Respectful Insolence

Three months ago, I wrote about vacuous legal threats issued by the Society of Homeopaths against one of the better skeptical bloggers, Le Canard Noir, who runs the excellent Quackometer Blog and created the infamous Quackometer, in order to intimidate him into silence. The attempt backfired spectacularly, as scores of bloggers reposted the article by Le Canard Noir that prompted the legal threats, in the face of which his ISP had caved.

Now it looks like it might be time to do it all again, this time with a different twit who has issued abusive threats against Le Canard Noir. This time around, I learn from No Nonsense!, it is a man named Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi (who bills himself as the “world’s top expert in nutritional immunomudulation“) who has threatened Le Canard Noir‘s webhost with a lawsuit, demanding a £1 million a day penalty unless pages about him and his highly dubious activities are removed from their server. Once again, given the U.K.’s exceedingly plaintiff-friendly libel laws, Le Canard Noir had little choice but to capitulate, as his ISP demanded that he take down the offending pages. Guess what? It’s time for every blogger who supports freedom of speech and skepticism to repost the article, and I call on you to do just that. Here’s are my copies of the offending articles:

Right Royal College of Pompous Quackery – Dublin, Thursday, September 28, 2006

I had to share this with you. Following on from my recent Quack Word ‘Doctor’ blog, I came across the Royal College of Alternative Medicine (RCAM) , a Dublin based – well, I’m not sure quite what it is…

What caught my eye was just the shameless aggrandisement of the site. It is quite hilarious, if not a little repetitive at times. Calling yourself ‘Doctor’ is somewhat pompous when all you have done is paid for some international postage. However, the man behind RCAM has absolutely no shame and titles himself as the:

Distinguished Provost of RCAM (Royal College of Alternative Medicine) Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi FRCAM(Dublin) FRIPH(UK) FACAM(USA) MICR(UK)

Wow! Probably, just Joe to his mates. Naturally, when you Google the qualification FRCAM(Dublin), there is only person who appears to revel in this achievement. I’ll leave the rest as an excercise for the reader.

The distinguished provost looks like he is just another pseudoscientific nutritionist, his spin being “Nutritional Immunomodulation”. This is obviously a lot more clever than Patrick Holfords mere ‘Optimum Nutrition’, but having only one ‘omnipill’ is probably a poorer commercial decision that Patrick’s vast range of supplements.

Obviously, Professor Obi has had a few problems with what probably amount to bewildering comments about his site as the legal threats and press releases concerning his ‘ethical’ responses to criticisms cover more space than anything else. ‘Ethical’ is a favourite word on the site.

The most recent press release states,

7th September 2006 : The Distinguished RCAM Provost, Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi FRCAM(Dublin) FRIPH(UK) FACAM(USA) MICR(UK) has formally accepted appointment as Chief Professorial Examiner for the Doctor of Science (DSc) programme in Evidence Based, Alternative Medicine (EBAM) of a highly respected International University in one of the British Commonwealth Protectorates.

This new qualification is primarily aimed at Medical Graduates, Physicians, Surgeons, Pharmacists, Dentists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors, Opticians, Wellness Consultants, Herbalists, Acupuncturists, Naturopaths , Healers, Podiatrists , Chiropodists , Scientists , Healers ,Therapists, Homeopaths, Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Nurses wishing to ethically upgrade their current Qualifications in Alternative Medicine over an exceedingly intensive 12 – 36 month period of study.

British Commonwealth Protectorates? Could that be Dublin?

I really have no idea what this organisation is all about. But it looks like it could be getting quite big soon…

RCAM currently has International Vacancies for One Million (1,000,000) ‘Foundation Fellows’ (‘Movers and Shakers’) ; who will independently play a highly pivotal role in diligently mentoring (and regulating) it’s future Global Membership.

So if you really think that you seriously have what it takes to become a ‘Leader’ in Alternative Medicine , then (perhaps) RCAM may definitely be exactly what the Doctor ordered for you.

One million. That’s a lot of quacks! And they are just to mentor (and regulate) the wider quack membership! This man has ambition.

The Big J really hates real doctors. This is his most recent press release…

RCAM would like to warmly commend the various Chieftans of the National Health Service of the United Kingdom for ethically and appropriately ignoring utterly misguided calls (from a rather amusing Group of thirteen Clinical Yestermen) to compel Hard-Working (and Tax-Paying) British Citizens to additionally pay for Life Enhancing Alternative Medicine Interventions out of their very own pockets – rather than get such treatments free via the NHS. RCAM would like to also categorically state that such exceedingly flawed ‘G-13′ demands that the National Health Service of the United Kingdom expediently abandon Alternative Medicine altogether (in total favour of Conventional Medicine) be diplomatically treated with the very utmost contempt which such unguarded verbal flippance duly deserves ; as none of these 13 ‘Eminent UK Scientists’ behind such calls has professionally attained Globally Acceptable Fellowship Qualifications in Alternative Medicine and as such cannot be deemed competent enough to make such sweeping ‘Shilly-Shally’ statements about the noble independent specialty of Alternative Medicine.

RCAM therefore publicly advises the General Public to lawfully go about their normal Wellness-Seeking Behaviour as usual – without any unwarranted prejudice or fear resulting from such highly self-serving, morally unethical , abjectly crude , totally unprofessional, utterly unstatesmanly, morbidly barbaric, wantonly uncivilized, profanely undemocratic and unspeakably sacrilegious perpetual affronts on the therapeutically formidable institution of Alternative Medicine.

Now, I do not have ‘Globally Acceptable Fellowship Qualifications’ in Santa Clause Studies to know he does not exist. But hey. I must be a morbidly barbaric and profanely undemocratic, unethical duck.

So, struggling around the acres of pomposity I find one place where Prof Joe might be making some money. You can call him to seek his wisdom, after pre-booking an hour’s slot (and handing over your credit card) for a mere 300 Euros. Alternatively, you can pay by the minute on the contact line for a trifling $10 per minute.

Its going to cost you $20 just for Joe to say Hello and to read out his numerous titles, qualifications and names. Not bad ‘ethical’ work.

Ethical Quackery, the Monarchy and Kate Moss – Thursday, October 12, 2006

No, this is not about our Defender of Quackery, our Quack-in-Chief His Royal Quackiness, Prince Charles, but about the Distinguished Provost of the Royal College of Alternative Medicine, Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi. And yes, it is just a rather lame story written solely to get a picture of Kate on my blog.

I’ve written a rather lazy blog on the distinguished professor before that was just a bit of a gawp at his quacktastic website and what looks like a health phone-line scam.

Well, I’ve done a little more digging with Google and it has revealed a few quack gems. It has been pretty hard work, since Google returns some 6,000 pages, the vast majority just appears to be Prof Obi’s self-promotion. However, if you persist in digging a few interesting facts turn up.

So, what has the little black duck found out about the “most Controversial Retired Physician and ‘A-List’ Medical Celebrity, Dr Joseph Chikelue Obi”?

Here we go…

1. The Irish Independent reports that his college does not exist at the Dublin address given on the web site. There’s a surprise! It’s just a front.

2. The Independent goes on. “In January 2003, he was suspended by for serious professional misconduct at South Tyneside District Hospital. Among the allegations made were that he failed to attend to patients, wrote strange notes about colleagues and at one point gave a dating agency phone number to a psychiatric patient.”

3. He was being investigated by the police for taking thousands of pounds of a 58 year old woman to in order to cure a long standing illness.

4. The GMC strike Dr Obi off their register for “serious professional misconduct”. So much for him being retired.

5. On another tack, Dr Obi has been involved in a little cyber-squatting. This looks as if it took place while he was a doctor – always after a few quid!

6. Since then, now self-titled Prof Obi, a few new avenues have been opened, including trying to entice Kate Moss away to one of his ‘safe-houses’ in Ireland. Hat’s off!

He is quoted as saying:

Under the European Convention on Human Rights, Miss Moss still has fundamental rights, just like anyone else out there, and as far as I am concerned, she is not guilty of anything until an Ethical Jury says so.

(I mentioned before that ‘ethical’ was one of his favourite words.)

7. Prof Obi has been developing a Penis Enlarger (watch out Kate) that his own Royal College has now endorsed.

8. At least one person (out of the targeted million) has paid Prof Obi the fees for his college to accredit them. Dr Michael Keet (8 Canards) of the Central London College of Reflexology handed over ‘hundreds‘. Do we feel sorry for out-quacked quacks? I guess we ought to.

9. For those of you wanting to see behind the grand titles and see the real human being, Joseph lists his interests as Comedy in London, Whole Food Nutrition and Christian Music. On this ‘Meetup’ site, he describes himself as “Just a very ordinary guy . . .”. That’s nice.

10. His name appears very often on the blog Abolish The General Medical Council (GMC), often reporting something he has got up to. The blog describes itself as:

An ethical blog for those who publicly feel that the General Medical Council (GMC) should be Statutorily Abolished in favour of a Medical Licensing Commission (MLC) to solely register and revalidate Doctors who practise Conventional Medicine in the UK. The Blog also recommends that the GMC/MLC hands all disciplinary functions over to an Independent Clinical Tribunal (ICT) in keeping with the EU Convention on Human Rights ; to avoid (both) Institutional Bias and Multiple Jeopardy.

Oooh. There is that word ‘ethical’ again. And ‘European Human Rights’. No name is given for the blog author but the avatar is a portrait of the queen. Another apparent obsession of Prof Obi – royalty. Could the author be none other than the Professor himself, a little agrieved for his ticking off? I hope you all click through to the blog. Maybe we will show up in his stats and whoever the writer is can get in contact and confirm one way or another.

I rather hope it is, as the final thing I turned up would just be fantastic…

11. Is the Distinguished Provost of the Royal College of Alternative Medicine, Professor Obi now selling ethical ring-tones? I do hope so.

Watch out Crazy Frog! Here comes the Crazy Provost…

ADDENDUM:

If you want to see the whole letter threatening Le Canard Noir (and you really should read the whole thing; it’s hilarious), it’s here. One amusing aspect of the letter is that “Professor Dr.” Obi hired an essay writer in the name of Tanja Suessenbach rather than a solicitor to write up the threat. What’s not so funny is how fast Le Canard Noir‘s ISP caved in response to this.

I rarely ask my readers to do anything except to read my blog and comment, but I’m asking now, once again two things:

  1. Click on the RCAM links above multiple times. I’m betting it’ll get Professor Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi’s attention.
  2. Take the text of Le Canard Noir’s two posts about Professor Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi and republish it on your own blog verbatim, preferably with a sarcastic introduction about how much you value free speech and detest people who use abusive legal threats to try to stifle legitimate criticism–people like Professor Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi

With a little luck, we can have the same sort of results as we did with the Society of Homeopaths, where the first few pages show blogs that reposted Le Canard Noir‘s criticism of the Society. This will likely tick off Professor Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi to no end, as Le Canard Noir speculates:

Mr. Obi has done a rather fantastic job of covering the web in pages written by himself and usually referring to himself in the third person. My pages were one of the few to have enough google juice to appear above the noise. Undoubtedly this has annoyed him. It is possible that this is just attention seeking, but it does rather highlight the problem of regulating alternative medicine.

Indeed it has, but spreading Le Canard Noir‘s articles far and wide over the blogosphere, so that they start showing up on the first page of Google searches of Obi’s name would be a most fitting response to such an obvious attempt at intimidating a blogger into silence with vacuous legal threats. Be it William P. O’Neill e-mailing vacuous legal threats to my chairman for merely linking to his nemesis Pete Bowditch or the Society of Homeopaths or Mr. Obi issuing legal threats to Le Canard Noir, why is it that “alternative” medicine practitioners have such a problem with free speech? Why is it that so many of them try to muzzle any perceived criticism (or, in the case of Mr. O’Neill, a single instance of praise for someone who criticizes him regularly) with threats to a blogger’s anonymity and/or legal threats.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark Crislip
    January 23, 2008

    Richard Dawkins had it wrong when he said Offense is what people take when they can’t take criticism.

    In the UK and the US, it should be Legal action is what people take when they can’t take criticism.

  2. #2 Cain
    January 23, 2008

    Done and done.

  3. #3 Keith Nolan
    January 23, 2008

    Calling itself ‘Royal’ in the Republic of Ireland’s capital city Dublin is quackery and pomposity of the highest degree!

  4. #4 Jeff Chamberlain
    January 23, 2008

    I think Tanja Suessenbach is a lawyer. LLB and LLM are law degrees, and see, http://www.lexcity.org.

  5. #5 Armchair Dissident
    January 23, 2008

    I’d love to know what “lawfully registered trademarks” he’s supposed to have infringed but the “Royal College of Alternative Medicine” certainly isn’t one of them, and he couldn’t be infringing anyway, he’s hardly trading under the name!

    I’m stunned that even in the UK an ISP would take something down after receiving such an erroneous complaint. (IANAL etc. etc.)

  6. #6 DLC
    January 23, 2008

    too bad I haven’t got a blog to post this on, or I would.

    The Royal Society, in Ireland ? I wonder if the O’neil’s know. . .

  7. #7 Armchair Dissident
    January 23, 2008

    Damn it! I stand corrected; he does have a trademark:
    http://www.patentsoffice.ie/eRegister/Register/TMRegister.asp?idappli=230320

    I was searching the UK database instead of the Irish one. Nevertheless; you still can’t infringe unless you’re actually attempting to trade under the name.

  8. #8 Andy Lewis
    January 23, 2008

    Thanks for this Orac. I was loathe to publicise this because, compared with the Society of Homeopaths, Obi is a non-entity and a self-publicist. Far more worrying for me was my hosts, Netcetera’s, unwillingness to step up to the mark. They asked me to write to Suessenbach (who is not a solicitor – just has a law degree) and I did to ask for details of what wording was untrue or not fair comment. I have received nothing and Netcetera are not waiting for a response either. The ‘Dr Evil’ One Million Dollars! threat appears to be sufficient, no matter how comical it was.

    But hey ho! What fun!

    Le Canard Noir

  9. #9 Paul
    January 23, 2008

    “Calling itself ‘Royal’ in the Republic of Ireland’s capital city Dublin is quackery and pomposity of the highest degree!”

    Agreed. I expect that he’s only based himself in Dublin because there are probably fairly strict rules on who can call themselves a Royal College in the UK. There are a lot of organizations in the Republic of Ireland with “Royal” in their title, but all were either founded before independence or are the Irish branches of organizations founded in the UK. I doubt that there’s any laws in Ireland against setting up an organization and calling it Royal.

    I have to say I’m not impressed to see my country described as “one of the British Commonwealth Protectorates”, Ireland isn’t even in the Commenwealth.

  10. #10 ERV
    January 23, 2008

    I think Tanja Suessenbach is a lawyer.

    ‘Lawyers’ end their letters with ‘Yours faithfully’?

  11. #11 Orac
    January 23, 2008

    I think the confusion has to do with the different kinds of lawyers in the U.K. Tanja Suessenbach is not a solicitor.

  12. #12 Blake Stacey
    January 23, 2008

    But. . . but. . . you didn’t include the picture of Kate Moss!

  13. #13 Afterforty
    January 23, 2008

    In UK, after getting a law degree, there is a period of some 2 years on the job training before one can qualify as a solicitor.

    Probably the reason why Ms Suessenbach has been described as an “essay writer” is that she/her company do offer:
    [quote]
    Law Tuition and Advice on How to Draft Law Essays at Lexcity.org
    LAW TUITION AND LAW ESSAYS BY LAW TUTORS
    [unquote]

  14. #14 jdc
    January 23, 2008

    “Why is it that so many of them try to muzzle any perceived criticism […] with threats to a blogger’s anonymity and/or legal threats.”
    Because they haven’t got a hope in hell of winning the argument. They are in the wrong. They cannot debate so they must use bluster and threats and hope that the web hosts cave in unnecessarily.

    There’s a couple of sites listing links to pages that mirror the ‘offending’ page and/or have blogged about it. Shpalman had a list of links on his livejournal blog and I’ve copied from his list and added it to my blog. This could be as big as the SoH controversy.

  15. #15 Danny Chrastina
    January 23, 2008

    I’ve counted 15 reposts so far, including this one and my own. The latest seems to be Steven Novella at the NeuroLogica Blog.

  16. #16 Dangerous Bacon
    January 23, 2008

    I have nominated one of the RCAM websites for recognition by webpagesthatsuck.com (they feature daily and annual award-winners for the worst-designed websites). This RCAM site features one of the most annoying homepages I’ve seen in quite awhile:

    http://www.clinicalschool.org/

    If you’d like to second the nomination, e-mail:

    vincent@webpagesthatsuck.com

  17. #17 Jon
    January 23, 2008

    Maybe someone should write to Netcera – threatening to sue them for two million dollars if they cave to Obi’s pressure ;)

  18. #18 Rob
    January 23, 2008

    I’ve just mirrored the 2 pages here and here. Might I also suggest improving Mr Joseph Chikelue Obi‘s search engine results by linking Mr Joseph Chikelue Obi to newspaper articles about his various enterprises and activities?

  19. #19 Paholaisen Asianajaja
    January 23, 2008

    I joined the effort too.

  20. #20 PalMD
    January 23, 2008

    Ooohhh…what fun! Done!

  21. #21 Phil
    January 23, 2008

    thanks for posting.

  22. #22 The Crack Emcee
    January 23, 2008

    Homeopaths? You know I’m in there!

    CMC

    P.S.

    Yipee: The Cult Wars have begun!

  23. #23 Coin
    January 23, 2008

    Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi… bills himself as the “world’s top expert in nutritional immunomudulation”

    …well… is he?

  24. #24 Chris Noble
    January 24, 2008

    …why is it that “alternative” medicine practitioners have such a problem with free speech?

    Orac, you have to realise that using “alternative” logic it is you who are trying to curtail his free speech. He wants to spread his lies and does not want you interfering by revealing any of his lies.

  25. #25 Graculus
    January 24, 2008

    Has anyone suggested that Le Canard Noir heigh themselves to a host with less of a tendency to the vapours?

  26. #26 meatbrain
    January 24, 2008

    The articles have been posted at ThinkingMeat.

  27. #27 KCProgramr
    January 24, 2008

    I’ve posted as well.

  28. #28 Freddy the Pig
    January 25, 2008

    Graculus – I believe “the vapours” was orignally a “refined” term for vapours accumlating in the lower GI tract.

  29. #29 wheatdogg
    January 25, 2008

    I’ve jumped on the bandwagon, too. Post.

  30. #30 le canard noir
    January 26, 2008

    I hope this sorry episode is reaching its denouement.

  31. #31 Danny Chrastina
    February 18, 2008

    Netcetera decided to kick quackometer.net off the servers: there is some ranting at badscience.net in response to this as you can imagine.

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