“I have seen the light! The Chad Jessop melanoma story happened. Really.”

Yesterday’s mega-post left me a bit drained; consequently I’ve throttled my ambitions back a notch today in order to leave some energy to put together the weekly installation of Your Friday Dose of Woo tomorrow. Fortunately, just the topic presented itself: A story that’s interesting and instructive (hopefully) but that won’t take as much of my time to deal with.

But first, a brief recap. A couple of months ago, I discussed a highly dubious fundraising e-mail that was going around, apparently pushed by an organization known as Natural Solutions Foundation, about what seemed on first blush to be a horrific miscarriage of justice and abuse of the rights of a 17 year old with cancer and his mother, in which a youth claimed to have “cured” himself with “natural” methods. Allegedly this youth was being forced by the Orange County in the State of California to undergo treatment, including surgery and chemotherapy, while his mother was, incredibly, said to have been thrown into maximum security prison for resisting. The whole story had a strong whiff of an urban legend, as I pointed out, along with the reasons why I had concluded that. Nothing much happened, and I couldn’t find much out for nearly two months. Then, about a week and a half ago, there was an unexpected update from a blog that I had never heard of before. In a breathless and frantic piece entitled Mother Jailed, Put On Trial for Curing Her Son of Melanoma (also parrotted at Health Freedom USA, a blogger going by the ‘nym Angry Scientist told an even more improbable tale, although superficially it sounded more convincing because more details were provided, including the names of the alleged mother and son, namely Laurie and Chad Jessop. Unfortunately, that story had at least as many inconsistencies and inaccuracies about melanoma treatment, which I proceeded to enumerate in that logorrheic yet compelling fashion that I’m known for. Then a couple of days later, a new character entered the fray.

The new character this time had a name and a cause. His name is Lee Woodard, Sr., and his cause is known as Human Rights USA (MSN group here). This group, on first glance, looked to me as though it were dedicated to helping children in abusive situations, but a closer look shows that it has serious anti-psychiatry leanings, to the point that some of my readers even speculated that it might be a Scientology front. It also has some serious “health freedom” leanings as evidenced by its championing of Abraham Cherrix, the boy who wanted to use quackery rather than effective chemotherapy to treat his Hodgkins lymphoma. Oddly enough, at first Mr. Woodard turned out to be one of the only skeptical voices in the comments thread of the Angry Scientist’s post, eventually coming to the conclusion:

Thus Human Rights USA has stopped all efforts related to this considering it to be a hoax. I personally take responsibility for any material, post or releases that has use our name on this matter and apologize that they occurred. This has been the first such incident in our history and we will take ongoing steps to insure it is the last.

This conclusion did not go over well with the Angry Scientist and his minions, as you might imagine. Even though Mr. Woodard’s pronouncement had seemed pretty definitive and I even used it as an example of how this story is so full of holes that even a man who clearly desperately wanted to believe it couldn’t bring himself to do so after investigating it for himself, in retrospect I should have seen this next development coming a mile away. I really should have. After all, it was very obvious that Mr. Woodard really, really wanted to believe this story; consequently, I should have been able to anticipate that he might ultimately somehow find a reason to believe.

And find a reason he did. Mr. Woodard has had a come-to-Jesus moment about the Chad Jessop story:

They say “To Err is Human” so we must assume that my recent investigation into the Orange County/Jessop story is proof that I am human. This is not flip-flopping or shifting on an issue. It is accepting a preponderance of the evidence at two different points in time. Despite a lengthy investigation which included conversations with media sources in Orange County that had been linked to the story, I found nothing that supported the events. I came to a reasonable conclusion.

The fact that it was a WRONG CONCLUSION should in reality only raise more questions as to what is going on in Orange County, California. The court does not have the power in a gag order to erase what is already known facts in the public domain. It does not have the power to cause reasonable searches on the subject matter to produce false and misleading results.

Yes! Now we’re talking conspiracy! If logic and inconsistencies told skeptics that the story almost certainly couldn’t be true because, among other reasons, courts do not have the powers to erase already known facts or to deny a citizen’s right to hire their own counsel, then something bigger and more powerful than the courts must be preventing the truth from getting out! It’s obvious–if you’re a conspiracy-minded type. Mr. Woodard’s skepticism was correct the first time, but obviously it was flimsy as toilet paper.

And how does Mr. Woodard know all this? Easy:

Within hours of posting the opinion that the incident was a hoax I found the first e-mail in my box that would give me serious cause of concern. I consider this source impeachable on matters of alternative medicines and was not surprised at all to find she had been in contact with the Jessop family. Since then I have listened to recordings from radio archives, talked to several reporters in Orange County that WERE AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE and discussed the matter with others closely connected to the story. The atrocities that have been reported against Laurie and Chad Jessop ARE REAL. The crimes committed against this family (in your name, supported by your tax dollars) did occur. I have talked with one reporter in Orange County that is still pursuing the story despite the gag order and despite the fact that because of it the Jessop’s have had no contact with her.

Ah, yes, the “impeachable” source, whom Mr. Woodard doesn’t name. (Of course, I realize that Mr. Woodard probably means “unimpeachable,” but his error in word usage almost certainly conveys the true situation much more accurately.) Where, pray tell, did Mr. Woodard get these “recordings from radio archives, when he himself had stated that he had contacted several stations and could not verify the story? He himself had stated that he could find no news source that corroborated the Jessop story; he himself had stated that his searches did turn up similar references of the story that predated the alleged September 6 press conference at which the Jessop case had been discussed with reporters “on the courthouse steps.” Yet, this “impeachable” source (heh), apparently a woman, managed to persuade him otherwise. Naturally Mr. Woodard doesn’t name this source, nor does he provide any concrete description of this new evidence that hit him like the bolt of light hit St. Paul on the road to Damascus and led to his conversion. Instead, we’re treated to this rant:

As for the “Whore of the Beast” that has presided over this case, LET ME EXPLAIN a little law to you. The family courts were granted the power to implement a gag order to PROTECT MINORs that may be permanently harmed by the release of information that pertains to a case. IT was never intended to PROTECT YOU or CPS or hide the crimes the system commit against the families of Orange County. There will never be any justice in this case till this judge is removed from the bench and held accountable for her actions.

I was most surprised that all this had occurred in the front yard of the Orange County Register, and yet a search of their archives revealed no stories on the matter. It has been my experience that the OCR was one of the few premiere newspapers for revealing the graft and failures of the social services and family court systems in California.

I am not going to redo the time line of events in this case here. A good and accurate source can be read at
http://angryscientist.wordpress.com/2007/10/03/mother-jailed-put-on-trial-for-curing-her-son-of-melanoma/
I have determined that the events listed in this blog are true and accurate. I can not speak on cancers that play hide and seek or the speedy recovery that appears to have taken place without the aid of conventional medicine. I leave these issues for others, hopefully with more capable minds. This story is a perfect example of violations of Family Rights and personal choices. It is about Abuse of Power, the fraudulent use of it and the waste of the taxpayers moneys. It is about a greedy, corrupt system that operates under the Color of Law like a thief in the night robbing us all of the most basic and fundamental rights.

While the Jessop family is most affected now by these Crimes of State, all of Orange County are put at immediate risk as a result of them. California and all of the U.S. is put at risk if these crimes are not challenged and the perpetrators held accountable, for it becomes a fact of accepted law.

WE ALL NEED TO RAISE OUR FIST and VOICES AGAINST THESE CRIMES PERPETRATED the JESSOP FAMILY. We need to call our representatives regardless of our state of residence and voice our dismay and disgust that our tax dollars are helping to fund these crimes.

Choose to sit back and do nothing. Decide that what “reality waste” is on the tube is more important to you than the basic freedoms and rights that so many have fought and died for. Then when your family is a victim,,, keep quiet then too… because you threw away the opportunity to care. It is now that you have the opportunity to prevent this from becoming the accepted fact of law.

“Whore of the beast”? Apparently Mr. Woodard has a bit of a misogynistic, chauvinistic streak in him along with his conspiracy-mongering streak. (Even the Angry Scientist seemed a bit uncomfortable his use of the term “whore.”) In any case, it just occurred to me: If the judge is female, then we should be able to narrow down the list of candidate judges considerably from this list of judges in Orange County. Perusing the list, I see that there are not very many female judges who might have been assigned to this case, if this case even exists. Also, there is still no convincing reason why Mr. Woodard or the Angry Scientist cannot name the judge. A gag order, as far as I know, should be public information, and the name of the judge issuing it could not be kept secret or made part of the gag order. Or maybe the conspiracy took care of this problem. Yeah, that’s it.

Of course, Mr. Woodard’s conversion makes me wonder why he changed his mind. There are a few possible explanations that come to mind. First, it’s possible that he may indeed have developed sources that have confirmed this story “outside web searches” as he puts it. It’s unlikely, given that a story like this would almost certainly have left real news reports and other footprints on the web, but not impossible. However, if this is indeed the case, there is no reason why Mr. Woodard needs to continue to be so coy unless, as I suspect regardless of the truth of this story, he’s milking it for his own purposes. Certainly, there’s no believable reason that I can think of why he can’t name the judge, at the very minimum. Ditto the dermatologist who allegedly testified in the case. Yet Woodard chooses not to, and because he does not name key players he should not be surprised that people like me view his come-to-Jesus transformation with extreme skepticism. Another possible reason for Woodard’s change of heart, of course, is that he’s found secondhand sources who have managed to appeal to his preexisting bias and thus convinced him or sources who have themselves exaggerated or misunderstood what happened. A final reason that, hopefully, is not the real reason is that he doesn’t really care if the story is true or not as long as it serves his purpose or knows that it is not true but keeps reporting it anyway.

Whatever the true reason for his continued promotion of this story, interestingly enough, even Mr. Woodard can’t be sure, if the story happened, whether Chad ever actually even had melanoma:

Was Chad CURED of an advanced malignant melanoma by alternative medicine in a period of five weeks? We will likely never know. The original diagnosis was very questionable by a general practitioner, and the line of events that followed has likely forever blurred the reality of what Chad actually had. It would not seem far fetched to assume he had been cured of melanoma in it’s early stages with such treatment, but it is far less likely to have occurred in advanced stages.

And that’s about the only sensible thing Mr. Woodard has said since his recent St. Paul moment; it even echoes my analysis of the Angry Scientist’s post, where I speculated that, if a youth named Chad Jessop ever had melanoma it was probably a local, early stage skin lesion that could be burned off by black salve. Since then, Woodard’s been off on a rant about the beast that is “$ocial $ervices.” Oh, and saying something about me that gave me a hearty chuckle:

I have been to that blog already Robin. It expresses opinion about what is on this blog, nothing more. For what it is worth it is far less credible than my own two opposing opinions which at least while finding different results, they were the result of honest effort and research based on more than what could be found in the blogs.

To which I answer: This story is so obviously full of holes to anyone with some knowledge of how melanoma is treated and so continuously mutating that it is on its face incredible. No one, including Mr. Woodard, has provided one whit of credible, verifiable evidence that this story ever happened as it is being represented by either the Natural Solutions Foundation or the Angry Scientist. Although I doubt I am, I might have been wrong. Stories smacking of urban legend accompanied by conspiratorial rants by you and the Angry Scientist, however, do not and will not convince me that I was. Credible, verifiable evidence, none of which has been provided by either of you, might. So far, the only independently verifiable information that the Jessops even exist comes from traffic court and divorce court. Laurie and Chad Jessop appear to exist, but there’s no evidence what the Angry Scientist describes has happened to them.

Even more amusing is the “deafening silence” in response to a series of very good questions by a commenter named Robin, who asks:

If I may ask: exactly what action is it that you are expecting us to take, if you will not tell us the crucial details of the case, but continue making vague references to “the” judge, “the” courthouse etc. Such a lack of specifics is the tell-tale hallmark of the urban myth. IF your story is true, a large part of the blame can be laid at the feet of a single judge who has acted in a clearly wrong and illegal way. SO TELL US WHO THE JUDGE IS! How else are we supposed to raise any complaint? Who do we complain about? Mr. Woodard and Angryscientist both claim to have spoken to reporters, been in contact with the Jessops themselves, etc. If that’s the case I don’t see how you can possibly NOT have such basic information as the name of the judge.

Robin is absolutely correct that the Jessop story has many of the hallmarks of an urban legend and asks many of the right questions: Who is the judge? Why will neither Mr. Woodard nor the Angry Scientist tell us? Until they do tell us who the judge was and provide more details of the case, I have little choice but to continue to conclude that they’re full of crap. And, believe me, I’d be happy to contact the radio station myself if Mr Woodard would be so kind as to give me the name of the nameless news director to whom he claims to have spoken. (I’ve got better things to do than to waste my time hunting down exactly whom he allegedly spoke to, although I might do it if pushed.) Also, why is this news director unnamed, anyway? If the station truly did run the story you describe, then that wouldn’t be covered by the gag order, as it was broadcast before any such gag order. There’s no reason not to give the name of the news director.

Finally, the Angry Scientist has some words for me; so I’ll answer him directly. He throws down the gauntlet:

I think Orac would prefer to let the matter drop. Since he seems to have taken heed of my warning above, I’ve no need to keep his version of the story going. I did make a comment there over a week ago, warning him that he who laughs last laughs best, which for now is enough. For the record, I never claimed to have spoken to any reporters. This is the true story of Laurie Jessop and her son. I’m just helping get the story out.

And I pick the gauntlet up.

No, O Angry (Alleged) Scientist, I haven’t let the matter drop, your threat to “make an example” of someone “persisting in spreading rumors about this story being a hoax or urban legend” and your warning to “back off, or else” merely amused me. You seem to think that I have some sort of deathly fear of ending up with “egg on my face.” Why would that be a concern to me? Even if every word of your version of the story were absolutely, 100% true, the very worst that could be said of me was that I exercised appropriate skepticism and prodded you and Mr. Woodard to provide credible evidence. After all, I never claimed that the story didn’t happen, merely that the version you tell is so full of holes that it’s very hard to believe, leading me to conclude that it probably represents an exaggeration or distortion beyond recognition of a real case; i.e., an urban legend. Moreover, everything I discussed about the inconsistencies in your version of the story remain valid criticisms. Even if your version of the story were ultimately to be verified to my satisfaction, it would not in any way change that fact, nor produce any embarrassment in me, to be ultimately shown to be wrong. After all, there’s no shame in showing appropriate skepticism towards a dubious story even if the story ultimately turns out to be more or less correct, as long as a skeptic doesn’t cling to disbelief when the evidence no longer supports that disbelief.

So, Angry Scientist and Mr. Woodard, I leave it to you now. The ball’s in your court. Absent your producing some independently verifiable evidence, I continue to conclude that this story is probably an urban legend. What you have both posted thus far in response to criticism and skeptical questions remains utterly unconvincing to anyone with a modicum of critical thinking skills, and, no, pictures alone are not convincing. You both seem to think that I’m terrified of “getting egg on my face,” but I’d turn the question back at both you and Mr. Woodard and ask: Are you afraid to share in the egg splatter?

Hopefully, people with skepticism and critical thinking abilities will continue keep the pressure on the Angry Scientist and Mr. Woodard to put up or shut up regarding their evidence supporting the Chad Jessop story. After all, his story, if true, would indeed be outrageous and worth getting worked up over. Evidence, first, though, and outrage later if outrage is appropriate. At the moment, the cart is being put before the horse. As for the eggs, bring ’em on. After all, one of my favorite TV shows is Dirty Jobs.

ALL POSTS ON THIS STORY THUS FAR:

  1. The story of the 17-year-old with melanoma being forced to undergo chemotherapy: Urban legend?
  2. Thomas Cowles twisting in the wind defending the “cancer boy” urban legend
  3. An update on the youth who “cured himself” of melanoma, Chad Jessop
  4. One last update (for now) on the youth who “cured himself” of melanoma, Chad Jessop
  5. “I have seen the light! The Chad Jessop melanoma story happened. Really.”
  6. Lee Woodard on the Chad Jessop melanoma story: “Why would I promote a hoax?”

OTHER SKEPTICAL TAKES:

  1. Legendary Legend or Mysterious Mystery?

PUBLICATIONS REFERENCED:

  1. Dear Health Freedom Fighters (September 12, 2007)
  2. The Gary Null Show 9/13/2007 (The relevant segment is at approximately the 11:45 minute mark.)
  3. Mother Jailed, Put On Trial for Curing Her Son of Melanoma (October 3, 2007)
  4. Mother Jailed, Put On Trial for Curing Her Son of Melanoma (published in the Los Angeles Free Press on 11/12/2007, PDF here)