Thursday, 1 July 2010

Skeptical Vandalism: A follow up

So, according to my myriad sources, my blog about Skeptical Vandalism appears to have been more popular than usual, gaining me a great deal of hits, a number of Twitter retweets and followers and, best of all, my own personal internet Troll!

(assuming the cheeky tart isn't posting nonsensical woo-based scorn on other people's blogs... but she wouldn't do that to me, surely, we have a connection! ... ... I thought we had something special!!! Come back CC, I promise I can change!!!!! [To within a maximum of 1 standard deviation, of course])

However, an enthusiastic commenter known as Brainduck has pointed out the following on several occasions

About the 'natural health' magazine crap, and why it's in the brain research lab, doctor's surgeries, etc - it's part of the 'healthcare' package of
Please do encourage people to write to them & complain

Does this make it better or worse? The magazine provider is clearly just a business with no control over the actual content of the magazines (as they claim in an email interchange that Brainduck sent me), and I can easily envision a situation where an apathetic administrator just ticked a box next to any magazine with 'Health' in the title for the 'Health' package for establishments where 'Health' is the focus of what they do.

But it's still quite insidious, if you ask me (and if you've read this far I take it that my own rambling thoughts are of some inexplicable interest to you). I would wager that being included in packages sent out by DLT magazines is potentially quite a lucrative way of expanding your customer base. These magazines will be read by people who are logically concerned for their health and are therefore impressionable to such things as the 'amazing' (meaning 'utter bullshit') methods offered in Natural Health. If the publishers of NH are actually pushing to be included, isn't that just a more indirect version of the mediums targeting the bereaved? Basically, exploiting people's worry and fear for financial gain based on lies. I don't think that sounds too ethical, personally.

Also, is it wrong to single out NH for criticism when there are plenty of other candidates for misleading info? Well, I can't actually speak for them. I can't read Men's Health, as it usually has pictures of glistening 6-packs on the cover so I daren't risk picking it up in public (like most heterosexual males these days I have no problem with homosexuals at all, but this sadly does not extend far enough to make me feel happy about being perceived as one by friends and colleagues).
I have no interest in Kitchens or cake recipes, nor do I own my own home, so have never had the inclination to read magazines on these subjects. I am not a woman, so can't really criticise any publication written by and for those strange creatures, and so indifferent am I to Lorraine Kelly that I can't actually perceive any magazine with her on the cover. Seriously, it's like the Doctor Who perception filter, I can only recognise her out of the corner of my eye.

However, thanks to finding it in the Cardiff University Brain Research and Imaging Centre, I know exactly how massively packed with gibberish NH is. So I feel fine about slagging it off in full view of the public.

But BrainDuck asks us to write and complain. Why not? Here's my own personal email to them, feel free to link to this if you want to complain but can't be bothered to write anything out (I get that myself, a lot)

"Dear Sir/Madam
I recently discovered a copy of 'Natural Health' magazine while waiting to undergo an experiment at an advanced brain research facility. This unpleasant discovery led me to make an attempt to satirize the magazine on my inexplicably popular regular blog

Since then, it has been pointed out that the magazine is part of a 'Health' package supplied to GP surgeries and other health related establishments for patients awaiting their appointments to read. I have been presented with email dialogue between yourselves and the party who first alerted me to your role in the supplying of these magazines. As I myself am a Doctor of Neuroscience, my training and experience means that I also object to the inclusion of the publication 'Natural Health' and would strongly urge you to remove it from the Health pack you offer.
Although the magazine is titled 'Natural Health', it contains nothing recognised as factual by medical science, and indeed contains much information which, if taken seriously by a sick person, could lead to them neglecting effective treatments and worsening their condition(s). Although I'm sure you have nothing to do with the content of the magazine, I feel this does not excuse you form responsibility, in the same way that someone installing a cigarette machine in a lung cancer in a lung cancer ward is not actually responsible for what goes into cigarettes but is still causing palpable damage.

(I realise the last analogy is quite far fetched as it would never happen as it wouldn't be allowed, but the logic behind why it is not allowed the same logic by which I urge you to remove the magazine from your distribution)

I am certain that the negative consequences I have highlighted were not your intention. I also would not be surprised to hear they were something you have not really thought out. As a magazine distributor I am sure it was simply a case of a magazine with 'Health' in the title being included in a 'Health' pack, nothing more sinister. However, the damage that can be caused by this lack of forethought is still very real.

If you happened to supply reading material to synagogues, I would trust you would be aware enough not to include any literature produced by the BNP? Even if it was titled 'Facts About Jews'? Although you'd have no role in the creation and publication of the offending article, the scandal that would result would be monumental. There is less potential scandal in the inclusion of Natural Health in a health package (a damning indictment of scientific awareness by the public), but more potential deaths which is surely of some concern?

The title 'Natural Health' is clearly a very misleading one. Humans, given the required amounts of nutrients and other essential items, are 'healthy', and the vast majority of medicines actually work by assisting the natural health-restoring components of the human body. in contrast, almost none of the 'treatments' described in natural health have any basis in nature.

For example, a favourite remedy of the alternative medicine believers is Homeopathy, where small doses of substances that can cause the patients symptoms are diluted tot he pint where they aren't present in the water any more. This 'remedy' is made even more potent by striking it against a leather book. Such a process has no foundation in the natural world. Apart from water itself. And leather, of course, which is derived from cow hide. But why leather? I've never found out. Probably because cows don't get diseases? (Except for Mad Cow disease and Wooden Tongue and Anthrax and Tuberculosis and Foot & Mouth and Calf Scours and Neosporosis and Grass Tetany and Ringworm and Pink Eye and Anaplasmosis and Internal & External Parasites and many others).

I hope you will take my email under consideration.

Yours sincerely

Doctor Burnett

P.S. One of my critics has likened my objection to Natural Health magazine to Nazi book burning. Although originally I had no such intention, if you find you do have a surplus of Natural Health magazine you wish to dispose of I will gladly take it off your hands. Especially around the first week of November.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What really disturbed me about 'Natural Health' is that some of the articles were encouraging people not to use actual medicine, and 'think themselves better' instead.
Um, right, I wouldn't last long doing that. Totally inappropriate for a GP waiting room.

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