Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Popular culture Pseudoscience Quackery Science Skepticism/critical thinking Television

A publicity stunt against Dr. Oz threatens to backfire spectacularly

I didn’t think I would be writing about this, but, then again, I seem to say that fairly frequently. Be that as it may, on Friday I wrote about a letter sent to Lee Goldman, MD, the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University complaining about Dr. Mehmet Oz’s promotion of pseudoscience on his television show, which reaches millions. When I wrote my post, my first reaction was somewhat supportive, but with reservations. However, as I read your comments and thought about it some more, I started having second thoughts. Then, over the weekend, I had a rather prolonged exchange on Twitter during breaks in the action at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Meeting in Philadelphia, which I’m attending now. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this letter, written by Dr. Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institution, and signed by several doctors with ties to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), was an incredibly bad idea. This evolution in my thinking was helped along by other developments over the weekend.

I’ll explain. I also might regret having continued my commentary, but, then, when did that ever stop me before? (Actually, you’ll never know when, if, or how many times that’s ever happened.)

In my post, I also described my discomfort with Dr. Miller and the signatories of his letter. For instance, the Hoover Institution isn’t exactly known for its promotion of good science, given its history of denialism with respect to human-caused global climate change. Then, of course, I’m not exactly a big fan of ACSH, either. It’s frequently on the right side of science, but seemingly only when that position aligns with industry positions. It’s the reason why I didn’t accept an offer to be on the board of scientific advisors of ACSH a few years ago.

Before I go on further, in the interests of full disclosure, I must confess my own issues with the approach Dr. Miller and his cosignatories took. As many of you know, there have been several attempts by quacks and antivaccinationists over the years to make trouble for me at my place of work. Not too long ago, a patient of Stanislaw Burzynski complained to my dean about my posts deconstructing her testimonial that she has been telling as “evidence” that Burzynski cured her of advanced breast cancer. As odd as it seems given how vociferously critical I have been of Dr. Oz’s promotion of quackery on his TV show (remember, I’m the one who coined the term “America’s quack” to describe him), I must admit that seeing Miller make trouble for Oz at his job over his extracurricular activities rubbed me the wrong way. True, I suppressed my distaste when I wrote my post last Friday, so powerful is my dislike for Dr. Oz and what he does on his TV show. But it didn’t stay suppressed for very long. It has been argued that with Oz it’s different, because Oz promotes quackery while I promote (or at least like to think I promote) good science and medicine, but even if that’s true I can’t help but remember that a key purpose of a letter to a person’s employer is intimidation into silence or, in Oz’s case given his popularity and the security of his position, to cause embarrassment and to provoke a response.

Now here’s the problem. Regardless of whether I think it’s a good idea or not or simply an attempt at bullying to write a letter like this, and even though Miller’s letter was correct from a scientific standpoint about Dr. Oz, if you’re going to write a letter like this it’s generally a good idea to know what your goal is in doing so. What, exactly, is it you’re trying to accomplish by writing a letter like this? Is it to get Dr. Oz fired? That’s never going to happen, given that Dr. Oz has tenure and, unfortunately, it would take a hell of a lot before a university would try to remove a tenured professor. Indeed, as I’ve sarcastically mentioned, given that Dr. Oz is the director of the “integrative medicine” program at Columbia, promoting the “integration” quackery with science-based medicine is basically a big part of his job description! In a real world, that wouldn’t be the case and what Oz does would be a problem, but, thanks to quackademia, it’s no longer shameful to do that; whole divisions and departments in various academic medical centers are devoted to it. Oh, sure, quackademics like Oz wouldn’t accept that characterization of what they do as valid, but I would counter that, other than featuring psychics like John Edward or Theresa Caputo on his show, what Oz does on his show is not really much different in terms of message than what he probably at Columbia: Promote acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine, among other things. Again, surely Dr. Miller must know this. so I assume that his goal was not to actually get Dr. Oz fired. Indeed, Columbia issued a statement supporting Oz on the grounds of academic freedom very rapidly, and, even in the unlikely event that Columbia were to fire Dr. Oz over his show, it would remove one of the likely strongest restraints that keeps Dr. Oz from going even deeper into the woo.

So what was Dr. Miller’s goal?

Obviously, it was to create embarrassing publicity for Dr. Oz and Columbia University. After all, if Dr. Miller were really looking to cause problems for Dr. Oz he should have at least mentioned that Dr. Oz did a “made for TV” clinical trial he dubbed the “Green Coffee Bean Project” without bothering to obtain institutional review board (IRB) approval, something that is a direct violation of Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital’s (NYP) Human Subject Research Protection Program, which explicitly requires IRB approval for any clinical trial done by any Columbia University faculty member and NYP-affiliated faculty regardless of regardless of the location where the research is done. Now, as I pointed out, there is a slight gray area here, because clearly Oz’s dubious green coffee bean clinical trial was not federally funded, but institutions that receive federal funding are required to abide by the Common Rule, which requires IRB approval of all human subjects research. Miller was either unaware of this issue, didn’t realize that this was really the only “in” skeptics have to get Columbia to pay attention, or didn’t care about it because what he really cares about is Oz’s attack on GMOs. Mentioning that Oz conducted a dubious clinical trial for TV that was not approved by the Columbia/NYP IRB would have been a far more damning thing to mention with respect to possibly forcing Columbia to do more than issue a brief statement full of bromides about “academic freedom” than his pointed mention that Dr. Oz trashed GMOs on one of his shows.

In any case, as thoughtlessly as Miller and the ACSH acted, they did managed to get a fair amount of national press coverage, and the ACSH is virtually giddy over the press reaction:

Although, for years, Oz has been criticized in countless blogs and opinion pieces, which have appeared on a wide variety of websites, this is the first time that a coordinated effort to expose Oz for who he really is has generated a massive and unified response. It also puts Columbia University in the position where they have to either take action or defend their actions, or lack thereof.

ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom, a long time, vocal critic of Dr. Oz said, “Every once in while the right thing happens. This is one of those times. The line between ‘doctor’ Oz and ‘TV personality’ Oz has been blurred for a long time, leading many American’s to equate the two, and, in doing so perpetuating the ‘fame equals credibility’ myth. Dr. Miller’s letter has done much to dismantle this myth. It is well past the time that people finally learn the difference between real medicine and entertainment.”

Um. No. Dr. Miller’s letter created a momentary press kerfuffle that is fading. One little letter to Dr. Oz’s dean is not going to “dismantle” the myth that “fame equals credibility.” To claim otherwise is the height of hubris. In fact, if there was a recent event that did more to tarnish the Dr. Oz brand, it was Senator Claire McCaskill’s magnificent roasting of Dr. Oz in front of her Senate panel over his breathless promotion of various dietary supplements as the latest, greatest weight loss miracle ever. Then, late last year, the British Medical Journal published a study that showed that half of what Oz recommends on his show has either no or little evidence to support it. Indeed, if you want to see how far Dr. Oz’s star has fallen, just witness what happened last November, when Dr. Oz’s social media team asked Twitter to ask him questions under the hashtag #OzsInBox and Twitter went wild mocking him for his promotion of quackery.

In fact, part of the reason I’ve come to conclude that Dr. Miller’s letter was a spectacularly bad idea is that it appears ready to backfire on him. That’s because one thing Miller accomplished without a doubt is to piss off Dr. Oz. (No doubt that was intended.) Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for pissing off Dr. Oz over the TV snake oil peddler he’s become, but, I wonder, did Miller stop to think what the consequences might be if he actually succeeded in publicly embarrassing Dr. Oz in the national media without a clear idea of what his endgame would be? I don’t think so, and Dr. Oz is in the process of responding. First, Dr. Oz released this statement on Facebook:

I bring the public information that will help them on their path to be their best selves. We provide multiple points of view, including mine which is offered without conflict of interest. That doesn’t sit well with certain agendas which distort the facts. For example, I do not claim that GMO foods are dangerous, but believe that they should be labeled like they are in most countries around the world. I will address this on the show next week.

Basically, you can see where this is going. Dr. Miller is a huge booster of GMOs, having served as the founding director of the FDA Office of Biotechnology, and you can bet that it didn’t pass unnoticed that what provoked Miller to write his letter was not so much Dr. Oz’s promotion of quackery but rather a specific fear mongering segment on The Dr. Oz Show about GMOs, in particular the non-browning apple. Not suprisingly, in his response, Dr. Oz is painting himself as not being anti-GMO but only “pro-information.” What will Oz say in his show next week? I think there’s a good hint in the insinuations in his brief statement above.

While Dr. Oz is, for the moment, predictably taking the high road, his admirers and fellow travelers, equally predictably, were not. Predictably, they were attacking Miller and his cosignatories as industry shills. The batshit crazy version of this shill gambit comes from—who else?—Mike Adams, in a pair of posts, entitled Vicious attack on Dr. Oz actually waged by biotech mafia; plot to destroy Oz launched after episode on glyphosate toxicity went viral and Mainstream media FAIL: Sleazebag doctors attacking Doctor Oz have histories of criminal fraud and ties to Monsanto’s “Discredit Bureau”. Indeed, if you want to see a textbook example of an ad hominem attack, look no further than to Adams’ repeating allegations against John Entine that he physically abused his wife, which, even if true (and I haven’t been able to find any source other than Mike Adams to back up this claim, although the court documents look authentic), has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not his arguments about GMOs are correct from a scientific standpoint.

Mike Adams was, as far as I could tell, first out of the gate with the shill argument, and, Mikey being Mikey, he turned the crazy up to 11. However, there are people who are much more in control of their impulses and whose business model doesn’t depend on being as incredibly outrageous and incendiary in his rhetoric as Mikey’s does. For instance:

It is important for physicians who invoke their medical degrees while endorsing products to make their allegiances and financial ties very transparent — and Dr. Oz deserves to be held to this standard. But by that standard, Dr. Miller and other self-described “distinguished physicians” on this letter also have some explaining to do.

Miller, whose employer, the Hoover Institution, is often described as a “Republican-leaning” or “conservative” think tank, has interests of his own. A molecular biologist by training, Miller spent 15 years at the FDA before his fellowship at Hoover; throughout both jobs, he has been a consistent and ardent promoter of genetically engineered foods (or GMOs — the “O” standing for “organism”).

And in his advocacy, Miller is positively prolific. A quick web search reveals dozens upon dozens of articles and opinion columns touting the benefits of GMOs to consumers, developing economies and agribusiness — and a seemingly equal number attacking those that warn about the possible risks of what are sometimes called “Frankenfoods.”

Miller was a leading voice in opposition to California’s Prop. 37, the 2012 ballot initiative seeking clear labeling of products containing GMOs, and, in the 1990s, was an equally prominent voice in a tobacco industry-backed campaign to discredit the science linking cigarette use and cancer.

You get the idea.

The same meme is showing up in even mainstream media accounts. For instance, in this segment Bob Arnott, former NBC Chief Medical Correspondent echoes the very same “shill” argument, saying that all ten signatories have “industry ties” and that the industry is “furious that he’s [Dr. Oz] has taken on genetically modified crops” and described the letter signatories as “industry henchmen who are after Dr. Oz.” He even mentioned that the current acting president of the ACSH, Gilbert Ross, spent time in prison for Medicaid fraud. Heck, Arnot even accused ACSH and Miller of astroturfing. True, he does say that Dr. Oz peddles misinformation that would be like a “Brian Williams scandal” if it were on network TV and unfavorably compares Dr. Oz with Sanjay Gupta on CNN, but his attack on Miller and company is devastating.

And, yes, this is the way that Dr. Oz is going to go, as shown in this story on CNN Money (appropriately enough). Dr. Oz is planning to devote a full episode, probably Thursday’s, to a response to the accusations of quackery. In other words, he’s taking advantage of the letter to gin up his ratings, and his attacks will resemble, no doubt, a toned down version of Mike Adams’ attacks. No, he won’t mention domestic violence, but you can bet that he’ll mention Dr. Ross’ conviction for Medicaid fraud and Dr. Miller’s past advocacy. You’ll be amused at the rationale:

The special episode “is the last thing we want to do,” a person associated with the show said on Sunday.

But Oz and his representatives have concluded that it is necessary because of the “intimidation” they perceive from the doctors.

Nonsense. Dr. Oz’s producers see a chance to take advantage of the publicity and to strike back at the same time. Dr. Miller threw his best punch, and now Dr. Oz is going to punch back:

Oz won’t just read the one-paragraph statement he issued last Friday. Instead, he’ll devote the majority of the episode to his response.

“We plan to show America who these authors are, because discussion of health topics should be free of intimidation,” a spokesman for the show said.

The details, including the Thursday air date, are subject to change. The episode will be taped on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Can Miller take what Oz dishes out? Probably. Does it matter? Probably not. Is Miller’s message about Dr. Oz’s promotion of quackery and pseudoscience going to get lost in the counterattack that will paint him and his cosignatories as industry shills seeking revenge on Dr. Oz for having questioned whether GMOs are safe? Almost certainly.

In fact, I’ll go even further and suggest that Miller’s letter, after the initial embarrassment it caused Dr. Oz, is probably now seen by him and his producers as a godsend that gives them the pretext to counterattack and to tar all the physicians—not just Dr. Miller and company, but other bloggers, me, and all the rest of us who have been criticizing Dr. Oz for the last five years over his promotion of quackery and pseudoscience—as being industry shills of some kind and to make it stick in the public mind. I’m sure he’ll find a way to go after Julia Belluz over at as well, given that her excellent article on the making of Dr. Oz as a quack (my interpretation) was published the same week as Miller’s letter. That’s the narrative Dr. Miller has handed to Dr. Oz on a silver platter.

I tend to be a bit conservative in my preferred tactics taking on pseudoscience like that promoted by Dr. Oz, tending to prefer countering his misinformation and supporting activities like Ben Mazer’s careful documentation of patients who have been harmed by Dr. Oz’s medical advice. More recently, Ben has been working to persuade the AMA to issue a public statement that “reiterates the importance of evidence and transparency to the profession” while asking the AMA “to craft guidelines on how doctors can ethically use the media to help the public” and “to issue a report on what disciplinary pathways might be available for doctors who continue to spread bogus medical information in the media.”

I’m not opposed to splashy PR moves in general. I just think that they should be smart and thought through, with a definite goal in mind other than stirring up trouble. Dr. Miller’s little publicity stunt failed this test on every level, and, worse, could wind up backfiring spectacularly, leaving the rest of us who care about all the quackery Dr. Oz spreads, not just his fear mongering about GMOs, to deal with the consequences.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

155 replies on “A publicity stunt against Dr. Oz threatens to backfire spectacularly”

Oh, brother. This is what happens when science collides with policy and celebrity: decisions get made based on what people want to be true rather than what the evidence supports – because most people have no access to the actual evidence and no education to assess it if they did, so they fall back on the social primate heuristics of trusted authority figures. It’s like that anti GMO fanatic I mentioned the other day: he refused to even look at the data in the Seralini paper, preferring to wave reams of testimonials in my face.

I quite like the statement of “I’m not opposed to splashy PR moves in general. I just think that they should be smart and thought through, with a definite goal in mind other than stirring up trouble.” This captures my grumpiness with the activist wing of the Democratic coalition: these people have good hearts, and they want good things, and they are enthusiastic and hard working, but they are prone to tunnel vision and are not overly concerned with the factual accuracy of their claims so long as the lot can be bundled into a dramatic story.

For those of you who remember the Kung Fu Monkey in his glory days, if what you propose is a good idea then you don’t need to sell it using a coat of lies. The truth will be good enough.

in doing so perpetuating the ‘fame equals credibility’ myth

Does this mean that Drs Bloom and Miller and the ACSH are undercutting their own credibility every time they raise their profile with a press release or a tweet?

Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.

I’ll leave the modernization of the quote up to the reader.

Time will tell if this backfires or not. But I think for the average person, the take-home message from this was that other doctors think Dr. Oz was a quack. Anything that puts Dr. Oz on the defensive is good. For too long other doctors have been silent, for the most part, in the face of his celebrity. Maybe this letter will embolden other doctors to speak out.

I would argue that it’s already backfired, and it’s only likely to get worse. Personally, I now know I’m probably going to have to deal with intensifying “shill” attacks, with “Monsanto shill” added to the usual “pharma shill” gambit. Everything about this letter was wrong (other than its statements about Oz’s quackery and pseudoscience): Wrong messenger, wrong place to send it, wrong everything. Oz is likely to get great ratings for his “response” show too.

While I agree with you about the reservations about the letter from the Hoover institution I do not see a problem asking for him to be fired. While I understand your personal hesitancy I see it as the same as hoping or getting the medical licensing boards to stop Byrzinksi (sic) and other quacks cancer practices.

@ Robert L. Bell

I agree with you about the reservations of the activist wing. As someone who has worked for the party I have first hand experience. They are nice people and are very passionate about their cause but sometimes it can override reason,

One last thing. When will calling a movement “astroturf” stop being an insult. I am pretty sure most grassroots movements at this point are astroturfed. From the Tea Party to pretty much every politicians campaign all them call themselves grassroots but are definitely not.

Sounds like the upcoming Oz episode will be a good source of a future blog post for you. That sounds like a win to me.

While I agree with you about the reservations about the letter from the Hoover institution I do not see a problem asking for him to be fired. While I understand your personal hesitancy I see it as the same as hoping or getting the medical licensing boards to stop Byrzinksi (sic) and other quacks cancer practices.

There is a difference. Orac has documented several specific instances where Burzynski’s practices deviate from accepted standards of medical practice, Federal law, or both. A medical licensing board could, if they were so inclined (and state law allowed it, which is not a given in Texas), use this as evidence to support suspension or revocation of Burzynski’s medical license. The Miller letter only throws out accusations, without documenting them. So even if Dr. Oz weren’t protected by tenure, Columbia doesn’t have a basis on which to terminate him. A letter which mentioned the unapproved clinical trial Orac mentions in the OP might have been a basis for starting an investigation of Dr. Oz’s practices.

Besides, advocating the firing of Dr. Oz for his views sets a bad precedent. One which, as Orac knows firsthand, could be turned against him.

I think you’re right on in this take on the letter. I’ve not been up on the skeptical blogs until now since the story broke, but when I heard about it on NPR I was torn between the side of academic freedom and whether any actual harm done by Oz, and that it was done in the field in which he teaches, made it worth this tactic. But when you take into account the strategic position of this letter, it becomes a no-brainer: the letter was a mistake. Oz was on the ropes after the senate hearing. His die hard fans weren’t going anywhere, but his credibility with the general public was at an all time low, and there wasn’t much of a way for him to recover it. But the letter gave him just the opportunity he needed and his response to it will allow him and his followers to treat tar all opposition to him with the same brush he’ll use on the letter. Oz’s popularity will recover and it will be harder to criticize him*, at least for a while.

*Well, it will be trivially easy to criticize him, but much harder to do so in a way that will convince fence sitters and the general public not to listen to him.

Lately I just find myself wondering what happened to Oz. I’ve known he promoted quackery for a while, thanks to this blog, and Dr. Novella’s work, and other skeptics, but just now as his quackery’s been in the news have I first seen actual clips of his show to see how blatant it is. And at the same time I’ve been reading Mary Roach’s book Stiff, in which Oz (pre-TV show) was a source for sections on organ transplants. So how does a guy who’s probably made a lot of money already and saved a lot of lives, and who has a stable source of continuing income from Columbia, become such a money grubbing snake oil salesman? We can debate all day about whether he’s a “true believer” or a complete con man, but there can be little doubt that even if he believes some of what he’s selling, he doesn’t believe all of it and everything he does is calculated to increase ratings and income. So why? Was the brush with fame he got from Oprah so intoxicating that he had to have more? Is there just no amount of money that’s enough for him? Absent all of this he’d have gone down in history as a pioneer in heart transplants, instead he’ll go down as a controversial quack loved by many, hated by many, but known by all. And to top it off his position at Columbia is in integrative medicine rather than thoracic surgery? It’s just so weird and sad and makes me wonder how he got to this point.

What about a letter from a different organisation? Or if the letter didn’t ask for him to be fired, but asked that Columbia didn’t support his pushing of psuedoscience and scams?

I’m rather wondering about what Miller et al think they’re getting out of the letter with respect to GM foods.

Do they think that their broadside against Oz will improve the standing of GM foods in US opinion, or make it easier to lobby for pro-GM legislation in Congress and state legislatures or pro-GM policy making at the FDA and other regulatory agencies? I don’t see how it would.

Oz is likely to get great ratings for his “response” show too.

One might wonder whether the audience is even aware of the story. The show is past its prime.

That story is over two years old. Are his ratings still declining? If they had been, I doubt his show would have survived two more seasons, as it has.

And, if he is in ratings trouble, what better way for Oz to try to gin up ratings than a controversy?

#11 Gus

My theory is that Oz, given his wooish proclivities, was asleep at the switch when he got yanked into the Oprah jibber jabber engine. If you’ve ever spent time around the cult followers, one of the first things you pick up on is how quickly the mind gets filled with obsessive, ready made patter that instantly crowds out critical facilities.

It’s like they get to spend their lives wallowing in a warm, chocolate bath where all the answers are easy, stress-free and Oprah loves you.

@Gus Snarp #11.

I always assumed it was the adoration more than the money or a come to Jesus conversion to alternative medicine that drove things.

I suspect, having watched some of the early days that he got a lot more adoration for the puff pieces on natural healing and what is the latest miracle supplement than he got for at least some reporting he did (at least early on when I watched) about the much more hard hitting medical innovations/stories. I started watching because a friend of mine was on about a totally science based procedure and the circumstances and story around it. There was I think more of a mix early on and I suspect they went with whatever was generating the most buzz. After all anyone can take whatever latest greatest supplement, but you may not need whatever actual medical procedure.

I do wonder if trying to be on both sides of the line (well I don’t really believe this stuff but my audience likes it) will bite him in the butt in the long run as I think part of the popularity was that he seemed sincere about whatever he was touting this week. After all how did that saying go, the most important thing is sincerity and once you learn to fake that..

just sometimes you back peddle too much from the sincerely expressed presentation and the sincerity becomes harder to fake and more and more people just see it a smarmy.

If nothing else, maybe this will push us all to take a hard look and question the non-evidence based programs in our own institutions.

Is it not generally the strategy of the US political right to work from a “whose side are you on” position ? If that is the strategic instinct of the ACSH then Miller’s letter would make sense – having made the public indictment of Oz from a position of right wing authority the audience (which ever is relevant) is invited to “stand with us”or “against us” . In this scenario Oz is left with hippy anti American liberal support and all good conservatives/Republicans/patriots have to join the cause against him (and by implication support GMOs as part of the US national interest). Like Orac I would have great concerns about how this might play out, with science becoming a hostage to the fortunes of the warring sides.

A major subtext of any current argument about GMO labelling etc is the European/US TTIP where science has already been invoked as arbiter in somewhat spurious terms Suspicion of TTIP is increasing amongst European electorates and US based pro GMO interests are unlikely to welcome anything that might strengthen EU negotiators hands over the issue – such as a rock star quack like Oz making a big deal about ‘transparency’.

We might ask Adams if his own support for Dr Oz might possibly be biased because:
– he knows that his appearances on Oz’s show lift his profile
– an endorsement from Oz might ultimately affect his earning
– his contrarian alt media tales revolve upon corporate greed, governmental malfeasance and mainstream media collusion
( even if they don’t exist or aren’t shown conclusively)

I’d still like to hear from Mike Adams regarding his latest diatribe against SSRI antidepressants supposedly causing the Germanwings co-pilot to crash that plane (seeing that Adams’ own store sells St. John’s wort, which works by a similar serotonin re-uptake mechanism).

NN’s selling such a dangerous product (if we are to believe Adams regarding SSRIs) is even more relevant, given the Sunday N.Y. Times article which describes yet another case of a suicidal commercial jet pilot who was self-medicating with SJW.

I agree that the letter wasn’t as thought-out as it should have been. And neither the timing of the letter nor the quantity of signatories optimal (it’s a big country and you can find dozens of MDs to sign just about anything). But you haven’t convinced me, Orac, that this isn’t, on the net, bad for Oz.
The publicity has informed casual observers that what Oz presents is, actually, controversial. Since the press coverage of the letter, I’ve had several Oz-fan friends and family, familiar with my occupation as a chemist, ask my opinion on Oz. Previously, they took everything he said as the expert opinion of a credentialed authority. Now they know that his opinions don’t always represent the best science. I think the results of this letter will be that die-hard Oz disciples with be even firmer in their folly, while more casual followers will begin to take his advice with a grain of salt.

Has the antidepressant that the co-pilot been identified (brand or generic)? I was under the impression that St. John’s Wort was very widely used in Germany – at one time prescribed by more than seven to one over Prozac (at a time when fewer SSRIs were available).

[email protected]: I think you have a point about the goal here, but (as happens frequently with the political right in the US) the strategy was not well thought out. Dr. Oz is a well-established academic doctor, so taking him on the way they did was almost as foolish as a small gang of bank robbers attempting a frontal assault on the SWAT team surrounding their hideout. Unless you have an overwhelming advantage, a frontal assault is likely to be expensive and messy, and unlikely to work. But that’s exactly what the signers of this letter did, trying to get Columbia to fire Dr. Oz when all they had was vague allegations that could be batted away on academic freedom grounds. The letter signers are likely to find that people who might otherwise be sympathetic to what they are saying (a group which includes Orac) might decide that this is not a hill worth dying on. Belief in medical woo, as has been demonstrated repeatedly, is only weakly (if at all) correlated with where people fall in the US left-right political spectrum.

@ Notchka:

Amongst the loons I survey, there’s an article circulating that lists various murders/ suicides as a side effect of SSRIs – and the occasional anti-psychotic.
HOWEVER no one asks exactly why these individuals were prescribed meds in the first place.
I suppose that there was nothing wrong with them and that these meds are just handed out like candy to everyone.


Well, given that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violent crime but no more likely to be perpetrators of violent crime than the average population, I’d say neither the meds nor what they were prescribed them for that led them to commit these crimes. It’s just people committing crimes who happen to be on psychiatric medication.

Dr. Oz is a well-established academic doctor, so taking him on the way they did was almost as foolish as a small gang of bank robbers attempting a frontal assault on the SWAT team surrounding their hideout. Unless you have an overwhelming advantage, a frontal assault is likely to be expensive and messy, and unlikely to work.

Exactly. The signatories of the letter have to rely on the press being interested to get any publicity at all, while Dr. Oz controls a show watched by millions every day as well as an Internet presence in which articles and videos on his website are spread over Facebook and Twitter by his many fans. Miller and company got only one shot, and they didn’t really make it count. Now in response Oz will get as many shots as he wishes, constrained only by audience fatigue and his advertisers. Moreover, while it’s true that Mike Adams is a conspiracy loon know for truly vile flights of nasty rhetoric, in his posts you can see the shape of the defense that Oz will marshal. It’ll be a saner sounding version that will paint Miller and the ACSH as Monsanto shills who didn’t bother with Oz until he gored their sacred (and profitable) GMO oxen. He’ll leave out the bits about one of them having been accused of domestic abuse (too nasty and personal) but keep all the insinuations of conflicts of interest.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Oz broadens the circle of critics he attacks, either, to include those who criticized his quackery. For instance, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t go after Julia Belluz of, given her article last week about him. He might well even go after bloggers, although I tend to doubt it because most of us aren’t high profile enough.

@ JP:


But they have articles from the CCHR to back up their position. Really That’s one place they get this stuff.

Unfortunately, Dr. Oz will likely breeze on through the next week (with higher ratings) because of the gift of the Miller et al letter. It plays to the strength of the Dr. Oz show: spoon feeding ready answer the audience is willing to believe. Oz has a much bigger and louder pulpit from which to purvey his defense message.

The toughest aspect that anyone taking on Dr. Oz has to overcome is the very reason his show works. He pushes ideas in a way that anyone can understand (irrespective of evidence on whether they work.) To counter him requires a deeper understanding of science, something that his audience is obviously lacking or they wouldn’t be his audience. The language that engages his audience is far easier to absorb than the language necessary to counter his quackery. Add on the nuance of conspiracy theory about industrial conflict of interest (relevant or not) and he will exit this fight undamaged.

It will be interesting to see if Dr. Oz’s ego allows him to restrain his response or does he overstate his case.

@ Denise:

Oh, yes – I’m aware of the animosity toward SSRIs.

When ADs came up in this Germanwings incident, it crossed my mind that the co-pilot might have been taking MD prescribed St. John’s Wort. If that were the case, it could certainly pluck a feather out of Adam’s hinder.

@Obstreperous Applesauce #16:

It’s like they get to spend their lives wallowing in a warm, chocolate bath where all the answers are easy, stress-free and Oprah loves you.

I think that’s a religion you’re describing there!


On the thread topic, I’m disappointed. Supporters of Oz are writhing ecstatically in this. . . *blech*

That story is over two years old.

Ah, I fell for the wrong February sweeps article because it had HH and the demo. It looks to actually be a bit worse (1.5 HH).

What puzzles me is how much publicity this letter is getting. I could be wrong, but it appears to me that it is getting much more attention than the McCaskill Senate hearing or the BMJ study, both of which are much more significant (and embarrassing to Oz) than a misguided letter from ten relatively obscure (to me) doctors with a hidden agenda.

Of course, it’s the one that’s going to be discredited. Your picture of Wile E Coyote is perfect.

Orlac not Orac #19,

The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any Euroxpean Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show.

In response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of former US president George Bush, asked Washington to penalise the EU and particularly countries which did not support the use of GM crops. …

In other newly released cables, US diplomats around the world are found to have pushed GM crops as a strategic government and commercial imperative.

May I take *where science has already been invoked as arbiter in somewhat spurious terms* in your comment to be an allusion to the practice of politically appointed ‘science advisors’ and their proclaimed policy-relevant findings being in a position to be ‘leaned on’ by the appointers?

From ‘oil-for-food’ to bootleg CDs, The US corporatocracy does seem to have a way of always whipping that GMO camel into the tent to be savored before every diplomatic dinner.

[…] A publicity stunt against Dr. Oz threatens to backfire spectacularly, Orac notes that among his many offenses, Dr Oz thinks GMOs are not harmful but should be […]

@ JP ( and to whom else it may concern):

I think that sceptics should take a look at the CCHR’s website as well as the wikip——- on it.
Two others involved in this movement are the late Thomas Szasz and Peter Breggin. Worth reading their position.

…I must admit that seeing Miller make trouble for Oz at his job over his extracurricular activities rubbed me the wrong way. True, I suppressed my distaste when I wrote my post last Friday, so powerful is my dislike for Dr. Oz and what he does on his TV show.

I would maintain that the intent of the letter was to make trouble for Oz at his hobby.

I suspect, but have no facts to prove, that Oz makes far more money being America’s Quack than he does at Columbia. As noted in Friday’s post, from a conversation with Dr. Richard Green –

He then added, “He’s probably a little rusty right now.” He said Oz seemed to be operating less and less — from several hundred surgeries per year at his peak to a maximum of about 100 now — as he entertains more and more.

I suspect Oz feels the same about practicing real medicine as our host feels about this blog – it nice, it makes a few dollars, it provides some prestige, but if it was taken away, nobody would be homeless.

Please note that I am not arguing that the letter was well executed, and that it wasn’t a dick move.

Somewhat OT,
but then are mentions of RI/SBM by the woo-centric ever TRULY OT, I ask you ( and good for a laugh- which we all need about now given the topic)

@ AoA, commenter Danchi notes that SBM blogs are run by
” you know who”.
I could have TOLD you that!

This is all true. However, petitions and letters to sack someone seem to be fairly common, and one might expect useful. Such things can shape certain conversations.

Dean: “Well, Dr. Oz, I have this petition signed by 23 gazillion people on the internet asking for you to be fired…”

Dr. OZ: “Yea, but, you cant fire me…”

Dean: “Right, I give no credence to such petitions. Oh, and I also have this letter signed by numerous luminaries saying you should be sacked…”

Dr. OZ: “Yeah, but, you can’t fire me.”

Dean: “Right, I give no credence to such letters. Oh, and I also have this rather weak report from your department pertaining to your P&T…”

Dr. Oz: “Doh….”

Dean: “… to which I will give significant credence”

Ah, but Greg, he already has tenure.

There’s a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon that shows a mad scientist doing typical mad-scientist things and saying to his victim … “Mad? Mad? Yes!! I’m mad! But I have tenure!

Palindrom, I don’t know what his tenure situation is but normally there are several levels. For example, associate professor is usually the first level of tenure, but moving to full is hard, rare, and pays well. Then, beyond full many universities have an added level which is the highest honor, you usually lose all your teaching requirements, much higher pay, etc. (I’ve seen this called “University Professor.” Also, again depending on the school, a tenured professor can find themselves in a situation where they are getting an offer and then go to the administration to see if they have a counter offer. If you are not in good standing, there may be very few outside offers and little chance of an internal counter offer.

Beyond that, faculty rely to varying degrees on all sorts of other resources. Your lab location and size, perhaps staff, department or university funded post docs, internal grants for your grad students, etc. Most larger U’s have a lot of money floating around internally that goes to the favored few. Having everyone in the world hating you for good reason, and the administration knowing that, matters.

Make no mistake: A tenured faculty member can be marginalized and stagnated in their career.

Wile E. Coyote is holding what looks to be a ‘quad’ antenna cut to 47 MHz. Obviously, he came too close to an old baby monitor.

There’s a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon that shows a mad scientist doing typical mad-scientist things and saying to his victim … “Mad? Mad? Yes!! I’m mad! But I have tenure!

I am now thinking of one of the too-many Lethal Weapon sequels where the baddie runs around doing drug deals, shooting people, etc and just says “Diplomatic immunity!!” a lot.

“Make no mistake: A tenured faculty member can be marginalized and stagnated in their career.”

“We’ve decided to honor you by making you an Emeritus Professor!”

Speaking of which, if the University of Kentucky couldn’t bring itself to de-associate from Boyd Haley (who marketed an industrial chelating agent for autism, among other embarassing activities), there’s no way Columbia would part company with Dr. Oz.

“The letter was a mistake…” says Gus.

Oh no. Good political PR guys run rings around Machiavelli, and they’ve got access to them at the Hoover. They’re like Bobby Fisher, thinking multiple moves ahead. I would venture every consequence of Miller’s letter mentioned by Orac was not only anticipated, but desired. As I wrote Friday, these guys don’t give a damn about Oz. They don’t want him canned. They don’t care if he winds up with HIGHER ratings and more fans. The whole thing is a MacGuffin, a ploy – Mikey might even call it a ‘false flag’ 🙂

The ooint of the letter is to get publicity and credibility for these groups on the political margins of medicine and science — name recognition, ‘cultural capital.’ They WANT Oz to respond, extending the kerfuffle, making more noise. One goal would be to have a cable news network do a piece on on the manufactroversy, with Oz or a surrogate paired off against Miller or another of his group. This is, in cultural terms “false balance”. Oz is a ‘somebody’: a celebrity BS peddler AND a prominent cardio surgeon in a leadership position at a major hospital. He has Ethos (cred). He’s earned his ticket in from the the camera. Miller is a wing-nut industry shill. Has anyone ever istened to him before? The brass ring here is he (or whoever the litte group has picked as the most medi-genic) could wind u with a semi-regular gig commenting on medicine and or science on Fox or HLN or something.

Orac nailed the relevant facts, if he didn’t quite get the big picture. If the media is going to look into OZ, the ‘show’ shoud belong to McCaskill, the BMJ authors and Ben Mazar. of course the ACSH is giddy, they just totally stole the thunder of all the Oz critics who’ve been doing serious work and talking about substantive issues.

But the media doesn’t want to look behind Oz’s curtain. They want drama, i.e. conflict. So Miller guarantees that with an ad hominem crack at Oz’s ‘pathology’, and it game on. And what ball are they playing with: GMOs, waay down the list of Oz’s ‘sins’.

I do not claim that GMO foods are dangerous, but believe that they should be labeled like they are in most countries around the world. I will address this on the show next week.

Hmmm. Miller just Oz to make a public statement on the safety of GMO foods, which he’s bound to repeat on his show soon, whatever his argument for labeling.

More importantly, Monsanto and the rest of “Big Ag’ have only a finite budget to fund their shills, errr, ‘allies’, and The Hoover and ACSH just upped their profile my leaps and bounds, and probably just leaped much closer to the front of the cash queue. They don’t want to bring Oz down. They want to make him even more famous so they ride his coat-tails with a gadfly act for fund-raising.

Reply to: Robert L Bell (comment #1)

You say that “if what you propose is a good idea then you don’t need to sell it using a coat of lies. The truth will be good enough.”

Sadly that is completely untrue. Marketing, PR and personal bias throw ‘truth’ out the window. I wish you were right. We might have faith that eventually people will learn truth.

However, we’ve reached a stage where ordinary people (non-scientists, and non-academics) can’t possibly get their head round the actual truth. It’s just too complicated. For example looking at the meta-analysis of the research that disproves the link between autism and vaccines, is beyond most ordinary people.

The internet has given people a voice. A lot of people now speak with authority. People who don’t know what they are talking about. Telling someone they don’t know what they are talking about ‘offends’ them. Politely educating a dullard is pointless in most cases.

People can get their head round the idea of the Earth orbiting the Sun, it’s fairly simple to understand. However most modern science is just too complex (even for academics!). So we are in a mess where complex things need academics and scientists to ridiculously specialise in a very narrow way. So they are geniuses at a very small part of say biology or mental health. Sadly their tunnel vision means that they too can only walk about a very small part of the ‘truth’.

People who are thick will never get their head round GM or Global Warming. Sorry to appear so rude, but I’ve rather had enough of dullards spreading dangerous ideas, that can cost lives.

Personally, I think letters calling for an academic to be sacked are a bit pointless. I have always thought if you are going towrite to the President of a University about a academic, you do so to point out their failings with respect to the University rules and leave it up to the University heirarchy to decide the punishment.

I have written to a University about an author’s serial plagiarism after getting no joy from pointing such plagiarism to 2 Journal editors. To finally get some action taken required making the plagiarism public. Even then, the University took no action although the Journals finally did.

I see the object of this letter not to get Oz fired, but to get the press talking about the lack of scientific justification for his claims. In doing so, I think it will be successful. If all Oz has to respond is accusations of shilling, the mainstream press will not buy that for long.

Having said that, Oz will undoubtably use the letter as an opportunity to attack all of his critics leading to some collatoral damage. Henry Miller won’t worry too much about that.

If they had really wanted to cause Dr. Oz discomfort they would have a) gotten a lot more signatures and b) written to his sponsors.

Greg Laden @47 — The gradations of tenure are different at different institutions. At my place, promotion to full is not “rare”, but routine for people who continue on the promising trajectory they showed before tenure, and the jump in pay is nice but not dramatic. Being a “stuck Associate” basically means you didn’t to grow as a scholar, though in some cases Associates are very active in e.g. advising, administration, teaching or some other activity aside from scholarship. We also have no rank above full. Everyone teaches the same load, which almost always includes face-to-face work with undergrads, unless they buy themselves out with external funds. But we’re not exactly a typical university.

(I know these things because I’ve served on the tenure and promotion committee.)

Notchka #23,

I was under the impression that St. John’s Wort was very widely used in Germany – at one time prescribed by more than seven to one over Prozac (at a time when fewer SSRIs were available).

I don’t know anything about that but the anoxylitic, passiflora incarnata, has been widely prescribed in Europe as

In initial study in 2001 for treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, maypop extract performed as well as oxazepam but with fewer short-term side effects.

Here, we are heavily dosed with monsanto and, when there is the slightest easterly component to the wind, kept respiratorily irritated. I do personally loathe the chemical schedule those who fall into the trap must maintain as, the maypops we’d be chest deep in as kids biking are now invariably hard to find due to overspray, drift, or something — It almost looks intentional how far away from a tainted field that those vines die.

All I know about tenure is the very first thing my freshman adviser said to me: “I could be chainsawing guinea pigs in the parking lot and there’s nothing they [the administration] could do about it.”

(Actually a good physics professor, but he loved to say outrageous things. And no, he never did it.)

JustaTech @57 — The old joke was that the (male) professor had to avoid being caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.

On the other hand, if you’re caught in financial fraud (e.g. padding your expense account), you’re generally out on your butt, because there’s no way that’s defensible under “academic freedom”.

Jokes aside, I think tenure is very important, not just because it allows people to take unpopular views, but for two other reasons:

(1) With tenure, one can much more easily undertake difficult, long-term projects that may be important in the long run. Fermat’s last theorem wasn’t proven by an assistant professor attempting to increase his or her publication count.

(2) The unparalleled job security that tenure is what makes the job attractive. It’s likely that with my skills I could have made more money doing something else, but I am grateful every day for this incredible gift of lifelong guaranteed employment, and I never take it for granted. The erosion of the tenure system, and especially the exploitation of visiting and adjunct instructors, is having a terrible effect on the quality of American higher education — aside from being an outrageously exploitative system.

Universities have ethical standards even for the tenured, enforced by various disciplinary actions, including revoking tenure. Miller, et al, may have been mindful of the responsibility health care professionals have (by state licensing laws and professional ethics) to act when they know about potentially harmful and fraudulent practices. Miller’s letter presented adequate grounds for a Columbia investigation of Oz.

I’m not impressed by Columbia. Back in the mid-1990s, Oz should have been called on his antics in his surgical practice when he was apparently a laughing stock among his peers for doing wildly inappropriate things, such as bringing his psychic intuitive sidekick along during operations and letting her loose among patients on the floor.

Columbia has also apparently done nothing about the infamous Martha Welch, MD, on their faculty, despite complaints about the unvalidated and highly abusive psychotherapy she inflicts on children, while claiming it could cure autism in a cover story for LIFE magazine.

It is a great idea that Dr. Oz exposed GMOs for what they are: Vehicles for Higher Pesticide Sales by industry. Only in the US and Canada are consumers kept in the dark about this. That is wrong. If a product is so great- then LABEL it. Henry Miller is a shill for the chemical industry. No one can argue that. Everybody now knows. I love it that he has exposed himself, and the rest his ten-person crew as well. If Dr. Oz talks about a supplement that does not interest me (I have never purchased anything)- I don’t buy it. No big deal. Dr. Oz presents himself as a doctor who is open to alternative solutions. Our friend Henry regularly prints false information on behalf of industry. He fraudulently posed as a Stanford professor in CA No on 37 TV commercials. He is employed to tear down anyone who finds flaws with GMOs- or to print industry PR as fact. He promotes hiding glyphosate in our food- which has recently been declared a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization. Dr. Oz encourages Americans to eat healthy food and exercise. Henry’s actions are more egregious than Dr. Oz’s, and this is coming to light. I can’t wait to see this episode! Check out the film Merchants of Doubt. Sunlight is such a great thing 🙂

None of which changes my opinion that what Miller did was a stupendously bad idea, just from a tactical standpoint alone.

@ Tim #57

Yes – you’re right, Tim. You don’t know anything about it.

It is a great idea that Dr. Oz exposed GMOs for what they are: Vehicles for Higher Pesticide Sales by industry.

Hey, Kathleen, now that you’ve graced everyone with your screed, do you think you could get Seneff to drop by? There are certain… questions about the process behind moving from cartoons with giant question marks to specific numerical projections, if you get my drift.

What incredible pessimism. I see this whole thing as a ground swell, and while you’re right that a few people may have leapt for golden ring before the wave finished peaking, that doesn’t mean OZ gets to stop the wave. He will run an hour long shill gambit. Great! More opportunity to communicate to the public exactly what the shill gambit is, and how it doesn’t in any way provide a suitable defense for the incredible amount of woo he pushes on a weekly basis. I’m already picturing my next meme about it, and he hasn’t yet recorded the episode.

He has always had his large audience to which he could launch a counter-attack, no matter what the attack was. That was never going to change. So if someone was successful in provoking him to deploy the shill counter-attack, fantastic. What’s he going to do next time? Just keep making sure that there IS a next time.

People are sick of the snake oil salesmen, and they are joining in on the swell in increasing numbers. After Food Babe’s takedown, she tried doubling down on the shill gambit in her defense, and people finally started to see through it. I’m willing to bet that a lot of people who may have not studied-up on their fallacies, first started to hear about shill accusations of that type following the Vani/Science Babe episode, and I’m confident they will be able to notice it this time too. It’s just going to take a strong, collaborative effort to point it out. Food Babe is not nearly on the same level as Oz, but she very well could have been. As far as I understand, there was at one time some very real talk about her getting her own daytime talk show. I seriously doubt that will happen now. It’s not unreasonable for one to think they could ride a little bit of that wave, and cash in at the right time when quack awareness was peaking in the media.

Yes there will be a predictable, and maybe even somewhat successful response from Dr. Oz following this attack. How do we limit the success, and make sure this swell keeps building? By resisting the temptation to be the ‘one who called it’, which doesn’t exactly set the footing for a strong, collaborative effort.

I’m a little amused that your concern was giving them too much ammunition, when judging by some of the reactions, this article itself seems to heading right into their stockpile.

Tactically, It’s impossible to be 100% right about everything. Even if it was possible, that wouldn’t guarantee that you are the one who’s infallible, and the person you’re criticizing is not. Knowing that, it’s probably best to just acknowledge the honest intentions of the person who is ‘on your side’ and not let your petty differences about ‘how you would have done it’ turn into bitter criticisms.

^ Oh, and disclosing the COI that Zen Honeycutt has appeared on the Oz show sort of seems like the sort of thing that one should do up front.

We need to genetically modify crops to withstand more pesticides so we can consume even more pesticides. Pesticides are healthy. Anyone who says different is a quack including Dr. Oz.

What a load of poppycock and blather. I’m sure the arguments went precisely the same during Galileo’s Inquacksition too. Staunch old proven stalwarts of known science defending its comfortable boundaries against pseudo quackery attempting to stretch the known demonstrable parameters into new interesting alternative modalities of thought, science, medicine and religion. Fortunately evolution always wins out and you old boys always take your old paradigms into the dust. But they were exceptionally good starting points, so bravo and ta on behalf of me, Dr. Oz and the American public who adore him because they instinctively trust him because their unprovable unwavering guts tell them who is right, better, and on their side.

@Narad #64

Seneff especially gets under my skin. Not only is she a fraud, if perhaps a sincere fraud, but she is a blight on the good name of the ‘Tute and I can not believe that she has taken in so many people RIGHT HERE IN MASSACHUSETTS for God’s sake. We like to brag that we have the best schools in the country, but some of the students are just not with the program.

This kerfluffle could actually be put to good use standing up for science against both Oz quackery and ACSH quackery.

ACSH is the easier target: a relatively unknown organization with a felonious shill listed on their website as “Acting President, Medical/Executive Director.” The fact that his felony conviction was 20 years ago is hardly as important as the fact that it was egregious and highly relevant.

Medicaid fraudster with unsanitary clinics as “Medical/Executive Director.” That’s almost a self-satire in a nutshell. If nothing else, make them explain themselves. Make them spell out how his crime was irrelevant or how it doesn’t disqualify him for a prominent position of public trust. They won’t be able to do it. And even if they throw him under the bus, it’s too little and far too late to save their own credibility.

Take out ASCH first, as an appetizer, and then carve up the main course:

Oz is a more difficult target, but only because he’s got the magic TV machine. His quackery promotions are self-indicting, Senator McCaskill’s takedown of him is epic, and his excuses are pathetic in light of the damage he’s caused.

Orac, you can stand up and say “they’re both wrong but for different reasons,” and you can also use this to make a strong point about the abuses of science by people and organizations with vested interests and self-interest agendas.

And if anyone accuses you of being some kind of shill, the comeback is that you’re “a minor celebrity in the skeptic scene who is perfectly satisfied with his career and has no great yearning for his own TV show.” If you get offered brief appearances on TV to speak to this, don’t turn them down, but go on the air and shred both Oz and Ross at the same time.

You of all people have the standing to do this, by way of having exercised due diligence and due skepticism about the ACSH letter before anyone else did.

Right now it’s the quacks and the shills against science on two fronts. But they are each severely compromised, so science can fight this two-front war and win. Next up, tackling the climate denialists.

@Kathleen Hallal #61

Let me go out on a limb here, and suggest that the principle argument – at present – against GMO labeling is that it would be a blunder to hand the loons anything that can be portrayed as a victory.

Just look at what happened with the antivaxxers and thimerosal. After years of badgering the FDA gave in and said ‘thimerosal does not cause any problems, but it is already out of most vaccines and if it will make you happy we will go ahead and take it out of all the pediatric vaccines.’

Did this satisfy the luddites? Hell no! They immediately started screaming THIS PROVES THEY KNEW ALL ALONG THAT THIMEROSAL IS DEADLY!!!!!!!!!!!

No reasonable person expects that you lot would be any more reasonable or honest in the aftermath of a labeling requirement – especially as labeling never made any sense anyway except as a stalking horse for a complete ban and a tactically accessibly intermediate goal for the encouragement of the troops in a long and wearying campaign.

No, Robert L Bell #69. The general loons must not win; Must not be helped to choose food that is not produced by a corporation whose business model is crapping on the breakfast table, calling the cops, and having them arrest you because that is obviously their Coprolite™ on your table. Nor must they be allowed to label that it does not contain GMOs — Isn’t this what Monsanto got away with for years? First claiming false advertising as it ‘implied’ something could be wrong with rBGH and then claiming false advertising because the crap became ubiquitous and hard to prove every last copyrighted molecule out of a vat or delivery truck. Well, I knew that certain milk tasted like puss and learned to avoid those location codes before I knew about the rBGH and mastitis.

Kathlen Hallal #61 has it right about the deeper pesticide marinade; Monsanto’s shills’ response to the ‘loons’ is “Don’t worry, F*ckUp™ is safe; Besides, your all soaking in it.”

It is telling that you portray labeling as ‘victory’ or ‘defeat’ because those loons conscientious consumers having knowledge of which is which and voting with their wallets would indeed be a long-needed indictment on such agregeous corporations.

Yes, the likes of Monsanto have gone above and beyond to litigate away being able to claim “does not contain” just as they are proud to be able to do away with *organic* as their patent-protected products don’t stay on their own fields but contaminate most every cubic centimeter of air, soil, and water.

Dr. Oz does not practice medicine on his TV show, and said he never did. He has helped more people with his sincere teaching. He is not teaching medical students or any medical personnel. He has so many other specialists on his show.
When scientists and physician’s ego’s are inflated, they have to demean another person to feel better, and I’m not talking about the ego of Dr. Oz. The other physicians must feel threatened. It will backfire on them.

This is a great article that mirrors my thoughts about the situation. In fact, I had never even heard of Dr. Oz until last month, over the glyphosate/Monsanto/WHO controversy. My interest in this recent media storm was piqued because of the timing of the letter with respect to Dr. Oz’s show on glyphosate.

How did the media get the letter from Dr. Miller et al? How much of the controversy is due to bad (or misinformed) reporting, though? For example, all these articles mention that “half of what Dr. Oz says is baseless”, which inspired me to read the BMJ report of the “study” conducted by Canadian doctors.

In actuality, the doctors who wrote the article randomly selected 40 shows from a 5-month period in 2013, noted the recommendations, and then randomly selected 80 recommendations to evaluate for evidence. Spending no more than an hour on each, they then searched for “evidence”. (So far, no problems with this … it’s the way most studies are conducted.)

One of these recommendations was “sneezing into your elbow to prevent the spread of germs” (advocated by CDC and public health professionals). The authors found no “evidence” (i.e., clinical trials, studies, case reports) to support this recommendation. So, this is one of the 31 (of 80) claims that are “baseless”.

Wouldn’t it be more helpful for the public to know the other 30 claims that are baseless? Wouldn’t it also be more helpful to the public that the “half” is based on 30 out of 80 recommendations, and that there is a confidence interval around this number? (Or that if the study were repeated by others, the result might be completely different, depending on the definition of “Strong recommendations” and the random selection of recommendations to evaluate?) Wouldn’t it also be helpful to know who decided to have a press release of that article?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: