Sunday, November 17, 2019

#2268: J.C. Smith

J.C. Smith (right) being interviewed.
The appreciation of science, evidence and medicine among chiropractors varies. Chiropractor J.C. Smith represents the non-appreciating faction. According to Smith, science and scientists, biased as they are toward truth, evidence and reality, are waging a war against chiropractors, especially those who, like Smith, find themselves on the more overtly pseudoscientific end of things, and in 2011 he (self-)published his magnum opus The Medical War Against Chiropractors: The Untold Story from Persecution to Vindication detailing the battle in an exposé comparable, in his view, to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s exposé of slavery. According to Smith, the American Medical Association has waged a dirty war on perceived competition, and the motive is primarily money – though not only that: according to Smith, real MDs are apparently attacking chiropractic because it is based on a vitalistic philosophy, which doctors and scientists oppose because they are mostly atheists. The fight for the legitimacy of chiropractic is according a “religious war to keep the heretics out of the medical den of iniquity.” It is, apparently, also an attack on academic freedom and comparably to the bigotry in America before Civil Rights, when desegregation led to resentment and deadly attacks. The book-burning mindset of scientists and medical doctors will, as Smith sees it, go down in the annals of history alongside Joseph Goebbels’s book-burning policy. Indeed, Smith’s book contains a remarkable amount of references to Nazis and racial prejudice in addition to its more predictable half-truths, falsehood and general crackpottery. 

The general narrative of the book is approximately as follows: Before chiropractic licensure was approved chiropractors occasionally got themselves in legal trouble for practicing medicine without a license, and as Smith sees things, this was apparently a bogus charge, but one that forced noble chiropractors to hide like Anne Frank or escaped slaves; chiropractors persevered despite AMAs aggressive efforts to combat quackery, however, and finally got their long-awaited licensures. AMA is, throughout the book, compared to the KGB, Gestapo and CIA, and he even mentions the showers of Auschwitz; medical doctors are like storm troopers, and criticizing chiropractic is like making Rosa Parks sit in the back of the bus. Suffice to say, the book probably did not do chiropractors who want to be taken seriously any service. There is a good and reasonably comprehensive critique of the book here.

His book. It is published
by Tate Publishing.
Apparently there is a sequel,
too: To Kill a Chiropractor:
The Media War against
As for his claims on behalf of the efficacy of chiropactic, Smith decides to go all D.D. Palmer. Deep into subluxation woo, Smith is very concerned about the proper flow of nerve energy, claiming that spinal dysfunctions disrupt the flow and cause heart attacks and visceral disorders like dysmenorrhea, asthma, enuresis, and infantile colic. Indeed, spine dysfunctions can even cause brain damage and premature aging. And manipulation is, of course, effective for all these disorders. As evidence for his nonsense, Smith relies for instance on the 1979 New Zealand Chiropractic Report developed by a panel consisting of a barrister, a chemistry professor, and a retired headmistress of a girls’ school (and comprehensively discussed here); the NZ report relied primarily on selected testimonials, draws conclusions in direct conflict with all current evidence obtained by using actual scientific methods, and nevertheless concluded that chiropractors should be strictly monitored, not present themselves as doctors, not encourage patients to consult a chiropractor in preference to a medical doctor for any condition, and not mislead the public into believing that chiropractic is an alternative to medicine. To bolster his case, Smith has arguments from popularity and patient satisfaction, and even arguments from antiquity: according to Smith, Hippocrates and Imhotep wrote about chiropractic (they did not). He also quotes Gary Null and Dana Ullman, and dismisses critics as being in cahoots with the AMA.

Smith also runs a website called Chiropractors for Fair Journalism, where he attacks critics of woo for oppression and for engaging in mafia tactics (The Institute for Science in Medicine, for instance, is referred to as “The Medical GoodFellas”), and accuses anyone who points out the pseudoscience and quackery that underlie chiropractic of “bigotry”, like: “His [Morris Fishbein, MD] intolerant quasi-KKK attitude about all non-allopathic CAM professions set the tone for the Jim Crow, MD, bias we see in many members in the medical profession today.” Likewise, efforts to inform the public of medical science and medical evidence that Smith doesn’t like is “fear-mongering and slander”. The main problem, though, with organizations like the ISM, which offers medical information and criticize pseudoscience, is apparently that they seek to “alone determine[…] what qualifies one method as ‘pseudo-scientific practices’ and the others as ‘scientific’,” and that “it is not its role to act as watchdogs since this is a governmental issue within each state. No one has endowed ISM to act as such, but the AMA has never subjected its power to any governmental agency in its quest to remain the medical monopoly.” Not indicative of a particularly well-developed ability to draw obvious distinctions or avoid massive strawmen, is it? 

Diagnosis: A shining illustration of the all-too common failure to distinguish criticism from oppression and facts from opinion. At least his efforts are probably unlikely to do quacks any favors.

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