Friday, December 16, 2016

#1762: Ethan Huff

Ethan Huff is a staff writer at NaturalNews, and as such responsible for a fair proportion of the wild-eyed conspiracy theories and insane pseudoscience peddled there. Huff is perhaps most notable for his anti-vaccine articles, e.g. this one on gardasil, which is based on some of Sharyl Attkisson’s rants, but adds some extra conspiracy theories, viz. that when certain people he thought were going to support the anti-vaccine cause turned out not to, it must be because either i) Big Pharma got to them, or ii) they are mentally ill; yes, that’s how things go down in the epistemic abyss that is NaturalNews. As for his article “H1N1 vaccine linked to 700 percent increase in miscarriages,” well, it was based on the “research” by Eileen Dannemann – indeed, his only source is Dannemann; although several sources are listed, they are all based exhaustively on her. We have encountered Dannemann before. We have encountered other examples of misusing the VAERS database before, too, but Dannemann’s idiocy still manages to impress (she got some anecdotes, too, as well as her own press release – which she cited in her own “research”).

Huff has also weighed in on the scientific process. In particular, after a debate at the British Royal Society, where Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal (now The BMJ), took the role of attacking the current processes of research dissemination and hyperbolically called the peer review process a “sacred cow” ready to “slaughtered” Huff took it the only way someone in his cognitive situation could, and the result was the article “‘Sacred cow’ of industry science cult should be slaughtered for the good of humanity, BMJ editor says.” Of course, people like Huff really don’t like peer review, which is a process inherently biased against pseudoscientific, unsupported nonsense dreamed up by people with little understanding of the field they are trying to engage with. Apart from that, I don’t think Huff’s article needs much comment.

It seems to illustrate a common strategy of Huff’s, though: Pick up some anecdotes, quackery, or anti-science covered somewhere else and, if necessary, add some conspiracy theories before covering it on NaturalNews – here is (a commentary on) Huff reporting a very, very dubious breast cancer testimonial reported in The Sun - dubious, in that the person in question, though praising altmed quackery for her recovery, was in fact cured – to the extent she was – by conventional medicine. Or just go for the tinfoil-hat-level conspiracies: In a preemptive review of the movie Contagion, based on the trailer, Huff penned “Hollywood begins mass brainwashing campaign to get people ready for the next bioengineered virus release.” No seriously: “The entertainment industry is no stranger to government propaganda campaigns, and the latest Hollywood flicks are no exception. A quick look at the trailer for the upcoming release of the movie Contagion reveals what appears to be a massive brainwashing campaign designed to prepare the American psyche for the next [!] intentional release of a bioengineered virus – and it also conveniently and subtly programs viewers into accepting the idea that vaccines might be the solution to a major, devastating disease outbreak.” And you have no idea how deep the conspiracy goes: You may not have noticed, but Huff has, that the themes of major movie releases over the past several decades are predictive of what ends up taking place not too long afterwards, which clearly shows “that Hollywood is deeply connected to the agendas of those that are now in control of various world governments, including the US government.” For instance, the movie Armageddon clearly predicted 9/11 since it mentioned the possibility of an asteroid hitting New York, and that proves that the government masterminded 9/11 and that Hollywood is in on it. Reflect on that, sheeple!

Meanwhile, Huff is doing his best to protect you from the big bad wolves in the name of “health freedom”. Huff has for instance promoted, and urged his readers to tell Congress to support, a bill entitled the “Free Speech About Science” (FSAS) Act of 2011, which curbs the FDA’s powers to hold supplement manufacturers accountable for the health benefits of the snakeoil they make – basically that such companies’s right to “free speech” means that they shouldn’t be forced to back up their claims with evidence (“the bill will amend current law to allow growers and manufacturers to freely share honest information about food and supplements with their customers,” according to Huff). Clearly, stopping poor supplement manufacturers from falsely advertising their products is an abuse of the health freedom of average Americans. (Defense of supplement manufacturers is a recurring theme of Huff’s).

You get the gist. Here Huff and J.D. Heyes creates a couple of year-end lists for Natural News: their 2015 Journalist Courage Awards and their 2015 Celebrity Hall of Shame Awards. Guess where the science-based stuff ended up.

Diagnosis: Once again: you get the gist. Ethan Huff is an utterly lunatic tinfoil hatter and hard to distinguish from people with epilepsy-inducing webpage designs and weird font choices who are complaining that the lizard people in their TVs have possessed their ex-partners, were it not for the fact that Huff is usually able to stick to ordinary grammar conventions. And even so, NaturalNews can apparently pride themselves on a rather substantial readership. 


  1. What's your problem with supplements and why are they before even being tested in any fashion considered to be snakeoil by you? Are you people aware that before synthetics the only source of medicines was herbs? So if an herb is actually useful in an allopathic med does that mean it is snakeoil because it's not synthetic and or patented? Are you nuts or what? Bought is more like it. I'm sorry.

    1. Supplements is a 34 billion dollar industry, yet there is little evidence that supplements have any beneficial effects except in special cases, and much evidence that they don't work. That's the problem: It's a scam.

      "why are they before even being tested in any fashion considered to be snakeoil by you"

      But that's what snakeoil is. If you push a supplement and claim that it has health effects without any evidence that it works (i.e. "without being tested") you are pushing snakeoil.

      I am not sure why you bring up herbs in this context, but sure: some supplements are herbal supplements. The supplements people buy are, however, usually synthetic or at least heavily processed and - yes - patented (and yes: even methods of purifying herbs can be patented, and the herbal remedies people use are usually not straight from the woods).

      Big Supplement and Big Pharma are both profit-driven and accordingly problematic - there is plenty of valid criticisms to be raised against both - but at least the drugs pushed by Big Pharma are studied for both efficacy and potential harm (otherwise no FDA approval, for instance). The stuff pushed by Big Supplement is not; it's profit-making with no real constraints.

  2. Gosh, G.D., you don't want to list who you really are on here do you? Well, I wouldn't either if I kept up some website devoted to mocking other people and propping up the pharma system. Since these people are so crazy, why are you bothering to list them? Is this some strange hobby of yours? Why's it matter. People like you are upsetting. I have real world experience with the problems with the medical system. I also recognize that even if someone has irrational ideas, they have civil rights and that includes serving in the government where they were elected. You guys are into ideology same as those you mock. It doesn't take a genius to see that. Also, I don't really believe in God so that's not my motive for calling you out on this site and why you are creating it.

    1. Many of the people listed and many of the ideas they promote are genuinely dangerous. That's the rationale. But where do you get the idea that we want to deny anyone civil rights or rights to serve in the government? Heck, part of what we do is to call out those who would deny anyone civil rights because they disagree with them. We don't call for persecution or criminalization of anyone or anything here. We do wish to expose those people and ideas, partially since it is way too much to expect, in a busy and specialized world, people to recognize pseudoscience and conspiracies in areas outside of their expertise. And if a politician has crazy ideas, we call on people not to vote for that person.

      And are you suggesting that we are claiming that the medical system, or pharmaceutical industry, are without problems? We aren't, far from it. But problems with the medical system or pharmaceutical industry is not a reason to believe quackery works, any more than problems with airplane design are reason to think magic carpets work.