A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

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Skeptimedia

Skeptimedia is a commentary on mass media treatment of issues concerning science, the paranormal, and the supernatural.

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Skeptimedia replaces  Mass Media Funk and Mass Media Bunk. Those blogs are now archived.

The World According to Oprah

Newsweek features an article by Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert that deconstructs the world according to Oprah. If this article is a sign of what the newly revamped magazine will be like in the future, sign me up. I suggest Larry King be the next woo-woo promoter to be featured by Newsweek!

Nobody in the mass media goes after the all-powerful Oprah. Newsweek deserves beaucoup props for exposing the most dangerous woman in the world. Her medical advice alone could be killing and maiming thousands daily.

In Oprah's world, vaccines don't prevent children from suffering, they cause autism. In Oprah's world, you can cure cancer with happy thoughts. In Oprah's world, Suzanne Somers and Jenny McCarthy are medical experts. In Oprah's world, Rhonda Byrne and Marianne Williamson are philosophers. In Oprah's world, injecting hormones will keep you forever young. In Oprah's world, the HPV vaccine kills people. In Oprah's world, cancer-causing sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented by eating healthy foods. In Oprah's world, thyroid dysfunction is an energy blockage caused by "a lifetime of 'swallowing' words one is aching to say." In Oprah's world, if you're hypothyroid you should take iodine supplements and drink soy milk. In Oprah's world, all you need for a quick face-lift without having to worry about side-effects is a needle and thread, or radio waves. In Oprah's world, psychics who claim to get messages from the dead are not exploiting grieving people, they are helping them through the grieving process. In Oprah's world, feelings always trump reason, intuition always trumps science, and hope always trumps fact. In Oprah's world, wishful thinking is considered science. In Oprah's world, if you want to be thin and healthy, all you have to do is hang around thin, healthy people. If that doesn't work, and it obviously doesn't, try regular exercise and eating sensibly. If that doesn't work, sit on the couch and watch Oprah. Wait until she brings on an expert who will explain why her world of magical thinking is so appealing to millions of her fans. You may not end up healthy, but I guarantee that you will end up very thin.

Please read the article by Kosova and Wingert in this week's Newsweek.

Or, if that's too burdensome, watch part of this clip from Stephen Colbert (start watching at 4:20).

update: Oprah's response to "Crazy Talk: Oprah, Wacky Cures & You" has been posted:

For 23 years, my show has presented thousands of topics that reflect the human experience, including doctors' medical advice and personal health stories that have prompted conversations between our audience members and their health care providers.

I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.*

How she knows what her audience is doing with her information is anybody's guess.

She claims she's not promoting strange and dangerous medical advice. She's simply giving people a platform to present ideas that her audience can discuss with their health care providers. She's just trying to start a conversation! This response seems a bit disingenuous when you consider that Oprah frequently brings on token opponents to her wacky guests and clearly indicates which side she's on. On the other hand, I've seen shows on topics like acupuncture that were clearly not intended to start any dialogue, but were aimed at promoting a particular practice.

postscript: The Newsweek article gave Dr. Mehmet Oz kudos for his medical advice over the years. His medicine bag is mixed with good advice and quackery, however. In any case, he says he's made his last appearance on Oprah's show. "The Dr. Oz Show" starts on September 14. Dr. Phil might be jealous.

further reading

Why Oprah (& millions of her fans) love Jenny McCarthy (and why it doesn't matter very much)

Oprah's 3-ring Psychic Circus: What's your frequency, baby?

Oprah and Oz spreading superstition at the speed of night

Oprah and the mother warriors against science

Mass Media Funk (October 16, 2006) - critical thinking and skepticism applied to politics on "Oprah"

offsite

How TV Talkshows Deconstruct Society by Vicki Abt

Poop Stories by Jenny McCarthy on Oprah.com

Jenny McCarthy's relationship with poo by PalMD

The Oprah-fication of medicine by David Gorski, Science-Based Medicine

 

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