3 comments on “Natural News is a Facebook hit: Never click on its stories about cancer, vaccines, conspiracies.

  1. My apologies in advance for this rather rambling post. You touched a couple of different “hot buttons” for me, and I’m going to respond to them without bothering to try to really tie them together.

    You are certainly correct that NaturalNews.com is not trustworthy. It’s a content aggregator that publishes & links to both good material and nutty stuff. There’s no “quality control” at Natural News. The site is a mixture of truth and fiction.

    Here’s an example:
    http://www.naturalnews.com/024287.html
    “Homeschooling Banned in California as State Turns Parents Into Criminals for Teaching Their Own Children”

    That NaturalNews story was just plain wrong (out-of-date when published). It was probably based on this article from the San Francisco Chronicle, or some similar source:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/07/MNJDVF0F1.DTL

    However, the date on the SF Chronicle story was March 7, 2008. It was accurate when it ran. The date shown on the NaturalNews story is September 23, 2008. It was long wrong by then. Between the two stories (about 1.5 months before Sept. 23), the SF Chronicle ran this story:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/09/MNE5127NLJ.DTL&hw=homeschooling&sn=001&sc=1000
    “Homeschooling OK, appeals court says”

    A mixture of truth and fiction, like that which NaturalNews carries, is arguably worse than a complete fairy tale, because mixing in some truth makes it much harder to avoid being deceived. Mixtures of fact and fiction are confusing. They make it harder to tell the truth from the lies. That’s why Satan is recorded in Scripture as quoting Scripture. “Falsehood is never so false as when it is very nearly true,” noted Chesterton.

    Here’s an example of a NaturalNews newsletter, by Dr. Robert Rowen:
    http://www.secondopinionnewsletter.com/Health-Alert-Archive/View-Archive/2209/Why-young-doctors-are-unlikely-to-use-natural-remedies.htm

    Dr. Rowen is a quack who is notorious enough to be mentioned in this article on QuackWatch, in the section entitled Shady Leaders:
    http://www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/Nonrecorg/abcmt/overview.html

    It turns out that the more shocking and outrageous the claims someone makes, the more likely many people are to want to read them. That’s why the tabloids have pictures of two-headed freaks on the covers. It’s also why quacks like Robert Rowen and Russell Blaylock write outrageous things like this when trying to sell their newsletters.

    Rowen begins by railing against “the most corrupt medical system money can buy” and “the Big Pharma-owned FDA.” But that’s nonsense. “Big Pharma” doesn’t control or “own” the FDA, and the pharmaceutical companies, by and large, are more trustworthy than quacks like Rowen & Blaylock.

    In truth, the pharmaceutical companies are pretty much like most other corporations: amoral. They have good people and bad. They do some absolutely wonderful work, but when ethics and morality get in the way of profit, ethics sometimes end up as road kill.

    For example, that’s the reason that the word “conception” is being redefined, as implantation, rather than fertilization: so that abortifacients like IUDs and the “morning after pill” can be called “contraceptives,” even though they kill newly conceived embryos rather than actually preventing conception. It’s all about selling the product: “contraceptives” are easier to sell than “abortifacients.”

    Vaccines are another example. Vaccines like MMR, DTaP & Hep-B are essential for children. But not all vaccines are beneficial. Gardasil (for HPV) and Zostavax (the shingles vaccine), both from Merck, are lousy. They’re both very expensive, short-lasting, and minimally effective, with side-effects that may well exceed their touted benefits. They make lots of money for Merck, but it’s not clear that they have any net benefit for people’s health.

    Women need to know the truth about Gardasil:

    1. Gardasil only protects against 2 of the 19 (so far) known high-risk strains of HPV,

    2. The vast majority of high-risk HPV infections are with strains that Gardasil does not protect against, and

    3. Sexually active women are at risk of cervical & other cancers, and still need regular PAP smears, regardless of whether they’ve had Gardasil.

    HPV types 16, 18, 26, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 53, 56, 58, 59, 66, 67, 68, 73, and 82 have all been identified as high-risk oncogenic strains, and Gardasil only protects against types 16 & 18. But in a U. Washington study (Winer 2006) those two types accounted for just 18% of high-risk infections.

    Worse, a recent CDC study (Markowitz 2013) found that Gardasil-vaccinated girls had slightly HIGHER rates of infection with high-risk HPV strains than did unvaccinated girls!

    Part of the problem is exaggeration of the vaccine’s benefits by the manufacturer (Merck), but a big part is wildly inaccurate reporting by the press. For example, on 6/20/2013, on “CBS This Morning,” I heard Holly Phillips, MD, report that Gardasil can “eradicate” (her word) the disease, and that people who get the vaccine will never get HPV-caused cancers. That kind of misinformation may well be causing some women to behave less responsibly, or skip PAP smears, which could cost some of them their lives.

    BTW, Markowitz 2013 (J Infect Dis., doi:10.1093/infdis/jit192) is now paywalled, but I have a copy. Let me know if you want it.

  2. Interesting read…seems Natural News is better at marketing than at science…and it’s kind of disturbing to see how blind people become when they read something they want to hear. Not sure what I find more disturbing: Natural News’s rather offensive claims (I think it’s offensive to people affected by cancer to claim this lemon miracle as fact) or people’s susceptibility to nonsense…

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