NOTE: I’m withholding names and other details that I’d like to include in this entry because of contractual obligations to the newspaper at which I am a reporter.
FROM JASON’S BULLSHIT DETECTOR — An unwitting editor didn’t do due diligence before sending me on a fluff assignment Saturday, and I was livid.
Upon arriving at the church — a dire sign to start — to cover a conference about inner and outer beauty, I found quacks peddling junk science.
My job (ostensibly) was to talk about how women were trying to boost self-esteem by getting makeovers at a “You Are Beautiful” event. I’m normally a cops-and-fire beat guy, so I was already jaded against writing a cheese-filled frill-fest for the “Accent” page. That didn’t help when a publicist greeted me at the door and led me straight to the conference’s star speaker: A “doctor” pushing several natural medicine books he sells online.
His sales pitch started immediately when I met him backstage: He jumped into a wrote speech about how he wants to help women reach their true potential by uncovering all of the “secrets” that “they” don’t want you to know.
That’s when I got wise and asked what kind of “doctor” he is.
“A chiropractor,” he said.
His eyes narrowed when I clarified as a follow-up that he wasn’t a medical doctor and asked whether his dietary advice was backed by studies or FDA research.
He further bristled when asked how his licensing as a chiropractor qualified him to make claims about general health; there started his ranted about how “the AMA is just a fraternity and has no real authority. They just want to keep us down.”
“Doctors just want to prescribe. They don’t want you to have a good diet and they’ll never tell you to change how you eat. They’ll only tell you what chemicals you should put in your body,” he said, ignoring the fact that I was scribbling pretty hard in my notebook.
From there he went on to rail against thyroid medicine, Lipitor, and toxins in everything from bananas to candles to chlorinated city water. He shamelessly plugged ionizers and water filters. He used cheap scare tactics to try to convince these gullible Christian women that everything and anything could kill them.
There are many who accuse the mass media of helping to perpetuate bad science. But my photographer and I decided immediately to ignore the conference “headliner” and interview only women involved in the makeovers. It still wasn’t a meaningful story, by any stretch — it was schlock entertainment at best — but at least it didn’t prop up snake oil shenanigans.