Cultural Dwarfs and Junk Journalism by Martin J Walker: free download available at www.slingshotpublications.com
Dr Ben Goldacre is the author of the Guardian’s Bad Science column and has authored ‘A Kind of Magic?’, in which:
“he produced what might appear to be a thoroughgoing, devastating critique of a bogus therapy, but the article is at best a farrago of truth, half-truth and downright dissembling. Given the lengths that the Guardian and other British newspapers go to be apparently objective on any vaguely radical subject, one can’t help wondering why the Guardian is happy to let Goldacre romp through, and tread down, all previous standards of fair debate.
Broadly speaking, the essay that follows is the latest addition to my ongoing analysis of the British corporate science lobby and its popular campaigning arms, skeptics and quackbusters. Specifically, the essay focuses on attacks on Patrick Holford, the independent nutritionist, while trying to place the quackbusting journalist Ben Goldacre, who began this round of attacks, in a social and political context.
Dr Ben Goldacre rarely draws attention to the fact that he is a medical doctor, nor does he ever discuss, even in the most general terms, patients with whom he has come into contact, in the way that, for example, James Le Fanu does in his intelligent Sunday Telegraph column. In fact, nothing Goldacre says seems to be grounded in everyday life, the condition of ‘ordinary people’ or the public at large.
Despite claiming to spend most of his life working in the NHS, he is circumspect about which London hospital he works in and what kind of medicine he practises. For someone who spends considerable amounts of time criticising those who practice non-allopathic medicine, for example nutritional practitioners, he might, one would think, make more of his NHS position.
Despite his claim to be a serious academician, and despite the fact that a number of his PR puffs say that he ‘has published academic papers in neuroscience’, there is no record on the significant databases of his having co-authored more than one academic paper, apparently written while he was a visitor at Milan University. The only way in which academic status can be measured is by the number of peer-reviewed papers or other notable publications such as books. It should
be pointed out that the engorgement of un-provable academic credentials is one of the major points of criticisms he addresses when writing his quackbusting articles.
QUACKBUSTER OR JOURNALIST: DOES BEN GOLDACRE HAVE CONFLICT OF INTERESTS?
In 1999, two years after New Labour had come to power and Lord Sainsbury had been rewarded for his campaign donations, Goldacre was funded by the British Academy to do his Masters degree in philosophy at King’s College.
Today, the British Academy (BA) is funded by the Office of Science and Innovation (OSI), which sits within the DTI.28 In the past it has always been linked to both the Royal Society and the Royal
Institution. It claims to ‘maximise the contribution made by our science, engineering and technology skills and resources to the UK’s economic development, and to the quality of our lives’. Of course, one is bound to wonder how the quality of public life could be enhanced by Ben Goldacre gaining an MA in philosophy.
King’s College is the bastion and training ground for The Lobby. It is where Simon Wessely, the premier master of scientific spin, resides, working, mad-professor-like on endless projects to prove that organic environmental illness does not exist, and that anyone who suggests it does is deluded.
The most empathetic and forgiving of us were imagining that Ben was a junior doctor in a heavily pressed casualty unit in an inner City area. If Ben was dealing with the dirty life and death of motor accidents, shootings and drug-related deaths in north-east London for example, perhaps he might be forgiven his hard bitten views, and his anti airy-fairy concerns about people affected by electric air waves, chemicals and bad vaccines.
It appears, however, that he has always been a post-grad clinical research worker, now possibly studying for a Phd at King’s College, the home of the psychiatric school of ‘all-in-the-mind aetiology’. In all probability Goldacre has been at this University Hospital since taking his MA, and was probably attached to it when he was taken on by the Guardian.
If this is the case, most probably he doesn’t see patients, except when he passes them in the corridor at the Maudsley as he makes his way to the Liaison Psychiatry Unit within the Institute of Psychiatry,where he is studying under the Prince of Spin Professor Simon Wessely, the head of the Liaison Psychiatry Department. Wessely is an advisor to the Science Media Centre and on the Advisory panel of the US American Council on Science and Health, one of the most heavily funded pro industry lobby groups in the world.
The really good thing about Liaison psychiatry is that you can blend all kinds of social issues with lots of mad-cap psychiatric ideas that work well for industry. Liaison psychiatry is a form of psychiatry in which the psychiatrist informs unsuspecting ordinary citizens who report to hospitals with organic illnesses that they are actually mentally ill. This diagnostic ability is particularly acute when the Liaison psychiatrist meets up with anyone who has suffered an environmental illness, a chemical insult, or any industry-related illness.
For some time now, King’s College has been deeply involved in the programme of spin designed by industry and the New Labour government. However, as is evident from the involvement of Goldacre there, the relationship between The Lobby, the University and the hospital, is not simple. As well as Wessely’s role, ex-Revolutionary Communist Party members have also played a part in bringing vested interests to the college. Together with pseudo-scientific research into mental illness and environmentally caused illness, King’s is deeply involved in risk analysis for various controvertial environmental factors.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
Can there be any doubt that the industry directed research at King’s, with which Goldacre is associated, or his association with Professor Wessely, whose research on ME, Gulf War Syndrome and EMF never benefits patients but always government or industry, constitutes a conflict of interest that should from the beginning have been declared by Goldacre, every time he says anything about science in the Guardian
or anywhere else?”