Tag Archives: Hypocrisy

Lynne McTaggart: Vous n’êtes pas Charlie, vous êtes de la vermine

Sorry to harp on about this, but McTaggart really has jumped the shark on this one. This is a Facebook status update and blog from McTaggart. I think the term “self-indulgent, self-obsessed, self-serving drivel” is probably accurate, or at least as accurate as I can get without plumbing the depths of our rich Anglo-Saxon vernacular.

JE SUIS GAGGED

No. You are not gagged. If you were gagged you would not be able to continue publishing your lies, distortions and evasions. The fact that you do so, in and of itself negates your own claim. Continue reading Lynne McTaggart: Vous n’êtes pas Charlie, vous êtes de la vermine

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:

The Vitamin Wars

Few columns in WDDTY reveal the hypocrisy of the SCAM industry quite so consistently as Rob Verkerk’s. Rob runs the Alliance for Natural Health Europe (ANH-Europe), a SCAM industry lobby group indistinguishable in function and purpose from the lobbying companies used by “big pharma”, but far less scrupulous when it comes to accuracy, because Rob (like many of his contemporaries) not only lobbies for SCAM, he also makes money from SCAM, and makes more money promoting in print the SCAM from which he makes money.

His February 2014 is perfect of its type:

Few Natural-health aficionados would have been unable to miss the media reports about vitamins being a waste of money. They hit every major newspaper, radio and TV station last December.

Yes, it’s a welcome change from the usual credulous nonsense planted by people like Rob Verkerk.

The Times’ science correspondent, Tom Whipple, the journalist that has had his crosshairs focused on this very magazine in separate articles appearing on the 1st October and 2nd November, was the most condemning.

No evidence that Tom Whipple was the most condemning, but to say he has his crosshairs focused on WDDTY is a classic appeal to motives: according to Verkerk, Whipple cannot be trusted because he has an agenda against WDDTY. In fact, the opposite is true: Whipple can be trusted precisely because he has spoken out against the misleading information in WDDTY, rather than either parroting it or ignoring it as most journalists do.

Rob Verkerk, like Lynne McTaggart and all the other contributors to WDDTY, is unable to separate objective scrutiny of false information from suppression of free speech. That’s because they sincerely believe things which are unsupported by scientific evidence, and that’s precisely why any trustworthy health journalist will give overwhelmingly negative coverage to WDDTY.

His piece, in the 17th December edition of the newspaper, declared, “Vitamin pills are a waste of money, experts warn.” The Daily Mail said multivitamins “do nothing to protect us from illness”.

And this is true: for most people eating a healthy balanced diet, supplements are unnecessary. And for those who are not eating a healthy balanced diet, a change of diet is vastly preferable to supplementation.

So who are those experts, and what did they actually reveal or say? The first thing to recognize is that the most damning headlines about vitamin and mineral supplements weren’t generated from any new clinical trials or even analyses of previous trials. They actually came from an opinion piece written as an editorial by a number of scientists and appearing in the same issue of the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM) that also included three reviews of past studies. Some of the authors had been engaged in previous studies of high-dose synthetic vitamin supplements.

Apparently Rob Verkerk doesn’t understand the process of scientific consensus building. This article summarised several reviews and other evidence, and drew a conclusion. That’s what science does. It’s interesting, though, that a columnist in WDDTY would try to play the “appeal to authority fallacy” card to undermine a published paper – great swathes of WDDTY would be blank if the editors adopted the view that appeals to authority are not reliable.

But this was a serious, highly credible, well-researched article in a major  peer-reviewed journal. That’s why it is so important, and why Verkerk has to spin like crazy to downplay it.

One review, the biggest by far, evaluated 26 studies to see if there was a link between taking typical dosages and forms of multivitamin/ mineral supplements and death from any cause, as well as death from either cancer or heart disease.

Another looked at two studies that evaluated the effects of a multivitamin on reducing cognitive decline in the elderly, and the third investigated whether a multivitamin could reduce cardiovascular events among those who’d already had a heart attack.

Indeed. And the results were underwhelming to say the least.

Any clinicians worth their salt and practising in the field of nutritional medicine, if asked to propose the likely outcomes of the multivitamin interventions evaluated by the three AIM articles, would have said “no chance”. And guess what? That’s just what was found. But this then gave the editorial authors a chance to blast their anti-supplement sentiments through an opinion piece that generated international news headlines.

A physician worth their salt and practising in the field of nutritional medicine, is called a dietician. It’s a protected title, and practitioners are subject to training requirements and statutory regulation. And yes, they would say that the chances of a positive result from precisely the kinds of routine supplementation that makes millions for the SCAM industry in product sales is slim. Multivitamins are, as the article says, probably a complete waste of money. How many shelves in your local pharmacy would that empty?

It’s big business. And the business needs its spin machine – including mouthpieces like Verkerk – to undermine a finding that is in the end neither surprising nor controversial.

The anti-supplement machine is rather well oiled and appears to be wheeled out every couple of years or so, presumably to try to dissuade people from doing too much to manage their own health. Short of banning supplements—something already happening especially within the EU and causing us to lose some of the most efficacious products, which threaten drug sales—this appears to be the favoured strategy among those with this particular agenda.

The pharma shill gambit rides again. What “anti-supplement machine”? When was the last time you saw an advertisement telling you not to buy supplements? When did you last see a campaign to stop shops selling supplements? Who is behind this “anti-supplement machine”? Certainly not “big pharma”, as they own many supplement brands. Whoever it is, they are doing a startlingly inept job: supplements are everywhere, touted by all kinds of credible-looking people using sciencey-sounding words, and they are getting away with it. Nearly a third of the UK population are popping supplements, and according to the evidence they are mainly worthless. That’s not evidence of a well-oiled anti-supplement machine is it?

The statement that this is “presumably to try to dissuade people from doing too much to manage their own health” is an appeal to motives; what Verkerk really means is that promotion of good science (i.e. science talking down the benefit of supplementation) is designed to dissuade people from giving unnecessary money to him, and others like him. The whole point of recent activity around regulatory changes is precisely that people are not managing their own health by taking supplements, they are mainly handing money to charlatans. Hence controls on maximum doses, to provide some control over vitamin megadoseW quacks.

What you don’t read in the papers is what was actually found in the studies. Did you read that a simple multivitamin can lower cancer risk in men by 8 per cent? You probably didn’t read that there were many studies that found positive effects. It’s just when you pool studies that have conflicting results, the very nature of a systematic review of this type, that you run the risk of cancelling out the variable results, even when they may have been due to other factors.

The whole point of a systematic review is that it balances the chance positive findings inevitable in clinical studies, and finds the overall effect to a much greater degree of certainty. As with homeopathy, the number of positive studies is completely irrelevant to the consensus of review studies that there is no credible evidence of effect. The positive studies are not ignored by systematic reviews, they are assessed, weighted according to methodological quality, and factored into the mix.

When the summary finding is no benefit, there’s no point howling about the positive results. The systematic review has already taken account of them. That is, after all, the point.

Also conspicuously absent from the news reports was any discussion of the reasons why most people take a daily multivitamin. They do so because of perceived benefits regarding things like energy levels, athletic performance, mental alertness and immune support.

Really? Where do they get this perception of benefit, given that the reviews find no actual benefit? Ah, wait: it’s a placebo effect caused by people like Verkerk talking up the clinically indefensible products from which he makes such a nice living.

In fact, many of these kinds of relationships have actually been proven scientifically, and have been officially authorized as health claims for use on commercial products EU-wide by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the EU’s highest authority on food safety.And the EFSA is notoriously tough on accepting health claims. They’ve only approved about 250 in total, and most of these are for vitamins and minerals.

Not strictly true, since these approvals often rely on subjective assessments of benefit, but why would this be a problem? If the evidence is there, then the product is licensed and can be sold. If it’s not, then the evidence isn’t there. Verkerk appears to be arguing that because EFSA approves other products of this class, albeit not many, then all products of the class should be sold as if they were covered. Why would that be a good idea?

Another point made in the AIM editorial is that people can get everything they need from their diet.

Well, I agree. But only in theory, or in relation to a tiny section of society who are able to put in huge amounts of effort to source and prepare the best highest-quality foods and eat them consistently, day in, day out.

That is a fantastically implausible claim, and actually it’s the Nirvana fallacy. It is not hard to eat a balanced diet, and if it were then we’d scarcely have survived the harsh evolutionary realities of life. It doesn’t have to be the absolute best (either as defined by dieticians or quack nutritionists), it only has to be good enough.

The idea that a normal diet is substantially deficient in nutrients, is self-evidently bizarre. Vitamins were essentially unknown prior tot he late 18th Century and there is little doubt that the nutritional quality of our diet has improved vastly since then due to refrigeration and other techniques to prevent spoilage.

In practice, many of us fall dismally below optimal levels in one or more nutrients, and population-wide surveys show us that deficiencies in vitamin A (for immunity), vitamin K (for bone health), magnesium (for muscles and energy) and zinc (for immunity) are rampant. Worse than this, many of us carry genetic defects, referred to as ‘single nucleotide polymorphisms’ (SNPs), which mean we benefit from taking above average levels of particular nutrients to compensate. None of this gets a mention of course, despite the fact that this area of nutritional science— nutrigenomics—is one of the most rapidly expanding areas today.

This is a great argument for eating better and a truly terrible argument for buying a product which, according to the evidence, is routinely mis-sold by its proponents.

It seems that newspapers like The Times can only get away with creating headlines out of these issues if they are highly selective about the ‘facts’ and omit doing justice to the commonly accepted principles of standards of journalism and critical, unbiased reporting. I’m confident that most insightful readers will have been able to read past the agenda of the scientists and journalists involved.

You “forgot” to show that they were in the least bit selective. They didn’t toe the vitamin peddlers’ line, but that is a point in their favour rather than against them

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you to take supplements instead of eating a reasonable balanced diet?

Because doctors, unlike vitamin peddlers, care about your health, not their profits.

Astroturfing: Why the information in wddty can be (is!) suspect

This story was inspired by Astroturfing: Why the information on patient group sites can be suspect, wddty, August 2006, and the editors’ apparent inability to join the dots.

There are plenty of tactics that the SCAM industry employ in order to increase sales.  Getting to quacks is easy enough:  ‘educational’ seminars, bogus “research”, payment for “research projects” by putting patients onto untried and often ineffective quack remedies, and funding whole careers are just a few of the gambits they use.

But how to get to the patient directly? Short of straight advertising, one of the best techniques is known as ‘astroturfing’. This involves exploiting the near-religious fervour of woo-believers that, in turn, start promoting the pro-SCAM message to unwitting members who want unbiased information on their condition.

Herbalife (HLF) has just been caught out ‘astroturfing’ via Senator Tom HarkinW, the driving force behind the Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act of 1994W. This extended the already lax regulation of supplements in the US by actively preventing the FDA from exerting any authority over the industry, as long as no actual medicinal claims are made. Harkin’s retirement has been described within the SCAM industry in terms similar to a successful sports team losing a long-time great manager.

Herbalife is promoted by multi-level marketingW, and indeed is often considered a pyramid schemeW; like most of SCAM it makes no attempt to stop people linking to the various credulous sites (including WDDTY) that make medicinal claims for its products, leaving it free to advertise on an availability-only basis and thus completely evade any requirement to provide evidence of efficacy or safety.

OxyElite Pro was a “sports supplement” found to cause acute liver toxicity. The FDA was able to regulate swiftly only because it contained aegeline, which was not in use prior to 1994 and therefore counted as “new”. AristolchiaW was sold by supplement companies as an herbal supplement without indications and promoted by miracle diet scammers as a diet product; the result was a serious outbreak of kidney disease and cancers, with several women left dead.

Sadly WDDTY, no doubt due to reasons of space, chose not to cover either of these scandals though it has, having found a way of spinning it as “evil big pharma”, finally acknowledged that contamination of Chinese herbs is rife.

The Advertising Standards Authority, which oversees advertising in the UK, has ruled in dozens of cases against quacks making unsupportable claims for supplements, many of them in WDDTY itself. The quacks are very foolish: they have no need to do this as long as WDDTY and its ilk happily make the bogus claims on their behalf under the guise of “education”. For them, WDDTY is the natural alternative to astroturf. They are certainly smoking something….