Sunday, 3 October 2010

They Protest!

OK, this is going to be a bit of a lazy link round-up, but I've been following two amusing but worrying stories over the weeks - those concerning our guests of honour at Cardiff Skeptics. One of these stories has just ended, and I wanted to put together an update.

First the one that isn't: the MMS saga, known on Twitter as #bleachgate. Although the hero of this saga is of course Rhys, I think the best place to start is Noodlemaz's in-depth investigation. It's pretty frightening. For more on the early episodes, check out LizDitz's link round-up (now we need a link round-up of link round-ups . . .).

To summarise, MMS, "miracle mineral solution", is basically bleach. People are sold it as a "cure" for anything from AIDS to Crohn's Disease, and are told that when they feel nausated that is the "toxins being released". Actually, when they feel nauseated it's because it's doing exactly what it does to everything else: oxidising it, which basically means destroying living tissue. Supporters who understand this much chemistry claim that it somehow magically selects pathogens in our bodies and leaves our own tissues alone. They also repeatedly claim that "THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CURED WHY DON'T YOU LISTEN TO THEM YOU BIG PHARMA SCOURGES" (etc), though have not provided any links to such stories - and obviously not to scientific studies.

That's because there aren't any. This is how they go about things - again, credit to Noodlemaz for finding this:
Do you understand the power that a church has that hasn’t given up its power? Look at the Catholics. Their priests have been molesting women and children for centuries and the governments have not been able to stop it. If handled properly a church can protect us from vaccinations that we don’t want, from forced insurance, and from many things that a government might want to use to oppress us.
I will let you form your own opinion of the above.

Martin Robbins wrote this brilliant article about MMS - both the forum incident and the worldwide state, both of which attracted a lot of comment. Several folks from the Crohn's Forum came along to offer their defences, and the replies to them made highly amusing reading. On a larger scale . . . look what's happened as a result, again by Martin Robbins.

I feel terrible about Africa when I think about it. I know it has a lot of problems of its own - the stories of mass rape in Darfur and children being killed as witches - and yet I can't help but feel that if it wasn't pushed into treaties that kept it as a recipient of aid rather than a participant in trade, among so much more, incidents like these would be fewer. Countries themselves, drawn up by Europeans, have very little to do with the people that populate them, who think of themselves as members of their tribe rather than citizens of their countries. (If anybody thinks I'm patronising anyone by saying this, it's not unique - I give you as a more local example certain folks in Cornwall who would boast for half an hour at a time about their Cornish ancestry and surnames as a means of putting me in my place when I lived there. I haven't got a direct link to source my Africa/countries comment, but a close relative lived in Africa for many years, and I recommend this in which it's mentioned - though it's hardly the focus.) That also makes Africa the perfect haven for those who wish to market their untested products and ideas which would be promptly stopped in their own countries, from anti-condom propaganda to MMS.

Onto more cheerful subjects, look what Rhys Morgan has done! Not a bad thing to start off such a huge campaign before even reaching 16. You can also hear him on the radio (if I remember rightly, about 17 minutes in) here. He's got a link round-up too (see what I mean about link round-ups . . .). The BBC report that there's now an official safety warning in this country, too. Those MMS adverts which keep appearing on Wordpress sites whenever the product is mentioned - I wonder how long they will stay?

All this has seriously rattled Jim Humble himself. Or at least, someone posing as him - you never know. Check out these comments early on in Rhys's blog . . . it's really quite surreal. Note that the first thing he does is advise Rhys not to speak publicly any more.

There's no point trying to convince him or his fanatical supporters, though. The best thing, in my opinion, is to try and educate the consumers and regulators. It's always the hardest, most costly solution, I hear a few people cry, isn't it? To round up as many people as possible, which will take the most time and the most resources. You could say the same of a scientific trial. Yet it seems worth it to me a thousand times over. Because putting in lots of time, money, resources and people is going to have thousands more good effects than just encouraging people not to drink bleach. Because this is very tied up with some of mankind's greatest problems, and there are no quick fixes to those.

(Humankind if you prefer, but I write it meaning the same thing.)

That story might only be just beginning. But here's one that's ended, at least this part of one. Councillor John Dixon's #stupidscientology tweet has been deemed to be in a private capacity. That is, he is entitled to tweet an obviously personal rather than Cardiff Council representing opinion.

WalesOnline and the Guardian have also reported on the case, and the latter has a brief follow-up on the disagreement of the Ombudsman. (You can read the Ombudsman's report a little way down Jack of Kent's blogpost here.) I recommend the comments of the Guardian website. I couldn't resist inserting a cheeky idea - the one about how, if he was representing his constituents, he was probably doing so quite accurately. A couple of comments above mine is the remark that whether John Dixon was cleared or not is beside the point for the scientologists - their aim was to make councils worry and waste their time, and therefore to discourage freedom of speech, rather than to punish John Dixon particularly.

The story coincided neatly with a Panorama documentary on scientology. I didn't watch it, and understand that while it was revealing about some of the strangeness of the cult, it didn't go into its practice of harrassing its critics. Why We Protest has revealed a most interesting e-mail sent around to scientologists on how to handle criticism on websites. I don't suggest this represents scientologists as a whole, and you know what? I also don't think it's likely to be terribly effective. (The tired part of me wonders if any comment on any news-related website is ever effective.)

On a lighter note, the Daily Mash and Crispian Jago have thrown their oars in for a good laugh. But best of all is John's guest post on Jack of Kent, which goes into the Paul Chambers case and Rhys's campaigning too.

It looks like the Internet is shaping things up for quite a lot of coordinated fighting from both sides of all controversy. Well, I suppose that's better than nothing . . .

1 comment:

Sam said...

Noooo! Don't get defeatist on me and start thinking that comments on news sites don't count for anything ^_^ It's the same as the "drop in the ocean" argument.

John Dixon is the speaker at November's Cardiff SitP, right? Convinced by Rhys Morgan, I'm very likely to turn up to that :) Can't wait! My knowledge on Scientology is really quite limited so I suppose I'll need to do some background reading beforehand. Before I start Googling, do you have any recommended reading on the topic?

Your comments on the Pope's anti-condom claim are horrifying. I recently watched the Intelligence Squared debate on "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world" here Stephen Fry made some excellent points concerning condoms, homophobia and abstinence. If you haven't already seen it, it's easy to find on YouTube and I highly recommend it :)