Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ben Goldacre, "The Lobby" and the Bilderberg Conspiracy
In which Patrick Holford introduces us to Martin Walker

Patrick Holford, whose exploits are chronicled by the marvelous HolfordWatch site, has a page of extracts from Martin Walker's new book. You can download that here for free: I have done so, and hope to review it next month.

In the meantime, I think it's worth looking at the noteworthy claims made by Mr. Walker, with the apparent approval of Mr. Holford. In the piece, Mr. Walker self-identifies as "a competent and experienced journalist."
According to his own biographical allusions [sic], almost ten years ago, while Goldacre was training to be a doctor, he was already a convinced skeptic, a person familiar with the Lobby’s institutions, their motives and designs, and someone who adhered to a set and unquestioning ideology of science. It could be, of course, that Goldacre has been ‘given’ a background retrospectively. Nevertheless, we are expected to believe that he was a convinced skeptic in his mid-twenties.
"Given" a background? Is Dr. Goldacre a spy? Who might have given him a "background"?
[Martin] Taylor and Dick Taverne are both Bilderberg attenders.
The Bilderberg group is a world government in waiting, which organises the future global economy at its restricted but increasingly less than secret meetings.
I see.
Goldacre has absolutely no sense of fair play or democratic rights.
Unless Dr. Goldacre has been going round shredding ballot papers or murdering voters Zimbabwe-style, the second half of this remark in completely nonsensical.
Very few of those who are attacked by him is [sic] allowed access to the pages of the Guardian to refute the attacks, or Goldacre’s transient grasp of science…On his website, he publishes only sycophantic crap from apparently illiterate followers.
I'm not sure that someone with Mr. Walker grasp of grammar is in a position to critique other people's literacy, or indeed to accuse anyone of a "transient grasp of science" given Mr. Walker's rather idiosyncratic views on Cold Fusion [as expressed on page 170 of his book]. Further, a quick perusal of the comments at BadScience [especially the MMR treads] reveal plenty of comments critical of Dr. Goldacre, the MMR vaccine, and the Big Farmer. Some of these comments are literate.

The entire piece is studded with gems like this.
Footnote 7, regarding "Roger Hole Essay Prize in Medical Scepticism’" notes that "R.C. Hole's full name, when pronounced with two of his first names in initials, sounds like ‘arsehole.’". This information was sourced from a "Grand Theft Auto" site - I am unsure as to what end.
A particular highlight is footnote 2, which devotes over 200 words to the definitions of the word "geek", before leaving it to the reader "to decide what Ben means by being a Geek". This attite of it's-not-for-me-to-decide-it's-up-to-the-reader is a varient of the I'm-not-saying-you're-a-Nazi-I'm-just- asking-questions gambit, and pervades the extract. A final example of this is this paragraph:
"Goldacre won a British Science Writers (BSW) award, in 2003, the very year that he began working for the Guardian. At this time, the BSW was funded by MMR manufacturers Glaxo Wellcome and called the Glaxo Wellcome BSW Award – perhaps there is something in this for these corporations, or am I just a conspiracy theorist?"
Well, I leave that to the reader to decide, but I recall Mr. Walker's statement earlier:
"Anyway, I have always had a relatively common-sense approach to these matters: if it cocks its leg against a tree to piss, barks and sniffs round bitches, it’s probably a dog."


pj said...

Oh wow - that's a goldmine of ignorance and vitriol. I love the way that they personalise the whole issue, if only the evul Goldacre can be silenced all will be well in the alt-med world.

This wonderful piece of writing caught my eye:

Goldacre: "Alternative therapy is about people paying money to have somebody spend a lot of time listening to them talk about their problems, and however much I might think that's a great way to spend your time as a healer, however much I would love to do that in my own practice, it's simply not possible on the NHS."

Nutjob: "Sorry? ‘In my own practice’. And there was I thinking that Goldacre was a junior hospital doctor. Perhaps he meant - however much I would love to listen to patients, it’s simply not possible in the hospital in which I work – that would seem about right."

It seems that he genuinely doesn't realise what Goldacre means when he talks about his 'practice'. I'm suprised he is able to use a keyboard.

pj said...

"When considering Goldacre’s views on science, one has bear in mind that, whatever he says, he is not a scientist either by training, profession or reputation."

"Goldacre who it is claimed is a Junior doctor working in a London NHS hospital is actually a clinical researcher working at the centre of New Labour’s Orwellian spin operation"

Hmm, internal consistency not our nutjob's strong point it would seem.

Political Scientist said...

Isn't it fabulous?

Download the pdf of the book, which is free and worth what you paid for it. It's called "Cultural Dwarves and Junk Journalism: Ben Goldacre, Quackbusting and Corporate Science", and it is quite, quite mad.

It is a remarkably sustained rant about the role that "Quackbusters" have in pushing the cultural adgenda of corporate science. Apparently, the quackbusters are (a) all in touvh with one another, when they are not actually the same
person, (b) the product of the post-industrial era (c) either former spies [I swear, I am not making this up,I'm not that creative/loony] it's all in Part II] or the sucessors to spies to push the cultural adgenda of "industrial science" (d)"...compared to other science correspondents, Goldacre is
a decidedly empty vessel; his academic record is very ordinary, reaching
only to an MA – and that not in any area of practical working science
but in philosophy." !!!!!! (e) That a disparate group of interests including but not limited to the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Bilderberg group,Brian Deer, the Gov't and the Big Farmer have set up "The Lobby" (capitalization his) .

This is only up to page58 of 280.
It is possible it may get even less sane.

I 'm going to read the rest tonight.

Political Scientist said...

Live-blogging the Dwarves:
p95:"Just to relive the high quality of scientific debate that Goldacre
generates on his Bad Science web site, readers might find the follow-ing
comments published on the site of interest.
On September 1, 2006, at 2:09am. superburger (Yes,
they have anonymising call-sign names, which reek of
self-indulgence and moronic chat-line culture) said, ‘Go
after homoeopaths hard … They have the veneer of
respectability – GP referrals, homoeopathic hospitals, B S
fucking Cs in it. Yet the whole thing is utter bullshit. The
performance by Mel Oxley on Newsnight sums up every-thing
that’s wrong with their charade. A lot of CAM is
obvious bollocks and just for the wealthy to indulge them-selves
in, but state-funded homoeopathy in 2006 is a dis-grace.

I have to say it, I really do: Do you think that it is even vaguely pos-sible
that superburger and his plainly inadequate compatriots might be
employees or even executives of pharmaceutical or processed food

He starts writing rationally, and subsequently gets these little parenthetic tics

Political Scientist said...

UPDATE: Although it is not clear from the article on Holford website, the statement "I am a competent and experienced journalist" should correctly be attributed to Jerome Burne

My mistake: I hope Mr. Walker will discuss his.

PhD scientist said...

Yes. Truly crazy. I think "worth what you paid for it" is spot on, PolSci. I actually read the whole thing a while back, though it left me feeling I urgently had to bash my head on the wall several times, and then take a long shower.

The Alties have been quoting bits of Walker's ravings at one another at spots like the JABS forum since it came out early this year. I did write a post about what incredibly deranged shite it was, but I never posted it as I worried slightly about giving it "the oxygen of publicity". Foolish, of course, given the Dr Aust blog's likely readership of three socially challenged individuals hunched over their PCs in their bedrooms, but there you go. But since Holford is now reproducing bits of it with such approval on his blog, it is probably timely to give it a good trashing.

The extent of Walker's "Lobby" / Bilderberg / Evil Pharma / Illuminati mania really does take the breath away. I kept expecting Lizard Overlords a la to appear at any moment.

Jon said...

Don't worry about live-blogging so much - JKN it. Yes, Reptiles, Amphibians and Illuminati, everywhere - It is pinata time, for reasons best known to themselves, they have put it online in the form of blog posts: Quack Ben Goldacre, Patrick Holford, Gillian McKeith. Extraordinarily, they have juxtaposed the words quack and the names of 2 leading proponents of nutritionism in a way that would lead others to receive a lawyer's letter.

Annotate the Holford pages, annotate the blog posts - it is all grist to the fabulous mill of JKN.

Jon said...

But, yes, on sober reflection, the oxygen of publicity is a real possibility. Unless they have posted it in blog form because they want to push more people into using it or referring to it.

Political Scientist said...

Hello Dr Aust;
I sympathise with your concerns about the "oxygen of publicity", and to an extent, this sort of thing is self debunking.
However, I think that it is worth giving it a wider audience simply because it's come up in so many fora (The Big Pharma Gang post that JDC blogged about uses similar language to Mr. Walker, Jon's link to Quack site)and because so many of his assertions are remarkable.

"The Lobby", the Bilderberg group, the Big Farmer, the Revolutionary Communist Party,Ben Goldacre, HolfordWatch, James Randi and the Guardian all part of a conspiracy that gives people "backgrounds". The quote from a computer game website about a medical prize.

If this is generally mainstream thought - in the sence that it has appeared on Holford's website - it should be better known.

On these grounds, I think you should blog your review of the book.

Hello Jon,

HolfordWatch is mentioned on pages 134-135 of 280:
"In the first half of 2007, three apparently-disinterested individuals
set up HolfordWatch, an internet blog site. Only one of these people gives a name – if, in fact, it is a name and not a pseudonym. The only
added information we know about them are such interesting things as
their favourite films; fascinating! This site and others that attack
Holford can be easily traced through their links pages to the such
doyens of quackbusting as Stephen Barrett and to the US organisa-tions
that are the mainstays of the ‘quackbusting’ industry. Nothing,
however, about vested interests or the rather odd commitment to ran-domly
attacking honest people such as Holford is disclosed. The attack on Patrick Holford moved far beyond matters of nutri-tion
and health. In some of the most blatant propaganda pieces,
Holford became a criminal, a liar, a fraud and even a scientologist.
The most unfounded, unbalanced, libellous, cowardly and untruthful
things are said about him in the full knowledge that to mount a legal
action, by which he could defend his professional identity, would cost
hundreds of thousands of pounds."

It's a shame that his sceptism about peoples names does not extend to other fields.

He also makes a bizzarre attack on Damian Thompson through the medium of Catholicism:

"This desire to attack Patrick Holford is apparently insatiable. But can
Thompson claim to be a bona fide quackbuster when he’s obviously a
follower of the Pope, the richest quack in the world? At least the orig-inal
sceptics were atheists, eschewing mystical health redemption not
just from homoeopaths but also from the great Quack in the sky. So
where is Thompson coming from? Is he attacking Holford because
Holford is attractive to women? Because he looks young for his age?
Or because he’s a threat to GlaxoSmithKline, the producers of AZT?"

And tu quoque to you, tu!
[Sorry, quoting this stuff is like eating peanuts: once you start...]

Footnote 97:"It isn’t only Patrick Holford who has questioned the efficacy and the dangers of
AZT. Before Glaxo Smith Klein began a second round of marketing in Africa to try
and bring in more profit from the drug, it had been generally discredited by the major-ity
of medical therapists working in England. Some of those doctors who had been
most outspoken in its support originally were the most critical of its use and lack of

As I say, I think this deserves a wider audience.

Now, I think we all suspect that Mr. Walker will turn around and charge that we are behaving like a pack, presumably on the orders of our Bilderberg masters; but if we do nothing, this lunacy will do nothing but spread.

PhD scientist said...

"honest people such as Holford"


Actually that sounds like the title of a post:

"Patrick Holford is honest - within his own reality-free frame of reference"

Political Scientist said...

Dr Aust:
Excellent title!

Lee said...

Mr Holford quotes several sections of Martin Walker's "book" on his own website, but does not make it clear where the material comes from. Shame on him. Not really surprising as he does seem to have problems with sources! Perhaps he is worried that having Walker's name on his website will make people think he is a deranged crank?