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Homeopathy: PR & Politicking vs. Science & Education

December 13, 2010

The multi-billion dollar homeopathy industry has recognised it is facing a crisis, partly brought about by the improved communication and accessibility of information, made possible by the internet.

Of course, had they been more honest about their product in the past, they would not be facing their current difficulties. In fact they wouldn’t be facing any difficulties at all, because their disgraceful scam of an industry wouldn’t exist. Homeopaths would have long since quit and either got a proper job or found a safer scam.

As I’ve highlighted before here, they regularly claim homeopathy has been validated by scientific studies, while simultaneously lobbying national governments and the EU for exemption from normal scientific testing because they fail every properly conducted test.

Such stunning hypocrisy demonstrates the ruthless and deceitful nature of their scam and should in itself be enough to end any discussion of its efficacy or worth. Unfortunately homeopathy has sunk its claws deeply enough into society for it to benefit from the default credibility that goes along with that.

Nevertheless, thanks largely to the internet, they are more frequently being confronted with reality and called to account for the deaths, suffering, deliberate endangering of lives and health, false advertising, fake studies, deceitful claims and general stupidity that their industry is based upon.

Now they are hitting back. Rather than engaging in any self-reflection or reality checks, they have devised a PR plan for the next few years.

What follows is taken from the video reposted on Quackometer (linked to above).

Our world has become truly global. Modern media communicates immediately and universally. It provides an open door for those who promulgate false assumptions, erroneous presentations, invidious comments, outright slander and lies…

He’s probably referring to critics there, but it’s ambiguous. He could just as easily be extolling the advantages of the internet as an open door for the normal mode of homeopathic discourse.

…But it also highlights inconsistencies in our narrative.

Exactly. And those inconsistencies are inevitable because all standards for evidence have been removed. The basis of homeopathy is the unsubstantiated “Law of Similars”, (the idea that “like cures like”) which has no basis in chemistry or human physiology and no positive results from properly conducted studies. This absurdity is then pushed into the realm of surrealism by claiming that diluting the useless substance to such a degree that none of it is left, makes it more potent. With the bar for plausibility set so low, the possibility of regulating the various forms of even more hysterical lunacy by individual homeopaths with any objective rule of thumb becomes impossible. What to do about the resulting “inconsistencies”?

Rather than deal with the fundamental flaws in their profession, they have chosen to try and improve the way they market their scam. Enter Brand Homeopathy and their master plan. And here it is

Science and research
Create a Scientific Advisory Committee
Connect all research groups
Clarify and simplify language used to communicate research

As their lobby groups have already demonstrated, they don’t mean real science. As they openly admit to the EU, science, with its materialistic focus on whether or not medicines actually help people, always returns negative results on homeopathy.

So given that they are committed to avoiding science, it is safe to assume that the Advisory Committee will be advising homeopaths on how best to evade those nasty collisions with reality.

Education
Share the Brand Dream with schools and students
Develop it as a small publication
Regular circulation of projects among educators

Just as they use the word “science” to describe activities that are anti-scientific, they also use the “education” for activities which are anti-educational. Sorry, but “sharing the Brand Dream” would not be educational even if the product were an authentic item of value.

Education is not advertising. And actually, according to the normal standards for advertising, promoting homeopathy is not even worthy of that label.

Expect more incursions into schools and medical institutions. Ignorance is the only weapon they have against the spread of factual information about homeopathy. Their advantage is that nearly all of that information is put out by skeptics with no financial interest in the matter. So it is relatively simple for those whose livelihood depends on it to invest an immensely greater amount of time, energy and resources.

(Their disadvantage is that the evidence against them is so clear that it takes only about 5 minutes in the internet to get the idea.)

Media
All societies to arrange media training for members
Develop policy for guidance on who responds to media
Unify PR activity

This sounds a bit like they have realised that an awful lot of media coverage has involved embarrassing back-downs over reckless claims. I would also advise them to block all homeopaths from using YouTube.

Marketing
Create Universal symbol for Homeopathy
Develop Tweet pilot project
Develop ‘Homeopathy Worked for Me’ website

The argument that “it works for me” is an open admission that there is no scientific data to back it up and the hostility of homeopaths to the basic concepts of medicine. “It works for me” is a popular catchphrase among consumers unwilling to admit they have been duped.

Blogger Bronze Dog has skewered this error of judgment succinctly in his excellent Doggerel series on common misconceptions. He notes how such claims fail to control for the effects of other causes of improvement (improved diet, exercise, etc.) and then notes a further list of errors that are likely to have been committed:

regression to the mean [ascribing a cause to a natural fluctuation], the placebo effect, natural healing, the post hoc fallacy, and you’ve got the big “pragmatic fallacy[if I’m happy with it, then it “works”] as the result.

The easiest person to fool is yourself, and without controls to eliminate or at least reduce those fallacies, you’ve got a lot of means to that end.

Lobbying
Develop unified Lobbying Support
Engage Members of Parliament/Legislature in key countries
Liaise with US legal advisors

Their lobbying for the lowering of standards while claiming medical status and access to the same markets as legitimate medicine has already been noted.

Developing Countries
Reinstate ‘Homeopathy Worldwide’ umbrella organisation
Create a common code of ethics and development policy ((difficult – based on what? because it doesn’t work, or because of bad PR?))
Plan Homeopathy Worldwide Conference in 2013

Here we get into the really dirty business of spreading death and needless suffering among those who live in countries even less capable or willing to defend themselves from this blight on human wellbeing.

How are they going to develop a “code of ethics” if they are unwilling to admit that their products don’t work? Leading UK homeopath Peter Fisher admitted that homeopathy should not be used against malaria, but on what grounds? Simply that it’s bad PR when people die because they believed their homeopath? Or is he willing to admit that there is no research that supports its efficacy? The latter would acknowledge the fact that the kind of research which shows it doesn’t work for malaria, also shows that it doesn’t work for anything else either.

Societies
Develop a working group to create open dialogue in the UK
Build on the experience of existing international groups
Create an umbrella organisation to manage global representation

“Open dialogue” will of course neither be “open” nor “dialogue”, but will be a continuation of their shameless politicking and deceptive self-promotion that they already practice.

And they have a charity — Homeopathy Action Trust, a non-profit organisation to promote their for-profit business (reference from Quackometer). Of course that’s the exact opposite of what a “charity” is supposed to be, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone at this stage.

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2 comments

  1. Maybe I misheard what was said in the video, but didn’t they talk about the “brand dream” as something internal to homeopathy? That it wasn’t the face that homeopathy showed to the world but rather how homeopathy thought of itself?

    There is a fundamental contradiction between homeopathy’s internal dialogue and what it says to the outside world. This becomes apparent if you look at any homeopathy forums and other internet content aimed at homeopaths. This isn’t about, say, complexity or technical detail. For example, the “vital force” is a key concept in homeopathy but certainly some homeopaths are very coy about mentioning it in any public explanation of homeopathy. Similarly with miasms.


  2. Yeh, maybe I wrote that up a little ambiguously. I think it’s as you say, that the “brand dream” is internal talk (probably thought up my their PR meister), and “sharing the Brand Dream” with schools etc means promoting their (appropriately named) dream that homeopathy is a legitimate and dependable item of value with a cool identity. (Rather than an inert piece of randomly chosen crud.)

    They’re in a bind with the vital force and all that stuff, aren’ t they. It’s impossible to refine fictitious concepts in any meaningful way, so it’s either swallow it whole or reject it outright. So they can’t countenance any criticism or even engage in any sensible discussion with each other about their differences.

    Thanks for commenting. I had a quick glance at your blog, by the way — excellent. I’ll be checking through it more thoroughly, especially before I post on homeopathy again.



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