WDDTY: The competition results and What ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ Don’t Tell You!

And the winner was… Me!

Well, I won the moral victory. In a couple of ways, actually.

Background

When I got wind of an online competition being run by the pseudo-science and alt-med magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You, I figured it would be a good bit of skeptical activism to infiltrate and take it over. Generally disrupt the smooth running of things within the rules of the competition.

I have to say that some members of the skeptical community got fully on board with this!

The competition was to help choose a new strap line for the magazine. You submitted your entry via an app in Facebook and then other people could vote on the entries. The top five places were offered a years free subscription to the WDDTY mag. The competition ran until 11.55 p.m. on Sunday 14th April 2012.

Well, thanks to some great team work and some help from Simon Singh on Twitter, we flooded the competition with some of our own suggestions. The trick was to be subtle in your mockery in the first few days of the competition. They were removing entries within minutes that were rude or just clearly mocking the magazine. After a few days they stopped editing the entries. This lead to some fairly odd examples being left on the list. Bob Blaskiewicz’s entry immediately springs to mind, but I’ll get to that in a minute. There were some genuine entries, but they on the whole, only garnered minimal votes.

Original top 5

Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for. The top five places and the winners to the years subscription to WDDTY are:

1st – David James: Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

2nd – Megan May: Empowering You to Make Informed Health Choices.

3rd – Bob Blaskiewicz: Because Doctors Eat Babies

4th – Oliver Marler: All of their sumptuous fantasies they wanted to tell you but couldn’t.

5th – James Lennox-Gordon: What Doctors Don’t Tell You: Because it’s Nonsense and It Would Be a Waste of Their Time

It’s fair to say not a bad result in terms of skeptical activism. Four of the entries are, how do I put this, not fully in the intended spirit of the competition. I think special mention should go to my friend and weekly contributor to The Virtual Skeptics, Bob Blaskiewicz. His strap line really made me chuckle and I believe was a direct reference to Dr. David Gorski of the Science-Based Medicine Blog, although I could be wrong.

Playing by their rules

It’s fair to say I was fairly pleased with that result. So pleased in fact, that I tweeted @_wddty asking them if the wanted my address. As you can see below, I also sent them a small visual gift as a token of my appreciation.

Lots of love, Big Pharma x

The pen in question was part of the welcoming package that all attendees of The “Question. Explore. Discover” (QED) conference had received that weekend. A science and skepticism conference held in Manchester, England every year and well worth the trip if you can make it.

I hadn’t heard anything back that night, so having been up for the previous 42 hours, I decided to get some well deserved sleep.

The next day I heard that the winners were about to be announced, but that some entries had been excluded. I’ll admit, I wasn’t hopeful! The What Doctors Don’t Tell You Facebook page had covered its bases in advance of announcing the results with the following comment:

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This was then followed by the actual winners being announced:

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Bugger it!! Striped of my tittle before we’d even had the medal ceremony! It’s worth pointing out that four of the top five were disqualified. Me, Bob, Oliver and James, leaving only Megan.

Well boo and hiss to What Doctors Don’t Tell You! I took my campaign for answers to twitter. This was the first competition I’d won since I was at school. I wasn’t going to take this without an explanation. I wanted to know exactly why my entry had been “in bad taste, or offensive”.

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At this point they took a bizarre approach and instead of answering my question, they accused me of sending them an offensive message before. They were referring to tweet I’d sent when the competition ended. Apparently the Big Pharma pen is offensive to What Doctors Don’t Tell You. Really‽! What a really odd way to answer my question! The timeline of the conversation is here:

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Now, I’m aware I was never going to change their minds and the Terms and Conditions do pretty much leave it up to WDDTY to decide what they view as “offensive” or “in bad taste”, but it was still funny that they couldn’t even make a sensible reply via twitter, without becoming overly defensive at the idea of evil Big Pharma!

I had a try at getting an answer out of them on Facebook.

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To show their openness and interest in dialogue, they deleted my comments and blocked me from commenting any further on their Facebook page. A classy move that should be seen as a real ‘red flag’ to a skeptic. I wasn’t being rude or offensive. I had a genuine question that I wanted an answer to. Just because they didn’t like my question, or possibly (probably!) me is no reason to become so defensive.

They then posted a now out of context reply.

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Again they claim my tweet was “pretty offensive”. Frankly, I quite liked the pen.

I should add that I never really did get a satisfactory answer for my disqualification. I should add that if they’d said “It’s our competition and we’ll do what we want” would have been a satisfactory answer for me. The fact they chose to engage me and accuse me of being “pretty offensive” was just odd and didn’t show them in a very good light.

The real winners are…

The fun continues here because they then had to choose new and worthy winners. People, who in their words would be “somebody that really want to get our magazine every month and enjoy it”.

Here’s the list of hand picked winners (not bitter!) from the list of entrants:

1st – Megan May: Empowering You to Make Informed Health Choices.

2nd – Catherine Flint: Keep an open mind without the need for brain surgery.

3rd – David Bradley: Taking the doctor out of your picture of health.

4th – Peter Stevens: Ask For The Evidence. Ask Here.

5th – Paul Ormsby: Educating instead of medicating!

Well. That’s a sight to behold! How did they really think that some of those were genuine entrants‽ I know in my appeal for skeptical entries to the competition I said that you needed to be subtle, but well played David Bradley, Catherine Flint and Peter Stevens!

If you can’t see the subtle humour in Catherine’s submission, I’m not going to explain it to you. I will however leave you in no doubt as to Catherine’s opinions on WDDTY, just so you feel happy that it was a deliberately worded entry:

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As for David Bradley’s entry, I shouldn’t need to do much more than point you towards his ScienceBase website or that some of his previous entries were removed almost immediately! Not convinced? How about our open discussion on twitter about trying to slip one past them:

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Lastly, here’s the link to Peter Stevens post after winning the competition. He’s a little quote from his post:

This publication falls below my expectations for plausability and makes startling claims such as “Foods That Kill Cancer” and “Mega-cure for the incurables – Vitamin C fights it all, from measles to AIDS.”

What amuses me most is that they chose these winners, rather than going for the top five. They chose to include David, Catherine and Peter’s entries as people that would “really want to get our magazine every month and enjoy it”! Three of the five winners are skeptics, thus preventing the free subscriptions going to a less critical eye, where the magazine could do more damage. I call that a result!

Well played to What Doctors Don’t Tell You for poking fun at themselves. Or, what’s more likely, well done for not even realising when you’re being fooled by obvious deceptions that, if you look even slightly below the surface, you would realise aren’t what you thought them to be. Sounds very familiar to the editorial process at the magazine, doesn’t it?

In summary

I’d like to thank all of those who took up the cause on this one. Yes, it was just a silly little online competition, but by taking it over we sent a message to the folks at the magazine that we are watching. That they won’t be able to attempt to engage with potential readership, by reaching out, without someone noticing.

WDDTY is a dangerous propaganda magazine that tells people that the MMR vaccine isn’t safe and that mercury in your fillings is dangerous. They promote alternative and unproven cancer therapies that deserve no place on the shelves of our supermarkets.

It’s important that we stay vigilant and with a little bit of collaboration we can show people like this magazine that we won’t stand idly by while they promote themselves.

Skeptical Activists, I salute you!

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7 Responses

  1. Alan Henness says:

    Anne Foster Angelou said:

    “…if disease is present, treat in the least toxic way possible.”

    No, that could well be utterly unethical. The correct answer is to treat in the way that has the best benefit-harm balance for that patient, as decided in conjunction with them, giving them all the information they need to make a fully informed choice. (That is, treating them holistically – what conventional doctors do every single day and what alternative therapists can never do.)

    For example, treating any medical condition with magic sugar pills (homeopathy), where there can be no benefit – regardless of any harm – can only ever be unethical, particularly if there are other (proven) treatments available. Yes, some treatments are horrible (and many are not, of course), but any potential harms must be weighed – by the patient – against the potential benefits.

    In any particular case, a patient may decide that the potential harms are worth putting up with because of the benefits. However, he/she may also decide not to opt for a treatment that has a very good chance of helping them, but that is their choice. Pedallers of pseudo scientific nonsense deny their ‘patients’ that choice by offering ‘non-toxic’ non-treatments.

  2. Guy Chapman says:

    Anne: “My last comment (for now) is that the alternative/complementary community would not exist and thrive if what they say and do was not credible and real. Bastyr University is accredited and known for its excellence nationally if not internationally. The allopathic doctors and Big Pharma are responsible for killing 100,000+ patients with legally prescribed drugs. Surgery and toxic drugs are not the only way to treat illness. The answer is in the preventive approach and then, if disease is present, treat in the least toxic way possible. There are instances where drugs and surgery are certainly warranted but the majority of health care doesn’t need the “big guns.””

    You packed a lot of Wrong into that paragraph.

    First, the existence of the SCAM community is independent of its validity. Therapeutic touch and homeopathy survive despite being refuted at the most basic level.

    Second, Bastyr university may be accredited, but that means only that it adheres to basic standards in management of curriculum and pastoral care. It confers no legitimacy on any subject taught. There are accredited colleges of theology that teach things whihc go fundamentally against the laws of nature as understood. To say Bastyr is recognised internationally is contentious, I have only heard of it because I am a Wikipedia adminstrator and have spent a lot of time working on SCAM, where “quackademic” studies are constantly promoted. So your appeal to authority fails for all the usual reasons.

    Third, “allopathic” is a meaningless pejorative made up by an 18th Century German, the medicine he denigrated as “allopathic” hasn’t existed for a century; these days its use is generally synonoymous with “those bastards who insist on evidence”.

    Fourth, the claim that iatrogenic illness causes 100,000 deaths per year is a distortion. The actual figure is 44,000-98,000 – still shocking, but in the context of the tens of millions of interventions, often on very sick people, not quite so stark as it seems. And guess what? The science that finds these problems and shows how to correct them, is exactly the same science that shows most forms of SCAM do not work. Why is science always right when it finds a problem with medicine and always wrong when it calls out quackery? Go figure.

    Fifth, surgery and drugs are not the only things medicine uses, so to say they are not the only way to cure disease is to state the blindingly obvious in pursuit of a false dichotomy.

    Sixth, “toxic drugs”? Blatant framing: everything is toxic at some level. Water is toxic. Aristochia is certainly toxic. The heavy metals in Chinese herbs in the US are toxic.

    Seventh, preventive medicine has saved more lives than almost any other area of human endeavour. Immunisations have wiped out or controlled killer diseases. Smallpox alone killed three hundred million people in the first 75 years of the 20th Century, and none since. That’s prevention for you.

    Finally, and most obvious, issues with medicine validate quackery in precisely the same way plane crashes validate magic carpets.

  3. Shaun Sellars says:

    Anne,

    Let me reply to your comment in stages.

    ‘Mercury is dangerous, especially in one’s mouth. Please tell me why it is not dangerous when dentists who remove it are required to wear a “space suit” and have an air filtration system in the room to capture the vapors.’

    I’m a dentist. I remove amalgams on a daily basis. I, nor any of my colleagues here in the UK, am not required to wear any kind of special clothing, other than the scrubs, mask, gloves and eye protection that I would wear for any other regular dental procedure. We are also not required to have any specific air filtration in our surgeries. We do use a high-volume suction device whenever we remove amalgams, but we use this routinely no matter what material we are removing. Patients don’t tend to like swallowing things, and large chunks of any material can be dangerous.

    ‘The material removed must also be disposed of under strict protocol, as hazardous waste. This is a government regulation.’

    Yes, we have amalgam separators in our suction lines, we have separate disposal protocols for amalgam. Cut amalgam releases a small amount of mercury vapour. The only time that amalgams could even remotely be considered to be ‘unsafe’ is during their placement, or removal. Even then it is recognised that these levels do not exceed WHO safety levels.

    ‘Please read both sides of the issue thoroughly before you make these illogical conclusions. ‘

    I have. I’ve even written about it for Skept!cal: http://www.skeptical.gb.net/blog/?p=2709

    ‘The number of holistic dentists is increasing.’

    And?

    ‘The ADA will not take a stance on the toxicity of mercury.’

    Except they do: http://www.ada.org/1741.aspx and here: http://www.ada.org/sections/advocacy/pdfs/amalgam_ada_statement_101214.pdf

    ‘Please read both sides of the issue thoroughly before you make these illogical conclusions. ‘

    I have.

    ‘Read the research.’

    I suggest you do the same – I have linked to good research in my Skept!cal post.

    ‘ My last comment (for now) is that the alternative/complementary community would not exist and thrive if what they say and do was not credible and real. Bastyr University is accredited and known for its excellence nationally if not internationally. The allopathic doctors and Big Pharma are responsible for killing 100,000+ patients with legally prescribed drugs. Surgery and toxic drugs are not the only way to treat illness. The answer is in the preventive approach and then, if disease is present, treat in the least toxic way possible. There are instances where drugs and surgery are certainly warranted but the majority of health care doesn’t need the “big guns.”’

    The alternative/complimentary market exists DESPITE it not being credible and ‘real’. It exists because it is extremely profitable, and has, almost without exception, little to no evidence of efficacy. The problems with the pharmaceutical industry certainly exist, but this is a completely separate issue. The CAM industry is there simply to make profit – there is no chance of curing patients.

    I agree with your point on prevention, and dentists and doctors have taken this approach for some time, but preventing ailments with CAM is erroneous.

  4. Anne Foster Angelou says:

    Mercury is dangerous, especially in one’s mouth. Please tell me why it is not dangerous when dentists who remove it are required to wear a “space suit” and have an air filtration system in the room to capture the vapors. The material removed must also be disposed of under strict protocol, as hazardous waste. This is a government regulation. Please read both sides of the issue thoroughly before you make these illogical conclusions. The number of holistic dentists is increasing. The ADA will not take a stance on the toxicity of mercury. Read the research. My last comment (for now) is that the alternative/complementary community would not exist and thrive if what they say and do was not credible and real. Bastyr University is accredited and known for its excellence nationally if not internationally. The allopathic doctors and Big Pharma are responsible for killing 100,000+ patients with legally prescribed drugs. Surgery and toxic drugs are not the only way to treat illness. The answer is in the preventive approach and then, if disease is present, treat in the least toxic way possible. There are instances where drugs and surgery are certainly warranted but the majority of health care doesn’t need the “big guns.”

  5. Consider my hat doffed :-)

  1. April 23, 2013

    […] WDDTY: The competition results and What ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ Don’t Tell You! David James, SKEPT!CAL blog, East England Skeptical Society, 23/04/13 […]

  2. August 22, 2015

    […] WDDTY: The competition results and What ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ Don’t Tell You! (skeptical.gb.net) […]

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