Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Tweets of fury

Every once in a while, someone will get a comeuppance so elegant, so beautiful, that it's almost like a work of performance art.

This happened to two of woo medicine's superstars this past week.  One of them, "Food Babe" (a.k.a. The Nitwit Formerly Known As Vani Hari), is a blogger whose criticisms of the food and pharmaceuticals industry are an amalgam of half-truth, fear-mongering, and outright quackery.  And this past week she posted a blog that was so outrageously absurd that it's to be hoped even her followers got a wake-up call.

I'd post actual excerpts, but she was ridiculed so roundly after this that she removed the post and all links and comments connected to it.  (It survived a while on Google's cache, but even that's expired at this point.)  But here are some bits from it that I recall:

  • You shouldn't ride on jets.  Because jets contain compressed air, which will compress your organs.
  • The aforementioned compressed air is bad for you because it's not 100% oxygen.  It is, if you can believe this, up to 50% nitrogen.
  • Not only that, but because the air is pumped in from right outside the plane, it contains evil jet chemtrail exhaust.
  • If you have to fly, you should choose a seat near the front, because pilots get the best air, and it gets progressively worse as you go back toward the tail section of the plane.
  • If you're on a plane, you can get dehydrated, and this can give you headaches.  But you shouldn't take aspirin, you should take powdered willow bark instead.
  • Once you land, you should make sure to ground yourself by standing barefoot on the grass. 
Well, you can imagine what the blogosphere and the Twitterverse did with all that.  And being the courageous, cutting-edge investigator she is, she retreated in disarray, but not before deleting every mention of the post she could find.

But even that's small potatoes compared to what happened to Dr. Oz this week.  Most of you probably know about this guy, who has become notorious for peddling every sort of alt-med woo out there, but who nonetheless has a bazillion loyal followers who will defend him tooth and nail if anyone criticizes him.  (In fact, I'm already girding my loins against the hate mail I will surely receive over this post.)

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

Dr. Oz is a master of self-marketing, but this week he made a major "oops" move.  Not having learned from Bill Cosby's recent wince-inducing request that people make memes using his photograph, Dr. Oz posted a request of his own on Twitter... "What's your biggest question for me?  Reply with #OzsInbox and I'll reply to my favorites at"

Welp.  You can't just expect Twitter aficionados not to rise to that challenge.  Here is a selection of responses, none of which, I suspect, will be amongst Dr. Oz's "favorites:"
  • Did you get all of your medical advice from a medieval alchemy book?  #OzsInbox
  • When you were a boy, did you always want to be a snake-oil salesman, or did you have other ambitions too?  #OzsInbox
  • #OzsInbox I've been vaccinated with raspberry ketones.  Am I going to get sick, or will I be immune to everything?
  • Can you tell me the chemical name of one toxin my body produces that my liver and kidneys are incapable of handling?  #OzsInbox
  • What kind of fruit juice do you recommend as an alternative to chemotherapy?  #OzsInbox
  • So what is the BEST way to melt fat?  Stovetop?  Convection?  Microwave?  Or a good old-fashioned campfire?  #OzsInbox
  • #OzsInbox Which Starbucks roast should I use for the most effective coffee enema?  I was thinking Sumatra, but Verona is so smooth.
  • #OzsInbox Can transcendental meditation cure lying?
  • I hear you wear silk scrubs.  If so, how do they feel, gently caressing your engorged ego?  #OzsInbox
  • If I get cancer, how much baking soda should I use?  The whole box, or should I just keep going until I feel the cancer die?  #OzsInbox
  • What has been your most profitable lie for money so far?  #OzsInbox
  • I just read that my detox regimen may be toxic.  Can you recommend a way to detox my detoxification toxins? #OzsInbox
  • I just got a flu shot.  When can I be expected to develop autism?  #OzsInbox
Yeah.  So that didn't work out so well.  Responses with that hashtag, most of them hostile, number in the hundreds of thousands and are still rising.

All of which I find heartening.  The fact that people recognize these self-made celebrities as the woo-peddlers they are is cause for optimism.  I can only hope though, that this makes at least a few of the true believers sit up at take notice.

And, perhaps, ask a few pointed questions of their own.


  1. My favorite for Dr. Oz (and I use the term "Dr." quite loosely) is "Which is more deadly, Mercola or Ebola?"

  2. And I don't think any reasonable person will shed a tear at their comeuppance. I know I won't.