AOL buys The Huffington Post and a quack sees an opportunity

Things are pretty hairy this week, what with a couple of grant deadlines fast approaching, not to mention a rather important site visit at my institution later this week. As a result, I had been intending to post a “rerun” today, but then I saw something that just cracked me up so much that I couldn’t resist taking a few minutes to do an uncharacteristically brief (for me) post about it.

Earlier this week, there was an announcement of a blockbuster deal in which AOL is buying that wretched hive of scum and quackery (take that, Dean Toney!), The Huffington Post, for $315 million. Since then, the interwebs have been abuzz with chatter about what, if anything, this means for AOL, HuffPo, and the “new media.” Under the deal, Arianna Huffington herself will become president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media group. Even worse, she will integrate all Huffington Post and AOL content, including news, entertainment, video.

What this all means, I don’t know. Neither does anyone else–not really. However, there’s no doubt that HuffPo has been very successful peddling a mix of news, liberal politics, celebrity gossip, quackery, and pseudoscience. Indeed, in terms of science and medicine, HuffPo is best known for a mixture of New Age woo, anti-vaccine lunacy, outright quackery, and even creationism, so much so that I recently felt the need to update my mockery of the very concept of a science section for HuffPo, a concept I first castigated a couple of years ago. Let’s just put it this way. Any blog or website whose very DNA is so steeped in anti-vaccine nonsense that it first became apparent within days of its launch back in 2005 cannot have a credible medical section. Any blog or website that embraced the quantum woo stylings of Deepak Chopra from the very beginning has no credibility in science or medicine. Any blog or website that embraces homeopathy, breast cancer quackery, biocentrism, and all manner of quackery is unworthy of a science section–and couldn’t do a credible one anyway if it tried. Unfortunately, with an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars, it is possible that Arianna Huffington could become the Oprah Winfrey of the “new media.” She may well have truly idiotic beliefs about science, but that doesn’t preclude her from having an uncanny knack for giving the people what they want and driving eyeballs (and page views) to her website.

Whether AOL will prevent Huffington from serving up the purest quackery, as she has been doing in her little war on medical science at HuffPo for the last five and a half years, I don’t know. What I do know is that at least one quack appears to see an opportunity in this deal. Or he’s worried. Or maybe it’s a little of both. I’m referring, of course, to our old buddy Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com, who just posted an utterly hilarious article entitled With Huffington Post sold to AOL, NaturalNews invites top alternative health authors to join truly independent news network. No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Where other quacks despair, our old pal Mikey sees opportunity to try to poach reject quack talent from HuffPo:

The Huffington Post was sold to AOL for $315 million yesterday, meaning the site, which was once the darling of independent media, is now clearly positioned as institutionalized media. As the editor of NaturalNews, I have, over the last several months, received several concerning emails from credentialed medical writers and natural health authors whose stories were dropped from consideration for publication at Huffington Post. There was a rising sense of frustration long before this sale that seemed to indicate HuffPost was headed in the direction of conventional media.

Yesterday’s sale to AOL merely confirms this.

I don’t know what planet Mike’s on (I often wonder that, actually), but it’s not as though HuffPo has ever been about anything other than the money. It’s a business, and it’s been a very successful one, by and large. I mean, seriously. Look at the celebrity section of HuffPo. It might as well be People Magazine! As I write this, looking at the entertainment section of HuffPo, I see two stories about celebrity breakups, a well as a story about Lindsay Lohan, Kelly Osbourne’s cheating fiance, Katie Perry revealing her weight and Halle Berry’s nasty breakup, plus a photo of Jennifer Lawrence in a revealing swimsuit. None of this would be out of place on E!, that’s for sure.

The other question that I have is this: What on earth were these “alternative medicine” authors writing that they couldn’t get it published on HuffPo? I mean, think about it. After all, this is the blog that has routinely published the anti-vaccine stylings of Dr. Jay Gordon, Kim Stagliano, Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and a seeming cast of thousands of anti-vaccine activists; the quantum evolutionary woo and mind-body dualism of Deepak Chopra,; the utterly loony biocentrism of Robert Lanza; the “functional medicine” quackery of Mark Hyman; and the blathering of everyone’s favorite homeopathic intelligence (as in: there’s not a single molecule of intelligence left, so diluted is it) Dana Ullman. If HuffPo will publish such rank pseudoscience and utter nonsense, what on earth won’t it publish? The mind boggles even to think of what could be so bad that HuffPo wouldn’t publish it.

Yes, yes, I know. Mike’s clearly implying that HuffPo has been pressuring its alt-med writers to become more mainstream, but in all honesty from my perspective it appears more as though the medical articles in HuffPo have been getting more and more chock full of quackery, not less, particularly since hiring detox homeopath and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, Patricia Fitzgerald, as its “wellness editor” two years ago. A more quack-friendly mainstream media outlet I am hard-pressed to imagine. Well, outside of Oprah and Dr. Oz these days. It just goes to show just how out of touch with reality ol’ Mike really is. So does this passage:

Beginning today, NaturalNews is actively welcoming credentialed writers and op-ed authors who wish to be featured on NaturalNews.com as part of our new format which places more emphasis on featured contributing writers. We especially welcome former Huffington Post writers who want to be part of a truly independent, yet well-established health news site that already reaches millions of readers each month.

We have nothing against the Huffington Post, which will no doubt continue to be a very influential news organization under AOL, but we’d like to offer HuffPost writers who saw their best stories dropped a new opportunity to get greater visibility (and more freedom of speech) at NaturalNews.com.

Specifically, we welcome medically credentialed health writers and published authors who are aligned with the principles of holistic healing, nutrition and disease prevention. We also welcome experienced speakers, researchers, thought leaders, grassroots leaders and others who deserve greater recognition at a truly independent alternative media site that’s rapidly growing in its audience and its content.

The topics we hope to attract articles on include energy medicine, nutrition, consciousness, herbology, environmental health news, health freedom, natural health activism, organic farming, preparedness, sustainability and much more.

I suppose I should be grateful to Mike for being so eager to supply me with even more copious blogging material than usual. I wonder if I should apply; I bet I could at least keep Mike going for a little while before he figured it out. On second thought, it already takes up more than enough of my free time trying to keep serving up the not-so-Respectful Insolence and agreeing to do periodic interviews with various podcasts and the like, all the while trying to hold down a demanding day job. In any case, I’m finding it quite hilarious that Mike is apparently begging HuffPo’s cast-offs to join up with his woo collective and send him posts that, if we’re to believe Mike, were too “alternative” even for HuffPo. Again, what on earth could be too woo-ey for HuffPo, I can’t imagine. I really can’t. In fact, I fear it. No, I don’t fear that it will threaten “conventional medicine,” as woo-meisters like to claim whenever I or another skeptic criticizes the scientific basis (or lack thereof) for an alt-med modality. Rather, I fear it will unleash a wave of neuronal apoptosis in my brain that will result in a whitish goo oozing out of my ears, much like the proverbial slime oozing out of your TV set.

Oh, look. There’s the first new recruit: Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, anti-vaccine loon extraordinaire! Joining him is supplement hawker, Dr. James Chappell. Somehow this contradicts a statement from Mike that is so amazingly out of touch with reality, so full of irony that Mike owes me yet another irony meter, having left mine quivering and bubbling in a pool of molten plastic and metal:

Our readers are the most intelligent, skeptical and well-informed people on the planet, I believe. They keep us on track and they have zero tolerance for B.S. They know spin when they see it. They don’t fall for typical corporate marketing propaganda, and they don’t watch network news (except to have a good laugh, perhaps). Instead, they read books and websites; they listen to intelligent podcasts; they watch informative videos. They are the sharpest minds on the ‘net, and frankly we are absolutely blessed to have the honor of serving this audience every single day.

I’ll give it to Mike: He and his audience do deserve each other. At least, I’ll give it to him after manage to get off the floor and out of the fetal position, where I had been laughing uproariously and pounding the floor after having read that paragraph. Yes, it’s very easy to laugh at Mike. However, it’s not so easy to laugh at the influence he apparently has, as he brags of having over 2,000,000 unique page visits a month. That’s P.Z. Myers-level traffic, people. Now, I don’t know that I necessarily believe that Mike’s traffic is that high, but I do believe it’s more than high enough and that he probably isn’t exaggerating by much when he says NaturalNews.com is “among the largest health news websites in the world.”

I don’t know if Adams will manage to get even bigger by sucking up HuffPo cast-offs, but I do know that the crazy is strong within the Health Ranger.