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First Place - The Anus Maximus Award
Part of the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is that psychiatry is bad. His original feelings on this might have been influenced by the fact that he was mad and he felt threatened by a medical speciality which existed to treat that madness. Put another way, he felt that if there were no psychiatry there would be no madness for it to treat and this would make him sane by definition. (This is not meant to make sense. Remember that Hubbard was insane.) The real reason that Scientology opposes psychiatry, however, is that Scientology's target market is people who are depressed, unhappy, susceptible to suggestion, and don't feel that they fit in to society. Anybody offering to treat these conditions with some behavioural therapy and a course of Prozac is an obvious threat to a cult which wants to brainwash people into paying several hundred thousand dollars to cross a mythical bridge to personal awareness.
CCHR would not be such a problem if the Scientology links were made obvious, because this might make other people think twice about dealing with them. Certainly, Scientology is mentioned in their literature (I have a book called "Documenting Psychiatry: Harming in the name of healthcare" which mentions that the cult paid for the printing of the book, as if that were the only involvement) but the true horror is well hidden. On the other hand, it might not worry people who deal with them. Anti-psychiatrist Thomas Szasz was instrumental in setting up CCHR, and when he was asked how he could justify an alliance with the criminal cult he actually used the expression "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Alternative medicine supporters gleefully accept the CCHR's attacks on drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac because this supports their ideology that there is no such thing as mental illness. In one bizarre confluence of insanity, The National Vaccine Information Center issued a newsletter promoting a CCHR seminar. I hadn't heard that the Scientologists were opposed to vaccination (although nothing would surprise me) so I can only assume that Barbara Loe Fisher at the NVIC thinks that because CCHR is opposed to "the drugging of children" they oppose other medication for children and therefore support her agenda, which is to have the practice of medicating children to prevent life-threatening diseases abolished.
I know people who have suffered from depression and other mental illnesses. There are some people I don't know any more because they committed suicide. That anyone would campaign against effective treatments for these illnesses is almost beyond belief. That an organisation would oppose these treatments for purely financial reasons just reinforces why it is so appropriate to use the word "criminal" in the descriptive expression "the criminal cult of Scientology".
Quote of the Year
An obvious contender for Quote of the Year had to be the statement by anti-vaccination liar Bronwyn Hancock that there was no scientific proof of the possibility of hurting a baby by shaking it, and that to the contrary there was actual experimental evidence that hurting a baby by shaking it was impossible. While this would seem to be a lay-down misère for quote of any period you could think of, I have to disqualify statements made by people who are obviously of very unsound mind. Mad people rant nonsense as a matter of course. A statement in a press release by a pretend journalist, Eve Hillary, that I am somehow connected with the Illuminati, that most secret of world-wide secret conspiracies, was rejected on the grounds that personal attacks on me are ineligible but it would have been disqualified under the "insane author" principle anyway.
The winner is Marcus Blackmore, head of the eponymous Blackmore's Ltd, Australia's best known purveyor of dietary supplements and alternative medicines. Mr Blackmore was responding to a government announcement that controls over the manufacture, advertising and distribution of alternative products were to be strengthened. His comment about university education (even if it were true, which it is not) just suggests that clever people can be just as gullible as the rest of us. I would remind people that the industry is being asked to do in 2004 what James Lind could do in 1747.
That would be a disaster for our industry. What the Government fails to understand is that a lot of people that take our products are well versed in these things. They are mainly women between the age of 25 and 39 and invariably they have a university education. They're intelligent people, we're not just selling this stuff to mung-bean eaters.
Joel Wallach is a veterinarian best known for selling a tape called "Dead Doctors Don't Lie!". The lies on this tape are used to promote Wallach's pyramid scheme to sell snake oil which cures everything from Alzheimer's Disease to Zambucca Overdose, or so it seems. Vet Wallach likes to refer to himself as a "physician", apparently on the basis that he has bought a degree in naturopathy from somewhere. Wallach does not like criticism, probably because he knows that his nonsense cannot stand up to any scrutiny.
How can I put this politely? The best I can do is to say that the Coalition for Safe Minds is one of the most disgusting, egregious and dishonest anti-vaccination liar sites I have ever come across. It is a site which exists for the purpose of frightening parents into endangering their children's' lives, using the threat of autism. The name "Safe Minds" is supposed to mean "Sensible Action for Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders", but if they are concerned about mercury, where are the pages about environmental mercury? Where are the pages about dental amalgam? (There is one link on the site to an anti-amalgam loon site. That is the only mention of what has been described as "the biggest source of mercury in the human body".) What this site is about is not autism and not mercury. It is about stopping vaccination.
And how do I know that they are liars? How do I know that they oppose vaccination? How do I know that they believe that the end justifies the means and that they will knowingly lie to achieve those ends? Because a site supposedly about the dangerous links between mercury preservatives in vaccines and autism contains a comprehensive attack on studies which show no relationship between MMR vaccine and autism. MMR has never contained mercury, and the owners of this site know this. That does not stop them from lying by suggestion. If the agenda is to increase the number of dead and damaged children, then whether you do it by measles or rubella or do it by diphtheria, pertussis or polio doesn't really matter. They still die or become disabled, and the objective has been achieved.
Macquarie University has certain historical qualities which distinguish it from other universities in Australia. It was the first to introduce the US style Grade Point Average as a means of assessing student's progress through their studies and to determine qualifications for undertaking advanced study. It was the first to encourage a broad interdisciplinary content in undergraduate course construction. It had the first graduate school of management in Australia. It has even awarded me a couple of pieces of paper to hang on the wall.
Unfortunately, it also has the distinction of being the first real university in the world to officially include chiropractic education as part of the curriculum. If chiropractic was studied in the psychology department as an example of a delusional belief system or taught in the business school as an example of how to market a useless product I would have no objection, but alas it is taught as though it is real medicine with real science behind it.
Services from this holy roller church are broadcast on late-night cable television, with much singing, hand waving and heavy-duty exhortations to observe the power of prayer. There appears to be a disparity, however, between the appearance of Pastor Phil on television and his picture on the web site. On television his hair seems to be, how shall I put this, a little more silvery than it used to be. Hair colour is important to evangelists, and one of Pastor Phil's local competitors has hair of such blackness that it invites suspicion of chemical interference with nature. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and I encourage Pastor Phil to dab on a bit of Grecian 2000 to restore his image in this competitive marketplace. With his face shape, however, he should avoid any hairdresser who suggests a Benny Hinn Bouffant.
It has been a tough year for Hal Turner. He ran out of money a couple of times and it looked like his radio show and web site might disappear. He installed some new computer equipment and everything stopped working properly for a while (just like what happens when the rest of us try this risky practice). Israel still exists at the start of 2004. People are still allowed to vote and have jobs even though they are not white, Christian and heterosexual. Hackers have hacked at his site. But through all this, Hal has maintained his dignity. Well, as much dignity as a foam-flecked, ranting bigot can maintain. We need people like Hal. They remind us of the fine line between sanity and people like him.
The CHC pretends to be interested in ensuring that the public receives reliable information about alternative medicine. One of their stated aims says that "The CHC is committed to enhancing the public health and wellbeing of the Australian population through education and information on the use of complementary healthcare products". This might be more believable if the organisation was prepared to give some attention to failures and flaws in alternative medicine. It does nothing about useless devices like zappers or magnetic "healing" products, it opposes informative labelling of products and restrictions on the advertising of unproven cures, and it appears to be totally uninterested in the possible dangers of extreme quackery. Its job is to promote "alternative" medicine in a totally uncritical manner using whatever means come to hand.