Not just Jenny McCarthy any more, The Huffington Post is embracing full on the kind of pseudoscience nonsense in medicine that costs the lives of not only the gullible, but innocent, people who buy into their snake-oil scams, but through promotion of the anti-vaxxers are threatening us and our children as well by slowly ripping away the herd immunity that protects those who get vaccinated but don't develop immunity.
And lets make no mistake, there is a body count associated with this crap. Actual lives have been lost, and a large number of them. Nearly 300 in the last two years belong to the anti-vaxxers. The raw numbers are available, compiled by a fellow Kossack, at jennymccarthybodycount.com
Whats all this about, and where is the HuffPo in all this? Well The Huffington Post grants quite a bit of time to fringe crazies in the quote medical unquote field, and have for years, but one of these quacks is up for an award from them now. Lets put it in context.
Crap-based medicine, as opposed to Physician-designed best practices known as Evidence-Based Medicine, has a long history among con-artists out to make a buck. They prey on people in a vulnerable state, often dealing with terminal conditions (cancer quacks are common and despictable) The snake-oil salesmen of yore have not vanished, they've been replaced by the likes of Kevin Trudeau, author of "Natural Cure's 'They' Don't Want you Know About" and owner of a rap sheet a mile long including a 37 million dollar fine and an FCC order barring him from appearing in any infomercial on any television in the United States.
Then There's "Dr." Mercola, up for a 'Gamechanger' award in wellness over at the HuffPo and what finally pushed me to write this. This crook is so blatent, even BusinessWeek stands in awe of his scams to seperate people from their money:
How does his site attract customers? Here are his key techniques:
- Use promises of "free" to sell costly stuff.
I was especially intrigued with the box on Mercola's home page which promises, "Discover Your 'Metabolic Type' Instantly -- FREE For a Limited Time." To actually take the test, I had to provide my e-mail address (again) and then answer nine questions about my dietary preferences. (For example, "Do you constantly think about food and frequently look forward with eager anticipation to your next meal or what you want to eat?")
The site promises results after answering the nine questions, but all I received were two e-mails -- the first of which said that the abbreviated test I took "is NOT intended to be a reliable indicator of your actual (metabolic) type," and the second of which offered me the opportunity to take the "full-length online metabolic-type assessment for just $59.95. ..."
- Add in all kinds of "bonuses."
In an effort to keep you reading, and increase the odds of selling, a skilled direct marketer tacks on giveaway items to the main offer. When I read on in Mercola's four-page second newsletter, I learned that if I bought the $59.95 version of the metabolic assessment, I'd also be entitled to "two incredible LIMITED-TIME ONLY bonus offers (valued over $95!)." These included a 15-hour audio program and three months' access to "metabolic-type forums."
- Use real news to sell more products.
Blogs have emerged as devices for individuals and corporations to engage customers and other constituents, but Mercola takes his blog to another level for pure selling. For example, in a news item reporting on Bausch & Lomb (BOL) recalling a contact lens cleaner, he concludes with "one more reminder" that readers can "correct your vision safely without the use of glasses" and links to a six-CD how-to package for $397 (including "3 FREE Limited-Time Bonuses").
Another blog item about research on controlling and remembering dreams leads eventually to an alarm clock ($79.95) and remote controller (for the clock, $39.95) that Mercola sells.
- Don't be afraid to use scare tactics.
A professional direct marketer knows how to tap into people's fears, and in the health-care arena that isn't difficult to do. Mercola does it smoothly and repeatedly. On his home page you can "Discover the forbidden oil you should be cooking with" (it's coconut oil at $65.45 a gallon) and "the mercury magnet that can remove dangerous toxins" (it's "wonder food" chlorella at $19.50, plus shipping, for 180 capsules).
A recent Mercola.com newsletter even includes an article, "How to Protect Yourself from Self-Help Scams" (along with an offer to practitioners to sign up for a "FREE teleclinic").
If the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) were helping me write this article, it might have added a fifth technique to my list: Exaggerate claims about your products. The FDA in early 2005 sent Dr. Mercola a "warning letter" because of claims that three products, including the coconut oil and chlorella, would combat diseases like cancer and heart disease.
The letter is posted on the FDA's Web site, and you can read it there. "Your products are not generally recognized as safe and effective for" such conditions, the FDA letter stated. It appears that Dr. Mercola has since removed the claims from the site.
But he's just a scam artist, and the result is just money. What else is there?
Many people are going to ask 'What's the harm?'. For a small listing, let's go through the literature. Take the case of Thomas Sam, and his wife Who let their 9 year old daughter not only die, but... well, lets let the judge tell you:
The judge said their nine-month-old daughter Gloria had suffered helplessly and unnecessarily from a treatable condition and sentenced the pair to a total of 10 years behind bars.
Their daughter Gloria was so sick with eczema that she constantly cried in pain, her skin broken and oozing fluid, the court heard.
Both parents were well educated and the judge found they should have known better.
They repeatedly rejected conventional medical treatment and instead opted for homeopathic remedies.
Then, against doctors' orders, they took the baby girl to India where her condition deteriorated.
Gloria had Eczema, not normally a life-threatening condition. But you see, Thomas was a homeopath, and he just couldn't stand to see his child 'harmed' by being given, you know, medicine. He continued homeopathic treatments (which are nothing but water. The active ingredients first off won't do anything and second are then diluted to levels where theres mathematically not a single molecule left in the 'dose' of water) up until she died.
Then there's the Gonzalez Regimen, Aggressively marketed through books and television, it's a crackpot idea that by eating a special diet and getting coffee enema's, you can eliminate terminal pancreatic (and 95 percent of pancreatic cancer is terminal.) Gonzalez was so sure of his method he commissioned a study years ago... and then nothing. They sat on the results for 3 years and happily sold books. The results were finally published this year.
Conclusion: Among patients who have pancreatic cancer, those who chose gemcitabine-based chemotherapy survived more than three times as long (14.0 v 4.3 months) and had better quality of life than those who chose proteolytic enzyme treatment.
Holy shit. it cut 10 months off what was already at best a one year lifespan. And destroyed quality of life (coffee up your pooper combined with horrible tasting enzyme supplements in place of meals will do that). And people buy into it, because human beings are genetically wired to fear missing out on winning more then we are to fear losing. It's why we play the lottery even when we don't have the money to spend.
Next comes Russell Jenkins, a man who, with his girlfriend, a registerred nurse, shunned conventional medicine for his gangrenous foot, instead opting for an ancient cure, honey.
He instead tried the ancient remedy of putting honey on it but his toes later went black and began to stink.
The 52-year-old would have had a 30 per cent chance of survival if he had sought treatment just two hours before he died, said consultant vascular surgeon Mark Pemberton.
He died rather then admit that perhaps a doctor, a real doctor, might be able to help.
Anti-vaxxers though, like Jenny McCarthy, have had a special place at HuffPo for years. Phil Plait has written about this a few times, as well Orac over at Respectful Insolence. The HuffPo has been doing this for years.
I mentioned 'Herd Immunity' earlier, and thats my final plea on this, so I should explain it. Herd Immunity is why vaccination wipes out infectious disease even though vaccines are not 100% effective. Not every vaccinated child develops immunity, some immune systems dont respond for whatever reason. It happens, depending on the population and the vaccine, with between 1/1000's and 3/100's of the population (.1%-3%). But it's fine. Because enough of the population has been vaccinated that theres no stable breeding ground for the disease in the population and no available infection vectors in the population to reach the unvaccinated individuals. Jenny McCarthy is putting each and every one of these kids, who did nothing wrong and whose parents did nothing wrong, at risk. Once rates fall below the levels needed for herd immunity, games on. You'll find out which kids measles and mumps vaccines didnt have the reaction they were supposed to.