Who Is Trying to Kill You, and Why?
Last year, in the course of my regular job—saying mean things about politicians at Gawker—I came across a clip of ’90s softcore porn model and MTV comedienne Jenny McCarthy babbling about the old “vaccines cause autism” canard on Larry King. Now Larry will have anyone on and allow them to say anything—he is old, and does not know who is talking or what they are saying—so it was hard to get too mad at him. And no one ever accused Ms. McCarthy of genius, so if she wanted to believe that bullshit, she was welcome to.
And then, a year later, Ms. McCarthy’s boyfriend, In Living Color star Jim Carrey, wrote a blog post on the same patently untrue vaccine conspiracy. This was published—and heavily hyped—by the “liberal” Huffington Post. Publishing it struck me as irresponsible.
But the HuffPo is a grocery store circular compared to the reach and influence of Oprah Winfrey, who not only invited McCarthy on her show to lie to mothers across the nation but also offered the dangerous idiot her own show, as part of a “multi-year multi-platform deal.” How wonderful that Ms. McCarthy should have so many new opportunities to try to expose entirely new populations to measles, a disease that was effectively wiped out in this country in 2000.
Then Newsweek ran their cover story on all the various sundry quacks, bullshit-peddlers, and celebrity non-doctors Oprah regularly features on her program. There was much, much more dangerous nonsense on daytime TV than I’d imagined.
If Julie Coan of Houston, Texas, represents the response of your typical Oprah fan, we are in trouble. Julie wrote to Newsweek:
Oprah’s not perfect, but that’s why we love her. She can be full of herself at times—but at least she’s authentic and trying to help people. She’s done a lot of good.
This is a coherent answer to the news that Oprah uses her massive platform to promote Suzanne Somers’ unnecessary and potentially dangerous hormone “therapy” and tell women that a diet can protect them from HPV better than the vaccine? Oprah’s not perfect? As long as you’re “trying to help people” you get a free pass to spread bullshit that will actually harm people?
So, yes, this sort of thing pisses me off.
I am not a doctor, or a scientist. I am not even particularly smart. But I have a basic understanding of the scientific method. I understand how research works. My contrary streak does not extend to areas where there is consensus among credentialed experts in the hard sciences or, even better, actual verified proof.
And while I understand that the profit motive and greed color everything we hear from the mass media and I sympathize with a healthy skepticism of everything you’re told by “experts,” I feel like it’s a stupid, blinkered skepticism that doesn’t then apply itself to the claims of the random cranks and celebrities offering unconventional alternative hypotheses. So, yes, believe everyone is lying to you about 9/11. But why believe the morons who made Loose Change are any more credible? Doctors are just in cahoots with Big Pharma, trying to sell you corporate medicine you don’t need! But aging blonde comedic actresses, they have your best interests at heart.
I will try, here, to catalogue the current vogueish “skepticism” that is just a front for anti-intellectualism. I will write about quacks, cranks, bullshit-peddlers, celebrities who know better than “experts,” and the other celebrities who enable them. It will be lots and lots of fun!