Andrew Weil, the Coors Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity, or: "Integrative medicine" isn't just for hippy dippy lefties anymore

The question of whether it is worthwhile to debate cranks, quacks, and advocates of pseudoscience has long been a contentious issue in the skeptic community. Those of you who've been reading my posts for a while know that I've always come down on the side that it is not a good idea One thing I've learned in my more than a decade of blogging, both here and at my non-pseudonymous other blog, is that advocates of pseudoscience love public debates. Indeed, whenever you see a skeptic agree to a public debate with an advocate of pseudoscience, it's a damned sure bet that it wasn't the skeptic who proposed it. I suppose it's possible that there have been such instances that I'm unaware of, but I do know of a lot of instances where it was the other way around. I've even witnessed one myself, when our fearless founder Steve Novella debated antivaccine quack Julian Whitaker about vaccine safety at FreedomFest in Las Vegas while we were at TAM three years ago. Steve mopped the floor with Dr. Whitaker so dramatically that it almost changed my mind about the value of debates with quacks because, witnessing the debate, I saw that the arguments Dr. Whitaker marshaled were such hackneyed antivaccine talking points that I knew I could also have demolished them. My biggest challenge would have been to maintain a cool, respectful demeanor (as Steve did) and not let my contempt show openly with eye rolling, snorts, giggles, and frowns. Still, in the end, no minds were likely to be changed, and the question of vaccine safety was clearly being used as a tool to oppose school vaccine mandates or, as antivaccinationists like to call them deceptively, "forced vaccination." Whether vaccines are safe and effective or not is a separate question from whether the government should mandate certain vaccines as a precondition for attending school or being in day care.

Over the years, I myself have been "challenged" to similar debates myself. Perhaps the most bizarre example occurred when someone claiming to represent HIV/AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore contacted me claiming that she wanted to arrange a debate between us. Maggiore, unfortunately, died a mere two years later of—you guessed it—AIDS-related complications (although HIV/AIDS denialists tried to blame it on a "radical detox"). Although occasionally the ego gratification of being asked to participate in such events vied with my longstanding belief that debating cranks doesn't sway anyone, sharing the stage with a real scientist does unduly elevate the crank in the eyes of the public. Besides, whatever the seeming outcome of the debate, you can count on the crank to declare victory and his believers to agree. In any event, science isn't decided by the metrics used to judge who "wins" a public debate, which rely more on rhetoric and cleverness rather than science to decide the outcome. Finally, such debates are not without risks. Although Julian Whitaker, for example, was terrible at it, other cranks are adept at the Gish Gallop, and an unprepared skeptic or scientist can be made to appear clueless in front of a crowd that is almost always packed with supporters of the crank, not the skeptic.

Just last week, there was another "debate" challenge that led me to question my resolve not to debate cranks. It came from a most unexpected source.

In which I am challenged to a public debate

About a week ago, I checked my email and was surprised to find a message from John Jackson, who identified himself as the Executive Director of the Adolph Coors Foundation, the charitable arm of the Coors family:

I am writing to invite your participation in a debate on integrative medicine which will be held Sunday evening, March 20, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency in Denver. The debate will be the keynote event of our Pioneers in Health conference. Your debate partner will be Dr. Andrew Weil, who has confirmed participation. We expect excellent attendance of 700-800, possibly more. At least a portion of the audience will include those attending Dr. Weil's annual Nutrition and Health Conference which begins the following morning. We also expect our conference cosponsor, Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF), to attract attendees through their outreach efforts. AFPF is a grassroots organization that has virtually nothing to do with any kind of medicine, conventional or integrative. AFPF's interest is promoting innovations in the delivery of health care (more health care choice) which will be the focus of a panel earlier in the day.

The debate topic: "Fad or the Future: Will Integrative Medicine Play a Growing Role in the Future of Health Care?"

I have read numerous articles you have authored on the SBM website and feel your thoughtful and well-reasoned posts (on a whole host of issues) offer an excellent counterpoint to Dr. Weil. Our ground rules for debate are simple: We insist on respect and politeness for differing points of view. Respectful, open and free debate has become somewhat of a rarity in our highly polarized society. However, we feel it is still possible to have smart people discuss important issues in a way that informs and enlightens.

If you are willing to join us, we plan the following debate format: You both make opening statements, you both respond to each other's opening statements, you ask each other questions, you both answer questions from the moderator and the audience and, finally, you both will be given equal time to offer closing statements. Our foundation will select the moderator which will be a neutral journalist and/or business leader. FYI, audience participation will be limited to questions submitted via a mobile app, not by microphone.

In the interest of full disclosure, our foundation funds several institutions which are studying various "alternative" practices, including the recent study of the use of electro-acupuncture for hypertension. We have also funded a project involving Dr. Weil and the University of Arizona. You can read more about our interest in integrative medicine and who we fund at www.coorsfoundation.org. We are not going to be offended if you say something critical about our focus or if you offer suggestions on ways we can improve it.

Of course, if you agree to participate, we would cover your travel, meals and lodging expenses and are willing to negotiate a reasonable honoraria.

If you would like to discuss this further by phone, please feel free to give me a call. I can be reached in Denver at 303-[REDACTED].

Thank you. I look forward to your response.

John Jackson
Adolph Coors Foundation
Denver

I found this offer extremely tempting, but, I must confess, for the wrong reason. As most of you know, Andrew Weil is a big cheese in the world of "integrating" alternative medicine quackery with real medicine. He's nationally and internationally regarded as a pioneering expert in "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM). Indeed, arguably no human being has done more in his lifetime and career to seemingly legitimize the specialty of "integrative medicine." He's even started an integrative medicine residency and managed to spearhead a board certification in integrative medicine, although the latter does not use the usual accrediting organization used by most other established medical specialties. Interestingly, many CAM practitioners were not pleased by Weil's original proposal because the board certification is only available to physicians.

Yes, I'm a bit ashamed to admit that it was primarily the ego massage that Mr. Jackson's offer provided that led to my waffling, which continued over the course of a few days. I ignored (for the moment) the red flags present in the very invitation, including the fact that the audience would almost certainly be packed with Weil supporters arriving early to attend Weil's conference the next day and, also as disturbing, the involvement of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which is a right-wing foundation funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.

During that time, I e-mailed a bunch of my fellow SBM contributors and a few others for opinions and received conflicting advice. One camp was divided into the "Do it!" mode; the other telling me it would be a bad idea. Oddly enough, the first camp was definitely larger than the second. What I also learned was that Mr. Johnson had asked Edzard Ernst first, who had declined. If my ego was stoked before by being chosen to be invited to debate the foremost practitioner of quackademic medicine in the world, then being a second choice after Edzard Ernst, rather than deflating my ego at being second choice, puffed it up even more, given my admiration for Prof. Ernst. Ernst also blogged about it in a post he entitled Standing up for science? Yes, but not at any cost!, in which he declined the public debate and offered to conduct a written debate on his blog. Mr. Jackson declined Prof. Ernst's offer as well, given that he never wrote back.

My personal response, after having waffled for a while, requested unedited video as a minimal precondition, discussed live streaming the event briefly by email, and failed to find time during business hours to telephone Mr. Jackson for two days, was similar. After overcoming my ego gratification and conflicting advice weighted heavily towards doing something that I didn't believe in and didn't think to be a good tactic, I finally emailed Mr. Jackson and stated that I would not debate Dr. Weil in the format proposed. I said that I would be happy to give a standalone talk, but I would not debate. Three days later, I, too, have not heard back from Mr. Jackson. So I have something else in common with Ernst!

Ernst's post concluded with two questions that I will address in the remainder of this post:

  • Should we stand up for science wherever we can, or is the price occasionally simply too high?
  • What are these mysterious links between alternative medicine in the US and the far right?

"All truth comes from public debate": A quack manifesto

In addressing Prof. Ernst's first question with respect to whether we as supporters of science should accept offers to debate pseudoscientists like Andrew Weil, let me discuss briefly why it might be that cranks, quacks, and pseudoscientists find live public debates so attractive. Indeed, I've referred to a seemingly near-inviolable belief among pseudoscience promoters that "all truth comes from live public debate." It's a belief that I even tried to express using rudimentary Latin as omne verum est a forensem principle. (Latin sounds so much more cool for this, but I have no idea whether this is the best translation—or even grammatically correct; maybe Latin scholars out there can suggest better.) For instance, antivaccine guru Andrew Wakefield challenged Dr. David Salisbury to a "live public debate" about whether the MMR vaccine causes autism or not. (Hint to Wakefield: It doesn't.) Other examples regular readers might remember through the years include the aforementioned Julian Whitaker debating Steve Novella; Michael Shermer's "debate" with Deepak Chopra; and antivaccine propagandist David Kirby debating author Arthur Allen. To reiterate, I don't "debate" cranks, at least not live on stage in such artificial events, because such events (1) make it appear that there is an actual scientific debate when there is not and (2) give the crank the freedom to Gish Gallop to his or her heart's content.

There's actually a third reason. The call for a "live public debate" is also an intentional strategy.

A couple of years ago, when I was in the thick of trying to refute the cancer cure claims of Stanislaw Burzynski (who, by the way, is scheduled on November 19 to go to court against the Texas Medical Board, which is trying to do something long overdue and strip him of his medical license), I noticed a series of Tweets (now gone) from Burzynski supporters challenging occasional SBM blogger Peter Lipson and/or "The Skeptics™" to a live debate:

Elsewhere, on a public pro-Burzynski group called the Burzynski Facebook Patient Group, a man named Randy Hinton also called out Peter Lipson on a now-closed Burzynski patient Facebook group:

The only way to ever successfully deal with a growing number of medical mafia internet propaganda minister's [sic] trying to smear and undermind [sic] Stanislaw Burzynski is to do exactly what I have tried to do for the last 24 hour's [sic]. Call these maggot's [sic] out and publically dare them to debate the topic of ANP verses chemotherapy in front of a large live audience with no restriction's [sic] or sensoring [sic] of information or statement's [sic]. Multiple attempt's [sic] yesterday to get Peter Lipson who wrote that pile of crap in Forbes to agree to this got virtually no response. The same will [sic] true of the other pharmawhores doing the same thing all across the country right now. These INTERNET KEYBORAD [sic] GOBLIN'S [sic] will never agree to it because they cann'not [sic] CONTROL the conversation the way they do on their blog's [sic]. CALL THEM OUT TO A PUBLIC DEBATE AT EVERY TURN.

Later in the comments after his post, Mr. Hinton says:

I have got money that say's [sic] they run from a live debate like scared rabbit's [sic]. I have told Eric he need's [sic] to CALL THEM OUT!!!

Mr. Hinton was obviously referring to Eric Merola, Stanislaw Burzynski's propagandist, who has in the past unwisely characterized a skeptical blogger near and dear to my heart as a white supremacist and someone too busy eating puppies to bother to read the scientific literature about Burzynski.

These two Burzynski supporters demonstrate what I'm talking about. They seem to think that science is decided in public debates and view the quite proper reluctance among scientists like myself and skeptics to engage cranks in such spectacles as "cowardice." It is not, but cranks continue to labor under the delusion that science is somehow decided in such forums, which are a variant of a sort of argumentum ad populum, in which something is argued to be true because it is popular or, in a debate, an argument is thought to be closer to the truth because it is more popular. Science doesn't work that way. It is decided on evidence presented at scientific conferences and in peer-reviewed journals, where the real scientific debate plays out until it is temporarily settled and scientists come to a provisional consensus. That provisional consensus, of course, is always subject to change as new observations, data, and experimental results come to light, but it takes observations, data, and experimental results to change the consensus, not "live public debates." Such "live public debates" are meant for one thing and one thing only: To sway public opinion to a viewpoint not supported by science, in the process elevating pseudoscience or the unproven to the same plane as the scientific consensus as a scientifically viable "alternative." It's also a no-lose proposition most of the time. If the scientist declines, the pseudoscientist can cry, "Coward!" If he accepts, no matter what the outcome, few, if any, minds are changed and the pseudoscientist has been seen on stage with a real scientist.

Does that rule apply here, though? After all, most likely it was not Andrew Weil who was pushing for this debate, although he obviously must have agreed to it first, as he is still listed as being featured on the site, as is the debate. Also, although Andrew Weil and Edzard Ernst can be viewed as being roughly of the same stature within their respective sides of the quackademic/science-based medicine divide, pivoting to invite me clearly involved a massive drop-off in stature for Weil's opponent. Although I might be somewhat well-known in the skeptical and medical blogosphere, I'm no equivalent to Weil in the world of woo, which is why I'm surprised they didn't approach, for example, Steve Novella first after Prof. Ernst declined their offer, especially since he's done debates like this before and I have not. On the other hand, maybe that's the reason. Steve is a known quantity and that quantity is known to be quite good at these debates.

One thing that is true, however, is that the Adolph Coors Foundation is well known for promoting integrative medicine. Mr. Jackson said as much himself in his email, and the Coors Foundation website touts its projects with the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona (run, of course, by Andrew Weil), the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine at UC Irvine, and the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Jefferson Hospital. For instance, the project at UA promises:

The health insurance industry, and its practice of not reimbursing doctors who prescribe CAM-type treatments, creates a massive bottleneck that prevents promising integrative treatments from entering the medical mainstream. The Adolph Coors Foundation has awarded a gift to the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona to support a three-year study of the effect of integrative medicine on health care and health costs.

Specifically, the study will generate a statistically relevant comparison of the health and cost outcomes of two populations of Maricopa County, Arizona, employees … one whose primary care is delivered using an integrative model and the other whose primary care is delivered using a traditional conventional care model. The outcomes generated by this study will be shared with a broad range of medical and health professionals, insurance companies, academics, business leaders and policymakers.

In other words, the Coors Foundation is funding a study at Weil's Center to "prove" that integrative medicine produces better outcomes and thus persuade the health insurance industry to pay for quackery. Interestingly, this study, the Integrative Medicine PrimAry Care Trial (IMPACT, ClinicalTrials.gov identifier NCT01785485) was started in 2013, and its record hasn't been updated since then. Enrollment was supposed to have been completed in October 2015, but the record as of 2013 indicates that not a single patient has yet been accrued. Its protocol was published in April 2014 and looks to be measuring so many outcomes that it's virtually certain that one of them will be positive. So what's going on with this study? Who knows? There's not even much about it on the University of Arizona website. It's a lot harder to find out online what's going on with a study funded by a private entity than it is for a federally-funded study.

The Samueli Center project involves using electroacupuncture (which, of course, isn't really acupuncture) to treat hypertension, while the Brind Center project is looking at high dose N-Acetyl-Cysteine as a treatment for breast and prostate cancer. So, yes, the Coors Foundation is deep into funding quackademic medicine and thus has a definite interest in promoting the acceptance of "integrative medicine."

Although I highly doubt Mr. Jackson had any ulterior motives in trying to organize this debate, he does run a foundation that promotes political policies the Coors family supports. So he likely thinks more in political rather than scientific terms. In politics, a debate is how politicians try to persuade; in science, not so much. It's also possible that he just thought it would be an entertaining way to discuss integrative medicine. Entertaining it might have been, but public debates of this sort, with their emphasis on rhetoric over substance and the ease with which one can Gish Gallop, are rarely particularly informative. They can serve as entertainment. They can serve as propaganda. Most often they serve as both. But they are seldom a good way to effectively communicate science over pseudoscience, medicine over quackery.

Strange bedfellows: Integrative medicine, Andrew Weil, and the American right

Prof. Ernst appeared quite surprised to learn of the right wing proclivities of the Coors Foundation and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, apparently because he associated alternative medicine more with the political left. He shouldn't have been. I've pointed out many times over the years at all my blogging locales how the idea that alternative medicine is mainly the purview of hippy dippy leftists and refugees from the 1960s counterculture like Andrew Weil is largely a myth. Sure, there are a lot of alt-med mavens like that, and, yes, the most influential member of the integrative medicine movement is the aforementioned Andrew Weil. However, there is also a lesser known but very powerful component to the alt-med movement on the right. A lot of the reason for this is financial. The supplement industry in the US is concentrated in Utah, and it's no surprise that its lapdogs in Congress (such as Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Jason Chaffetz) are pretty much all Republican. More importantly, the conspiratorial bent of alt-med believers meshes well with that of a significant segment of the far right.

Indeed, if you look at the "health freedom" movement (which includes many supporters of alternative medicine and, in particular supplements), you will find that it is very libertarian/conservative-leaning, mainly because to this movement the FDA (whose mission is to make sure medicines marketed in the US are safe and effective) and state medical boards (whose mission is to license and regulate the practice of medicine) are the enemy. After all, the FDA and the FTC prevent quacks from using whatever unproven medicines they want and making whatever health claims they want about those medicines, and state medical boards, when not too busy sanctioning physicians with substance abuse problems, do sometimes try to take medical licenses away from quacks, as difficult as that all too often turns out to be. So the anti-government bent of quacks and their supporters meshes well with the antiregulatory tendencies of the right wing.

Thus, unlike the case with Prof. Ernst, it was not much of a surprise to me to discover that the Coors Foundation and the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation are co-sponsoring an event featuring Andrew Weil. AFP was founded by the billionaire Koch brothers and, although the AFP and AFP Foundation are separate entities, they are "joined at the hip," so to speak and frequently work in parallel. In any case, the AFP Foundation is anything but a "grassroots organization" (as it was described by Mr. Jackson). Rather, AFP and the AFP Foundation are the tools through which the Koch brothers exercise much of their political influence and AFP was intimately linked to the rise of the Tea Party. Indeed, the two worked together since the very inception of the Tea Party in 2009. It has even been alleged that front groups with ties to the tobacco industry and Koch brothers planned the creation of the Tea Party a decade before its emergence. Whatever you think of the Tea Party, there is little doubt that AFP is a very conservative/libertarian organization. Among other conservative causes, AFP has vociferously opposed the Affordable Care Act and been a major force spreading anti-science misinformation about anthropogenic global climate change. Funding and promoting anti-science is what AFP and the AFP Foundation do; so I'm not too surprised that the AFP Foundation would be involved in funding a conference like the one I was invited to.

But what about the Coors Foundation? I knew much less about it when I was first contacted, but what I've learned about it suggests it's problematic as well, for many of the same reasons. For example:

In the early 1970s Coors required prospective employees to submit to a lie-detector test in which the company asked if the respondent was a homosexual (prompting Harvey Milk to organize a boycott of Coors beer). Throughout the 1970s and '80s, the Coors family used generous donations from the Adolph Coors Foundation to launch right-wing groups like the Moral Majority, the Heritage Foundation and the Free Congress Foundation–which coined the term "the homosexual agenda" in publications like Gays, AIDS and You. Meanwhile, the company busted unions (leading to an AFL-CIO boycott), and individual family members like William Coors made racist speeches to black audiences claiming "one of the best things that they [slave traders] did for you was to drag your ancestors over here in chains" (this statement led to a boycott by numerous minority groups).

As a result of protests, the Coors Foundation in 1993 restricted its philanthropy to Colorado and formed the Castle Rock Foundation, which continued to fund far right groups and causes. In 2011, Castle Rock was absorbed back into the Coors Foundation. In any case, one group the Coors Foundation funded, the Heritage Foundation, is well-known for denying anthropogenic climate change and opposing efforts to mitigate it. These days, the Coors Foundation's priorities sound relatively benign on the surface compared to its past activities (although one notes that some of its priorities are identical to the mission of the Castle Rock Foundation). Be that as it may, the Coors Foundation is clearly very conservative in its orientation and it's taken on as one of its major focuses the promotion of the "integration" of quackery with medicine.

Integrative medicine, it's not just for hippy-dippy lefties any more—if it ever was in the first place. It's now made for some very strange bedfellows.

Aftermath: Ego and money lose to science

As I close, I must admit that I'm left wondering whether I made the right decision or not. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it could well have been very cool to be (hopefully) the hero defending science against Andrew Weil, the way that Bill Nye defended evolution against Ken Ham at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. But then I consider again my longstanding belief that public debates are not a good strategy to defend science, coupled with a cold, hard assessment of the cost-benefit ratio. To my mind, the cost in terms of preparation and the associations drawn to me by doing an event linked to groups like the Americans For Prosperity Foundation and the Coors Foundation were just not worth the (at most) modest potential benefit of a win (assuming I could even "win") for science-based medicine. I briefly toyed with the idea of asking for the same honorarium that they were paying Dr. Weil (which is no doubt significant, likely way more than I've ever been paid before to give a talk) as a means of seeing just how Mr. Jackson wanted this debate to take place, but such is not my way and I quickly dropped that idea.

The bottom line is that no amount of money I could reasonable expect, even if the Coors Foundation agreed to pay me as much as they are paying Weil, or ego gratification derived from being on the same stage with the godfather of "integrative medicine" would be worth the effort and risk of doing a debate like this one. Far more importantly, there was no way I could see such a debate being more than a wash or, at best, a modest "win" for science-based medicine with the risk of its being a big loss. In the end, I made my decision, and I'm OK with it. Others might make a different one.

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IMHO, even a thorough science-based thrashing of Weil at is only going to get you labelled a "bully" if it happens at a sCAMmer meeting.

Gotta love that "IMPACT" study, though.

From the IMPACT trial protocol introductory background discussion (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/14/132)

IM’s focus on treating the whole person, is believed to have outcomes beyond those associated with treatment of the targeted condition [25,35]. The emphasis on self-care, the benefits of a good patient-practitioner relationship, and the promotion of the body’s self-healing capacity are all believed to result in enhanced health [35]. In parallel to the concept of treating the whole person is the concept of using a whole system of healthcare services delivery. In IM this includes a focus on the patient-provider relationship and a full range of potential treatments. Together these result in the need to measure outcomes across a number of dimensions (e.g., spiritual, social, physical, mental, emotional) [29,36].

Uh-huh. Yup. Sure. Only in the derpy-derp world of sCAM could you get away with phrases like "is believed to have" and "are all believed" and then be permitted to toss in the oh-so-quantifiable cherry-on-the-top of "spiritual outcomes".

And rotsa ruck there with any real randomization and blinding for this so-called study.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

I think you absolutely and without question made the right decision. I don't have any doubt at all that you would have won. But I think you're right to say that a win would not really be much of a gain. Because bias. So unless you wanted to do it for the sheer fun of the thing, you'd more or less be doing it because it was there and you could.

And I think you've earned the right to pick and choose which opportunities to take more selectively than that many times over.

I also think you absolutely and without question deserve the spotlight. But that will continue to be true. So you'll almost certainly get other, better offers, in the fullness of time.

There is no question in my mind that you made the right decision. Weil and anyone else who chose to associate with the far right are the ones who made the wrong decision.

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

Debates are good for determining who is better at debating, not for determining the veracity of a matter, IMO. I think you have made a wise decision.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

I can't disagree with your decision, but it does make me sad that you declined. Two reasons: 1) They will find someone to debate Weil, and I worry that he/she will not be as quick or capable as you'd have been. 2) I'd have loved the opportunity to see the debate in person and the Denver venue would be a short drive for me.

I think you should have gone. Reasons are:
- It gives you the opportunity to start with "scientific questions are not resolved by debates. This is an interesting exercise, but valueless."
- There is a history of this going back at least to Huxley.
- You're not going to increase Weil's credibility or fame.
- Free vacation in Colorado.
- Reasonable honoraria (assuming that Honoraria is not the presenter's cousin). Note: not an honorarium - it's plural!

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

"What are these mysterious links between alternative medicine in the US and the far right?"

Doesn't seem mysterious. It's money. Big Wellness seems to be a growth industry these days. The far right is basically a grift machine and grifters go where the marks are.

By TroubleMaker (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

Although I would be thrilled to watch a videotaped debate, I agree with Orac;'s decision. For several reasons:

- this is a showcase for Weil- and he's probably a showman.
- the audience may be already on the altie side despite whatever Orac says
- debating makes the conservative groups sponsoring the event look as though they are concerned about science in a valid and respectable way. I doubt that they are.
- even if Orac demanded a live, un-cut video, altie supporters can later report on the debate all over the net. I wouldn't expect them to be fair.
- the whole thing is just PR for Weill and the conservative groups. It's not a debate. It's a stunt for a political position

Unfortunately, I know a great deal about so-called debates between SBM and altie loons since the aforementioned altie loon continue to crow about their 'wins" 40 years later.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

@TroubleMaker --

That's definitely true. But I think at the Kochs and Coors level it's also about sowing widespread distrust of and alienation from science-based medicine by associating it with the Big Evil Government. Hence the emphasis on vaccines, Big Pharma control of the CDC/FDA, and so on.

Because what they really want to do is get rid of Medicare. Because they hate social-welfare spending. But in order to win, they have to make other people hate it too. And since it's just too popular for a direct approach to be politically possible, they're chipping away at the edges.

That's my dumb hypothesis, anyway.

It's probably overly fearful of me, but I think that another reason Orac was right to say no is that you can't really count on people like the Kochs and the Coorses to act in good faith or fight fair. They don't do anything except for gain; and they don't fool around about it. They like to win.

So I don't think it's out of the question that they intend to game the debate is some sneaky, dishonest way or other.

May be a representative of SBM could accept such an offer, but only if it is made clear in advance that his/her role will be only to discuss
!) the truth content of some proposition (e.g.: vaccines cause a particular disease) as decided in advance
2) the means to decide about truth content will only be Likelihood Ratios derived from research published on peer reviewed journals.
Every other way would only offer AltMeds the opportunity to jump on you as wolves.

By perodatrent (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

Gotta love that “IMPACT” study, though.
From the IMPACT trial protocol introductory background discussion (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/14/132)

If you can't trust the peer-review process of a journal called "BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine", who can you trust?

Together these result in the need to measure outcomes across a number of dimensions (e.g., spiritual, social, physical, mental, emotional)

In other words, the IMPACT researchers need to look for spiritual or emotional benefits from sCAM treatment, because they know in advance not to expect any physical improvement.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

but only if it is made clear in advance that his/her role will be only to discuss
!) the truth content of some proposition (e.g.: vaccines cause a particular disease) as decided in advance
2) the means to decide about truth content will only be Likelihood Ratios derived from research published on peer reviewed journals.

Randy Hinton was quite insistent that limiting the debaters to truth-based statements would bias the outcome; the rules of any debate should accept the Fluidity of Evidence:

publically dare them to debate the topic of ANP verses [sic] chemotherapy in front of a large live audience with no restriction’s [sic] or sensoring [sic] of information or statement’s [sic].

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

@ann #11:

Oh yeah, I think you're right on both counts. I was thinking more of the anti-consumer-protection angle but weakening support for Medicare makes sense too. It's a full scale assault on the legitimacy of public policy toward the goal of channeling ever more money and power their way.

I agree with your second point too. Debates only make sense if both parties are committed to logic and intellectual honesty. The far right and Big Wellness have no such commitment, nor any shame about it. A "debate" with such a partner would provide all the insight of a schoolyard bickering match.

Case in point-- for this proposed "debate", the format is heavily biased in that questions come from the audience (supporters of Weil and AFPF, a hard-right group) and the moderator (a business leader-- shoot, Mercola could fit that description). Weil himself seems to have at least a shred of integrity, but the overall deck sounds pretty well stacked.

By TroubleMaker (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

@ann #11:

To clairfy my point, the grift I refer to is the far right. They exploit grievance and anger for profit, both directly in the form of contributions to groups like AFPF or candidate PAC's, and indirectly in the form of political support for their overall effort to bolster their personal power and wealth.

Big Wellness has primed a growing source of new marks for their ongoing grift. It's a match made in Hell.

By TroubleMaker (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

I agree that you made the right choice to pass on this "debate". Everything I've seen in the description points to the playing field not being level here. The risk of this "debate" spinning into "opinions differ regarding shape of earth" territory is unacceptably high.

The Kochs are talking out of both sides of their wallet here. Their name is on a major cancer research institute at MIT, and here they are promoting alt-med. I'm not sure, beyond an attempt to not appear entirely evil, what their motive is for the former. The latter definitely accords with their drown-government-in-a-bathtub political outlook.

The Coors family sounds like another bunch that really should go off to Galt's Gulch. Not that I am a beer connoisseur, but I hear that their product is not well regarded among those who are (and a significant contributor to the view of American beer as being like making love in a canoe). I for one would not miss it.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

Eric, a few years ago, I was in Colorado with a gentleman who drinks beer and knows a bit about it:
when I suggested a free tour- with possible samples- at the Coors plant, his response was "Why would I want that crap- free or otherwise?"
- which nearly approximated my own reply a few days later about the Celestial Seasonings tour.

-also the Kochs give money for art museums in liberal places.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

@Eric Lund --

Coors is awful. There was an attempt to get a boycott going back in (IIRC) the mid-80s in NYC, but it ran aground on the shoals of "OK, but nobody drinks it to begin with."

(Not literally true, obvs. The Coors family has done quite well with it.)

@TroubleMaker#16 --

I think you're dead right about the anti-consumer-protection angle. I hadn't thought of that. So agreement all around.

-also the Kochs give money for art museums in liberal places.

Hell to the yes. The former New York City Ballet/New York City Opera Theater at Lincoln Center is now the David H. Koch Theater. And anyone approaching the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the south has to traverse the David H. Koch Plaza to get there.

It's the least of their sins, really. But it's still annoying.

@Eric Lund #18:

I think the Kochs and their cronies are smart enough to know that:

a) "alternative medicine" is bullshit; and
b) The people dumb enough to fall for it are ripe for the fleecing.

By TroubleMaker (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

In addition to the anti-medicare and anti-consumer-protection angles mentioned by ann and TroubleMaker, I wonder if the far-right/libertarian types are envisioning alt med/natural remedies as a sort of "budget healthcare" for those who won't be able to afford real, science-based medicine without some form of gov't funding - similar to Mao pushing TCM to deal with the shortage of doctors in China. That may sound extreme, but I have heard mainstream libertarians seriously argue that since the libertarian utopia won't have publicly-funded schools, those who can't afford private school will learn reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic from shows like Sesame Street. I kid you not.

@Sarah A #22:

Yeah, I think there are a lot of angles to the political machinations. The point I *really* want to make though is much more cynical and direct. People gullible enough to believe in things like reiki and homeopathy such that they'll spend their hard-earned money on it and trust their actual health to it are just ripe to be manipulated in other ways. The right-wing grift machine is just not going to let that opportunity go unexploited.

By TroubleMaker (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

The other day I stumbled across an old piece by Rick Perlstein from The Baffler on the confluence between right-wing politics and all forms of snake-oil cons.
http://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-long-con
Much of the revenue for sites like NewsMax apparently comes from ads for various scams, and more importantly selling their subscriber list to direct-email cons. E.g. the “23-Cent Heart Miracle... Washington, the medical industry, and drug companies REFUSE to tell you about.” Also "“Reverse Crippling Arthritis in 2 Days”; “Clear Clogged Arteries Safely & Easily—without drugs, without surgery, and without a radical diet”; and “High Blood Pressure Cured in 3 Minutes". For Perlstein the actual snake-oil is all of a piece with the get-rich-quick schemes (Buy Gold!), MLM Ponzi woo, and the scare-tactic tropes of conservative direct-mail fund-raising gurus Richard Vigurie and Paul Weyrich. (“grade school courses that teach our children that cannibalism, wife swapping, and the murder of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior”). He doesn't use the terms, he's painting a picture of a bubble so defined by 'magical thinking' that truth is so excluded it becomes a drawback. He argues that transparent lying is "a feature, not a bug" for Republican candidates, as "lying is what makes you sound the way a conservative is supposed to sound."

The piece is from 2012. He's talking about Mitt Romney, not Carson, Trump, Cruz, Rubio...

No doubt certain flavors of alt-med have many post-hippy dippy fans. They're certainly not-conservative, but I refuse to acknowledge them as being 'lefties'. For the most part, leftists are quite fond of truth, and intolerant of lies. Orac wrote, "the conspiratorial bent of alt-med believers meshes well with that of a significant segment of the far right." I'll go with Perlstein and suggest instead that the irrational panaceas of alt-med go right to the core of far right ideology.

Perlstein's point is that these

^ignore last sentence fragment

sadmar@24

Much of the revenue for sites like NewsMax apparently comes from ads for various scams [...]

In fairness that's pretty much how the online advertising ecosystem works. The ad networks do a piss poor job of screening for malicious content let alone fraudulent ads. And site owners have little control beyond with agency to choose.

It's a fundamentally broken system and unfair to single out any particular site. Heck, you can find natural health scams in the ads right here from time to time.

As far as selling email lists, that behavior is much more questionable but go read a few EULA's. Even if email is not mentioned specifically almost everyone reserves the right to share your information with third parties (including advertisers).

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

Ahem. I suppose "privacy policies" is more accurate than "EULA'S" when talking about sites.

By capnkrunch (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

@sadmar --

Thanks for that Baffler link. I'd never heard of Young Americans for Freedom before. The vast right-wing conspiracy is always turning out to be vaster than you think.

I apologize again for my temper. That was ugly and undeserved. I should have counted to ten, twenty, and thirty. I'm sorry I didn't.

From what I've seen, some of the alt med folk and anti-vaxxers appear to be openly courting libertarians invoking 'personal choice without governmental intervention' ( read - without regulation) and suchlike.

A few years ago, they seemed to be more equitably pitching their swill towards both liberals ( *las naturalistas*) and libertarians. Mikey especially says much that might upset/ disgust liberals these days. Null a minuscule bit less. The anti-vax front also seems more libertarian slanting recently.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

@Denice --

Maybe I misremember this. But it seems to me that the conspiracy community generally was somewhat more left-friendly when opposition to the war in Iraq was a common cause. Or....I guess it might be more accurate to say that the right-wing slant was more between the lines.

On the other hand, political norms have been shifting to the right pretty steadily since c. Reagan. And when it comes to alt-med, the sheer 19th-centuriness of it all is inherently conservative. So I think it's fundamentally right-wing, with some areas of crossover to libertarians and crunchies on the left.

Not everything that's hippy-dippy is necessarily left-wing, ftm. Jesus freaks were hippy-dippy, but they weren't really leftists.

@TroubleMaker #22 --

The upside of that is that at least one doesn't have to worry that it's just a matter of time before newstands start stocking the very latest copy of The David H. Koch Review of Books.

Omnis veritas e viva publica disceptatio nascitur.

I'm not exactly a Latin scholar, but it was a college major once upon a time. Plumbing through an old dictionary and aided by what's left of those atrophied translation skills gets you the above.

Long time reader. I don't feel as though I have much to add most of the time except, "You tell 'em, Orac!" or maybe a "Thanks - I didn't know that." so I tend towards lurking.

Not that I am a beer connoisseur, but I hear that their product is not well regarded among those who are (and a significant contributor to the view of American beer as being like making love in a canoe). I for one would not miss it.

My brother likes it, which tells me just about all I need to know. (I also have had one or two of them; not a fan at all. It is not actively disgusting, like Keystone or Natty Light, but it is super watery and not even as good as Budweiser.) Some of my cousins like it too, sadly; I think they generally market the stuff with a kind of "Mountain West" image that has some appeal. But shoot, you can still get Olympia and Ranier back home, and both of those are way better than Coors.

Actually, if my brother had his druthers, I think he'd be drinking fruit-flavored wine coolers rather than any beer at all, tbh. But that would be Unmanly.

@ ann:

True.
I've been surveying their political leanings for the past several years because it's become more prominent since the Crash.

By liberals/ left I mostly mean what those political labels usually designate as opposed to libertarian/ conservative. The "crunchies" ( *las naturalistas*) probably wouldn't vote for the same people as Mike et al. I envision Back to Nature folk as being more New Agey
- possibly and I could be wrong, perhaps I'm just going on the vibes I get ( heh) but I'll venture than the target used to be more the New Agers/ hippies but that may be gradually changing to include more conservatives ( including Christians) and definitely libertarians.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

So I think [the conspiracy community]'s fundamentally right-wing, with some areas of crossover to libertarians and crunchies on the left.

I've looked at the Twitter effluvia of a few Truthers -- purely for research entertainment purposes -- and they're all a stream of "new cancer-cure secret that Big Pharma is HIDING FROM YOU" / Chemtrails / "Sandy Hook was FAKED to TAKE AWAY YOUR GUNZ" / Rima Laibow Sez / NOBAMA stuff of the "E-mails-forwarded-by-your-Fox-watching-uncle" genre. Right-wing but with a facade of faux-environmental concern.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

Wise decision. It is nothing more than a stunt as are all "debates" between cranks and rationalists.
As you mentioned, the alties will run with Gish Galloping abandon laying down lies, misrepresentations, out of context quotes, non sequiturs, low quality research, anecdote, etc.
It is much better to discuss science in a considered and rational manner as afforded by written text rather than the boxing ring of debate theatrics.

*******************************************
A couple tangential notes:
- There is going to be a discussion (debate?) labeled
A Look at the Politics and Legislation of Vaccination at Pomona College
7PM Mon, Nov 16 - Rose Hills Theatre (Smith Campus Center, 170 E. Sixth St., Claremont, California)
Those eminent political and legal scholars Bob Sears and Jennifer Margulis will be joined by Alexander Capron and Hilary Laconte.
I don't know a thing about the latter two, but we're all familiar with the 1st two. What Sears and Margulis can bring to a discussion on the "politics and legislation of vaccination" is a puzzle.
I hope Mr. Capron and Ms. Laconte are aware of what they are walking into. Sears and Margulis will undoubtedly turn it from a discussion of the politics and legislation of vaccination policy to a rabid attack on science and vaccines themselves.
I hope someone has clued them in to the anti-science, anti-vaccine, loose-with-the-truth world view they are about to encounter.
jennifermargulis(dot)net/blog/2015/11/join-me-and-dr-bob-sears-m-d-at-pomona-college-monday-november-16th/
*******************************************
- Another example of "science" in the process of being created:
International Autism Mapping Project
which is looking to map autism cases in an attempt to find "environmental" (chemical) causes.
It is nothing more than a survey which I found being touted on an anti-vaccine facebook page (TMR?). I wonder if the sampling will be biased in favor of anti-science, anti-"chemical", pro-"natural" respondents?
http://mappingautism(dot)com/
The link to the survey takes you here:
http://mappingautism(dot)com/please-join-our-study/
Note that you can remain completely anonymous while claiming to have a dozen autistic children:
"When asked for a number, use a number you make up. Maybe your mother’s birthday plus your favorite number, but any long number (6 digits or more) will do."
If you click "Begin Survey #1" you will be taken to the survey and the 2nd question is to enter your participation number which you just make up.
Then you can enter anything you wish for the rest of the survey.
I have a friend who did this and selected the answers that provided the most severe autism case and claimed absolutely no exposure to car exhaust, cleaning chemicals, pesticides, any chemicals, etc. - just pure sweet air and rainbows.

It is hard to imagine how this survey could possibly be thought to provide any useful information but I'm sure it will be published somewhere.

There's another reason not to debate Dr Weil - he might vomit all over the podium:

Andrew Weil makes a pretty good case for the virtues of vomiting. He reports that, “…instructional materials on yoga urge students to learn to vomit voluntarily, to practice it regularly, and to perform it as a morning ritual (called jala dhauti), much as many people gargle.” This is from the second chapter (“Throwing up in Mexico”) of his fascinating book, The Marriage of Sun and Moon: A Quest for Unity in Consciousness.

The first Canadian Prime Minister, John A MacDonald, won a debate by doing just that:

Here is a story from an election debate in which Macdonald was so drunk he began vomiting while on stage. His opponent quickly pointed this out.] The opposing candidate said: “Is this the man you want running your country? A drunk!” Collecting himself, Macdonald replied “I get sick … not because of drink [but because] I am forced to listen to the ranting of my honourable opponent.”

@ herr doctor:

Exactly- faux environmental concern.
I observe that they support small government/ low taxes
( because Freedom!)
but really because they earn lots of money AND as woos,
regulation is not something they'd like to see increase.
Of course, governmentally funded education is not one of their faves either for obvious reasons.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

There’s another reason not to debate Dr Weil – he might vomit all over the podium

That's entertainment!

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

Herr doktor - danged auto correct if you're not quick

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

Another rhetorical device, which I call the Chopra Cascade, is to grammarlessly string together some nice-sounding words and phrases. This can gather some applause and puts the opposition into the awkward position of having to declare it gibberish, which loses sympathy. Ancient Romans and Greeks included rhetoric in their education, as a social and political skill.

By Daniel A. Gautreau (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

it is super watery and not even as good as Budweiser

I consider Budweiser to be the most neutral of the American adjunct lagers. Back-to-the-orginal-recipe Schlitz might be the best of the bunch, but it's been a while.

@Denice#34 --

I think you may have put your finger on why it's so difficult to categorize alt-med in left-versus-right terms by referring to New Agers. The New Age has a lot of antecedents, but a lot of ones for the westernized Eastern (or "Eastern") mysticism model are kind of proto-fascist. (Theosophy, etc.) So maybe it's not really a left or right thing. Because Third Way.

That's probably kind of facile, though. I don't really know enough about the evolution of New Age thought to have non-facile ideas about it.

An answer to the next request in 5 words :
Does Steven Hawking debate astrologers?

By MadisonMD (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

There’s another reason not to debate Dr Weil – he might vomit all over the podium

Indeed.

Back-to-the-orginal-recipe Schlitz might be the best of the bunch, but it’s been a while.

I had it on tap at a bar in Chicago this "spring" and quite enjoyed it; three bucks a pint, too. Although, if memory serves, it wouldn't really fill the shoes of an ice cold Oly on a hot summer's day, though I'll concede general superiority.

If it had been a neutral forum there might have been more reason to consider "debating" Weil.

George Bernard Shaw had it right. Never wrestle with a pig.* You both get dirty and the pig enjoys it.

*the pig being alternative medicine and not Dr. Weil of course. :)

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

Prof. Ernst appeared quite surprised to learn of the right wing proclivities of the Coors Foundation and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, apparently because he associated alternative medicine more with the political left

I don't see any reason to think that Prof. Ernst associated alternative medicine more with the political left. I would attribute his surprise more to his having a UK/EU orientation where the rabid right is just not the same insane group as it is in the US. If he is not a close follower of the US political scene he would likely be unaware of the interlocking trusts, right wing think tanks, astroturf organizations and so on that litter the US landscape.

If I was not a follower of the climate deniers antics I would hardly have heard of the Koch brothers or the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and others organizations and individual nutters.

# 11 ann

I had not thought of an attack on Medicare as a reason for Koch support but it makes sense in a US perspective. It may also reinforce my point about Dr. Ernst above.

As a Canadian, the thought of someone trying to wipe out a major government health insurance plan is not likely to be the first thing that comes to mind. Heck, even Stevie the Wonder Boy avoided trying that.

For that matter, our rich right-wingers are well aware that our single-payer system, creaky as it is, is cheaper than anything they might have to initiate.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

# 8 M O'rien

a reasonable honoraria

Nice catch. I read that thing twice and missed it.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

At one point (I don't know if this is still the case) two of the top three individual donors to the Republican party were members of the DeVos family, owners of the fake-supplement alt-med pyramid scheme known as Amway. The groups they support (like the American Family Association) make the Koch brothers look downright left-wing.

By Lancelot Link (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

@ capnkrunch #27

Heck, you can find natural health scams in the ads right here from time to time.

More than "from time to time", for me. It's about every other time I connect to RI. Lately, it's usually about an online teaching of alt-med modalities by a wellness clinic.

If not this, it could be the lady using the plastic wrap to erase her wrinkles. She must be traveling a lot: usually, it's the American doctors which are afraid of her, but recently it has become the turn of French doctors.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

Never wrestle with a pig.
It may be a blind pig hunting for truffles, and you should not distract it from the task.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Nov 2015 #permalink

I'd say not debating was a good idea. Just showing up conveys a sense of legitimacy on the idiots.

Still, if anyone has seen Tim Lambert debating Lord Moncton, they will know it can be fun :)

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 14 Nov 2015 #permalink

You know, I'd pay good money (or at least $1.75) to see Orac debate Andy Wakefield at an AutismOne conference.

*with plenty of RI'ers in attendance of course. We're talking viral video here.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 14 Nov 2015 #permalink

@#jkrideau --

I was speaking a little loosely. I don't think the promotion of alt-med, per se, is aimed at getting rid of Medicare. But the denigration of science-based medicine in conjunction with Big-Brother-type government themes pretty demonstrably is, inasmuch as if the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons does it, it's aimed at getting rid of Medicare. Because that's their foundational mission: To ""fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine."

That doesn't mean it's why everybody does it. They might instead want to get rid of Psychiatry, Industry of Death, for example.

But if there's explicitly political far-right ideology attached, I generally assume that dismantling Medicare is the ultimate goal. Although, obviously, shorter -term gains of a more concrete nature are usually also in the picture, that just being how the far right rolls..

Also, the Kochs are well-known to have a strong interest in of much the same kind.

And abolishing Medicare was a part of David H. Koch's party platform when he ran for VP in 1980.

So one assumes.

^^The word "objectives" went missing from the first sentence up there.

Orac says,

In the end, I made my decision, and I’m OK with it. Others might make a different one.

MJD says,

In my opinion, you (David) need to do it sometime soon.

Your a brilliant, articulate scientist/surgeon who must not be hesitant about getting in the mud and wrestling.

By Michael J. Dochniak (not verified) on 14 Nov 2015 #permalink

Hey, Orac! This is a bit off topic, but you might want to check out a You Tube series called Extra History. Their latest series is "The Broad Street Pump" about Jon Snow and the birth of epidemiology. http://youtu.be/TLpzHHbFrHY

By DoctorMead (not verified) on 14 Nov 2015 #permalink

@palindrom:

Once upon a time when I was in college, I was living with several friends in a little house. The parents of my buddy Trevor came to visit from St. Paul, and decided they'd do something nice for us. "What do college students like? Beer and pizza!" So they ordered some pizza from a good local place (Pizza Time, IIRC), and then asked us what kind of beer to pick up. "Oh, Oly's fine," we said. So they got back, we were eating pizza, they cracked open a beer and tried it... "This is horrible!" they said, "How can you guys drink this stuff?" Off they went to buy some other beer to drink. We expected them to come back with some kind of delicious microbrew, but they showed up with... Miller Lite.

In fairness that’s pretty much how the online advertising ecosystem works. Site owners have little control...

It's not the same think with the major right-wing sites, capn, but it's my bad for not being more specific. Rather than (or in addition to) having ad space on their sites filled by a third-party agency based on search algorithms, they sell space directly. And it's not just the web – the same scammy companies are major sponsors on right-wing talk radio. Besides, the associations between these sorts of sponsors and right-wing media go back even farther than Perlstein traces, and he begins well before the Web was even a thing, much less employing the sort of Google-analytics ad placement engines we see these days. My stepfather was into wingnut stuff back in the '60s, and while I don't remember supplements being a big thing, the political woo and financial woo definitely went hand-in-hand.

It's not just the far right either. Look at the ads in the in-flight magazines of the major airlines, which are primarily targeted to business travelers. A lot of them are milder versions of the same kind of magical thinking form – 'we have the easy quick answer "they" don't want you to know about!'

JP @62 -- Deep in the bowels of the brilliant, interminable mess that is Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow", there's a minor character, a German secretary, who is named Miss Mueller-Hochleben.

By palindrom (not verified) on 14 Nov 2015 #permalink

Off they went to buy some other beer to drink. We expected them to come back with some kind of delicious microbrew, but they showed up with… Miller Lite.

It's kind of a long story, as Jeppson's actually reached out to someone I know,* but I was once at a charity/hockee event that featured a window of time in which one could have free Miller Lite or Malört. The former is undrinkable.

* Not to mention the cast of characters and the truly insane bathroom design at the W Lakeshore.

ou know, I’d pay good money (or at least $1.75) to see Orac debate Andy Wakefield at an AutismOne conference.

Oh, me too. Good cash money. I'd sell all my Ron-Paul gold, if I had any.

@ Sadmar #25: Thanks for the link to the expose in The Baffler:

http://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-long-con

If Whole Food's asparagus water or their gluten-free water wasn't enough, sales of ginger beer to ameliorate the nausea of learning that John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, participated as a speaker in 2012 at FreedomQuest, a convention billed as “the world’s largest gathering of right-wing minds”, may go through the roof.

As a foreign observer, the political machinations of the alt. med. movement in the U.S. was never one I understood. When Bill Clinton signed into law the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994, many were under the assumption that the movement to bring it pass was largely the result of supporters for the Democratic Party.

By Lighthorse (not verified) on 14 Nov 2015 #permalink

Skimmed the article; haven't been able to read through all the comments but I agree with Krebiozen #4 about debates,

For the most part, leftists are quite fond of truth, and intolerant of lies.

When you come 'round you realize that truth doesn't have a side. I'm deeply interested in the truth and certain it's lead me to be politically agnostic. I see all this as the behaviors of those in power, those who want to be in power or those who want to hang onto it. Never one to want power, they're all kind of strange to me.

I could be wrong and I'm not looking for a political debate. Just provide something to think about.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 14 Nov 2015 #permalink

Next week, the creationists will combine anti-Koch rhetoric with an examination of the David H. Koch Dinosaur Hall.

BTW, didn't the Koch brother also pay for the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study? That established there has been global warming far more conclusively than a similar study from the EPA would.

By Joseph Hertzlinger (not verified) on 14 Nov 2015 #permalink

When you come ’round you realize that truth doesn’t have a side.

Agree.

For the most part, leftists are quite fond of truth, and intolerant of lies.

I've seen little evidence to support this. IMHO, those on the left are fully capable of both lying and tolerating those who lie when it supports their goals and opinions.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 15 Nov 2015 #permalink

The same is true, naturally, of any group of people with the possible exception of scientists.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 15 Nov 2015 #permalink

@Mephistopheles O'Brien, #71 --

Again, agree.

I think that conservatism is arguably more inherently Counter-Enlightenment than liberalism. But I'm not sure. And anyway, that's not necessarily the same thing as being inherently less fond of truth, particularly in practice.

@#73 --

I don't think there are any categorical exceptions. But otherwise, again agree.

It's not a lie, it's a more fluid concept of the truth.

I'd like to clarify that by "Counter-Enlightenment," I did not mean "philosophically inclined to fascism."

I just meant that conservatism's respect for tradition as such arguably predisposes it to the anti-rational. But I'm genuinely not sure. It depends on what traditions are being respected.

#33 Iasasal

I think you have a typo.

Omnis veritas e viva publica disceptatio nascitur

Should that not be “et” not “e”

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 15 Nov 2015 #permalink

jrkrideau,
I think the Latin is technically correct, with "e" meaning "from" i.e. "all truth is born from public debate", though it was a long time ago I studied the language. I don't agree with the sentiment though.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 15 Nov 2015 #permalink

Sorry, that should be, "lively public debate".

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 15 Nov 2015 #permalink

@ann #75

Agree.

OAN - Latin fascinates me. But I've never received instruction it and know none of it except what is in popular culture.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 15 Nov 2015 #permalink

@ann #75

Agree.

OAN, Latin fascinates me. But, I've never received instruction it or know anything of it outside of what is in popular culture...or what I've seen here.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 15 Nov 2015 #permalink

I think the Latin is technically correct

The preposition e/ex takes the ablative, so it seems to need some work.

jrkrideau
'e' is a shorter form of 'ex' that is used before words starting with certain consonants, much like 'a' and 'an' in English.

Narad
Yes I typoed, the disceptatio should be disceptatione. I put the adjectives in the ablative, just not the noun -_+` (I generally avoid the use of macrons since the original Latin never used them.)

Yes I typoed, the disceptatio should be disceptatione.

I'm midly inclined to go for plurals: "vivam publicam disceptationibus."

This whole discussion reminds me of the Latin lesson at swordpoint in "Life of Brian".

By palindrom (not verified) on 15 Nov 2015 #permalink

They're very rigorous, the judging exams, they're noted for their rigour.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 15 Nov 2015 #permalink

That's why I became a coal miner instead. They're not so rigorous, the mining exams.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 15 Nov 2015 #permalink

The failure here is that the comments should have become shorter and shorter.

# IasasaI
"e -> ex"
Ah thanks, I don't think I ever got far enough in Latin for my dragons Latin teachers to allow something that frivolous.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

Quidquid latine sonat verius.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

Ann, Eric, et.al.: agreed, this "debate" is part of some kind of political strategy aimed at taking down Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid.

My Spidey Sense went off about this:

"...audience participation will be limited to questions submitted via a mobile app..."

If the Koches are afraid of audience members having a microphone, then why not hand out 3x5 cards at the beginning and have them passed down the rows to be collected after the closing statement? Why insist on a mobile app?

I'd like to see a full cybersecurity workup on their mobile app. I would bet the downpayment on a house that it's got something nasty in it, aimed toward one or more of the following goals: a) a channel for subsequent fundraising appeals, b) a channel for subsequent propaganda feeds to peoples' mobiles, c) Big Data collection on people who came to the "debate," for use in fashioning other forms of mass-market propaganda such as for the 2016 campaign season (local & state as well as national).

Someone needs to call them out on this. It would be most interesting to see their response.

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

Thanks for fighting the good fight Orac. You must feel like King Canute, who had his own sort of Gish Gallop to deal with. Sometimes I wonder why one should bother. I have many, many woo-oriented friends. There's no point in trying to convince them, so I figure, let them do what they want, and let Darwin sort it out. Unfortunately most have already reproduced...

By Brian Buchbinder (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

Who made that Adolph Coors Foundation logo, FFSMS? A kid with a sheet of Letraset? The 'D' in FOUNDATION is skew-iff, the kerning is an atrocity, and it makes me want to reach into the screen and shake it.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

FOUND ATION is two words.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

#88

X

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

Who made that Adolph Coors Foundation logo...

Don't know who, but for the what, it looks like something MS Word would inflict upon the world

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

The ‘D’ in FOUNDATION is skew-iff

I really think the missized 'H' is the winner here.

Palatino is my least favourite Zapf typeface but it has done nothing to deserve the misuse to which it was put.

The Goofle informs me that Zapf died earlier this year. I can only hope that he never saw the ACF logo.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Nov 2015 #permalink

I've seen lately strange connections between CAM+antivaxxin and far right here in Finland, too.

Many of those far right sites have antisemitic and anti-USA attitudes. I've thought that they disgust science and SBM and Big Pharma because they are in hands of jewish/USA. They often seem to fond of russian RT news channel as theirs political info source.

By MrrKAT, Finland, EU (not verified) on 20 Nov 2015 #permalink

@ MrrKAT:

Natural News and other woo/ anti-vax sites refer readers to RT as well.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 20 Nov 2015 #permalink

In my opinion I think it's best to accept the debate invitation as it gives you the opportunity to express viewpoints that shed light for others to ponder and think about...regardless that the audience maybe pro Weil your willingness to face the challenge will bolster your preparation and may open people's mind of another way of seeing another's well thought out point of view...I hope you reconsider...

By Allen Goldman (not verified) on 27 Nov 2015 #permalink

Too bad you failed to comprehend the above article. You may notice that there is a difference between the format and participants of the link you provided, and the forum with the unbalanced biases discussed in the article.

You can start understanding the above article by actually clicking on the letters in blue that spell out "Gish Gallop."