A tale of two cities

Oct
26
2012
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
0
Comments

I’ve just returned from running a workshop in Dubai, and my experience there made for an interesting study in contrast with everything happening back in my home country of Britain.

As you know, in a stroke of irony that seems to have escaped most of the press, science author Simon Singh, self-styled ‘freedom of speech advocate’ has been busy attempting to ban our new magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You.

I’ve just returned from running a workshop in Dubai, and my experience there made for an interesting study in contrast with everything happening back in my home country of Britain.

 

As you know, in a stroke of irony that seems to have escaped most of the press, science author Simon Singh, self-styled ‘freedom of speech advocate’ has been busy attempting to ban our new magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You.

 

More attempts to ban

He’s been writing to our distributor, to the supermarkets and newsagents that stock us and is presently trying to get the Advertising Standards Authority to investigate claims by our advertisers – even to query our claims that we’ve been applauded by the media, including The Times as a ‘voice in the silence’ (it was Thursday, August 10, 1989, around the time that we first launched the title, to save him and the ASA the trouble).

 

He’s also been attempting to portray himself as a martyr in this whole business by blogging or getting supporters in the media to blog about how we are attempting to ‘silence’ him with a libel suit. Not one of these media types have actually bothered to hear our side of the story.

 

We are, I repeat, not threatening to sue Simon Singh. We’ve had no dealings with him. Our distributors are not sueing Simon Singh. All of us view Simon Singh largely as an irrelevance.

 

Private Eye gets the story

Happily, last week Private Eye did a proper investigation of the entire story and published it in the Media News section of the 19 October edition.

 

Here it is in its entirety:

 

For a self-styled ‘advocate for free speech’ Simon Singh is spending a strange amount of time trying to silence others.

 

Singh won a justified libel victory in 2010 over the chiropractors and now he claims he is again on the receiving end of a libel threat. This time, however, his martyr status is on shakier ground.

 

In an attempt to get the alternative and complementary health magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You off the shelves, he has been haranguing Comag, its distributor (which circulates the Eye and many other well-known magazines), sending bumptious emails because he disapproves of the magazine’s ‘sensationalist and pseudoscientific’ contents.

 

When Comag politely pointed out that it was not responsible for the content of magazines it distributes, Singh refused to accept this argument and continued his campaign until an exasperated Comag said it had taken legal advice and would if necessary defend its reputation against anything defamatory he might publish.

 

In focusing his attention on a magazine’s distributor, Singh is starting down a path trodden by the likes of Robert Maxwell and Sir James Goldsmith – hardly fitting company for the ‘advocate for free speech.’  

***

I’ll just clarify one further bit of the story, which is that Comag took legal advice only because Singh asked if he could publish their emails, and when they said no, he did so anyway, at which point they consulted their lawyers, mainly to ask if this was invasion of copyright. They did not, repeat not, threaten Singh with anything. They remain even more firmly behind us than ever.

BMJ joins in

While this was going on, a Glasgow GP by the name of Margaret McCartney, whom I’d debated on radio 4 that week, announced to me that she was doing a review of WDDTY for the British Medical Journal. After she sent me four loaded questions of the ‘When-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife’ variety, I told her I’d answer questions only if they were on the phone, and I could tape the conversation.

 

We had an hour-long chat. Of the approximately 30 stories in the magazine, many 5000 words or more, and the hundreds of medical references contained in the whole, she chose to focus much of her effort on a 200-word news item about some of the dangers of sun cream. She also asked about where I got my information about deaths from ‘cervical-cancer’ vaccine Gardasil (the US government’s surveillance database reporting side effects and parent groups, I said), the quality of our advertisers and one small study among many larger ones in a story about hearing loss.

 

Since she is another sort of ‘champion,’ this time of evidence-based medicine, I sent her a evidence-based review of all the literature about Gardasil by a team of University of British Columbia doctors, who’d been prompted to do such a review after being confronted with so many cases of girls who’d suddenly developed strange symptoms after getting this jab.

 

They came to the same conclusions I did, that the vaccine’s effectiveness was unproven, that data had been misinterpreted, that the safety profile was suspect and that it was contrary to growing evidence that from vaccine surveillance databases and case studies linking the vaccine to deaths and permanent disabilities.

 

As it was the most important piece of supporting data for my article and the review was very thorough, I recommended that she read it before making comment on my article.

 

When I checked to see if she got the article, she replied that she had. ‘However the focus for my article will be on your magazine,’ (SIC) she wrote.

 

On Monday, I wrote to her and her editor to ask how they might possibly do a credible review of my magazine without reviewing some of the most important supporting data.

 

I’m still waiting for their response. The article came out attacking the Gardasil statistics with no mention of the review data, and cherrypicked a few other small studies to take issue with.

 

Connection in Dubai

So this was all busily going on when I flew to Dubai to meet an audience of about 150 Arabs from all the Gulf states – Kuwait, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, Afghanistan and even a few from far-flung places like Somalia and Indonesia. They came to learn about what I wrote about in The Bond about embracing a paradigm of connection and not competition. In the audience were some 30 doctors, many of them eminent in their own countries.

 

When told them about our new magazine, which challenged many practices in orthodox medicine and provided evidence of alternatives, they stood up and applauded.

 

During those two days, I heard about standard medical practice in the Arab countries. Faezah, one the women doctors, told me her hospital administrators take a dim view of drug salemen and they are strictly kept away from doctors at her hospital so that they will not be influenced.

 

At the airport I bumped into another one of my students, chairman of the medical licensing board of her country. She has fought her government over several vaccines, including Gardasil, after studying the medical literature and discovering its dubious record. Like many of the doctors there, she is open to the use of many alternative or complementary treatments—Chinese medicine, energy healing, traditional medicines with evidence of success. ‘I use,’ she told me, ‘whatever works.’

 

On the return flight, as I thought of what I was coming home to, it was hard not to keep wondering, at least when it comes to medicine, which part of the world needs to become a little more civilized.

 

 

 

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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