Shouting fire in a crowded theatre…

By Keir Liddle

Retailers across the UK have started stocking a magazine that seems designed to get skeptics blood boiling “What Doctors don’t tell you“. The skeptics have responded by complaining to stockists of the magazine expressing concerns about it’s contents and the magazine has responded by claiming this jeopardises their right to free speech:

“‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ has just launched a 100-page glossy version in UK stores – and already it’s being targeted by the bully boys who want the title banned.  They’ve even contacted our distributors, asking them to stop supplying the title. These champions of free speech include Simon Singh (co-author with Edzard Ernst of the book ‘Trick or Treatment’) and his chums, including ‘paranormal researcher’ Hayley Stevens.  Singh has written to our distributors, Comag, to get them to stop supplying the title, while Singh, Stevens and fellow trolls are busy complaining about the title to retailers who stock it”.

There are those in the alternative medicine community who believe that Singh, Ersnt and Stevens are the ‘bully boys’ of big pharma and are trying to suppress every non-Pharma voice. They believe that opposition to the dangerous and nonsensical advice found within the pages of  WDDTY is solely due to Big Pharma using its financial influence to attack not only their right to know, but their right to information, and their right to alternative medical therapies.

What the magazines response fails to mention is the numerous issues skeptics have uncovered with the advice and information printed in the magazine.  These include:

Among many more poorly substantiated articles based on cherry picked and poor quality research with the caevet “researchers say” promoting the ideas that only vitamins and supplements can save us from cancer and assorted diseases and ailments while the drugs don’t work and the doctors are wrong.

Both the consistent undermining of public confidence in the NHS and in GPs and trained healthcare professionals and the promotion of ridiculous and debunked nonsense about cancer and vaccinations amount to little more than “shouting fire in a crowded theatre”.

“Free speech” is something it’s hard to argue against. No one wants to be seen to restrict this most basic of freedoms that we all, rightly or wrongly, take for granted. But to my mind freedom of speech has never included the right to mislead or to defame individuals or professions and this is certainly a big part of the modus operandi of “What Doctors Don’t Tell You”.

They are in essence using misinformation and twisting and cherry picking of studies and statistics to scare people into believing that non-evidence based treatments and natural remedies are superior to evidence based medicine. They defame doctors, healthcare professionals and the health service with misinformation and scare tactics.

They are standing in a crowded theatre and shouting fire in order to do nothing more than sell alternative medicines and vitamin supplements.

They are shills for traditional and alternative medicine and appear to think nothing of denigrating vaccination, chemotherapy and any aspect of evidence based medicine that suggests their treatments are quackery. They do not deserve to debase the notion of free speech simply to push their lies and occasionally harmful misinformation to do so denigrates one of the very foundations of modern civilisation. Everyone is entitled to their opinions that is true but no one is entitled to their own facts and no one should be allowed to invoke free speech in the name of protecting their right to recklessly mislead and potentially endanger others.

Free speech is not the unalienable right to be published is the right to publish and be damned and WYDDTY have published deserves to be damned as strongly as possible.

Sceptical letter writer has a guide to complaining about the magazine here should you with to do something about this.

This entry was posted in Featured, headline, opinion, Scepticism, Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Shouting fire in a crowded theatre…

  1. This magazine is also available in Tesco.

    Tesco’s Customer Services form is here:

    As I and others had already complained to Waitrose, WHSmith and Sainsbury’s I thought it only fair to contact Tesco too – though I’m not expecting their reply to be substantially different from the others.

  2. Simon Mitchell says:

    To take the “Fire!” analogy further; they are shouting “Fire!” and selling empty fire extinguishers at exorbitant prices to fight a non-existent fire and telling people they will die if they don’t do it. And then turning the crowd against the fire brigade when they turn up.

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