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Jun. 16 2009 - 12:39 pm | 53 views | 4 recommendations | 5 comments

Who Is Trying to Kill You, and Why?

Last year, in the course of my regular job—saying mean things about politicians at GawkerI 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!


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  1. collapse expand

    This is going to be the best thing on True/Slant forever.

    The problem with this “news beat” in the past is that it was staffed entirely by Penn & Teller and that one guy from Reason Magazine — in other words, smug & humorless assholes.

    It is good that you’re going to fix this problem.

  2. collapse expand

    Keep doing this, Pareene. Also, add a “quackery” tag.

  3. collapse expand

    “I will write about quacks, cranks, bullshit-peddlers, celebrities who know better than “experts,” and the other celebrities who enable them.”

    Good luck with a project that large. You should be writing for quite a while with that one.
    While fringe “medicine” does have its deplorable downside, it occasionally gives us folk like Stan Gordon, the Libertarian who turned himself grayish blue by liberally dosing himself with colloidal silver in the days leading up to the millennium melt down that never quite melted.

    2 nights ago I cuddled up with Peter Popoff on the TV. He was hawking his miracle water. Not only does this apparently cure everything, but it also seems to cause huge chunks of cash to fall from heaven. It got even weirder as I approached my 15 minute televangelist viewing time limit when Pastor Popoff informed us all that his “miracle water came from a special spring near Chernobyl.”



    So either the guy is sending irradiated water to his faithful followers or this is Pastor P’s inside joke on the rubes who are dumb enough to send for his “miracle water.”

    Like I said, you’ve taken on a huge beastie.

    Good luck.

  4. collapse expand

    Sorry, that was Stan Jones who turned himself grayish blue. Stan Gordon is the guy from my home state who chases UFOs.

    I apparently mixed up my crackpots.


  5. collapse expand

    Well, of course the best way to deal with these numbskulls is skillful parody. I have in mind Fortune & Bird’s side-splitting skits with the oh-so smug Investment Bankers.

    Anyway, great concept, will keep fingers crossed for a graceful execution.

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    About Me

    I write about politics for famous cesspool blog Gawker. Formerly, I was the Editor of Washington DC Gossip Website Wonkette.com. My writing has appeared on many famous and popular internet sites, on the World Wide Web. I am not a doctor and, in fact, did not even finish attaining a BFA.

    See my profile »
    Followers: 83
    Contributor Since: June 2009

    What I'm Up To


    I cover politics for Gawker. You can see all my work right here.