Is There Hope for HuffPo?

Yesterday I whined about Oprah and Jenny McCarthy’s unholy union of evil and suggested that our only hope may be to convince our mothers not to watch, like at the end of Indiana Jones when all the Nazis melt. (SPOILER!)

It interests me to consider the ways that we might fight back against quackery, and whether or not it’s always worth fighting back.

Recently, the Huffington Post has exploded like an industrial factory that only produces gasoline and craziness. That’s right: an exploding crazy factory. There have been high-profile posts on anti-vaccination nonsense from Jim Carrey, homeopathy idiocy, and holy crap someone who actually believes in distant healing. Read a more thorough overview on the topic at Science Based Medicine, but just know that the Huffington Post used to be a popular lefty political blog with minor amounts of crazy, but has now reached full-blown crazy factory status. Speaking as a lefty who prefers not to see politics mix with crazy, this sucks.

So it is with some amount of relief (and yet a new kind of concern) that I see we have a man on the inside. Meet Jacob Dickerman, HuffPo blogger and actual skeptic.

Jacob has written a fine article addressing those bloodsuckers who are selling homeopathy to cure swine flu (which I posted about here last week), and remarkably that article is, at this moment, still available to the public. I’m a bit concerned, you see, since I learned from the afore-linked Science Based Medicine post that the HuffPo’s “Wellness Editor” is an actual homeopath. Awkward!

Of course, it’s not just the Wellness Editor who is anti-reality — Ariana Huffington herself is apparently quite the quacky one. An SGU listener recently wrote in with an interesting back story on the Huff, saying (in part):

For many years Ms. Huffington has been affiliated with a New Age spiritual group in Los Angeles called the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, MSIA. This church is a personality cult centered around a man named John-Roger, who claims to carry the mantle of the Mystical Traveler Consciousness. It is very similar to Eckanakar and many other late 20th century New Age groups. Many of J-R’s followers subscribe to usual litany of psuedo-scientific crap, including, but not limited to, chakras, auras, homeopathy and holistic medicine (including an inherent mistrust in Western medicine and vaccinations), feng shui, positive thinking, etc. Indeed, because J-R refuses to ingest pork, onions or garlic himself, many of his followers do the same.

Huffington denied and downplayed allegations that she was linked to the maybe-cult during her husband’s Senatorial campaign, but she sure looks awful chummy with J-R in pics, and this Gawker article describes how former HuffPo staffers claim she ordered them to go to MSIA meetings. Suspicious!

Regardless of her exact ties to that particular organization, she has made it clear that she has an irrational view of the world as evidenced by blog entries such as this, found via this blog:

The physical and the rational [are] in a supposedly eternal and inexorable battle against the unseen and the spiritual. In fact, the barriers between these two dimensions — built by the narrow rationalism of the Enlightenment — are now being dismantled by modern science and a growing chorus of personal experiences.

With the big boss coming from a place like that, our chances of improving the Huffington Post with rationalism are slim. But hey, they make their money off your clicks, so we may want to encourage more skeptical posts like Jacob’s. Click the link, read the article, and maybe leave a comment letting Jacob and the HuffPo editors know what you think.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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  1. Oh, BROTHER. I noticed the wacky bent shortly after I started checking on that site around Sept. for juicy election tidbits. I saw some anti-vax BS and was dismayed, and decided to just avoid the health/lifestyle area. I also hoped that it was an anomaly.

    But no…
    Man, I really hate the fact that where the right has religion, the left has equally absurd woo.

  2. The physical and the rational [are] in a supposedly eternal and inexorable battle against the unseen and the spiritual.

    It’s not as exciting as A.Huff makes it sound. Usually the Physical and Rational show up with a cricket bat, but no one can find the Unseen and Spiritual.

    (By the way, Rational is just Physical’s sidekick, but Unseen and Spiritual are full-fledged tag-team partners.)

    (No, I don’t know why Physical is always hauling around a cricket bat.)

  3. Don’t they have Pete Wentz as a regular columnist?

    I’m sorry, but if you’re portraying the bassist of Fallout Boy, who became the most famous member after exposing his now famous member on the internet, as a serious journalist, don’t be surprised if I’m a wary consumer.

  4. It all ended for me at huffpo when they allowed the queen of all woo – Marianne Williamson to write an article on how swine flu started because of all of the bad vibes we were sending down there because of the drug cartels.

  5. I was also profoundly disappointed when I started reading the Huffpo “Health” section, as I have long respected the political coverage. However, I decided to try to be a candle in the darkness, and I am now tirelessly posting comments, most of which actually do get through the editorial process. Also, it seems to me that the number of skeptical/reality-based comments has increased as of late, and I would encourage other skeptics to drop by and comment. If the Health section becomes a sufficient embarrassment to the company, the odds are pretty good the editor will be replaced.

    This is a very popular site, and I think it’s worth a try to save it.

    Ed Uthman, MD
    Pathologist, Houston, Texas

  6. Well, there is hope, but there’s a long way to go.

    My first attempt at a congratulatory comment to Jacob’s post was killed by the moderator. Presumably, because I specifically cited “Dr.” Patricia Fitzgerald as an source of recent HuffPo-woo that turned me off. (I figured I must have violated their ad-hominem policy.) I resubmitted the comment without naming names and it was accepted.

    Funny, there were plenty of comments specifically naming Jenny McCarthy and labeling her as a nut (or worse). I guess naming names is okay… as long as none of those names are HuffPo authors.

  7. There seems to be a bit of a pattern. When the criticism gets loud, they publish one or two decent pieces, and allow more comments through. I don’t think it will last, but we’ll see.

    I sent a complaint to the FDA regarding flu fraud on some of their posts….

  8. @palmd:

    Palmd, I had never thought of that. I figured the FDA had no interest in alt med, since they have essentially abdicated what little power DSHEA ’94 left them with.


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