Respectful Insolence

Remember John Benneth? He’s a homeopath who runs a website called The Science of Homeopathy and produced a woo-tastic video claiming to show us how homeopathy works. Steve Novella also took on his video. For his trouble, he was rewarded with one of the most hilariously off-base attacks I’ve ever seen, even from anti-vaccine loons. So full of awesome looniness was the video that it induced in me a distinct sense of envy. After all, all I have is J.B. Handley attacking me.

Now, for reasons that elude me, Mr. Benneth has produced a second video. It’s just as outrageous. In fact, it’s even more so and probably NSFW given that it drops the N-word. Clearly Benneth has upped the ante considerably, particularly given his apparent attempts at sound effects and the hilariously “artsy” beginning of the video. Don’t play it if that offends you. You have been warned:

You heard it right. In this one, Mr. Benneth compares Steve’s criticism of his discussions of homeopathy to the breaking of an “uppity slave” by a slave breaker.

Damn. Steve gets all the best crank attacks directed at him for his efforts.

One almost has to wonder if Benneth’s second video is a joke, given that it was posted on April Fools’ Day. What I fear is that it is not. I rather believe that Benneth is dead serious.

Comments

  1. #1 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    April 5, 2010

    Yeah, those are some weird video effects. Loved the voice echo whenever he got especially indignant. What was with the growly sound every minute or so? Sounded like demonic indigestion. The part at the end about slave breaking was seriously wacko. I had no idea I was “God’s nigger,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.

    I think he used almost every logical fallacy in existence. Appeal to authority was a popular one. As if heads of state can’t be serious deluded individuals.

    I didn’t know you could transmit homeopathic cures through the internet. The fact they recorded some of the “data” at 44kHz tells me I can look forward to some homeopathic CDs. Maybe the Techno one can cure schizophrenia, Country for depression (like cures like!), and Lawrence Welk for hemmarhoids. The possibilities are endless.

    I’ll have to check out the few studies he referenced, just for lulz.

  2. #2 superdave
    April 5, 2010

    at first they were funny but now they are sad.

  3. #3 Skepacabra
    April 5, 2010

    He’s like the Lewis Black of the crank world.

  4. #4 SeriousStubborn
    April 5, 2010

    Techno may treat schizophrenia. I haven’t seen any studies. However I think this video is good evidence that homeopathy does not.
    Seriously, I have concerns.

  5. #5 squirrrelelite
    April 5, 2010

    Actually, I tried a little homeopathic mood therapy the other day. I was sort of moody, maybe a little depressed. Who knows?

    But, I thought “like cures like”, right?

    Anyway, I listened to five different versions of Don’t Fear The Reaper back to back followed by Don’t Fence Me In (it was next on my mp3 player). That was about as far as I got before I got home.

    But, somehow,

    regression to the mean
    + cognitive bias
    + subjective self-evaluation
    = I did sort of feel better later ?!?!?

    ( :) )

  6. #6 Skepacabra
    April 5, 2010

    He’s like the Lewis Black of the crank world.

    “You’re God’s nigger!” Man, I love that line. I think I’m going to steal it.

  7. #7 Dangerous Bacon
    April 5, 2010

    This could crack my top 3 of hilarously, offensively inept self-comparisons to the oppressed, along with the WCA’s Terry Rondberg comparing chiropractors to civil rights heroine Rosa Parks, and the influential priest who spoke before the Pope and other dignitaries last week, likening criticism of the Catholic hierarchy over hushed-up child sex abuse by priests to the sufferings of Jews in the Holocaust.

    “What was with the growly sound every minute or so? Sounded like demonic indigestion.”

    Or maybe he’s a fan of metal music.

  8. #8 Dangerous Bacon
    April 5, 2010

    Wait – the growly sound appears to be a toilet flushing. How…apt.

    You know, Orac’s gonna get some more heat from people who think he’s making fun of the mentally ill.

  9. #9 Pareidolius
    April 5, 2010

    This guy is either totally, utterly batshit crazy or a magnificent Poe willing to beyond any rational comfort zone á la Andy Kaufman. Did you see his website? He thinks he’s the American Buddha. http://www.bandershot.com

  10. #10 Militant Agnostic
    April 5, 2010

    You know, Orac’s gonna get some more heat from people who think he’s making fun of the mentally ill.

    Well, Benneth does appear to be mentally ill and Orac is making fun of him.

    Benneth does appear to be becoming increasingly unhinged. I wonder where the mental health professionals draw the line between crankery and mental illness.

  11. #11 Pareidolius
    April 5, 2010

    Yeah, I just climbed out of the rabbit warren of crazy that is bandershot.com and it’s disabused me of any notion that this guy is a Poe. He’s spectacularly unwell. There are some older videos under the name Jack Hammer where he takes on the Federal Reserve and they’re just as unhinged and overdramatic as his Novella rants, so it’s hard to say if he’s getting worse, but I guess time will tell . . .

  12. #12 Søren
    April 5, 2010

    @1, The Gregarious Misanthrope

    The 2004 I.G. Nobel laurate for medicine:

    “Steven Stack of Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA and James Gundlach of Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA, for their published report “The Effect of Country Music on Suicide.”
    PUBLISHED IN: Social Forces, vol. 71, no. 1, September 1992, pp. 211-8.”

    From the abstract:
    “The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan
    areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate. The effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty, and gun availability.[...] Our model explains 51% of the variance in urban
    white suicide rates.”

    Now, in the usual way homeopaths interpret the literature, I am going to state that suicide indeed removes all trace of depression, so it must be a cure. You seem to be right.

  13. #13 warhelmet
    April 5, 2010

    Whether or not Benneth is mentally ill is not really the point. I’ve seen homeopaths link to Benneth’s “proof” of homeopathy but I’ve not seen any concerns expressed by homeopaths. It’s almost as if they don’t see anything odd in his videos.

  14. #14 Orac
    April 5, 2010

    Precisely. I have no idea if Benneth is mentally ill or not. In some of his other videos, he appears less over-the-top out there. Whatever the case, his videos are a goldmine of crank hilarity.

  15. #15 Jordan
    April 5, 2010

    This has the appearance of a diatribe from a professional wrestler hyping up his next bout. It took him less than 10 minutes to go from, “There’s science behind Homeopathy!” to “Homeopathy doesn’t need science!” to “You’re god’s nigger!”

    Mindblowing!

  16. #16 daedalus2u
    April 5, 2010

    The reason cranks get so upset when their world-view is called into question is narcissistic injury followed by narcissistic rage. They perceive an attack on their woo as an attack on their core persona.

    It is quite sad, and also quite dangerous. It is narcissistic injury and narcissistic rage that turns people postal.

  17. #17 attack_laurel
    April 5, 2010

    @8 Dangerous Bacon: You know, Orac’s gonna get some more heat from people who think he’s making fun of the mentally ill.

    Actually, Orac gets very little heat, mostly because the people he covers really are kooks and cranks. I have only brought up the issue in association with the two posts about a single subject that appeared (unintentionally, I’m sure, which is why I even mentioned it) to set mental illness up as worse than physical illness, which is unfair to the people who already have a lot of problems with social stigma*.

    I respect Orac, and love his blog. I don’t bother mentioning that sort of thing to people who have every appearance of not caring who they hurt, but I figured Orac is one of the good guys, maybe he’d consider what I was saying.

    Those of us who think the mentally ill get kind of maligned when people carelessly use “crazy” as a euphemism for “dangerously self-deluded, arrogantly stupid, and/or suffering from speshul snowflake conspiracy syndrome” just feel it isn’t fair to associate people (who have a hard time dealing with negative attitudes to organic illnesses even without this kind of association, because it affects the brain, which scares people) with these utter assholes who are so arrogant and self-righteously deluded that they actually think it’s acceptable to use a disgusting racial slur without any sense of embarrassment or shame.

    The feeling is the same as when people carelessly/unknowingly call homeopaths “scientists”, and true scientists feel a sting of annoyance that anyone would think they’re remotely like those idiots. My mentally ill friends are *much* more intelligent than this racist dumbass douchenozzle, and would prefer not to be confused with him or his companions in douchefailery, thanks. :)

    *It concerns me because I see the fallout of the stigma against mental problems in the military population, and how it prevents people from seeking the help they need, because mental illness is still regarded as separate from body illness, even though the brain is an organ like any other.

  18. #18 Todd W.
    April 5, 2010

    @attack_laurel

    It concerns me because I see the fallout of the stigma against mental problems in the military population, and how it prevents people from seeking the help they need, because mental illness is still regarded as separate from body illness, even though the brain is an organ like any other.

    The folks at the Boston Red Sox and Massachusetts General Hospital agree with you. They’ve established a special program, the Home Base Program, to reach out to veterans so they can get the help they need to deal with psychiatric illnesses.

  19. #19 Vindaloo
    April 5, 2010

    Crypto molecular pharmacy – solid gold hilarity.

    Jeebus, this nut is off his rocker. If he had uttered my name like he did Novella’s I would have got a restraining order written up within 10 minutes.

  20. #20 Denice Walter
    April 5, 2010

    Pondering the Militant Agnostic’s question(which I’ve thought about myself for *quite* a while)-a few random notes:1.often the crank’s “theorizing” includes unrealistic,self-serving, “black-and-white” thinking,paranoid suspicion(conspiracy confabulation),inattention to facts/studies that don’t fit the solipcistic hypotheses,”wishful thinking”,over-estimation of one’s own expertise(*comme* Dunning-Kruger),concretism,grandiosity,inability to weigh risk/benefits,invocation of the supernatural,etc..Is this immaturity,lack of education, or a sign of MI or a learning disability,e.g. executive disfunction, NVLD,ASD? 2.I think it’s important to differentiate the perpetrators from the recipients:they are involved in woo-ful thinking for different reasons(including perhaps,entrepreneural enthusiam vs. hopeful self-delusion/temporary emotional over-reaction to illness,respectively).Does someone who creates woo *truely* believe in it or are they using it solely as an avenue to fame and wealth(actually, notoriety and derision)? 3.Like everything else,it’s a question of *degree*- compare a relatively healthy person who buys trendy,expensive supplements with an HIV/AIDS denialist(HIV+) who refuses ARV treatment despite having a low CD-4 count.At what point does the activity/belief reflect disfunctionality? All speculation, of course.

  21. #21 Denice Walter
    April 5, 2010

    Actually, I think that the cranks’ overestimation of their own expertise facilitates the sceptic’s task: we can ask the woo-entranced mark,”Is it possible that Woo-meister X, who is a *nutritionist*(chiropractor,etc.)can question the *entire* medical field? How is *one* person able to be *expert* across several diverse fields(most scientists specialize *within* a field)?

  22. #22 Calli Arcale
    April 5, 2010

    squirrrelelite @ 5:

    Actually, I tried a little homeopathic mood therapy the other day. I was sort of moody, maybe a little depressed. Who knows?

    But, I thought “like cures like”, right?

    Anyway, I listened to five different versions of Don’t Fear The Reaper back to back followed by Don’t Fence Me In (it was next on my mp3 player). That was about as far as I got before I got home.

    Anecdotal, but serious….

    I have chronic depression. It’s weird, I don’t entirely understand it, but oddly, really angry music helps exorcise my demons (so to speak). In particular, if I get really really depressed, I put on headphones and listen to “The Downward Spiral” (which is a frighteningly accurate portrayal of the state of mind of a suicidally depressed person — been there, almost done that, glad I didn’t, but I can say this is the most accurate portrayal I’ve ever seen).

    Don’t know why it works. Don’t know whether I’m just seeing regression to the mean. But I do feel better after a session. The severity of my depression is usually echoed in how many tracks I get through before I feel okay again. So your experience is not unique. This probably has something to do with the evocative nature of music.

    I know you were joking about the “like cures like” thing; while it seems to fit here, it can be dangerous, because the music could just as easily give the person a very bad idea. A delicate balance, when one is on the brink of madness….

  23. #23 Helena Constantine
    April 5, 2010

    “Biological signal… transmitted over the intent”?

  24. #24 Todd W.
    April 5, 2010

    I kept expecting him to shout “KHHHAAAANNNN!!!”

    I had to chuckled when he said that the folks at Yale tasked Dr. Novella with bringing him down. As if he were that important.

  25. #25 Angel
    April 5, 2010

    Reminds me of “Video Psychotherapy” … coming attractions for the end of sanity.
    Only this guy is not nearly as sane as the Doctor.

  26. #26 Julia
    April 5, 2010

    Wow. I think that video is the worst thing to have happened to me today!

    (And if it stays that way, I shall go to bed a lot happier than if something worse happens between now and bedtime.)

  27. #27 Rogue Medic
    April 5, 2010

    @11, Pareidolius,

    There are some older videos under the name Jack Hammer where he takes on the Federal Reserve and they’re just as unhinged and overdramatic

    Not Sledge Hammer!?

    He criticizes the pharmaceutical industry for making a profit off of the medicines they sell. Does that mean that he does not charge for his shaken, not stirred water, that is supposed to remember only what he wants it to remember?

    Is homeopathy free? Or does Mr. Benneth enslave homeopathy and only release it for his 30 pieces of silver? Insert sound of snorting pig, right about here.

    Patients need to demand that they not be overcharged. I pay about half a cent per gallon for tap water. I trust it more than I would trust anything coming from Mr. Benneth. Therefore, even half a cent per gallon is too much.

    Sorry, I got a bit carried away with that last paragraph. I am still being adversely affected by the memory of those homeopathic special video effects. Homeopathic video effects from someone apparently having spilled a homeopathic remedy on his camera and not noticed the damage. Must be the dastardly actions of that uppity Dr. Novella! MwaHaHaHa!

    True homeopathic video effects would be indistinguishable from placebo video effects. Perhaps this video can be seen as a microcosm (maybe even a dilution to its essence) of the problems with homeopathy.

  28. #28 Rogue Medic
    April 5, 2010

    Sorry, I got a bit carried away with that last paragraph.

    Oops. That actually refers to the paragraph two paragraphs prior. Perhaps some 44kHz interference with my editing? Or my proofreading?

  29. #29 squirrelelite
    April 5, 2010

    Calli Arcale @22,

    Thanks for hanging in there. You bring a lot of light to these blogs. I would miss it without you. I’m glad you found some method of working through your depressive moods.

    Actually, I wasn’t feeling all that bad. I’m usually a fairly cheerful, even-tempered person and it would probably have gone away anyway. (My medical problems lie in other areas.) I just thought I’d mention it since the subject sort of came up in the first comment.

    On a more serious note, I’m not sure what I would want done with me in a locked-in state. I think playing music or reading to me or just being there would be good. When I had a seizure episode last summer and my son drove me to the hospital, I couldn’t think of my name or birthday or answer any of the other questions. Fortunately, my son knew the answers and I just told them to let him answer for me. For several days after that, I had trouble maintaining my concentration enough even to play solitaire on my cell phone. Just knowing someone from my family was there was a big help. Fortunately, I’m mostly recovered now.

    But, please, don’t waste money dragging me off to Mexico as an undocumented test subject for some experimental therapy with no proven effectiveness!

  30. #30 squirrelelite
    April 5, 2010

    Oops!

    Some of that was more about Orac’s next post on “stem cell therapy”.

    Oh well?!?! ( :) )

  31. #31 Jenny W-L
    April 6, 2010

    @Calli: “like cures like” works with art & emotions because of what Aristotle identified as catharsis (http://www.yourdictionary.com/catharsis). It works for me too, although my depression is perhaps not quite on your scale.

    Oh, and glad you didn’t.