Dealing with Email: Dietary Supplements and Science


Reader DY sent WC this screed:

Find here an analysis of corporate control of multiple USG agencies, notably the Public Broadcast System, and their deliberate efforts to undermine American citizen’s reliance and access to minerals, vitamins and other food substances. In an era of unprecedented assaults to the biosphere [Gulf oil spill; fracking-contaminated aquifers; pharmaceutical residue in drinking water; out-of-control methane leaks swamping the nation’s fourth largest city; chronic levels of Fukushima radiation in air/food and water; and mass die offs of whales, otters, seals, salmon, sea birds, sea stars and walrus], why is the USG producing propaganda aimed to reduce people’s confidence in plant and mineral-based substances with a proven track record? What possible agenda is hidden in this seemingly altruistic message of how to live a good life? Perhaps a more potent question is: Why no objection from those most likely to be harmed by lack of access? The single most effective tactic to oppose this insanity is also the cheapest and most direct. Letters to the editor. I can assure readers that in gilt-laden offices housed in big-city luxury towers executives responsible for misleading the nation are rewarded day after day with reassurances that the serfs are too busy with beer and football to notice how consensus is formed. Some of those reassurances arrive by scanning letters to the editor from an index of newspapers from sea to shining sea. We may be a nation of readers but we can’t or won’t write. Ben Franklin would be aghast at the failure to discern or engage. In his memory was a time in England when literacy was a one-way street. Children and adults were taught to read in order to carry out tasks. Writing, however, was not part of general literacy. Common people weren’t allowed that skill set as writing develops thinking and analysis. Restricting the full measure of literacy to themselves, the titans of commerce and planning maintained their singular control. These days even if people know how to write they are hobbled into silence by a [apparently] now inbred fear of pointing out the obvious. Even with millions of sharp-eyed children lining the parade route and eager to name reality, would we hear them?
– dy

 

Ordinarily WC simply ignores an email with a single paragraph of 10 lines or more. WC is also reluctant to be drawn into a debate on dietary supplements, where there is a great deal more heat than light. But it’s a slow day, and sometimes it can be instructive to examine the claims of folks who see conspiracies all around them. Let’s parse this long paragraph.

Find here an analysis of corporate control of multiple USG agencies, notably the Public Broadcast System, and their deliberate efforts to undermine American citizen’s reliance and access to minerals, vitamins and other food substances.

The embedded link is to the website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Mercola is an osteopath and homeopath. He makes a lot money selling dietary supplements. He is also opposed to childhood vaccinations, asserts AIDS is not caused by HIV, but by “psychological stress” brought on by the belief that HIV is harmful. He opposes most prescription drugs and influenza vaccination, and asserts sunscreen products cause skin cancer, rather than preventing it. In those beliefs, Dr. Mercola disagrees with 99.9% of the medical community. As the late Carl Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Dr. Mercola doesn’t muster much scientific proof. So to the extent Dr. Mercola’s “analysis” depend on his credibility, WC is disinclined to give it any weight.

Oh, and PBS, the Public Broadcasting System? It gets between 15 and 20 percent of the aggregate revenues from federal sources, principally through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That probably disqualifies it from being a “USG agency.”

In an era of unprecedented assaults to the biosphere [Gulf oil spill; fracking-contaminated aquifers; pharmaceutical residue in drinking water; out-of-control methane leaks swamping the nation’s fourth largest city; chronic levels of Fukushima radiation in air/food and water; and mass die offs of whales, otters, seals, salmon, sea birds, sea stars and walrus], why is the USG producing propaganda aimed to reduce people’s confidence in plant and mineral-based substances with a proven track record?

You had WC until the last phrase.The U.S. isn’t producing the content; independent researchers and television production companies generate Frontline content. It isn’t propaganda; propaganda is information “biased or misleading in nature aimed at influencing and altering the attitude of a population toward some cause, position or political agenda in an effort to form a consensus to a standard set of belief patterns.” To establish the Frontline show on diety supplements was propaganda you’d have to establish it was false or misleading. In fact, it was pretty accurate. Incidentally, Frontline and other PBS programs regularly produce content on all that other stuff, too. Which kind of defeats the premise of the argument.

Consumer Reports, an entirely independent research and testing organization, is even harsher in its criticism of diet supplements than Frontline was. WC doesn’t buy the implied premise of the very long sentence: that supplements have a “proven track record.” In fact, so fa as WC can tell, that’s exactly what they don’t have.

What possible agenda is hidden in this seemingly altruistic message of how to live a good life?

WC can suggest several: “absence of quality control;” “no proven record of claims;” “save your money;” “sometimes very dangerous.” Ask Lamar Odom (“herbal viagra”) or Korey Stringer (ephedra). “Seemingly,” indeed. The statement assumes its premise: that dietary supplements offer anytng of value besides the placebo effect. WC doesn’t buy it.

Perhaps a more potent question is: Why no objection from those most likely to be harmed by lack of access? The single most effective tactic to oppose this insanity is also the cheapest and most direct. Letters to the editor. I can assure readers that in gilt-laden offices housed in big-city luxury towers executives responsible for misleading the nation are rewarded day after day with reassurances that the serfs are too busy with beer and football to notice how consensus is formed.

The obvious answer to the “potent question” is that dietary supplements are worthless or worse. An Letters to the Editor might just be a little bit out of date. It’s true that a lot of multi-nationals keep track of the digital flotsam and jetsam that mentions them. It’s the digital equivalent of a clipping service. It might be a little . . . naive . . . to think that it influences policy among the suits. But have at it. Some supporting science, backed by published trials in peer-reviewed journals, might make the task less improbable.

But if you’ll excuse WC, he has to get back to watching superb athletes permanently damaging their brains now.

 

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