Conservative News Consumers Again Surprised By Obvious
The Hagel confirmation, like Obama's election, was big news to some avid news consumers.
Many Americans who get their news exclusively from conservative outlets, my own mother among them, were truly shocked when Barack Obama was re-elected last November, despite every reputable poll for months predicting that outcome. Now, it seems, quite a few conservatives were shocked by the inevitable confirmation of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary yesterday.
Conor Friedersdorf (“Behold Movement Conservatism’s Information Disadvantage: Chuck Hagel Edition“):
When Chuck Hagel was confirmed Tuesday as the secretary of defense, garnering 58 Senate votes from 52 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents, most political observers were unsurprised. President Obama began this process with a comfortable Democratic majority in the Senate. The executive branch is generally afforded wide latitude in its cabinet selections. As Dan Drezner argued in a January 18 piece in Foreign Policy, “The moment Chuck Schumer endorsed Hagel’s selection, this ballgame was over. No Senate election two years from now will hinge on this confirmation vote because — just to remind everyone for the nth time – voters don’t care about international relations.” By January 28, Roll Call was reporting that so far, “Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said that he has not counted a single Democratic ‘no’ vote on the question of whether former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel should be confirmed as Defense secretary.”
As January ended, Daniel Larison was declaring the anti-Hagel campaign failed, explaining in The Week that “despite the concerted efforts of a few outside Republican interest groups and a steady stream of hostile coverage from conservative media outlets, Hagel has received the public support of numerous former national security officials, diplomats, and retired military officers, as well as securing endorsements from several senators even before his hearing began.” It appeared that, at the very worst, Hagel would go through with unanimous support from Democrats, and the presumption from the very beginning that he’d be confirmed would be vindicated.
But Americans who get their news from anti-Hagel conservatives discovered Tuesday that much of the analysis they’ve long been fed on this subject left them as misinformed about the likely course of events as they were about Mitt Romney’s prospects for victory during Election 2012. Of course, a single nomination battle isn’t nearly so consequential as a presidential election. This is nevertheless another reminder for the rank-and-file on the right: Demand better from the journalists whose work you patronize, or remain at an information disadvantage relative to consumers of a “mainstream media” that is regularly outperforming conservative journalists.
During the election, Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post was the the quintessential example of a conservative writer letting what she wanted to happen affect her take on what was happening. Sadly, she did her readers the same disservice in the Hagel fight. Her opposition to the former Nebraska senator is grounded in earnest disagreement with his approach to foreign policy. She is a hawkish neoconservative in the model of Bill Kristol. Hagel is not. That she constantly argued against his confirmation is fine.
Rubin was by far the most egregious offender, cranking out more than one hundred anti-Hagel screeds on the blog that the Washington Post inexplicably allows to continue staining their masthead. Most of the examples Friedersdorf cites, in fairness, were from early enough in the process that it was at least plausible that Hagel wouldn’t be confirmed. (In full disclosure, I predicted in early January that Hagel would still be chairman of the Atlantic Council, where I work, at the end of the year. My rationale was that President Obama would be too feckless to nominate him given that it would require a modest fight. I was happily wrong.)
But, yes, confirmation was all but a done deal when Shumer came out in favor. Moreover, even those Republicans holding out for a filibuster should have understood well in advance of yesterday’s vote that the end was coming. As I tweeted the afternoon of February 14, when Harry Reid’s bid to invoke cloture on a hold placed by Jim Inhofe failed, it was obviously a Pyrrhic victory:
Dear Twitter:This is a silly hissy fit by Senate Republicans. They’ll vote for cloture next week, just like they said they will.
— James Joyner (@DrJJoyner) February 14, 2013
How did I know that? Simple: Several Senate Republicans, among them John McCain and Lindsay Graham, had repeatedly gone on the public record saying that they would allow a vote when the Senate returned from its recess. They were willing to back their colleague in his little stunt, ostensibly over Benghazi stonewalling by the administration, but not to set the precedent that a president’s cabinet pick could be defeated by a filibuster.
But Rubin and many others with prominent perches in the conservative media establishment, especially at the Weekly Standard and National Review Online, continued to embarrass themselves by putting out wildly wishful nonsense under the mantle of analysis up to the final day. As Friedersdorf observes,
Once again, the conservative media, where non-conservative journalists are constantly maligned, has been thoroughly outperformed on this metric: Who best equipped readers to anticipate the outcome that actually happened? That isn’t the only important metric in journalism, or even the most important, but failing at it so spectacularly surely demands some introspection.
Alas, there has thus far been little evidence of fallout. Yes, Fox News’ audience has taken a big hit, but that’s almost certainly a function of diminished enthusiasm for politics in the wake of Obama’s easy win rather than ire at the network. Fox’ audience isn’t moving in droves to CNN, much less MSNBC; they’re just not tuning in at the moment.
I expect partisan media outlets to be partisan. But it’s one thing to be overly skeptical of the claims being made by one’s opponents and overly deferential to those made by those on your team; it’s quite another to simply ignore the facts on the ground.
Beyond being bad journalism and doing a woeful disservice to their readers/viewers, this facts be damned approach is damaging to the country. Tens of millions of people being led to expect something that the evidence in its totality showed was in fact damned unlikely to happen are going to have one of two reactions.
First, they could figure out that they’re being lied to and no longer trust those sources. The problem with that is that those same sources have poisoned the well as to the other sources. The non-bubble media is a leftist plot to turn America into Roosha, if not France.
Second, and therefore more likely, is they’ll sense a conspiracy. That is, Obama didn’t win because he was fairly popular in the parts of the country that happened to contain the most people while Mitt Romney was largely thought to be a dishonest buffoon with no principles and unattractive policies. No, the election was stolen somehow.
Similarly, Hagel wasn’t confirmed simply because the democratically elected Democratic president has a comfortable majority in the body that confirms defense secretaries. No, it’s because Senate Republicans lacked “Simple wherewithal,” AIPAC didn’t love Israel enough to “oppose Hagel publicly,” and no Democrat is “responsible on national security.” Moreover, “Only one party considers national security serious enough to place it above loyalty to the White House.”
This mindset is poisonous. But apparently it generates enough pageviews that the Washington Post is willing to give it a platform.
I can’t wait to see their shock at discovering that the Earth is more than 4000 years old.
Everyone has a reality bubble. The right-wing version is just a lot more intense.
I disagree, and I can prove it. When Obama blew the first debate, did the left pretend he’d won? No. They were wildly upset and called it honestly as a loss for the president.
Would Fox have done that? No.
Both sides do not do it. They do it. We don’t.
Go talk to the left about GMOs.
“Would Fox have done that? No.”
Fox is easy like that.. 🙂
As I’ve noted before, one of the biggest problems with conservatives is that they believe their own bull shite. I asked last week what the point was to continuing this Benghazi nonsense. Well, the answer is that they don’t have a point. They told each other this is the biggest scandal since Teapot Dome, worse than Watergate. Didn’t one of them say worse than Pearl Harbor? And they believed each other. So how can they drop a scandal worse than Watergate?
And there isn’t a one of them: politician, journalist, or citizen who will have one moment’s self examination as a result of getting it wrong.
I’m not saying we’re never wrong. We’re wrong a lot, and full of sh!t a lot, but that’s different than a deliberate effort to distort reality. “Our” media – MSNBC, the NYT, New Republic, Mother Jones, NPR, etc… all start with facts.
And by the way, California voted down the GMO reg.
@michael reynolds: “I disagree, and I can prove it.”
Drones are a better example of a liberal reality bubble. The fact that drone use is wildly popular with the public and what that means politically is almost comically absent from a lot of lefty bitching about them.
You’re not seriously arguing that the Left has anywhere near the alternative reality bubble that the Right has, are you?
Please. After the 2012 election most of the GOP was stunned, absolutely stunned, that Romney lost. Why? Because the conservative media spent about 5 months calling into question the quality of polling leading up to election day. Conservatives had convinced themselves that everyone else was wrong, that despite the election forecasts of 95% of polling organization Romney was going to win easily.
My own family – my father, and brothers and sisters were crest fallen – shocked – at the election night results. Why? Because they too bought in to the alternative reality take on mainstream polling – that it was biased and wrong.
Okay, what horrible policies can you point me to that have been supported by major Democratic figures?
California had a prop on the ballot to just label GMO food, and it failed. I don’t see how you go from evidence like that to concluding that the left is crazy about GMO food. And honestly, if the anti-GMO forces triumphed utterly, the harm would be a hell of a lot less than, say, denying millions of people the legal benefits of marriage.
Really, if this is the worst thing you can say about Democrats having crazy policies, the Democrats are doing awfully well.
@MBunge: “The fact that drone use is wildly popular with the public and what that means politically is almost comically absent from a lot of lefty bitching about them.”
Actually, I think that’s about 180 degrees wrong. Part of almost every left-wing bitch is “…and no one else even cares about it!!!”
If you want to point to a really harmful set of policies that is obviously stupid that liberals support way more than they ought to, letting people skip vaccines fits the bill. But that’s bipartisan. There are about a million more policy areas where conservatives pretty much single-handedly own the horrible, pointlessly cruel and harmful positions.
Look at what else happened during the Hagel confirmation: Cruz used bogus quotes to attack Hagel, “Friends of Hamas” were taken seriously and Hagel was branded an anti-Semite.
All obvious nonsense eagerly embraced by conservative news sources and consumers.
Can you present a strong argument that GMOs are not a cause for concern? We are tinkering with things that we do not fully understand, and a lot of the tinkering is being done by corporations that are focused on short term profits, not the possible long term negative impact of what they are doing.
Are you simply repeating yet another right wing article of faith – that the left is wildly wrong about GMOs (junk science) – without any actual supporting facts?
Dude, that’s the problem we are discussing.
It goes beyond that. Romney and Ryan were apparently so sure of victory that they did not even consider the possibility of losing on election day. That these clowns were at the head of a major party’s ticket is pretty scary.
It’s one thing for the rubes to buy into the BS. When everyone from top to bottom is buying in? Nothing good is going to come of that. Healthy skepticisim is good for democracy.
@anjin-san: Yes there is a ton of evidence that gmo’s are not a cause for concern. There is more known about the genetics of any gmo brought to market than a “traditionally” breed product. The long term health studies that hold up to peer review have all found no difference between the two. And with gmo’s the entire genome is sequenced and screened against a list of known allergens which is absent of traditional breeding. And if you look at things like value added products like high omega-3 soy or vitamin a enhanced cereal crops, they have the possibility to end fish farming and malnutrition issues in the developing world respectively. I see the gmo argument on the left in relation to the science the same as the right’s in relation to evolution. Most arguments against them can be reduced to the logical fallacy of the appeal to nature. If its natural it has to be better which is untrue. There hasn’t been one article that has held up to peer review that show gmo’s are unsafe and it has been 30 years now. I would like to know what about accurately splicing in genes of interest into a specific spot of the genome to produce a plant that has advantages over previous varieties is “junk science”?
Are you simply repeating yet another right wing article of faith – that the left is wildly wrong about GMOs (junk science) – without any actual supporting facts?
Actually, I see a lot of fact-free hysteria on the left regarding GMOs.
Can you present a strong argument that GMOs are not a cause for concern? We are tinkering with things that we do not fully understand, and a lot of the tinkering is being done by corporations that are focused on short term profits, not the possible long term negative impact of what they are doing.
A lot of this is just argument from ignorance, and we do know a lot more than your comment suggests. I’ll just close by linking to this statement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) last October:
James touched on it but it needs to be reiterated: this goes beyond a silly and doomed fight by a few Republican Senators- the base is the problem. The entire Conservative collective was whipped into a frenzy by the usual radio, tv and internet outlets. As an example someone pointed out that the Breitbart main page, at the time the Friends of Hamas hilarity, has something like 16 “news” articles attacking the Hagel nomination. Feel free to check other outlets for similar results. It’s madness and the only point, beyond pageviews and revenue, is to poison the well so badly that nothing can get done, no one will be trusted, and nobody can have an adult conversation of issues this country needs to talk about.
Surely with the perspective of history, we know my original analysis was correct, and he won
GMOs are interesting. The M in GMO is like a steel foundry. It can be used to make anything, swords or plowshares. For that reason, the idea that GMOs are inherently safe and inherently unsafe are both wrong. They might be either.
Liberals took their distrust of corporate science to the bank and bet that enough GMOs would be bad that flat bans were the safe path.. Now, scientific unions tell us the opposite, that GMOs have (so far) been used wisely, and in fact have prevented worse environmental damage (pesticides, etc.)
The reasoned observer might give GMOs a conditional pass, but they’d certainly keep an eye on what is being built … figurative swords might be on the horizon.
The “conservative outlets” fall into two categories.
1. FOX news and the talkers like Limbaugh, they get rich telling their audience what they want to hear – it’s not news or journalism but a business model.
2. The Weekly Standard, NRO and individuals like Rubin writing at papers like the Post. That is the real issue that James is talking about here.
I agree with everything you wrote except for that. Anti-GMO worries were not widespread among liberals. Not like, say, how anti-gay animus has been pretty much universal among conservatives who want to win elections. I doubt you can name 2 liberal politicians with national exposure who made a lot of noise about anti-GMO policies.
I look forward to the so-called conservative entertainment complex explaining Scalia’s judicial activism earlier today as originalism
That’s true. It’s more a “liberals you meet” kind of thing. Or perhaps “enviros you meet.” A nice Republican Vegan lady I know is anti-GMO (and anti-vaccine).
I doubt you can name 2 liberal politicians with national exposure who made a lot of noise about anti-GMO policies.
You make a good point. There’s a big difference between activists and elected officials/prominent partisans.
There’s also water fluoridation, a cause taken up by the worst elements of the Tea Party and a Grateful Dead parking lot.
I think the people consuming this stuff do so willingly. More actual journalism is a good thing in its own right but to solve the problem you’re going to need more than a better web site, you’re going to need statesmen with courage and conviction. It took an Eisenhower to take out McCarthy and make it safe for his own party to marginalize the flakes in his day. Where are the statesmen?
I’m not arguing that GMO foods are unsafe to eat. I am arguing that there may be significant unintended/unforseen consequences waiting for us downstream.
I’ve never seen anything from Mother Jones that made me think of it as anything other than mirror version of Fox. That you’re trying say it’s as credible as NPR is… Interesting.
As for the fact that Prop 37 lost, I’m happy since I voted against it but that doesn’t mean that the left doesn’t buy into the junk science. The facts speak for themselves.
I dunno about this….
I see complaints about drones from right-leaning hacks who would support it if it was run by a Republican and civil libertarians, who are NOT the same thing as liberals. The enduring popularity of the drone program indicates a lot of liberal buy-in. I know I’m a pugnacious liberal myself and I’m fully in support of destroying our enemies with drones.
Then you’ve never really read anything from Mother Jones.
The magazine is unabashedly liberal but there are no Hannity type liars working there not to mention the O’Reillly’s and Varleys
Fox News was claiming Romney was going to win the election.
What has MSNBC claimed that was so spectacularly false?
A page of links from a magazine discussing GMO food doesn’t mean anything. It’s a magazine. Point me to the harmful policies passed.
That statement, “the same foods made from crops modified by conventional plant breeding techniques” is a little bit of a cheat though. You can put a salmon and a tomato in a greenhouse for as long as you want. They aren’t going to get it on. Stranger combinations are quickly possible with GM techniques.
(the new addition to the copy buffer, “see more at” is not helping me.)
Fox is a whale, the hub around which the conservative universe orbits. Mother Jones is a minnow. It’s not a valid comparison.
The conservative media complex is a huge money making empire. Where people like Rush, Jones, Beck, Hannity, etc. etc. get off on selling shit to extremely gullible people. Where everyone is against you, part of the NWO, liars, cheats, or untrustworthy if they do not tell you what you want to hear, or agree with everything you do.
Frankly, I don’t care if the bubble people are shocked when reality conflicts with their beliefs. It’s not like they are all of a sudden going to give up their opinions/beliefs. They will just double down on denial.
Sure, just like people who leave religions, there will be those that decide to think for themselves and not the fear-mongers, but it’s not an easy choice by any means.
I mean who in their right minds will want to be seen as a Zionist, NWO-loving, Reptile by their friends and family? I know I wouldn’t!
You’re missing the point on both items. Fox claims to be neutral, fair and balanced while Mother Jones does not. Secondly, having a liberal viewpoint is not at odds with reporting the news the way having a “conservative” viewpoint is today. Look at climate change or healthcare, where the left at least discusses the issue, while Fox and other conservative news outlets pretend climate change either doesn’t exist or is a liberal conspiracy and healthcare reform = death panels.
Secondly the point is not that no one on the left is against GMO, it’s that Mother Jones isn’t inventing facts to support their positions. Writing stories critical of GMO crops is not a problem, writing stores saying the [fake] studies show we’re all going to get cancer in 5 years from GMO crops is a problem.
“The lies and anti-science activism of environmentalist groups like Greenpeace have delayed for more than a decade the day when this life-saving crop could be offered to poor farmers in developing countries and the result is that millions of children have died who might otherwise have been saved by this technology.”
If this attitude prevailed we never would have left the caves…
Reason? Whose writers said that Sandra Fluke’s friend should have been treating her PCOS with in-vitro fertilization, instead of birth control pills?
Sorry, but you have to be crazy to believe a word anyone like that has to say about
Man, ain’t that the truth. I wonder if the Reason guys are even aware that GM crops actually have some serious problems. “This life-saving crop could be offered to poor farmers in developing countries?” Sounds like a Monsanto press release!
Fact: Most GM crops are modified to tolerate the liberal application of pesticides and herbicides.
One problem “poor farmers in developing countries” don’t have, I’d think, is the need to soak their fields in pesticides and herbicides. If they can grow GM corn, they can grow regular corn.
And leave the breeding of super-resistant pests to the pro farmers in the “developed” world.
@swbarnes2: By god you’re right!
The author of the article I cited, Ron Bailey, wrote this too:
Since his acceptance of global warming was published in Reason, I can dismiss it since as you stated “Sorry, but you have to be crazy to believe a word anyone like that has to say about
If the needs of Neanderthal society 30,000 years ago were the same as the needs of 21st century American society, you might have something there. But they are not.
We know a bit more than the Neanderthals did. We understand cause and effect, we know about unintended consequences. We know that the downside of a new technology can outweigh the upside. And of course, we are not engaged in a battle to simply stay alive, where we must grasp any method we come across to help in that struggle. We have a lot of choices open to us.
And you should note that I am not arguing against “tinkering with things we don’t fully understand” (I’m a lifelong science geek), I am just saying we should be damn careful when we do so. We have that luxury now. And we should be skeptical about simply trusting an organization like Monsanto that has a proven track record of indifference to the damage their products do to the environment. For example:
Monsanto and bee collapse disorder
Not only does it appear that Monsanto has played a substantial role in Bee Colony Collapse Disorder , they have been actively working to surpress critics and researchers in the field. Bees are actually pretty important, you know.
GMO plants are not something we can simply put back in the bottle if anything goes awry. The founders of the fast food industry probably did not have a clue about the substantial downstream health disaster they were helping to create. Nor did their customers. Lots of money was made, and lots of yummy, if unhealthy food was consumed. Everyone was happy, for a time at least. But we can get rid of fast food if we really want/need to. It’s a political discussion that is going on right now.
GMOs – not so much. The genie is out of the bottle, and the people who let it out are primarily concerned with making money. It’s a cause for concern.
I am taking this as a declaration of war!
“Natural Society”? They support homeopathy. You know, where you put a tiny amount of some compound in water, shake it, dilute it to astronomical levels, and call it medicine?
Your crappy sources are refuting your argument.
And sure, I’m not fond of large corporations in any field, and I’m sure that Monsanto does awful things. But GMO foods being unsafe isn’t one of them.
CCD is likely caused by a bunch of things acting together, including anti-fungals deployed by beekeepers, and parasites, and less diverse diets. You’ve read abstracts of the first few papers in Pubmed, right?
@john personna: Assuming all this is true, I fail to see any problem with labeling GMO foods as such so people can decide for themselves whether to buy or not. Is there some problem with that?
Yes, yes, GMOs will end hunger, make the world a happier place, & so on.
I am skeptical about panaceas. People were saying similar things about antibiotics for a long time. Now without a doubt, antibiotics have been a boon, I am taking them to get rid of a sinus infection at the moment.
That being said, we all know that one of the unintended consequence of antibiotic use has been the evolution of superbugs, both in human and agricultural populations. We still don’t know where this is going to lead us.
Technology solves a lot of problems. It also creates entirely new problems. Given the power of the technologies we wield now, caution is not a bad thing. I don’t trust Monsanto to be cautious for me.
You want more citations? Here you go:
Bee colony collapse source #1
Bee colony collapse source #2
Bee colony collapse source #3
Bee colony collapse source #4
Bee colony collapse source #5
As for homeopathy, do you have anything to go on besides you are not a fan? I’ve used some homeopathic remedies that worked quite well, others not at all. My personal experience does not lead to to believe it is all snake oil.
My response, in which I provided a number of more mainstream links, is in moderation. (too many cites, I suspect)
Well, you are free to consume all the Whoppers you please. Personally, I find the level of morbid obesity in America today heartbreaking. I see kids ever day that look like the Pillsbury Doughboy. They are going to pay a steep price. My oldest friend weighs 300 pounds, and quite a few people I grew up with are in the same boat.
I won’t be if you achieve your stated goal of getting rid of fast food.
Overweight people have choices to make. Like eat less and move around more.
Kids need responsible parents to teach them how to eat healthy.
What we don’t need are control freaks limiting consumer’s choices because they assume that people are too stupid to decide for themselves what they will eat.
Calling GMOs “unsafe” is a stretch, but there is reason to be wary of their use. What happens with GM crops is that they start to become less effective as time goes on, mostly due to evolutionary selection.
Round-up will kill all the susceptible weeds, wiping out that gene pool while allowing the resistant weeds to spread their genes unencumbered. Once you understand that, it’s a little more difficult to believe the “we’ll feed the world” naivete and almost impossible to buy into GM crops as anything other than yet another “problem to be solved.”
Please show where I stated that as one of my goals.
I don’t know, Ernie. Assuming there are stupid people in the world is kind of the way to go, I think. Hell, I’d even go so far as to say it’s not even an assumption. It’s a fact that’s confirmed daily.
All of the nutrition improvement products for the developing world involve free licensing rights to the seed if the farmers make less than $110,000 USD. A lot of good is being done specifically in the areas of vitamin a improved crops to decrease childhood blindness. See the work of harvest plus and the golden rice projects. Like with most of science there are regrettable things, round up ready, and great things, golden rice. Without one the other wouldn’t be possible and I think that isn’t too steep of a price to pay.
I don’t see where your links show that GMO foods are likely to be the major cause of CCD. Sorry, but between your links, and the first 20 links on PubMed, I’m going to go with the picture shown by the 20 pubmed links, which is that CCD is likely caused by a confluence of many things, including parasites.
You mean besides the basic principles of chemistry and physics that make a million different things in our world work the way we expect to, but which the “laws” of homeopathy totally violate? If you respond well to placebos, good for you. But that’s all they are. You cannot make a 1:google dilution of something, and actually think it has any efficacy. (According to the wikipedia page, that 1:google thing is NOT an exaggeration, some homeopathic medicines really are diluted that much)
But thanks for making it clear to everyone with a brain that you are scientific nincompoop. Homeopathy is one of those things that no one with a brain can possibly take seriously.
I never said GMOs were related to CCD. I did say they were an example of Mondanto not caring about the environmental damage their products cause.
To my (admittedly limited) knowledge, there has never been a reputable study that showed homeopathy is any more effective than placebo. That’s pretty damning in my opinion.
Can you release my last comment from the spam filter?
It’s getting late, perhaps I was not clear:
I never said GMOs were related to CCD. I did say the link between Monsanto products (not all of which are GMOs) and CCD is an example of Monsanto not caring about the environmental damage their products cause.
In this thread:
OK, it is not stated as a goal. Apparently when you use “we” you are referencing everyone but yourself. Or you are expressing a sentiment, not a goal.
Or maybe when you state “we can get rid of fast food” you are talking about meals served in a Boeing 757 which cruises at Mach 0.80 (530 mph) at 35,000. A pretty good clip.
That would be OK with me since I refuse to fly anymore and subject myself to the outrageous “security” checkpoints.
But no, although you mentioned “…we can get rid of fast food…” as an interest or a desire, you did not state it as a goal.
Ernieyeball sez: I am too. Like getting rid of fast food.
I remember hearing on conservative talk radio while flipping channels, “Of course, Hagel almost certainly won’t be confirmed” and I yelled out “Yes he is *&**&*” to the radio, because as a consumer of other forms of media, it was obvious this was more drivel from the echo chamber.
Wow, homeopathy? Total quack stuff. Diluting toxins to infinitesimal concentrations to treat disorders… there is literally no way that could possibly work.
To the extent it “works” it’s nothing but placebo effect/confirmation bias (I took this, I got better, therefore it worked!).
It’s absolute garbage that’s been repeatedly debunked.
Bah, I have a post caught in the spam filter. Two whole links set it off, apparently.
Wow, 63 comments and nobody pointed out the OBVIOUS:
Truth has a liberal bias.
Well, if GMO can make an O which is either good or bad, what does the label do?
If it causes suspicion that all GMOs are bad, it might ultimately be a bad thing. It might discourage consumption of good Os.
There is no great solution on this, IMO.
@Rob in CT:
Yes, as a guy with an old chem degree, the dilution to absurdity thing seems quite … religious.
Can you name a fast food that is better for you than, say, a slow Mediterranean diet?
(An argument that “poor people have to eat badly” is not really helpful to those poor people.)
@David M, @swbarnes2, @TheColourfield, @michael reynolds:
My problem with Fox isn’t that it claims to be fair and balanced but isn’t. My problem with Fox is that its strongly partisan, agenda driven editorial slant created a self reinforcing world view which led to crap reporting and sloppy thinking. The one good thing I will say about Fox is that it spent the last fifteen years or so training me to be skeptical of its kind of reporting.
The idea that this is a tribal problem, that it’s the right wing nationalism the led to this and that things will be just fine if you substitute it with a left wing anti-establishmentarian view doesn’t fly with me. I’m not fine with Fox-like reporting just because it represents a different tribe and that’s what I see Mother Jones as.
False equivalency alert. There is simply no way that you can compare Mother Jones in size and influence to Fox News. If you are reality-based in any way, you’ll just admit this.
Moreover, Mother Jones’ reporting and commentary is simply more fact based than Fox News. Now is there some wacky far left hyper-environomental stuff in the mix? Sure, but Fox is right wing propoganda 24/7/365. There is no “mix” – you get the pure right wing BS from “Fox and Friends” in the morning till Hannity at night.
With MJ, you get Kevin Drum and Adam Serwer and David Waldman – liberal, but still critical, analysis.
There is nothing wrong with *good* partisan reporting. And fetishizing so-called “objective” reporting has been a huge problem for the last half century of US News.
The thing is evaluating each story on the quality of its reporting — which includes openly disclosing the biases of the reporters. In that respect, I’d suggest that both Mother Jones and the American Conservative tend to feature better reporting and analysis than FoxNews.
And, for the record, in many ways Fox News is much more inline with traditional American reporting than most people think.
The cold remedy Zicam was marketed as a homeopathic remedy. The original formulation contained zinc acetate and zinc glutenate and according to various scientifict studies, it worked quite well to cut the duration of colds. (Sadly, it also apparently removed the sense of smell in some unfortunate users.)
I suppose it was marketed as a homeopathic remedy so that they didn’t have to get FDA approval. The zinc parts of the formulation weren’t diluted very much by homeopathic standards. (The rest of the “active” ingredients were diluted to the point where there probably weren’t any atoms left in the fluid.)
On the entire GMO thing… Let me throw in with all of those stating that going with the science, there is little to no evidence of any direct or secondary environmental damage from them. Those fears about frankfoods have the same scientific basis as most of the denials of climate change.
There are other concerns about GMOs that have some more grounding — but these tie into their potential economic and socio-cultural effects. And to the degree that the growning of GMOs replace local plants and traditional crops, there are environmental questions. However, this is not a problem specifically new to GMOs.
Yup. As is the case with most diet drugs and other “homeopathic” cures and herbal supplements. Few of them comply with the actual stated concepts of homeopathy (which like others, I hold very little belief in).
I do believe in the efficacy of some herbal patent medicines. But the big problem with that market is it’s so unregulated. And that means that the sourcing of ingredients can get pretty scary — especially in terms of how many pesticide residues that the supplements contain. And some supplements don’t even carry the amount of the active ingredients that they claim to contain.
One good resource for looking into supplements is:
What I ment was that “we” as a society can get rid of junk food, if we want to. I did not say that we should. I still eat a Chiapolte from time to time, and that is fast food.
The point was about the ability to curtail something if society deems it too harmful to continue – in the case of GMOs, we have already crossed the Rubicon, and we can’t simply say we are quitting.
If you think that makes me some kind of control freak, so be it.
@Rob in CT
My comments about my experiences with homeopathy got caught in the spam filter, here are the Cliffs Notes.
I use a number of topical remedies that are marketed as “homeopathic” – one of them is Traumeel, which does work, I’ve been using it for over 20 years. Also diluted topical solutions of various oils – wintergreen, peppermint, and so on. Perhaps “homeopathic” is not clearly defined, hence the confusion. I am not invested in the credibility of homeopathy, the stuff I use works for me, and that’s all I care about.
It may be these are not homeopathic in the classic sense, and it’s simply marketing. At any rate, we got started down this road because swbarnes2 said the reporting about Monsanto and Beelogics I linked to was crap because it was in a homeopathic blog. He actually seemed to miss my overall point completely, and that may be my fault. I grab little snippets of time during to day to comment, and the quality of the writing that i do at that speed is not high.
It is surprising for you to give a blank recommendation for any organism yet to be created.
Maybe a salmon gene triggers a secondary effect in a tomato, a production of a minor toxin that no one tests for. Things like that are certainly possible, and more unpredictable than with traditional breeding techniques, which only recombine genes from closely related lines.
Genomes have feedback loops. They suppress or enhance secondary synthesis. It’s kind of wide open. And to do a full analysis of a resulting fruit, you’d have to do a full chemical analysis of everything in it … something no one does. They test for targets and known interests.
Chipotle is more slow food, waiting for you. I won’d call it “fast food” because it doesn’t have any of the industrial tricks.
(I wouldn’t call a stir-fry fast food either, though it can be quick.)
I have an empty medicine cabinet, and I find that works too.
(OK, I have one bottle of aspirin and one tube of neosporin, used rarely.)
All fair points. I don’t have a good response to them at the moment.
I’m just curious as to whether you use the ointment or the oral version.
To be clear, I think there are medical reasons why certain “homepathic” cures work. But the reasons for this have to do with the medicinal properties of the drugs, not specifically the underlying “science” of homeopathy.
You are claiming that tomatoes just have toxin genes sitting around? And that a gene from a salmon is going to make a protein that does whatever it was designed to do and binds to precisely the promoter of that toxin gene? You really think that the company spending millions on development will not bother to carry out a single RNA-seq experiment on their new organism? And you think that not a single lab in the whole world will either?
I work in genetics, and I have no idea what you are talking about.
If you are making transcript for some previously unexpressed toxin protein, you’ll see that in RNA-seq. (They likely have Affy arrays for lots of crops, but we’ll assume that this magical toxin protein isn’t annotated as such, and therefore isn’t on those chips) You don’t even have to know what you are looking for, if you get enough data to do de novo assembly.
“Chipotle is more slow food, waiting for you. I won’d call it “fast food” because it doesn’t have any of the industrial tricks.”
The industry term is “fast casual”, meant to indicate it is somewhere between fast food and casual dining. Chipotle is similar in that regard to places like Panera Bread or Noodles & Company, which share with fast food restaurants that the food is mostly assembled beforehand using industrial methods, and then actually made once you order and there is typically no table service. On the other hand, the food quality and price points are significantly higher than traditional fast food and more like a casual chain.
That said, several of the traditional fast food chains are trying to make themselves more upscale to minimize the differences between them and the fast casual places (see especially Wendy’s).
Regarding stuff marketted as “homepathic” to skirt FDA approval but that isn’t actually homoepathic…
Ok, perhaps some of that stuff works (Zinc working on Colds is solidly proven, IIRC). Frankly, better to close the ridiculous loophole that allows products to duck the FDA and presto, most of the junk homeopathy products go away. The stuff that worked should survive.
Homeopathy is junk science.
@ Rob in CT
Well, Traumeel works, and the diluted oils work. Perhaps those are not true homeopathic remedies. I will not loose much sleep over that. Monsanto is something I am concerned about, I do not trust them to use the considerable power they have to affect the environment wisely.
@john personna: Please define fast food. Please define a slow Mediterranean diet. Please define better.
Please direct us all to the post where I have made such a statement. (I am certain you cannot as I know I never made such a statement.)
As do placebos, and for exactly the same reason. Or, the “active” ingredient is likely just the alcohol, which provides a cooling feeling as it evaporates. There is nothing chemically active; there aren’t enough molecules of any “active ingredient”.
You are certainly entitled to your view, and if you want to place your faith entirely in the western scientific model, that’s your business.
Even some of my close friends consider my vegetarian, no booze, no a lot of things, yes to Traumeel and other things you find in stores on Telegraph Ave., Qigong classes etc. lifestyle to be pretty hippy dippy. I grew up in Marin in the 60s & 70s, it’s a big part of who I am.
That being said, my wife and are are both in our mid 50s and we both look and feel quite a bit better than a considerable slice of the population that is 25 odd years our junior, so I will stick with what I am doing. Feel free to sneer if you get something out of it.
As a sidebar, I spent a few years in college studying to become a chemical dependencey therapist, with the attendent courses in pharmacology and neurobiology – when you bring up the placebo effect, you are not springing something new on me.
I only have a chem degree, and read the feeds from SciAm with interest. I’m sure I’m not using the correct words, but I know I have read about secondary effects.
We know there are various shades of “toxins” and we try to ascribe critical concentrations for each of them. We accept many in our food supply at certain concentrations. I’ll ask you a few questions back.
Are they all mapped? How many are there? Are any with more subtle long term effects not yet understood? Are they all tested for new GMO food crops?
Funky new seeds are all fine for feeding the billions, but I haven’t heard a good argument for why I should prefer them to heirlooms, if I can afford the heirlooms.
I think “fast food” has a pretty tight meaning in American culture. It is a highly manufactured product, designed for ease of production, brute force gastronomy (saturated fats, and corn sugar), and not for human health. It’s McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and so on.
And while maybe you haven’t, I have heard “how can you sneer at the dollar menu, you snob, it’s what we can afford.”
Defense of the dollar menu is defense of bad food for poor people. Oh, and a 44 ounce coke, of course.
Tomatoes make two toxins according to wikipedia. I’m sure the genes in those pathways are all known. Besides, the point of a plant toxin is to make animals not want to eat the plant by tasting bad. If the dose were high enough to harm anyone, the fruit would taste terrible.
Obviously not every single thing in any genome larger than a virus is annotated. But if some gene is greatly increased in expression in your GMO, you would see that in a simple RNA-seq experiment, and you would investigate. As I said, with de novo, you don’t make any assumptions about what the transcripts are, so you will find unannotated things.
What do you expect me to say; that plant scientists understand everything?
When you breed the closely related mouse strains NZB and NZW together, the offspring have lupus. Can you be sure that no hybrid tomato plants could possible have an interaction like that which might be dangerous to people, like, say, one strain having a toxin with a malformed promoter, and the other strain having a working promoter, but a malformed protein, and the crossovers yield a plant with a working promoter next to a working protein? That’s a lot more likely than a dormant toxin being magically enabled by some protein from a totally different species that was specifically designed to do some completely different job.
Maybe toxins are your bag in chemistry, but imagining cross-species toxin enabling is a weird thing to fasten on as a potential safety issue. I think toxins are a hell of a lot more likely to be added by the farmers than the scientists in the genetics lab.
So you think my proposed path to harm is real, but unlikely. That’s fine.
Let’s not forget that many, many chemicals which are the basis of prescription meds are plant based. So what may have started out as a homeopathic remedy now is a medicine for which you pay an inflated price at your local pharmacy. And yes, the Zinc based cold remedies like Cold-EEZE really work, as does the entirely plant-based dyspepsia remedy Iberogast, which was probably a homeopathic remedy put together by pioneers on the prairie or Native Americans.
This non-drinking vegetarian who enjoys martial arts thinks your distrust of the scientific method is pretty lame. Homeopathy is shown to be no more effective than a placebo not due to problems with the “western scientific model,” but because it isn’t more effective than a placebo. If any of these treatments have a real, measurable effect, scientific studies would show it. One cannot wave away the evidence as a problem with science and expect to be taken seriously.
Homeopathy works on the principle that you take a substance that causes the symptom you wish to treat, you dilute it thousands fold, shaking all the while, and then that sugar pill magically treats you, even if only a handful of molecules, or no molecules at all, of the original substance is present.
So no, no medicine you take now started out life that way.
You want to try and skip the middle-man by making your own wafarin from spoiled clover? Your own digitalis from foxglove? It’ll earn you a Darwin award. The “inflated” prices are so that a well-regulated lab makes the molecules at a known concentration, so that you get enough to be beneficial, but not so much that it kills you.
And considering that homeopathic remedies are nothing but sugar or water, it seems odd to give them a pass on inflating their prices.
Really? You think a mixture of Old World plant extracts, invented by Germans in 1961, was of Native American origin? Now you are just making things up.
Yes, Iberogast has been shown to be effective in clinical studies. But also observe that the dilutions are so modest, there are actually lots of molecules from the original extraction in the medicine. That’s not true when they are diluted 1-10,000 or whatever, which is what homeopathic medicines do (when they aren’t putting harmful amounts of zinc into them, of course)
Where did I say I “distrust” the scientific method? If you looked at my FB page, you would probably note about 20% of my posts are related to hard science. I just don’t fold 100% of my thinking under it’s roof.
I have some rather esoteric tweaks in my audio system, things like a Schumann resonance generator. I’ve had engineers tell me that they are unscientific BS snake oil. There are certainly plenty of people venturing that opinion on audiophile forums. But when I’ve done blind A/B tests with multiple parties, the majority of the responses are that music sounds better when those tweaks are online than when they are off. That’s not a placebo effect.
We do sometimes find out that things the scientist(s) were pretty sure of at one point are not the case, no? Not that long ago, a doctor or medical researcher would have told you “nolitangere” if you had a blue baby, and the child would have died. Now we know better.
I don’t think our current state of scientific knowledge is all-encompassing. This does not mean that I am not an enthuiastic proponent of science.
“Western Scientific Model”
What is this supposed to mean?
The scientific method of finding things out is the same no matter where it is used.
North, South, East, West if it does not include research, constructing hypothesis and testing with experimentation it is not science.
It may not be a placebo effect but it sure sound like anecdotal evidence to me.
I would suggest that you might be biased to expect a particular outcome. It is your audio system.
Has anyone replicated your “…blind A/B tests” and come up with the same results?
Have your results been published in peer reviewed journals?
Yup. Also, if the difference between the two set-ups is so small that people are arguing about it, you would probably need to ask several dozen people to do the test, in order to have enough statistical power to distinguish such a subtle effect.
I’m amused by defending one’s indulgence in woo by bringing up yet another piece of woo. Not the way to demonstrate that one respects proper statistical analyses.
My goodness, all of this because I cited a post on a blog swbarnes2 does not approve of. I note that after all this yakking, he never got around to offering any proof that that post about Monsanto and Beelogics was incorrect.
Run along and have some cheeseburgers guys.
Ummm. No. But my system sounds fabulous & I’m finally installing a music server this weekend, so I will not lie awake because you guys think I don’t have the proper respect for statistical analyses 🙂
Today’s audio tip is use NOS tubes if you can get your hands on good ones.
Give me a shout if you are going to be in the bay area. I know some good joints.
The last good joint in SF closed down years ago…The Doggie Diner!
Once upon a time, my dad had an office near the Doggie Diner on Geary. I believe there is a Jack in the Box there now. Some would put Zim’s above Doggie Diner in hierarchy of late, lamented SF burger & dog joints.
My current favorite is Red’s Java House, preferably on the way to a Giants game. Hamburger Haven on Clement still exists, but I have not been there for ages.
There are three other places in The City that are long gone that I am glad I got to frequent.
PJ’s Oyster Bed on Irving near 9th Ave. in the Sunset, The Owl and Monkey Cafe on 9th Ave. between Irving and Judah and Breen’s Downtown on 3rd St and mission.
If I had a (very) big sack of money I would live in San Francisco for the winter. Wrigleyville would be my summer home and my current address would be just fine in the spring and fall.
I miss the Savoy Tivoli & the Walgreens counter. Harbin was an excellent chinese place out in the Richmond in the 70s. Java on Clement was great and cheap for decades, gone now, as is the Ho Ho Pastry Company around the corner. Lable’s Kosher Deli on Clement was another good one. Bush Gardens. Union Jack Fish & Chips. The list goes on and on…
My perfect world is the place I have, plus apartments in Paris & New York.
It’s probably a good thing that I never, ever actually did that then.
Sure, but why bother with either when I can go to ProPublica or The Economist?
Perhaps not, but you did say Mother Jones is a mirror image of Fox, which is nonsense.
@john personna: No one is telling you not to plant heirlooms and in all honesty I plant heirlooms in my garden. However, my day job is to create, profile and characterize genetically modified sorghum. We are enhancing vitamin a, protein digestibility and iron and zinc accumulation. These are things that either cannot be done with traditional breeding or would take 25+ years to accomplish. Now since I work in this industry for a large ag company that isn’t Monsanto I can say the amount of data that is produced for any one variety of gmo that gets to market is immense. And if you have looked at amount of regulations to take one of these to market they have skyrocketed in the past few years. This was done purposely by these large companies to keep upstarts out of the market which is awful. However, a side effect of this is the sheer amount of data they have on protein amounts, its place in the genome, function, yields, ect. In most cases this data is presented to the USDA in a tiny fraction of cases they are published in small foreign journals no one in the US is likely to see. This is done to keep proprietary information to get out to the public likely due to a patent claim that is waiting to be accepted or issued. It is understandable that people are misinformed or scared about consequences since most of the safety data doesn’t see the light of day outside of the USDA regulators or the employees of the company. I’m no shill saying believe us we have data showing its safe, but I have seen enough of it year after year to believe it. Also the insane amount of regulations again to keep small companies out of the game generates an intricate working knowledge of how the new gene(s) function within the plant. In the case of corn, its genome is sequenced so the likelihood of errant toxins being introduced or activated are probably zero. Also where I work even a 8 amino acid match in a protein to a known allergen is thrown out even in noncoding sequences, even though it has been shown an 8 aa match will not trigger the allergy. I guess my point is that the dearth of information about these crops safety is immense, it is only regrettable why it is generated and that it is rarely shared with the general public.
And your suggesting that those organizations (which, for the record, I like) don’t have biases?
First off, I think this is probably the most radical, sustained thread drift I’ve ever seen on OTB. And it’s also drift into an area that I do research in… which gets me to:
What “Western Scientific Model”, sometimes referred to as “Western Bio-Science”, is referring to is a specific mode and method of knowledge production that came out of the European Enlightenment and has become the predominant mode of scientific research. Generally speaking, it’s the method by which all other modes of “indigenous” science are judged.
However, its not the only method for doing science/research. Nor is it the only observational method. And while it’s arguable the most effective method, its not perfect and runs into problems at the fringes — more on that in a sec.
There are a number of other modes of “science” out there. I used scare quotes here because many of these methods do not necessarily consider themselves sciences, but that’s the category they end up getting made to fit (similar things happen with Religion). Homeopathy is one example. Traditional Chinese Medicine/Asian Medicine/Oriental Medicine is another. The list goes on and on.
Before I go any further, let me make something clear: I am not arguing that any of these forms are equal to, or better than, Western Bio-med. Nor am I suggesting that Western Bio-med is evil, etc. This is simply trying to define different types of knowledge production.
One of the hallmarks of Western Bio-med (WBM) is it’s reliance on the scientific method and widespread clinical testing for efficacy. An while this is an important and valuable tool, it also has it’s limits. WBM is based on being able to predict results, and that in turn tends to eliminate difference. The goal is to create solutions for “average” bodies.
The problem is that “average bodies” don’t always exist (for a variety of reasons). In some cases it doesn’t matter — in many ways all human bodies react in the same fashion. And thus certain treatments and medications will work in just about all cases.
But there are a lot of other situations where mass solutions don’t work. And traditionally, this is a place where WBM can break down. And often, this is also where other modes of science and medicine may be more efficacious.
Again, I’m not a huge fan of Homeopathy. But without a doubt there is something to herbalism and indigenous healing systems (including TCM) that goes well beyond the placebo effect. And in most of these cases, the diagnostic and treatment processes are far more idiosyncratic.
And that’s where translation between the two systems often breaks down. You brought up peer reviewed research — again, PhD student here, big believer in peer review. The potential problem with testing alternative healing practices is that WBM’s mode of clinical testing doesn’t work well for those methods. The net result is that techniques that have proven efficacious in practice tend to fail clinical testing.
BTW, let me note that WBM methods also don’t work particularly well for testing treatments for certain unpredictable and idiosyncratic diseases like lupus — hence why most lupus treatments are based on off label uses of existing drugs.
Well, while the suggestion that it’s Native American in origin might be incorrect, the general ingredients — bitter candytuft (Iberis amara), angelica root (Angelicae radix), milk thistle fruit (Silybi mariani fructus), celandine herb (Chelidonii herba), caraway fruit (Carvi fructus), liquorice root (Liquiritiae radix), peppermint herb (Menthae piperitae folium), balm leaf (Melissae folium) and chamomile flower (Matricariae flos) — have been used in combination by herbalists for years. This does gets to some of the issues with treating concepts like “invention” and “patenting” as being equivalent.
But regardless of that, the point stands that herbalism != homeopathy, though far too many people don’t understand the difference.
@anjin-san: but how can you be sure that it’s the medicine doing it for you and not the placebo effect?
In which case, you might as well go back to ye Olde Folke remedies. Probably much cheaper and if they trick your body into fixing itself, so much the better.
Not enough research has been done on the placebo effect….
Gotta take some issue with this — one of the “problems” of WBM as people understand it (versus how it arguably functions), is that it tends to create an old/new divide where one side (old) is “placebo” and (new) is “real.”
The fact is that many current treatments are based on Olde Folke remedies (again herbalism is different from homeopathy). And in fact, if you look to a lot of the expansion of big Pharma into underdeveloped places around the world, a lot of it is based around finding (and patenting) the active compounds in indigenous plants.
@ grumpy realist
I guess I can’t be sure. But since, it’s results I care about, I am not worrying about it too much as long as I get them. Slippery Elm bark tea is great for a sore throat, better than any over the counter remedy have ever used. So I will keep using it. I don’t think big pharma is the only source in the world for remedies that work.
Perhaps I have given the impression that I am an advocate for homeopathy. I’m not. But I do use a few remedies that are self-described as “homeopathic”, and for me, they have worked. I’ve used local honey for allergies, and I think it helps. This whole discussion started because someone took a shot at my comment that I thought was bogus. I then took a shot back that was perhaps bogus as well. We are not always at our reasoned best in here.
I like things that work, and I distrust rigid belief systems. When I started doing yoga 40 years ago, it was something a lot of people laughed at. Now we know a bit more. We know societies like India have a lot to offer. We know yoga works, and we know it’s helps millions of people in this country live better lives on a daily basis.
Alright, I take back my comment about lameness. I’m pretty much in agreement with everything you said there. And FWIW, my comments about homeopathy do not apply to natural remedies, for lack of a better term, such as those you mention (elm bark tea, honey, etc.).
And in the end, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is usually a good rule of thumb. If a remedy works for you, why question it? Results are more important.
We are not always at our reasoned best in here.
Ain’t that the truth. 😉
I agree about the massive thread drift, I never meant to start a brush war over homeopathy. Some of this is my fault as I tend, in my head, to lump things like herbal medicine under the umbrella of “homeopathic” when they probably don’t belong there. Possibly this is the result of marketing aimed at exploiting a regulatory loophole, as several commentators have mentioned.
I’m a big believer in “different strokes for different folks.” Western, eastern, scientific, folk remedy, whatever. If inversion therapy improves the quality of your life, go for it. I don’t see the attraction, but that should not matter to anyone else.
@ matt bernius
Thanks for the concise and informative comment. I could not have said it nearly as well.
BTW, one last point on WBS vs other “sciences” — one of the key things is that all other sciences are expected to justify their existence in terms of WBS. This means even where “other sciences” work, they are always told that they don’t work for the reasons that they traditionally believe they work.
Sure they do. What I find is that they don’t put their biases ahead of their reporting.
There’s no such thing as a toxin.
If you actually think toxins exist, please state the chemical formula of one.
The point of the arguments against homeopathy are the same as that for all other placebos: You simply can’t show that the results couldn’t have happened by chance, whereas you can show that application of vaccines is the correct solution.