|Posted by James Garrison on July 31, 2015 at 5:25 PM|
In most peoples everyday life, there are a few websites that they visit on a regular basis. Things like Facebook, Instagram, Pornhub, BuzzFeed. You know, normal sites. In the skeptical world, we have Wikipedia, Snopes, the C.D.C., and PubMed. In the dark realm of pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and new age weirdness, they have their own flavor of preferred information. And the ones I'm going to talk a little bit about today could possibly be called
The Four Horsemen of Derp!
This site, along with AboveTopSecret, is one of the primary purveyors of conspiracy theories on the planet. Their tagline is "Because there is a war on for your mind" Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it. If you go to the site, and I highly recommend you don't, one of the first things you'll see are ads for various liver cleaners, anti-fluoride campaigns, and very odd supplements, on top of links to brilliant articles like "Herbicide Resistant Insects are Destroying GMO Crops Like Never Before"(seriously, that one is on there, I thought it was an Onion article) There are also a bunch of conspiratorially flavored "news articles" blaming almost everything on Obama, atheists, and anyone that's brown. It's a deep rabbit warren of actual news stories with a seemingly slightly plausible conspiracy spin to them. (They should use that as the tag line) This site is part of the Alex Jones media empire, and he uses it, just like his radio show, to promote his particular flavor of crazy. It almost feels like an "End of Days" vibe, with everything going to pieces all around us. If you look at a lot of their advertisers, you'll quickly notice a common theme. They're trying to get your money. That and they tend to be geared more towards the survivalist type of consumer. You know the type, guys (and a few gals) with more guns and ammo than some small countries. They also normally have a bunker, which may be an actual bunker or a converted basement or tree-house, full of MRE's and canned food and water and they also seem to have a perpetual nervous twitch. These people also seem to tend towards the sovereign citizen brand of lunacy. I often see very large trucks with lift kits blowing past me on the highway with InfoWars stickers all over them, as well as people wearing their merchandise with slogans like "9-11 was an inside job!" If you hear about a crazy anti-government conspiracy, or that the world is about to collapse and the New World Order is going to take control, odds are, either InfoWars is covering it, or they started it.
This one is probably the grandaddy of the Alt Med sites. This one was started by Joseph Mercola, who is an osteopathic physician. He just happens to give advise on every other facet of health. His site tends to have articles that basically say "Don't listen to your doctor, listen to us instead!" All over the site you'll find ads for..wait for it....Dr. Joseph Mercolas health products. *gasp*. He sells a variety of supplements, vitamins, and books, all from his company. I know that it's his website and he can do whatever he damn well pleases, But at least he could try and make it look like he was supporting other Woo-mongers. This is just greedy. He also has an ad that claims his is the #1 health website in the world. I'm not going into that one too much. The internet and search rankings is a finicky mess as it is. He has a sitemap at the bottom with a section called "Special Info Sites" that cover all of the following delightful topics:
- Nutritional Typing
- Vitamin D
Voice-over: No, I don't think these alt-med folks are trying to scare the shit out of people. These are just topics that are controversial and so people are looking for non-biased, informative and easy to understand data.
No, they're trying to scare people. Plain and simple. On top of that, they're trying to make a profit doing it. Some of these guys make me think of the Ferengi from Star Trek. The site is kind enough to let you know that every purchase helps to fund a variety of charities and organizations. Charitable giving, wow! Ok, so maybe he's not as bad as I thought. Let's see, what are the groups that are getting a cut of the money. They include:
- Campaign for Mercury Free Dentistry
- National Vaccine Information Center
- Institute for Responsible Technology
- Rabies Challenge Fund
You get the general idea. The money from the sales of pseudoscience products are going to fund pseudoscience groups. What really makes me sick about a lot of the alt-med crowd is that they have a tendency to discourage their clients from continuing treatments from an actual M.D. and use whatever snake oil they're selling. This puts people in danger, both financially and physically. Financially because this shit isn't cheap, and you have to keep coming back for more (drug dealer business model) and physically because they aren't actually getting help. Sure, these websites will have anecdotes and testimonials from customers that they helped (the disease or problem either went away on its own, or wasn't there to begin with). The reason you rarely see any negative statements is because the dead don't have anecdotes.
Mike Adams, Health Ranger!, is the purveyor of the Beautiful Sunshine that is Natural News. This one site has it all. Conspiracy theories, health claims, anti-government rhetoric, promotion of alt-med, phrases like Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Brother, and on and on and on. One such headline claimed "The Department of Homeland Security still Controls what you Read" (Ironic, if it's true). There aren't as many ads on here as I've seen on other pseudoscience sites, but there are a damn lot of articles that try and make science sound evil and corrupt, and yet promote themselves as the only truly scientific authority on a variety of topics, ranging from women's health to genetics, and from nutrition to pharmaceuticals. However, this site, like so many others of its ilk, is just trying to scare people into buying their particular flavor of Woo. Mike Adams, Health Ranger!, tends to be a bit more vocal and aggressive than most other supporters of alternative medicine and organic food. As some of you know, not too long ago, Mr. Adams, Health Ranger!, made a comment basically saying it would be fine if someone were to kill proponents of GMOs. Then suddenly, there was a website, putting a hit on various scientists and skeptics. He claimed to have nothing to do with it, but a bit of internet detective work traced the site back to the same computer he used to manage the Natural News site. To be honest, I'm not sure what has been done about this, or if anything can be done. What I do know is, if you piss off Mike Adams, Health Ranger!, you might end up on an actual list.
There are so many flamin' bullshit loaded sites that choosing only 4 was not easy. I could have used MUFON, CryptoMundo, BFRO, or any number of other sites. I basically decided on my top 4 based on fitting with the 4 horsemen theme, popularity, influence, lack of scientific reliability, and danger. So based on all of this, and the fact that she really pisses me off, I present to you the last of the 4 Horsepeople of Derp!
Food Babe (Admit it, you knew this one was coming!)
Vani Hari is the Food Babe. Plain and simple. This woman lives the role. She famous for saying "If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it." Also, she has said that chemicals don't belong in food. Apparently, she doesn't realize that if you break anything down, at some point, it's all chemicals. That's basically what your body does. Her site has a lot of ads for her books (she has more than 1, what the hell!) and booklets, as well as a couple of ads for various supplements. It is basically her blog, which admittedly looks a hell of a lot better than mine. I'm not shy. She has a tendency to throw the word "toxin" around a lot. I don't know what toxin she's talking about. She never names it, just that it gets in your body. She is notorious for raising 9 kinds of hell about food additives that she thinks are bad for you, and bringing the full weight of the "Food Babe Army" (which makes me want a "Skeptical Okie Army". I'm sure we'd be way cooler.) against any company and using public opinion to make them change their products, all because it scares her. At the top of her page, right below the picture of her holding a magnifying glass looking at a package of...something, she has a few selection for her readers. They include Investigations, Recipes, Travel, Eating Guides, and of course Shops. Her current front page has a recipe for raw coconut macaroons, This simple food can help Acne, Eczema, Digestive Issues and More! and 3 Things Doctors say You Should Do...But Shouldn't. Here again is that distrust of the medical field that seems to pop up in all these sites, except for InfoWars. I will bet you, if any of these yahoos were to break their arm (I'm not saying it should happen, and I don't wish them any harm), they would be at a hospital in no time asking for a doctor to help them. The Food Babe site is actually a lot cleaner and easier to navigate than a lot of the other pseudoscience pages I look at while doing research for the blog. It's not as cluttered with ads and links, and is pretty straight forward. However, it doesn't change the fact that she is pushing her own brand of B.S. on an unsuspecting public. Ms. Hari says that she researches her claims, and she might. But like most people, both believers and skeptics, she tends to let her bias get in the way. She doesn't want to listen to the other side of the issue, and if someone calls her out and backs up their claim with evidence, she seems to have a tendency to just pull the blog post instead of admitting she was in error. She probably isn't as dangerous as Mercola or Natural News, but due to her influence in main stream media, she does have a tendency to make relatively simple issues way more complicated and difficult than they need to be.
All of these sites, as well as the thousands of others, have a few things in common. They have merchandise they want to sell. They have something they want to say, though I don't know if they actually believe what they are saying or if they are just trying to make an easy buck. They have a very devoted, almost to the point of rabid, following. They all promote some form of junk science or misinformation in a form that makes it easier for large numbers of people to grab onto it and believe it; If you want to keep a bit ahead of what the next weeks conversation at work or when visiting relatives is going to be, take a look at these sites. Just be sure not to read too much at one time. You've seen the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, right? When everyones faces melt. I'm pretty sure that may happen if you spend too much time that far into the Woo side of life. I just thought that I would introduce you to a few of the promoters of the crap that gives critical thinkers and skeptics such headaches. So with that pleasant thought, I shall take my leave. As always, I'm on Twitter, somewhere on Facebook, on some podcasts, and if you ever meet me in real life, be sure to say hi.
Until next time, Be Good, Be Skeptical, and Be sure your phone is charged.
The Skeptical Okie