Courtney thinks being asked for evidence is hate speech (no, gentle reader, this is not exaggeration on my part). Am I to conclude that you have the same paranoid mentality, Lynne?

And now, from the Dept. of Hasn’t A Fucking Clue:

Their numbers aren’t large (there’re only about 80 of them in total), and they aren’t well followed (Alan Henness of the Nightingale Collaboration, for instance, has just 462 followers on Twitter; Simon Singh, just 44 actively following him), but they are well organized and fuelled by a good deal of self-righteous passion about their mission, which is to stamp out what they view as quackery (ie, natural medicine of every variety, particularly the likes of homeopathy).

Learn to read, woman. Alan Henness follows 462 accounts; quite a lot more follow him. Simon Singh follows 44 people, with all of 54k following him. That’s a lot more than are following our Lynne, who clocks in at around 17K followers. I see we’ve also gone from the previous rant’s “handful” to “about 80”. Ye gods, those skeptics must breed like rabbits!

By the way, quackery is only “natural medicine” if you consider that doing nothing (at best), and charging large amounts of money for it, is natural medicine.

So we thought we should shine a light on the qualifications of the most vocal proponents of a group who believe they have the right to determine what you can or can’t read about your health or indeed the kinds of medical treatments you should be allowed to have access to.

What What Doctors Don’t Tell You Doctors Don’t Tell You

Of those who can be found on the GMC List of Registered Medical Practitioners, one has been issued with a warning, one has relinquished his registration, and all of them advocate dubious interventions, some of which have been shown to do more harm than good.

By all means. First though, let’s shine a light on WDDTY’s qualifications. To start with, we have McTaggart and Hubbard, who have no medical expertise or qualifications whatsoever. Remember this; it’s important.  They also don’t even hack it as journalists, given the quality of their copy. I keep running out of breath trying to read the sentences, so bereft of punctuation are they. Each has their own-brand whackjobbery: McTaggart’s “Intention” is just Reiki in an expensive wrapping; while Hubbard has a “Time-Light” plan that he claims cures chronic depression.

Now the so-called doctors on the editorial panel. I invite you to peruse this useful and well-researched post by Josephine Jones, whose only fault is that it classes Harald Gaier as a doctor. McTaggart doesn’t like Josephine Jones. We will come to this later.

Simon Singh. Singh is not a medical doctor; he has a Ph.D in particle physics.

Yes, this is common knowledge. He doesn’t hide it.

As he often signs his letters ‘Dr Singh’ when writing to Tesco or our distributors, most stores and media naturally assume that he has medical qualifications.

Please produce these letters where he does this, and explain how you obtained them. Of course, since Simon Singh is quite famous (u jelly, Lynne?), especially in the UK, I think it unlikely that his use of the title “Dr.” – which he has every right to – would mislead anybody. No more than, say, Dr. Brian May or Dr. Rowan Williams. I’ll leave the next paragraph as-is, since the venomous stupidity of someone who has no history of studying or writing about conventional medicine, other than as an exercise in writing fiction, is most entertaining.

He does not, nor does he have a history of studying or writing about conventional medicine. He’s written books about mathematical problems and patterns, codes and code-breaking and even cosmology, but nothing to date about conventional medicine – only one co-authored book (Trick or Treatment?- the clue to the slant is in the title) largely trashing alternative medicine. Singh is the public face of Sense About Science, a charity set up by a holding company in India, whose trustees include Simon Singh and his older brother, Tom, who founded the high street chain New Look. Sense about Science reports that it is supported by donations from a variety of sources, including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and many pharmaceutically backed charities, such as Cancer UK.

Yes, yes, the “charity set up by a holding company in India” is pure spiteful misrepresentation. Either she hasn’t a clue about how charities work, or she couldn’t care less as long as it sounds bad. Tom Singh is not on the Board of Trustees, so I’m going for the second option. Now we come to the implied call for harassment, which already went out on Facebook this weekend. I’m removing the employers’ names, because we know what fanatics like to do, don’t we?

‘Josephine Jones’. ‘She’ is the pseudonym for two people: Michael and Laura Thomason, who live in Warrington. Mike works as a database developer at [redacted] Pharma Solutions; there is a Laura Thomason on Linkedin who works as a supervisor at a [redacted] Coffee Shop, but we can’t verify if they are one and the same. If so, there can’t be many people popping in and ordering cappuccinos because she and her husband seem to have the time to catalogue WDDTY‘s every move, which they circulate on Josephine Jones’ blog as a constantly updated ‘Master List’. Presently, they are carrying out a survey of stores we’re in, presumably in hopes they might be able to pick us off, one store at a time. Neither professes to any medical qualifications.

I don’t know who Mike Thomason is, but he has nothing to do with Josephine Jones. One of the reasons Laura hesitated to come out from behind the pseudonym was precisely due to bullies like McTaggart trying to sic their followers on her and her family. Female bloggers always get rougher treatment than male bloggers, because sexist brutality. Well done, Lynne, for proving her right. That is what I call balls-out übercuntery.

Guy Chapman, who created a website called ‘What What Doctors Don’t Tell You Doesn’t Tell You’, and writes a good deal of bile-filled statements about alternative practitioners, is a software developer for Dell Computers. He’s also a member of a choir.

Like me, you may be wondering what all this has to do with the price of fish. Is she jealous of people who seem to lead fuller lives than she does? I do hope she’s not mistaking my prose for Guy’s, although we are by no means the only contributors to this blog. And talking of bile-filled, Lynne, can we have some evidence for that claim? There’s plenty of bile in the missives you’ve been spitting out over the past year, if by “bile” you mean defamatory statements and hate speech.

Jo Brody works two days a week as a public engagement coordinator for a research project which runs across four sites, including UCL, Queen Mary, City University and Swansea University), studying how to make medical devices safer. Jo’s job is to update the website and expand the project’s online presence. For the rest of the week she works as an information officer at Diabetes UK. Previously she worked as a secretary for Professor Stephen Wharton. As she freely admits: ‘I am not medically trained.’

Nor are you, Lynne. In fact, your qualifications are far worse than Jo’s. Incidentally, are you sure you’ve got the right person?  Next name on the list is Alan Henness. Usual distortion of facts and petty-minded sniping applies.

Alan Henness. He and his wife Maria MacLachlan, who live in Harrow, are effectively the Nightingale Collaboration, a tiny organization that was given seed money by Sense About Science, but that spends a prodigious amount of time reporting advertisers and practitioners of alternative medicine to The Advertising Standards Authority. Despite the name, the ASA is not a government body; it’s an advertising-industry-sponsored organization with no teeth. The best it can do is place advertisers it deems out of line on the naughty step, listing them on as a ‘non-compliant advertiser’ on its own website. Evaluations of the advertisements of alternative medicine or practitioners through the ASA are a stacked deck; they are evaluated, as our ads were, by known skeptics like Dr. Edzard Ernst, Simon Singh’s co-author of Trick or Treatment?

Now, if the ASA is toothless, why is reporting illicit advertising claims to them bullying and harassment? Make your mind up, doughball. As for the stacked deck, well, that’s just the usual quack special pleading. All the ASA asks for is evidence. If you can’t back up your claims, tough shit. I’m going to snip a bit, because McTaggart has delusions of being a great investigative journalist and, frankly, all she’s doing is demonstrating that the people she hates are more rational and thoughtful than she is. Here’s a wee cracker, though:

 Maria (Maclachlan ) wrote, in a short précis of what it means to be a humanist: ‘Humanists embrace the moral principle known as the Golden Rule. This means we believe that people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.’

I wonder if this ‘Golden Rule’ also includes harassing groups, practitioners or organizations who advocate or advertise alternative medicine?

No, sweetie popkins, it does not mean standing by while the naïve and vulnerable get conned out of their health and wealth by unscrupulous hucksters and charismatic fruitcakes. Lastly, she gets very upset over Andy Lewis, aka @lecanardnoir, because he’s made it difficult for her to use ad hominem.

Andy Lewis. Set up the ‘Quackometer’ site, which he claims to be an experiment in ‘critical thinking’. Doesn’t reveal what his credentials, education or employment history are – says they ‘don’t matter’ nor does an honest debate of the issues because the wording on websites will, through his own use of critical thinking, offer prima facie evidence of ‘quackery’.

It must be really frustrating to be unable to create a diversion by attacking the writer instead of the words. I can only conclude that McTaggart and her cronies are livid that they can’t answer criticism on the Quackometer. Not, I hasten to add, because they’re not allowed to post. It isn’t the WDDTY Facebook page. It’s because they have no evidence for their often totally unrealistic and long-debunked claims.

That’s who they are. WDDTY, on the other hand, has seven medical doctors on its editorial panel, plus several PhDs and highly qualified practitioners of a number of alternative disciplines.

I refer you again to the Josephine Jones post exposing this august assembly as a bunch of quacks, frauds and profiteering dingbats, irrespective of the letters they have after their names.

Thousands of doctors and health practitioners of every persuasion regularly read WDDTY and comment enthusiastically.

The Facebook page doesn’t seem that busy. Or are the enthusiastic comments mostly negative, and therefore deleted? I think you need a large FPI™ order to wash that assertion down.

The two editors of our magazine have been medical science writers for 25 years, and every word in our pages is checked by a science editor with an extensive history of writing and editing medical studies for the pharmaceutical industry.

Bad news, McTaggart and Hubbard: WDDTY, Intention and Time-Light do not qualify as writing about medical science. I see you fail to name your science editor. It seems uncharacteristic  that you should use someone in the pharmaceutical industry. After all, you constantly spit on Big Pharma and once issued the challenge to find a drug, other than antibiotics, that had ever cured anything.

Do you want these eight people to be the ones to determine what you can read about your own health care?

I thought there were 80 of us?

If not, write to Tesco today and ask them to re-stock What Doctors Don’t Tell You….

Etc. etc. whine, whine. It ends with the now habitual plea to ask Tesco to stock WDDTY again. Being chucked out of Tesco has really hurt, it would seem. Could it be that WDDTY doesn’t attract enough subscribers, in spite of the hard sell (every month I see a SPECIAL SUBSCRIPTION OFFER email befouling my inbox), and they desperately need to prey on the innocent who might see it presented in their local supermarket as a genuine health magazine? I suspect so.

All the more reason to encourage all supermarkets and newsagents to drop WDDTY like a mouldy, worm-infested potato. If people are stupid enough to subscribe, fine. But they shouldn’t be gulled into buying this crap because it’s on the same shelf as publications that don’t tell you as if it were solid fact that cancer can be treated with intravenous vitamin C, that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, that vaccines are pure poison, that homeopathy reverses cancer, that electric power lines cause Alzheimer’s, that pollution causes diabetes…. and so on.

Responses from those personnally targeted:

Jo Brody’s Stuff that occurs to me: It seems the magazine ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ doesn’t like me

Guy Chapman’s Blahg: WDDTY goes “the full Errol”

Maria Maclachlan: Comment on Think Humanism forum

It’s official: WDDTY have lost

farcebookWe have arrived at a turning point. Tesco have dropped WDDTY, and the editors know that this is the beginning of the end of their attempt to appear to be a legitimate magazine.

As proof, I offer the Facebook post captured at right, from WDDTY’s wall, where all dissenting views are ruthlessly excised because free speech.

Notice two things:

First, McTaggart leads with a ridiculous personal attack on Laura and Mike Thomason, two people whose identities they seem to think are a sinister secret, presumably because they have never heard of Google or are truly incompetent at following the projects of their self-declared nemesis Simon Singh.

Laura, as all UK skeptical activists know, is painstakingly scrupulous in being fair to those she critiques.  I can find no evidence at all that she has called for the banning of WDDTY- but of course as far as McTaggart is concerned any campaign designed to force WDDTY to be honest in its self-promotion and content, is precisely that: a call for it to be banned. Presumably they know, deep down, that they cannot ever be factual and honest.

I cannot think of anybody who it would be more insane to describe as a troll, though of course cranks have always used such labels for anyone who does not accept their belief on their own say-so – it’s a way of managing the cognitive dissonanceW.

Nothing says “credible health resource” quite like vitriolic personal attacks against private individuals who have a reputation for being fair, polite and reserved.

Second, as if this repugnant personalisation of the issue were not enough as an admission of defeat, there’s a cartoon aping the many spoof WDDTY covers created by skeptics, targeting Simon Singh.

According to WDDTY, Singh says that “every drug works and is perfectly safe”. This will come as news to the followers of All TrialsW, championed by Sense About ScienceW and Simon, who have been critiquing “big pharma” for covering up the fact that all drugs do not work and are not perfectly safe. In fact, I have never heard anybody, even the most hardened shill for big pharma, claim that all drugs are effective or that any drug is perfectly safe. Most, however, are both effective and acceptably safe.

As to the idea that “alternatives don’t work at all”, I cite Minchin’s Law: “By definition”, alternative medicine” has either not been proved to work, or been proved not to work. You know what they call “alternative medicine” that’s been proved to work? Medicine.””

Simon Singh is not in denial about this. Alternative treatments can be tested, objectively. A few have been found to be effective. They are no longer alternative. By definition.

The campaign against What Doctors Don’t Tell You Continues

This post appears in a slightly longer format on Plague of Mice)

Pause, if you will, and drop a piteous tear for poor Lynne McTaggart, Saint and Martyr. She feels Put Upon. She considers she is being Bullied. Her Great Life’s Work is under attack from what sounds like a small group of anti-homeopathy terrorists who will stop at nothing to destroy her. There is a Campaign against WDDTY. For the Blessed McTaggart alone knows the Truth and fears not to speak it. This is why the baying hordes of reason…

She’s not fooling anyone, is she? Anyway, this is the rant she just posted on her blog.


A concerted letter-writing campaign by a handful of very vociferous self-styled ‘skeptics’ has managed to convince Tesco that customers are complaining about What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and the store chain has just agreed to withdraw the magazine from the shelves.

These were not legitimate complaints. They were the result of several calls to action by a few sceptical websites to a small band of very devoted and fairly fanatical followers.

This, as you know, is part of an 20-month concerted campaign by Simon Singh, Sense About Science and a variety of rag-tag organizations like the Nightingale Collaboration to ban or crush WDDTY. Singh and co have called Comag, our distributors, multiple times, orchestrated letter writing campaigns to all the store chains that carry the magazine, harassed dozens of our advertisers by reporting them the ASA, sent their foot soldiers to hide our magazines on the shelves of stores and attempted to destroy our Google ranking. One of our websites was even mysteriously hacked into.They don’t engage in open or legitimate dialogue, only innuendo and bully-boy tactics on our social network sites.

Simon Singh is busy these days tweeting his supporters to write Tesco to thank them for not stocking us.

And all this because they don’t want you to have a choice about the information you have about your health care.

They believe that you should only have access to one sort of health information – the information that ridicules alternative medicine of all persuasions and embraces conventional medicine as currently practiced. They believe that they have the right to dictate to you the forms of health care you have access to. They claim to be in favour of free speech in science, but only the information they deem acceptable for you to read.

The skeptics have a loyal following, but there are tens of thousands more who support WDDTY and our work. Tesco will reconsider if they hear from customers who want to buy WDDTY in their stores.

If you buy WDDTY at Tesco, you believe in free speech, and freedom of choice in health care, or you believe that Tesco should continue to stock WDDTY, please write to customer service and tell them exactly why: [email protected]

Well, wasn’t that informative? Let us admire the loaded vocabulary, rife with venomous innuendo, bile dripping from every syllable. Is perchance The Great McTaggart’s revenue stream endangered? My first question is: how did this alleged handful of skeptics manifest in the form of so many people and organisations? Over a year ago, Josephine Jones already had a pretty impressive Master list.

“These were not legitimate complaints” – On the contrary, Lynne, the complaint was that your rag promotes dangerous quackery, while maintaining a resolutely hostile attitude to doctors, vaccines, medical treatment of any kind (including lifesaving treatments for cancer), and this you have proved time and again with every fucking issue. Open one at random, and you’ll find fuckwittery that can kill or cripple. Read any post on this blog, and you’ll see holes poked in your assertions until they look like moth-eaten lace doilies. In any case, it’s not for you to judge whether the complaints were legitimate or not.

“One of our websites was even mysteriously hacked into”‘ – Mysteriously, my arse. The Internet is full of spotty virgins and crooks trying to break into any website they can. So of course McTaggart blames skeptics for her own negligence in not securing her site properly. Simple stuff, I suspect, like not having the login “admin” for the administrator’s account. There are plenty of good security plugins for all the major CMS software, woman. Sodding well use them. We do.

“harassed dozens of our advertisers by reporting them the ASA” – Reporting illegal, indecent, dishonest or untruthful advertising copy isn’t harassment, Lynne. It’s civic duty. If you don’t like your advertisers getting called out for lying, get a better class of advertiser. Although I can see how that would be a problem for you, given the calibre of your rag.

“They don’t engage in open or legitimate dialogue” – The fucking cheek of this duplicitous dipshit! She systematically deletes comments from skeptics, be they on her blog, Facebook or anywhere else she has moderator privileges. It’s so bad that her own followers have actually complained that, since only their side of the dialogue remained, it made them look complete idiots because the exchange no longer made the slightest sense.

“Simon Singh is busy these days tweeting his supporters” – No, he isn’t. In fact, he only mentions WDDTY when you take one of your puerile swipes at him. Amusingly, the last one was to remind you of the existence of AllTrials.net, which you yourself were all for until you realised that skeptics were involved.

“they don’t want you to have a choice about the information you have about your health care” – No, it’s not a matter of choice when a decision is based on false information, manipulation and outright dishonesty. Stop pushing quackery for profit and, er, profit, and start doing some real investigative health journalism, if you want respect and acceptance. Unfortunately, I suspect that neither your medical knowledge nor your journalistic skills are up to the job.

“They claim to be in favour of free speech in science, but only the information they deem acceptable for you to read” – Apart from this being a barefaced lie, McTaggart has delusions of adequacy if she thinks what she spouts in her blog, her rag, her books, etc are anything even remotely related to science.

“there are tens of thousands more who support WDDTY” – ORLY? I see only 14K ‘Likes’ on Facebook, the WDDTY Twitter account has a pathetic 703 followers, while McTaggart’s own account has all of 17.7K. This sounds like the police estimates vs organiser estimates for protest marches, doesn’t it? Even so, it stinks of wide exaggeration on your part.

Now here’s the absolute biscuit, the coup de grâce in hypocritical bullshittery: “If you buy WDDTY at Tesco, you believe in free speech…”.

Remember, McTaggart herself doesn’t believe in free speech, as she mercilessly extirpates the slightest criticism of her monthly bowel-dump of rancid WTF wherever she can, going as far as to threaten legal action in an attempt to scare Simon Singh into silence (the BCA must have been piddling themselves with laughter). Secondly, Lynne, the concept of free speech is not as you would have us believe: that you are allowed to say whatever you like, to whomever you like, without fear of contradiction, and hang the consequences.

No, Ms McTaggart, freedom of speech means freedom of opinion, with the necessary corollary that others have the right to criticise that opinion. But you don’t have that protection, and rightly so, because WDDTY isn’t being sold as opinion, it’s being sold as solidly-researched advice. Your poisonous little rag doesn’t benefit from freedom of speech because of the many and monstrous errors of fact that it contains. Of course, you could always claim “SCIENCE!”, but I strongly advise you not to. You see, an important part of science is the critical analysis and testing of other scientists’ claims, so you’re back to square one.

You have no case, Ms. McTaggart. None at all. You’re a hypocrite and liar, and that is my considered opinion based on the evidence before me.

Read also:

Our work is not yet done

 

Tesco have dropped What Doctors Don’t Tell You

NowVenalDissemblers

According to our sinister agents, Tesco are to cease stocking the dangerous misleading bullshit that is What Doctors Don’t Tell You.

This is in response to pressure from doctors, scientists and others (perhaps even the odd in-store pharmacist) who complained about Tesco’s decision to stock a magazine packed with misleading advertisements and misleading and dangerous claims. From AIDS denialism to anti-vaccination activism to homeopathy to electrosensitivity, there is no subject where WDDTY’s editorial line follows the best scientific evidence.

A particular recent highlight is the finding by the ASA that the only thing that isn’t misleading about the claims of their “electrosmog doctor” is the term electrosmog, and that’s only because it has no real currency other than among cranks.

Waitrose confirmed last year that due to customer feedback, they would no longer be stocking the magazine.

Blogger Josephine Jones was one of those to receive a call from Tesco:

I was told that the decision was due to a number of factors, including sales issues and complaints. Although it has not been available in Tesco for the last month, there have been no reported complaints from customers looking to buy the magazine. I was also told that given the poor sales figures, it is unlikely that Tesco will decide to restock at a later date.

Interesting that poor sales figures are a factor. The editors must be having a terrible time: the increased costs of a glossy format, the advertisers dropping out due to adjudications from the ASA and the scrutiny the ghastly rag receives every issue, the relentless destruction of its ridiculous nonsense by the skeptical community. I understand they are trying the US market, presumably following P. T. Barnum’s adage that nobody ever went bankrupt underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

WHSmith, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons are said still to be stocking WDDTY, presumably in the same aisle as Andrex. Keep up the pressure!

What Dr. Who Doesn’t Tell You

wdwdtyTesco are still, it seems, engaged in their virtual-reality game of pretending that the WDDTY furore is about consumer choice, rather than consumer protection.

But today, the mask slipped.

On the plus side, we now know what the trace across the WDDTY masthead means.

Dum di dum, dum di dum, dum di dum, dee di dum, dum di dum, dum di dum, dum di dum, dee di dum, du-du-du-dum, du-du-du-dum, du-du-du-dum dee-di-di-dum, oo-eee-ooooo…

With apologies to Ron GrainerW and Delia DerbyshireW.

So, that Tesco twitter fail in full:

tesco-dr-who

 

To be absolutely clear: we here at WWDDTYDTY would be absolutely delighted if people were as unlikely to follow WDDTY’s terrible advice as they were to try to time-travel in a police box.

Unfortunately that is not the case.

Recently we have seen evidence of anti-vaccination scaremongering, AIDS denialism, promoting riskier behaviours as less risky, scaremongering over essential medical diagnostics, misleading claims about antibiotics, and probably worst of all a revisionist attempt to pretend that new research vindicates health menace Andrew Wakefield when it does no such thing.

We’ve also seen a superbly eloquent description of why this matters.

Yes, Tesco, we know that WDDTY is science fiction not science fact. Your tweet is (accidentally) bang on the money. WDDTY is as much a medical publication as Dr. Who magazine – and the day they make this clear is the day we’ll stop complaining about you stocking such garbage.

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WDDTY and Tesco’s corporate irresponsibility

WDDTY and Tesco’s corporate irresponsibility

Reblogged with permission from Dianthus Medical

I’ve written before about the magazine “What Doctors Don’t Tell You”, but just to refresh your memory, it is a dreadful pile of nonsense, carrying dangerously misleading health advice. It includes such gems as suggesting vitamin C can cure AIDS or that homeopathy can cure cancer. If you want to know more about just how outrageously irresponsible the magazine is, you might want to visit http://wwddtydty.com or look at Josephine Jones’s impressive list of links.

Now, perhaps none of this would matter very much if it were a subscription magazine where alternative medicine cranks could get their monthly fix of drivel and the rest of us didn’t have to worry about it too much. But I think it does matter when respectable high street retailers stock the magazine. That makes it look like a respectable source of health advice, rather than the crazy conspiracy theory nonsense that it is. If someone walking into a respectable retailer saw this magazine in their “health” section, then they might think it is something to be taken seriously. The consequences of that could be tragic. Beyond Positive have written eloquently about the dangers of persons living with HIV being exposed to such dangerous advice.

Sainsburys briefly stocked the magazine, but to their credit, they have since withdrawn it from sale after it was pointed out to them just how dangerous the magazine is. Tesco, however, is another matter. They continue to stock the magazine.

Tesco’s response has been something of an eye opener. They have clearly decided on a position on stocking WDDTY, but do not seem able or willing to explain their position. Their position, as set out in the standard template email that their customer service department has been using to respond to anyone contacting them about WDDTY, reads as follows:

Thank you for your email.

I understand you have concerns over the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and I can appreciate your views on the matter.

We are in the position of offering our customers choice rather than appointing ourselves as censors or moral guardians. The publisher of this magazine prints on page 3 a liability statement advising readers to consult a qualified practitioner before undertaking any treatment.

While we cannot comment on the contents of these magazines, your comments have been duly noted and fed back to our Buying Teams.

One thing to note in passing is that their claim not to act as “censors or moral guardians” is obviously not true. Acting as censors and moral guardians is exactly what they did about “lads’ mags” and a rather offensive Halloween costume. I did try asking them why they sometimes act as censors and moral guardians and sometimes don’t on their Facebook page. They initially replied simply to say that they had removed the Halloween costume from sale (which I already knew) and completely failed to answer my question, which does suggest that the people Tesco put in the position of interacting with the public are not exactly completely engaged in their role. When I pointed out that they hadn’t answered my question, they replied again to promise that they’d get back to me, but of course they never did.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 11:43:47

I also raised my concerns specifically about the magazine on Tesco’s Facebook page, but alas all I got was the same template response that others had got.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 11:49:17

Sound familiar?

Well, I didn’t feel that there was much point pursuing this with Tesco’s customer service team as they were clearly only going to keep parroting the same answer. But I did notice that Tesco claim on their website to have a “Corporate Responsibility” team. So I thought I’d email them and point out the disconnect between selling WDDTY and their corporate responsibility principles, one of which is “Helping and encouraging our colleagues and customers to live healthier lives”. This is what I wrote:

Dear CSR Team

I see that you have a clear policy about helping your customers to make healthy choices. That is admirable, but it seems that one of your purchasing decisions is really not living up to it.

I gather that you sell “What doctors don’t tell you” in your magazine sections. This magazine is dangerous. It consists of much health misinformation (for example, advice to avoid life-saving vaccinations against diseases such as measles or whooping-cough), and if any of your customers were unfortunate enough to believe the articles in it, then their health could be put seriously at risk.

There is a good reason why doctors don’t tell you most of the stuff you read in that magazine, in much the same way that car mechanics don’t tell you to care for your car’s bodywork by regularly driving through salt water.

If you are not familiar with the magazine and would like to read more about just how dangerous it is, there is a useful list of resources here:

https://josephinejones.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/wddty-my-master-list/

I urge you to reconsider your decision to sell the magazine, as it seems to be in clear breach of your CSR policy on helping your customers to live healthy lives.

Kind regards

Adam

PS:

As I’m sure you’re all too aware, CSR policies are often regarded with some cynicism as mere window dressing, not backed up by any meaningful action. This is your chance to prove otherwise!

Tesco’s corporate responsibility team did not respond.

After a decent interval had elapsed, I asked them on their Facebook page when I might expect to get a response. No reply. So a little while later, I asked again. This time, they did reply. They said they couldn’t find my email, and could I forward it to their customer service department. I did so, making it very clear that it was not intended for their customer services department, but for their corporate responsibility department. This was the response I received:

Dear Adam

Thank you for your email.

I understand you have concerns over the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and I can appreciate your views on the matter.

We are in the position of offering our customers choice rather than appointing ourselves as censors or moral guardians. The publisher of this magazine prints on page 3 a liability statement advising readers to consult a qualified practitioner before undertaking any treatment.

While we cannot comment on the contents of these magazines, your comments have been duly noted and fed back to our Buying Teams.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Kind regards

Rachel Barnes

Tesco Customer Service

Sound familiar?

There followed much frustrating to-and-fro, both by email and on Facebook, while I asked them if I could have a reply from their corporate responsibility department. Mostly, they simply didn’t understand the question. Eventually, however, we seemed to make progress.

On Facebook, I was told that the corporate responsibility team would not reply to me directly, but would simply send the standard response from customer services that everyone else sent, because they like to ensure that their replies are consistent.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 12:16:04

On the same day, I received the following email from someone else in their customer services department:

Dear Adam

Thank you for your reply.

I would like to advise that in order for you to contact our Corporate responsibility team you would have to put it in writing to our Head Office in Cheshunt and the address is as follows.

New Tesco House
Delamare Road
Cheshunt
Herts
EN8 9SL

Once again thank you for your reply.

Kind regards

Stephen Horn

Tesco Customer Service

So much for consistent replies.

Well, I did indeed do as Stephen suggested and I wrote an old-fashioned letter on a real piece of paper and put it in the post. That was getting on for 4 weeks ago, and I haven’t had a reply. I don’t honestly expect to get one.

Now, I dare say that Tesco’s corporate responsibility team have other things to worry about. Trying to make sure that not too many of the people who make their clothes in sweatshops in Bangladesh get killed in unsafe working conditions probably keeps them quite busy. They probably also need to spend a certain amount of time figuring out what kind of farm animals are in their ready meals and just how dishonestly to respond when they’re caught selling the wrong kind.

But still, it’s now about 2 months since I first contacted them. Is it really too much to expect a brief reply? Perhaps Tesco don’t see this as a corporate responsibility issue. Well, that’s their prerogative, but I don’t see why someone in their corporate responsibility department couldn’t at least have taken the trouble to spend 5 minutes writing an email to say so. Can we really take Tesco’s commitments to corporate responsibility seriously if their corporate responsibility department so completely fails to engage with members of the public? I do wonder whether their corporate responsibility department even exists. On Twitter, Tesco assured me that it did, but I have yet to see any evidence of that. Certainly never got the promised reply.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 14:36:06

To my mind, this is absolutely a corporate responsibility issue. By selling WDDTY, Tesco are giving it a stamp of respectability. This is not about “free speech” or whether anyone is trying to “ban” WDDTY, despite some folks’ attempts to paint it that way (those arguments have been dealt with comprehensively by Matthew Lamand Andy Lewis). It’s about whether it’s responsible for retailers such as Tesco to give WDDTY an implicit stamp of approval. Anyone taken in by that false impression of credibility could be harmed, and I don’t think that’s a responsible way for Tesco to act.

 

Secure your copy of WDDTY

We’ve received a copy of the latest circular email from WDDTY. It contains a very interesting claim, and one which we think WDDTY might have a little difficulty backing up:

What Doctors Don't Tell You

Secure your copy of WDDTY

Hi (email subscriber),

Many of you are having problems finding What Doctors Don’t Tell You in the shops.

Especially Waitrose and Sainsbury’s.

This could be for a number of reasons:  we’re not in every store, and some stores display the magazine for a limited period.  Drug company supporters also hide the magazine or even remove copies from the shelves, and it’s hard for the store employees to always police this.

Wait, drug company supporters? They can’t mean skeptics – WDDTY says there are only a few of them, probably just Simon Singh and he moves around a lot. Every single skeptic we can trace who has commented on WDDTY is also a supporter of All Trials, possibly the most effective grass-roots campaign against “Big Pharma” that has ever existed, so that rules them out anyway.

So who is this large, well-organised shadowy cabal of drug industry supporters? Inquiring minds want to know!

One reader told us:

Interesting to note in your latest newsletter that drug company interests might be “hiding” copies of WDDTY on the shelves of Tesco etc.  I believe it totally. I went to buy one on 1st November at a Tesco and couldn’t see it. I looked all over. Not there. Then I bent down to look at the bottom shelf. Not there either. UNTIL… I noted at the very back of the bottom shelf – totally out of sight – were a few copies! I instantly thought what you did – that someone was deliberately hiding them. A shocker!

That’s where the magazine was at my local Tesco on the day it came out. So the shadowy drug-industry supporting cabal has taken over Tesco’s shelf-stackingThat’s serious!

Unless of course Tesco put it there because it’s a low-sales item. Something’s got to occupy the coveted back of the bottom shelf slot, after all, and it’s unlikely to be Loaded, even with its modesty bag that is entirely a matter for the publishers.

So we see the conspiracist mindset in action. The obvious explanation is discounted because it causes too much cognitive dissonanceW. Exactly as we see with medical and scientific evidence, in fact: disconfirming results are a conspiracy, confirming results are visionary and all issues, including poor design, conflicts of interest and so on, are ignored.

It’s a great way of not just being wrong, but staying wrong.

If you want to make sure you see WDDTY every month, we always recommend that you take out a subscription.  You save money if you pay by direct debit and it’s delivered to your home every month.

We recommend this too. If you absolutely insist on giving your money to an anti-vaccinationist homeopathy-believing author of pseudoscentific claptrap, in return for a monthly helping of incorrect, misleading and sometimes downright dangerous nonsense, then don’t make otherwise respectable retailers a partner in crime.

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Activism

A disclaimer might look like this...
A disclaimer might look like this…

There are a few things that may help raise the profile of the dangerous nonsense in WDDTY.

  • If you are an in-store pharmacist at Tesco or some other supermarket selling this nonsense, then you could complain to your manager that your role is being undermined by the anti-medicine agenda in WDDTY.
  • If you are a health professional, you could take a copy off the shelves to Customer Service and tell them you are offended by the insult to your profession.
  • If you are inclined to activism, buy a copy and stage a stunt in front of the shop, send us photos! Don’t tear a copy up without buying it.
  • Some satirical individuals moved Tony Blair’s book to the Crime or Fantasy section. Does your supermarket or WHS branch have a Comedy or Satire section?
  • You can buy peelable printable labels (e.g. Avery L4743REV) and print a warning notice.

 

Open letter to Tesco

From a “concerned reader” (name and address supplied)

I have serious concerns that this magazine could cause harm to the public if allowed the credibility of a place on the stands in Tesco. It is crucial that Tesco are aware of what they are choosing to sell – you absolutely do need to look into the content of this magazine.

This dangerously misleading publication warns against vaccinations and prescription medicines while advocating unproven and disproven alternative treatments. For example, the current edition – a cancer special – has an article suggesting that homeopathy may be a useful cancer treatment. It also implies that most chemotherapy doesn’t work and can cause harm. Well known doctors and experts have spoken out against the magazine, including Dr Christian Jessen, Dr Margaret McCartney, Dr Ellie Cannon and the Terrence Higgins Trust (a previous edition suggested that Vitamin C could cure HIV). As a result of complaints by customers, Waitrose announced last month that they would no longer be stocking the magazine.

I’ve now had a series of emails from Customer Care at Tesco, none of which answer my questions and all of which appear to have been put together from templates.

I have had the following arguments put forward, none of which are adequate:

1) The suggestion that Tesco do not act as censors or moral guardians
2) The suggestion that Tesco are not responsible for the editorial content of the magazines they sell
3) The suggestion that the WDDTY liability statement is of relevance
4) The suggestion that this is the responsibility of the publisher

While Tesco may not be responsible for the editorial content of the magazines they sell, Tesco certainly are responsible for what they choose to sell. Tesco do act as censors and moral guardians – as several people have pointed out already (their comments were understandably blocked by filters for doing so on Facebook) – Tesco do not stock hardcore pornography and would presumably choose not to stock offensive political propaganda, for example.

What Doctors Don’t Tell You is a self published magazine. They are not prepared to listen to criticism and seem to believe, rather implausibly, that their critics are pawns of the pharmaceutical industry. The whole theme of the magazine is to spread mistrust in doctors and in medical professionals, contradicting the apparent aim of their disclaimer. Furthermore, the disclaimer suggests readers consult a “qualified practitioner” without defining what they mean by this. Many alternative medicine practitioners consider themselves to be qualified (including people involved with and mentioned in WDDTY) . The term is meaningless. It is possible to obtain worthless qualifications from disreputable online colleges.

Since Customer Care have failed to recognise that it this is a corporate responsibility issue, I ask that you take the time to look into this.

Are Tesco happy to be associated with this publication?