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Society of Homeopaths: cowards and bullies

October 11th, 2007 · 26 Comments

Many people now have written about the disgraceful and dangerous claims by homeopaths to be able to prevent and cure malaria. My contribution was “Homeopathic ‘cures. for malaria: a wicked scam

One of the best contributions was on the Quackometer blog, The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing.

But the post vanished at midday on Thursday 11 October. Quackometer’s ISP has received threatening letters sent by lawyers on behalf of the Society of Homeopaths, who claim that the truth is defamatory, while being unwilling to say which statements are wrong. These threats have forced the removal of the post (for the moment), though you can still read it from the Google cache. And a lot of other places too.

The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing
The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) are a shambles and a bad joke. It is now over a year since Sense about Science, Simon Singh and the BBC Newsnight programme exposed how it is common practice for high street homeopaths to tell customers that their magic pills can prevent malaria. The Society of Homeopaths have done diddly-squat to stamp out this dangerous practice apart from issue a few ambiguously weasel-worded press statements

.. . .

At the very least, we could expect the Society of Homeopaths to try to stamp out this wicked practice? Could we?

While the less irresponsible wing of homeopathy, the (medical) Faculty of Homeopaths, have issued a strong condemnation of the pretence to be able to cure malaria, the non-medical (and much larger) Society of Homeopaths has consistently refused to do the same.  Incidentally, it is the Society of Homeopaths who recognise the University of Westminster course.

OK it’s fun to see the fantasy world of homeopaths riven by their internecine squabbles, but this is a serious matter.The Society of Homeopath’s substitute for answering reasonable questions is to try to suppress legitimate comment by brute (legal) force. It is hard to imagine such cowardly behaviour. I fear, though, that they may be in for a big surprise.Watch this space for developments.

Follow up

The storm begins.

Within 24 hours of the post being removed, it has sprung up again, all over the world. These are just the links that reproduce the whole text. Countless more refer to them.

“Blog post taken down by homeopathic complaint: a chill wind is blowing”

Gimpy’s blog: “The Society of Homeopaths silence criticism through cowardly legal means”

Andrew Clegg lends support: “A run-in with the Homeopathic Thought Police”. He reproduces the banished page.

And on Google groups in several places, for example here.

Another reproduction of the whole banished page at A day at the pharmacy (“from a provincial, small-town pharmacy in the United Kingdom”).

A mirror of the whole original page has appeared at semiskimmed.net

and “The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing (Cowards and Bullies)” appeared on JDC325′s weblog.

Another at badchemist.net.

Apathysketchpad , from Andrew Taylor, in Manchester,

Very soon it appeared in the USA too

Orac’s Respectful Insolence site: “Homeopathic thuggery”. The Yale surgeeon/scientist has also reproduced the full text.

The whole banned page is at skepticaldog.com too.

And on the Inalienable Rights blog (Portland, Oregon). They add the forthright comment “Go Society of Homeopaths, good on you for being complicit in murder, you bloody moronic cowards.”

The whole text is on the NNSEEK news group search engine too.

And in Russia

The whole text is here.

And all this within 24 hours since the page was pulled. The lawyers for the Society of Homeopaths are going to be very busy.

They keep coming. More full texts here.

Some are so anonymous that you can’t even be sure which country they come from, though often the US ones are distinguishable because the link mainly to US sources. Now Saturday.

That’s 25 reproductions of the page so far. Now Sunday 14 Oct,

On Sunday night, for the first time, one of them comes up on the first page of Google search for “The Society of Homeopaths”

More on Monday 15 Oct. Now five of the first ten hits on a Google search for “The Society of Homeopaths” refer to this row.

  • Skeptix, The Central Alberta Skeptics Association.
  • No Nonsense. “Society of Homeopathetics – censoring unfavorable comment!”. From Italy?
  • The Millenium Project, From Australia. “The constant misspelling of the word “millennium” with only one “n” inspired me to create a millenium – that is, a collection of a thousand arseholes.”
  • Rich Speaks. From Richer Lockwood, UK.

And from Tuesday onwards, they kept coming.

That’s 64 now, from UK, USA, Russia, Canada, France, Norway and Australia. And still counting. The story is now reaching the political blogs too.

On the morning of 25 October, six of the first ten links ona Google search fot the “The Society of Homeopaths” led to re-postings of “The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing”.

By 1st November, all the Google front page links apart fron the first two pointed to sceptical sites (one was to the BBC’s “Homeopathy’s Benefit Questioned“, the rest to harder-hitting criticism).

Andy Lewis and Ben Goldacre have both posted Andy’s incredibly polite email to the Society of Homeopaths. This is the letter that got no reply apart from another letter from lawyers.

More from quackometer

You Very Naughty Girls and Boys.” Tut tut, look at al those postings!
The Society of Homeopaths: Truth Matters” A follow up on recent events. In particular, a letter that the Society of Homeopaths wanted to publish is demolished.

Two definitions of lawyers

Dice, n. Small polka-dotted cubes of ivory, constructed like a lawyer to lie on any side, but commonly the wrong one. [Bierce, Ambrose, The Enlarged Devil's Dictionary, 1967]

The duty of an advocate is to take fees, and in return for those fees to display to the utmost advantage whatsoever falshoods the solicitor has put into his brief. [Bentham, Jeremy, The Elements of the art of packing as applied to special juries, 1821]

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Tags: Anti-science · blogosphere · CAM · Dangerous advice · homeopathy

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 UKdietitian // Oct 11, 2007 at 15:46

    I don’t understand the furore.

    Imagine an individual with diabetes requiring medication to enhance insulin sensitivity, improve blood sugar control and – from existing medical evidence – reduce the complications of erratic blood sugar control. The Medicines Act would require the manufacturer to ensure that each tablet possessed exactly the same amount of active ingredient – ie a functional dose – required to augment insulin function, and prove efficacy of purpose.

    Now imagine if a person with diabetes were to take a homeopathic version of an oral hypoglycaemic agent – or an agent which homeopaths would concur has potential benefit. The art of dilution to 8c would ensure that not a single molecule of the original agent would be left in the tablet. Thus the tablet would be no more than the excipient – that is, a sugar pill.

    Whilst a sugar pill may be an adequate placebo for conditions relying on subjective criteria for health (eg sadness, tiredness, mild headache) it is clearly a ridiculous substitute for control of a disordered physiological state, such as diabetes. Long term, this substitution would contribute to an accelerated morbidity (blindness, circulation problems etc) and a premature mortality associated with diabetic complications.

    And surely any individual – ‘SOH registered’ or not, should be censured for promoting a sugar pill approach to the treatment of any chronic disease – especially if the patient concerned was under the impression that the ‘pill apporoach’ of conventional or homeopathic medications were synonymous in their efficacy. Shame on the SOH for trying to disguise this unpalatable fact by threatening Quackometer.

  • 2 jdc325 // Oct 11, 2007 at 17:03

    If the SoH cannot or will not regulate its members when they are out of line then surely homeopathists will have to be regulated by another body that is willing and able to regulate.

    I hope that the bullying efforts of the SoH to suppress legitimate criticism turn out to be counterproductive.

  • 3 Dr Aust // Oct 11, 2007 at 17:27

    I agree that the more publicity this dismal attempt to suppress exposure of their own idiocy gets, the more likely the SoH are to slink off quietly and leave the Quackometer alone.

    Think we now know who will be getting lead billing in Ben Goldacre’s Guardian column on Saturday. Though come to think of it the story might face stiff competition from Danie Krugel the Quantum corpse dowser.

    Anyway, shall do my best to “publicise” the SoH’s actions across the medical blogs…

  • 4 Claire // Oct 11, 2007 at 17:42

    I’m a bit stumped by this. Surely, shouldn’t the SoH folk, of all people, know that removing every detectable trace of the offending post from the blogosphere will just increase its effectiveness?

  • 5 Dr Aust // Oct 11, 2007 at 22:26

    Re-reading the version in the Google cache it is hard to see what the SoH can possibly be getting at. Most of the article is not actually about the SoH – rather it takes a typical example of a homeopathy claim (homeopathic “prophylaxis” for malaria), and a random homeopath, and explores in detail what this person’s sales pitch actually says.

    As DC says, it is a first rate article. I hope it gets mirrored all over the Internet.

    I note that Le Canard calls the SoH “a bad joke”… IMHO that surely qualifies as an opinion a “reasonable person” (as the defamation law has it) might easily hold, given the SoH’s continued inaction about their members’ ludicrous claims regarding homeopathic malaria “prophylaxis”.

  • 6 pv // Oct 11, 2007 at 22:30

    The use of the “law” in this way is the one preferred by wealthy criminals – usually to protect something criminal. At least it is in Italy and, to my knowledge, much of the wider world.
    It’s a habit that’s catching on what with “Dr” Mc Teeth threatening Google, DC’s own experience with the “blood cleansing” saga and so on.
    Although I am sorry for Andy who does a sterling job with the Quackometer, this might turn out to be a good thing for driving a few timely nails into the coffin of this bogus medicine. Seriously, why would one resort to these measures unless one felt particularly threatened. Maybe the rank and file homeopaths, in the form of the SoH, feel their livelihood is being threatened by so much exposure being given to the bankruptness of their medical claims. After all homeopathy is a multi million pound business, and money talks. Money is the whole point of it. If it wasn’t then there would be no point in resorting to the law. It will backfire on them for sure because they are trying to defend the indefensible.

  • 7 Mojo // Oct 12, 2007 at 00:12

    “But the post has vanished!”

    That would be the post that finishes with:

    “At the very least, we could expect the Society of Homeopaths to try to stamp out this wicked practice? Could we?”

    I think my irony meter just exploded.

  • 8 xinit // Oct 12, 2007 at 08:23

    I’ve applied anti-libel tinctures to my web server, so I’m pretty sure I’m alright. Well, and I’m also not located in the UK so I really have no concerns.

    I read the article when it was published and enjoyed it. I’m glad to be able to host it in Canard’s ‘absence’.

    I still think the proof can be had for Homeopathy… let’s take all the SoH members, fill them full of Homeopathy Malaria water and drop them in an Asian swamp full of mosquitos. That should settle things one way or another.

  • 9 xinit // Oct 12, 2007 at 08:25

    @Claire;

    Well, a lower concentration of the article should increase its efficacy, so our re-porting of it should make it completely powerless. Maybe that’s what they were counting on :)

  • 10 Claire // Oct 12, 2007 at 09:42

    @ xinit,
    “Maybe that’s what they were counting on”

    aha, they have a cunning plan? I hadn’t thought of that. I’m looking forward to their explanation if (when!) this stratagem runs into difficulties.

  • 11 jdc325 // Oct 12, 2007 at 12:47

    Heh. http://www.mrhunnybun.com/2007/10/society-of-homeopaths.html comes up as the fourth result on a google search for ‘SoH society of homeopaths’.

  • 12 dannychrastina // Oct 12, 2007 at 13:02

    http://shpalman.livejournal.com/4788.html

    The “Steisand Effect” apparently…

  • 13 dannychrastina // Oct 12, 2007 at 13:02

    (I meant “Streisand” obviously.)

  • 14 Claire // Oct 12, 2007 at 13:46

    have just come across this, about a recent SoH press release: http://gimpyblog.wordpress.com/2007/10/12/society-of-homeopaths-make-themselves-look-silly/ . Not immediately relevant to the quackometer story but deserves a wide audience

  • 15 dannychrastina // Oct 12, 2007 at 14:19

    http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?p=3051041

    “If they’re so litigious, let them sue the JREF. We can handle it.”

    heh.

  • 16 gimpyblog // Oct 12, 2007 at 14:19

    Awww thanks Claire. I merely copied and pasted the thoughts of other. I await the press release from them on this blog storm with interest……….

  • 17 gimpyblog // Oct 12, 2007 at 14:39

    JREF have buggered up the heading, I can’t post on JREF but perhaps someone who can could post this on my behalf

    I can’t post there but could somebody post this on my behalf.

    “A response to Abigail Marshall and the Davis Dyslexia Association/ International Society of Homeopaths make themselves look silly/The Society of Homeopaths silence criticism through cowardly legal means.” This should read as “The Society of Homeopaths silence criticism through cowardly legal means”.
    Abigail Marshall and the Davis Dyslexia Association International have nothing to do with the Society of Homeopaths or homeopathy. Abigail Marshall has responded to criticism of her organisation in a civil and courteous manner and does not deserve to be associated with the Society of Homeopaths and their egregious conduct in any way.

  • 18 coracle // Oct 12, 2007 at 16:07

    My own humble contribution

  • 19 andrewtaylor // Oct 14, 2007 at 16:37

    Chalk up one more:

    http://www.apathysketchpad.com/blog/2007/10/12/the-gentle-art-of-homeopathic-killing

  • 20 Brpwrdnsfrnzy // Oct 15, 2007 at 09:32

    And another:

    http://www.hyperactive-stage.co.uk/blog/comments.asp?pointlessvariable=yes&ref=285&display=duller

  • 21 stever // Oct 15, 2007 at 15:14

    well done everyone – this has been a magnificent response to the SoH chucking their weight aound ridiculously inappropriately

    The bad science forum has had 4 or 5 legal threats over the last year. weve always been civil – occassionally taken something down, occasionally ignored. never actually been sued. rarely if ever comes to that.

  • 22 MrToad // Oct 16, 2007 at 15:10

    My own contribution is here:
    http://songbytoad.com/2007/10/16/the-gentle-art-of-homeopathic-killing-fuck-you-society-of-homeopaths/

  • 23 Teek // Oct 17, 2007 at 08:45

    when homeopaths turn bad – surely a nintey minute special on Sky One should follow?

    disgraceful action by the SoH to threaten legal action, and that too by going over the Black Duck’s head straight to Andy’s ISP – but then DC would know all about that sort of thing right…?!

    we await the tail-between-their-legs response from the SoH to all the comments seemingly flooding the blogosphere in support of le canard noir…

  • 24 dikkii // Oct 18, 2007 at 11:00

    Hi, I see you linked to my re-posting.

    Just wanted to let you know that my site’s not a US one it’s an Australian.

    Thanks for the link love.

  • 25 ayupmeduck // Oct 20, 2007 at 12:54

    Was a bit overworked last week, but FWIW here’s mine:

    http://www.qnoodle.com/public/blog/2773

  • 26 Skeptobot // Oct 22, 2007 at 14:17

    Just got wordpress to let me log in. Added a simple to text mirror (with a pinch of commentary) to my Blog:

    http://skeptobot.blogspot.com/2007/10/society-of-homeopaths-cowards-and.html

    (Awesome work by the way)

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