Yes, a celebrity loon, but this one’s different. Gwyneth Kate Paltrow is, in addition to being an Oscar-winning actress, the, uh, brains behind the website Goop.com, which is notable for making even hardened tinfoil hatters hesitate over its promotion of sheer nonsense and delusional pseudoscience. If you can think of a health scam too stupid for regular people to fall for, we’ll promise you that Goop’s got something sillier, and that people do, indeed, fall for it. “Nourish the Inner Aspect” is their slogan, which is just as meaningless as most of the information offered in support of their health claims (the rest is just lying). Paltrow, however, seems to believe that she is offering advice that is actually helpful, though nothing she promotes is even remotely supported by anything resembling reality. Paltrow has no education or background in reality or truth whatsoever.
An incomplete list of
health wellness woo offered or promoted by Paltrow and/or Goop (hat-tip: rationalwiki)
· Vaginal steaming; perhaps their most famous item. Unless it’s:
· Putting a jade or rose quartz egg up the vagina, which may lead to infections and potentially fatal toxic shock.
· Colonics, including a $135 coffee enema called “The Implant O’Rama”. It’s hard to resist the “if you fall for this one, you deserve it” sentiment.
· Psychological astrology.
· Urinating in the shower for health reasons. The rationale offered offers nothing by way of rationale.
· Yawning correctly, for health reasons. Again, the explanation is thin on substance and coherence.
· Earthing. “I don’t really know that much about Earthing,” Paltrow admitted in an interview: “There’s this type of electromagnetic thing that we’re missing and it’s good to take your shoes off and walk in the grass … I don’t know what the f—k we talk about.”
· Activated charcoal; the Goop brand has been instrumental in promoting the now-popular and idiotic idea that activated charcoal is a potent detoxifier for everyday use.
· Annee de Mamiel, skin-cream maker and insane woo-promoter, notable primarily for her extraordinary prices.
· After riding airplanes, you need to seek out nice warm, dank sauna and “sweat out” the germs. This is not how it works.
· Water memory; water is sentient, and uses its cognitive abilities to make homeopathy work. Apparently yelling at water hurts its feelings – no really, Paltrow really thinks that. Of course, homeopathy does not work; looking for the mechanism would hence be tooth fairy science, to the extent that it even qualifies as pseudoscience.
· Ayurvedic medicine, since it’s really old and efficaciousness is a function of age, like wine and witch burnings.
· All manners of fashionably nonsensical detox regimes.
· Homeopathy, including homeopathic parasite treatments: “You Probably Have a Parasite. Here’s What to do About It,” says the Goop website, referring to a claim by Linda Lancaster, a strikingly deranged and dangerous lunatic “Santa Fe-based naturopathic physician and homeopath.” You don’t have a disease caused by parasites. Lancaster recommends “safe, raw goat’s milk” for children as a preventative measure, which is definitely not a good idea.
· Psychic vampire repellents (“not evaluated by the FDA”), which contain “sonically tuned water, moonlight, love, reiki, and gem elixirs which is totally not left over water from a rock polisher.” They are marketed as “female empowerment”.
· The Body Vibes stickers:, wearable stickers that promote “wellness” for the meager sum of $60–$120; ostensibly the stickers “rebalance the energy frequency in our bodies” (indeed, they “come pre-programmed to an ideal frequency, allowing them to target imbalances”, whatever that is supposed to mean (nothing, of course)) and were falsely claimed to be made of a NASA-developed material. As Gizmodo put it, the marketing material sounds like “what you’d expect if you threw Enya lyrics in a blender.”
· A “morning smoothie” containing Cordyceps, the parasitic fungus which turns insects into zombies by infecting their brains.
· “spirit truffles” that contain “spirit dust” that apparently “feeds harmony and extrasensory perception through pineal gland de-calcification and activation”. No, seriously.
The Body Vibes, by the way, are claimed to help with various ailments, including anxiety and pain, by using something called “Bio Energy Synthesis Technology,” a trademark of AlphaBioCentrix, a Nevada-based biotech company that sells “Quantum Energy Bracelets” and “Health Pendants.” Its founder, Richard Eaton, helped create Body Vibes after ostensibly meeting some “engineers” in a dark alleyway some years ago that revealed their secrets to him. “Without going into a long explanation about the research and development of this technology,” says Eaton (no shit he doesn’t) “I found a way to tap into the human body’s bio-frequency, which the body is receptive to outside energy signatures.” Unfortunately, “most of the research that has been collected is confidential and is held as company private information.” Yes, right. It is, however, important to remember that Paltrow’s idiocy isn’t only harmlessly funny. More on those vibes, including the completely ridiculously false claim that they are somehow connected to NASA technology, here and here.
Concerning the jade eggs (more here), these are apparently made by one Shiva Rose. According to Rose, “The word for our womb, yoni, translates as “sacred place”, and it is a sacred place – it’s where many women access their intuition, their power, and their wisdom. It’s this inner sanctum that we can access when it’s not in use creating life. Sadly most people use it as a psychic trash bin, storing old or negative energy.” Yes, apparently whereas men think with their brains, and use reason, women gets their psychological proclivities from the womb. The distinction between woo marketed as “female empowerment” and misogynism too extreme even for MRA groups, is apparently blurry one. Paltrow is selling the eggs for $66. You should really rather take free advice from real doctors, who will point out that using them is definitely not good for you. The “energy glow” that Goop anecdotally observes in people using the product is probably not energy glow. Apparently you are supposed to recharge the eggs with “energy from the moon”. Apparently she is not joking. Meanwhile, critics of jade eggs apparently hate women’s sexuality.
When confronted with the fact that their products lack scientific and evidential (and for the most part coherent) support, Goop and Paltrow point out that science doesn’t know everything. This apparently means that their products dowork since you can know that water has feelings because scientists don’t know how to cure cancer. Goop is thus proud to emphasize that their supplier Anthony “gets his information from ‘Spirit’ – not from medical textbooks or studies.” Moreover, scientists are indoctrinated against alternative medicine and other ways of knowing (like the water-memory-is-real-because-solving-cancer-is-difficult-way of knowing and other types of PIDOOMA); as Paltrow puts it, in an effort to take the side of us ordinary people against the elites: “When you go to Paris and your concierge sends you to some restaurant because they get a kickback, it’s like, ‘No. Where should I really be? Where is the great bar with organic wine? Where do I get a bikini wax in Paris?’”). It is, admittedly, correct that their trainingtends to make scientists unable to know what Paltrow believes she knows because she wants it to be true. (Under the assumption that she actually believes the bullshit she peddles, which is not always clear).
On other occasions Paltrow has challenged her critics that “if you want to f**k with me, bring your A-game”. Apparently real doctors correcting her misinformation to save her victims’ health and lives are “f**k”-ing with her. Remember that her own A-team consist of luminaries like Eaton, Shiva Rose and Linda Lancaster; a couple more, featured at the Goop health summit, are discussed here). “When they go low, we go high,” Paltrow commented on her response to skeptics. They definitely did not go high. Here is a discussion of a good example of Goop’s response to critics – note the attack on the persons as well as the striking and complete lack of attempt to offer support for their own products and recommendations – and there is an excellent analysis of their defense strategy here; given the ideology and critical thinking abilities of Goop supporters, the strategy probably worked very well. There is also a fine and very telling summary of her LA Goop summit, where many members of her A-team gave presentations, here. The overall message is instructive (hat-tip: respectful insolence):
1. Nature is always good and healing, never harmful or dangerous.
2. Death is neither real nor permanent.
3. Intuition trumps any other source of evidence.
4. Love can heal anything, even death.
“But that’s religion – it’s just like a religious cult,” some may say. And indeed: it is. This is religion– hardcore, religious fundamentalism whose message is all about community building and shielding oneself to criticism from the outside (and it will never come from the inside) – fluffy-solid, fundamentalist, religious extremism.
It is also worth pointing out that Goop, at an earlier stage, wanted to produce a magazine with Condé Nast, but that negotiations fell through because Condé Nast wanted fact-checking of the contents.
But let’s have a brief look at some members of Paltrow's A-team:
- Tracey Anderson, Paltrow’s personal trainer, and one of the most cynical bullshitters in the whole Hollywood circus.
- Taz Bjatia, a former pediatrician who is now a “board certified” integrative practitioner and onetime guest on Dr. Oz’s show, which is not an endorsement to be proud of.
- Kelly Brogan, HIV denialist and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist who questions the germ theory of disease. One of the dangerous loons you may encounter.
- Richard Eaton, described above, a conspiracy theorist who has “found a way to tap into the human body’s bio-frequency” but won’t tell us how (trade secret).
- Julius Few, who offers natural face-lifts starting “at $3,500 and lasts two to three years.” (Blindness is apparently a potential side effect, but Few tends not to focus on that.)
- Sara Gottfried, an OB/GYN who uses those who seek her advice to push expensive supplements, a “detox” plan and “hormone balancing.”
- Stephen Gundry, described here, one of the most spineless pushers of useless supplement frauds we have ever encountered.
- Laura Lynn Jackson, a “research medium”.
- Alejandro Junger, a dr. Oz acolyte, detox advocate and anti-gluten activist who scams his victims by pushing a battery of tests that show that they suffer from precisely the conditions for which he conveniently sells expensive treatments.
- Linda Lancaster, described above: deranged homeopath who claims that parasites are the main cause of our ailments but that it can be cured by raw milk, a claim roughly as far out there as claiming that it is caused by time-travelling aliens and can be cured by cutting down shrubbery with a herring.
- Anita Moorjani, who, according to herself, once died of cancer but remained conscious and decided to heal herself. No, seriously. (Turns out she was really in ICU and was, in fact, treated with chemotherapy, but since she doesn’t believe in chemotherapty that doesn’t count.)
- Shiva Rose, described above, who produces the infamous jade eggs.
- Habib Sadeghi, who will teach you about “integrative photosynthesis,” “spiritual Wi-Fi,” “neuro-vegetative signs” and “the ontological experience called your life,” and who thinks that scientists don’t know how birds fly. “I am probably one of the most authentic human beings you will ever meet,” says Sadeghi.
- Sherry Sami, who tells us that children teach their mothers how to be “a great digestive enzyme” to help said children “metabolize their experiences” while leading the mother towards her “divinity.”
- Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, who can tell us that we are all pawns of something called The Field, “the invisible force that makes things happen that you can’t do on your own” but which is opposed by “a devil living inside you, a demon” who “wants to f**k you up any way he can.” (It’s pretty much The Secret).
Much of Goop’s marketing strategy is based on chemophobia and the toxin scare (e.g. “spray sunscreens are bad news bears, as you’re sending nano-particles of toxins into the air which can then be inhaled”), and Paltrow has accordingly presented her fans with non-effective detox after detox after detox regimes supposed to expunge unnamed toxins from your body. She is rather selective, however, and also has a whole section on her website devoted to the joys of alcohol, which is definitely both a carcinogen and a toxin. There is a good portrait of Paltrow and her toxins scare here.
Paltrow is also an important advertiser for anti-GMO activism. She has also toyed with HIV denialism and anti-vaccine views.
Finally, let us introduce the AI at Botnik studios trying to write its own Goop-style website. The results are both hilariously ridiculous and scarily convincing.
Diagnosis: Genuinely stupid. But if you are a celebrity, with plenty of cash, time and self-confidence, you can build an empire on stupid, and a horde of frauds and deranged lunatics will emerge from the woodwork to help you out (and benefit from it). Gwyneth Paltrow is, in other words, everything that is wrong with the world.