The words of the late Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman bear repeating:
"The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific "truth."
These words came to mind Monday, September 2, 1996, while watching a medical report crafted by the CBS news affiliate in Chicago. WBBM television reported that there is a substance commonly found in junk food that explains the 40% drop in heart disease mortality in the United States over the past 20 years.
New to alternative medicine, I have been slow to realize what the field is up against. Although most people are not aware of it, a major news outlet feeding the mass media is being used as a propaganda weapon to spread misinformation about inexpensive alternatives to drugs and other pharmaceutical products. While people may not base their opinions on advertising, they do tend to base their opinions around "news".
For years, as with most people, it was my belief that news organizations may have bias, but that they mostly held to the ideals of a free press. My naiveté dissipated rapidly upon discovering two years ago that one of the world's greatest scientists had made a significant health claim -- which was not reported by the media. It was particularly troubling to see so-called PREVENTION Magazine's treatment of this matter.
Coincidentally, I began to notice a series of medical stories carried by the national news media. To the uninformed reader these stories appear factual and objective. However, each story provided subtly misleading information always favorable to current medical dogma. Amazingly, these stories were published everywhere simultaneously. What power, I wondered, could get many such questionable stories published universally and so regularly while efforts to publicize a milestone discovery had failed?
My epiphany was the realization that these medical stories, without author and usually published under the banner of the Associated Press, were not the work of amateurs. Carefully crafted, each sentence in a given story by itself was (mostly) factual. Together, as the examples later show, these sentences paint a slanted picture, either confusing or otherwise biased against alternative medicine.
Have alternative medicine and its tools, e.g., the vitamins, been the target of a BIG LIE smear campaign? Author and AMA infiltrator James P. Lisa thinks so. He reported such a campaign in his recent book entitled The Assault on Medical Freedom. Upon representing himself as a free lance writer working on a book about "quackery," Lisa was permitted to see confidential AMA files. On page 56 of Lisa's book the author presents evidence that alternatives have been targeted by pharmaceutical interests, at least since the year 1985:
"In a letter dated February 7, 1985, Mr[deleted] sent Mr [deleted] information about the "Roper poll on quackery." This was a survey of the general public that the PAC/FDA campaign had commissioned in October 1984, in order to identify targets for the campaign. An inspection of the survey is revealing.
Judging from the survey questions asked, it appears that those surveyed would get the impression that they were being asked these questions to solicit how effective these treatments were. However, the survey results apparently were used to identify what the public considered most effective in order to determine top-ranking priorities for the "anti-quackery" campaign.
The following is a sampling of the survey: How effective do you think (read item) is/are?
Heard Very Moderately Not Very of Effective Effective Effective/Other a. Vitamins for 95% 29% 49% 9%/8% improved health b. Chiropractors 85% 25% 40% 8%/12% for back problems c. Psychological 68% 25% 32% 4%/8% Counseling for improved mental health
The category that "scored" fourth-highest was alternative cancer treatments. The survey also included weight reduction, body wraps, wraps for slimming, electrical muscle stimulators for body toning, creams to eliminate cellulite, DMSO for aches and pains, air ionizers for feeling healthier, laetrile for cancer, pills for a better sex life, pills to sober up, and creams to grow hair. The BIG THREE targets for the campaign became (1)vitamins, (2) chiropractic, and (3) alternative cancer treatments."
It soon became obvious that important studies were being routinely deflected by these AP stories -- deflected by the assumption that the news media reporting the story was knowledgeable and objective. These authors can appear impartial and objective. And, by what power do they gain such easy access to the public mind?
It is my hope that readers who are cognizant that such a manipulation exists, and knowing how it works and what its objectives are , will be better able to blunt its affect on the hearts and minds of the American public.
Any seller that can generate "news" articles advantageous to its image, products or services, almost "at will", truly has an unfair marketing advantage. First, such an approach is not likely to cost much; but more important, the people receiving the message perceive it as factual news and are more likely to accept the message and to believe it.
How does one go about getting their advertising message presented in the guise of respected news articles? The most obvious way is to issue a press release. There may be less obvious (or ethical ways). In the case of the pharmaceutical propaganda campaign, these strategically timed and carefully constructed articles occur too frequently for amazing good luck to be the only reason they appear.
Turn it around. What if there were a (imagined) steady stream of "news" articles about the number of people that die every year from side effects to common pharmaceuticals, especially if compared to the side effects of vitamins and herbs? Consider the effect of a steady stream of "news" articles in the major media that most allopathic cancer treatments themselves are carcinogenic, or that overuse of common antibiotics is creating a crisis that allopathic medicine may not be able to conquer, but that oxygen therapies will. Or articles questioning prescription drugs requiring careful supervision one day -- and available over the counter the next. Furthermore, consider the effect of a steady stream of news articles favorable to practitioners of alternative medicine; and how many people are using them, how their therapies are more affective and cheaper, etc. Think of the new image that alternative medicine would have?
Much depends on the credibility of the messenger -- its reputation and the reputation of those providing the "advertising" messages. People must generally perceive propaganda as objective news. The primary intent of this article is to whittle away at that perception.
For the uniformed reader, it is instructive to consider magnesium in the historical perspective. As far back as 1972 the late Dr. Roger J. Williams reported in his book Nutrition Against Disease that a 1957 study showed magnesium to be beneficial to the heart:
"The possibility that magnesium deficiency may also be implicated in coronary heart disease arose when it was reported that injections of magnesium sulfate brought about "dramatic clinical improvement" in patients who had suffered from angina pectoris and coronary thrombosis, and that the lipoprotein levels were brought to normal in many cases."[Bersohn & Oelofse, Lancet: 1:1020, 1957]
More recently, Dr. Brian Leibovitz, Ph.D., editorialized in a recent issue of the Journal of Optimum Nutrition that magnesium:
"is now recognized as a first-line medicine for the treatment of heart attacks. A study published in The Lancet, for example, reported the effects of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study in 2,316 patients with suspected myocardial infarction. The dose of magnesium was high (about 8.7 grams given intravenously over a 24 hour period), but the results were remarkable: magnesium reduced cardiovascular mortality by 25 percent. The author's conclusion: "
"Intravenous magnesium sulfate is a simple, safe, and widely applicable treatment. Its efficacy in reducing early mortality of myocardial infarction is comparable to, but independent of, that of thrombolytic or antiplatelet therapy..."
These findings have been confirmed and reconfirmed in many clinics and laboratories. Teo and colleagues in an analysis of seven clinical studies, for example, concluded that magnesium (in doses of 5-10 grams by intravenous injection) reduced the odds of death by an astounding 55%."
"Studies of magnesium have revealed it to be Nature's 'calcium-channel blocker' ; unlike its drug counterparts, however, magnesium has no toxic side-effects. Another important effect of supplemental magnesium is its ability to mitigate the cardiotoxic effects of catecholamines. Prielipp and associates, for example, published results of a clinical trial in which magnesium (10 mg per kg body weight per hour, or approximately 700 mg per hour for an average adult) attenuated the cardiotoxic effects of epinephrine in 17 bypass patients."
In summary, magnesium is inexpensive, safe and effective. Now, some 38 years after the Lancet report, it is widely recognized as a crucial life saver, if and when used in the fight against heart attack. All unbiased studies have shown it to be non-toxic, even in very large (gm) amounts.
Why "smear" magnesium? Even more interesting, why would all the mass media be so willing to print the smear? Magnesium is not only a direct competitor for a wide array of expensive cardiac medications: It seems to work better, however its effectiveness directly challenges allopathic medicine's assertions that "simple nutrients" are ineffective in and of themselves therapeutically.
It is bad enough that a story like "the magnesium scare" could make ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and the papers in the United States based on a single questionable study; one among hundreds that are published each month, but why pick up a story that even the authors admit contain numbers of incidents affecting less than 2 people per year? (By the way, experts we spoke with offered their opinion that the large amount of aluminum consumed was much more likely to be the root cause of the reported problems.) A balanced report would have mentioned the great therapeutic value that is now attributed to magnesium.
The reader should be aware that the possibility of "fetal defects" has already been listed in orthodox nutrition text books as a "side affect of vitamin A." That makes for an interesting conundrum. If this is "old news" -- why was it a "major story"? If this is, as we believe, one of the first such study in humans, how did the nutrition text book writers know? Are they clairvoyant?
The absurdity is revealed by the numbers: Boston University's idea of a statistically significant public health risk is an "estimated 5 or 6 per 23,000". Yet this "major" story appeared everywhere.
The AP report glossed over the fact that heart disease is known to result from arterial "endothelial dysfunction," as the story put it. The AP story dodged a bullet by quoting Harvard Professor Eric Rimm that "another study in which smokers were given vitamin C pills over eight years found no effect on their rate of heart disease"
As far as we can tell, this claim is false. There was no eight year study at Harvard that gave smokers vitamin C pills. Undoubtedly, the study referred to was the 1992 study "Vitamin E and Coronary Heart Disease in Men" published in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, that study of health professionals limited its analysis to 667 males suffering cardiovascular disease (CVD), out of 39,910 males given follow-up questionnaires. Only those participants who had originally been free, and then either died of coronary artery disease or suffered a coronary episode were considered.
As an aside, since the antioxidant intake of 39,243 individuals who participated in the study (or 98.3%) that did not develop coronary disease were specifically excluded from the analysis, the Harvard Vitamin E study should not have been used to counter the Munzel study. Rimm could not have noticed a "completely protective affect of vitamin C." No pills were handed out, by the way.
The AP title implied that Lp(a) is a "new" discovery. I sense the medical profession is about to claim credit itself for discovering Lp(a). However, the research on Lipoprotein(a) was well enough developed in 1991-1992 that Dr. Matthias Rath of the Linus Pauling Institute had conducted studies, and Pauling had lectured for years on this danger. The date of the discovery that Lp(a) is a "major" player in heart disease most probably would be in the year 1989. (1988 was the year the Wall Street Journal first reported on lipoprotein(a).)
The more damaging part of the AP lipoprotein(a) article were assertions that "Lp(a) is hard to measure accurately" and even when measured, "there are no known ways to reduce its level in the body." Both these assertions are probably false. Lp(a) can be measured sufficiently well to establish risk. Vitamin B3 and Vitamin C have been shown to lower Lp(a) blood levels. These studies were not mentioned. Of course the real "bomb shell" that is glossed over is that it is now known that the binding of Lp(a) to the walls of damaged blood vessels can be inhibited. Pauling and Rath received the patent for this in 1994. These binding inhibitors, especially the amino acid l-lysine, offer a safer and possibly more effective alternative to angioplasty, coronary by-pass and even Chelation.
I believe that part of the reason a "possible viral role in heart disease" was chosen for this particular piece/study is the important news that Vitamin E prevents the Coxsackie virus from mutating. According to other articles this month, Vitamin E prevents the virus from causing myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. This unsigned AP article is designed to create confusion on the vitamin E issue.
The AP article does contain some interesting information. For example, it correctly points out that approximately 1/3 of the 400,000 angioplasty operations fail. Restenosis. (Chelation doctors have been pointing to this phenomenon for years and explaining the double standard: Neither angioplasty nor coronary by-pass were ever studied clinically before coming into widespread use, yet the safer Chelation therapy is "criticized" because conventional medicine claims that Chelation lacks appropriate studies.)
It is transparent that in this one article the AP , either wittingly or unwittingly, is misinformation specifically designed to:
On the other hand, if some issue considered threatening to the status quo appears, a seemingly favorable "propaganda" article is crafted and disseminated, such as the VITAMIN C INJECTIONS or the NEW FORM OF CHOLESTEROL (LP(a)). These propaganda articles are maddenly accurate, but deflect the importance of the study by subtly distorting the results. Finally, if all else fails, the dissinformation technique is applied. We see silly propaganda designed to discredit legitimate science, e.g. the "junk food reduces heart disease mortality." It works because the average person can not make sense of a stream of confusing articles. (The question is, how do these articles and theories get publicized so easily?)
The public accepts these AP stories as objective and factual. They are neither. Interested readers can view the actual AP articles cited here and clipped from the newspaper, along with several others, at our internet site http://www.internetwks.com/pauling/lie/index.html.
It seems to me that the M.D. or D. O. initials after your name can be a powerful weapon against the campaign -- a campaign that exists and works only as long as people don't generally realize that it exists. Each and every one of you should write to your newspapers, with a copy to the Associated Press, every time one of these questionable articles appears.
The address of the AP is:
Mr. Louis D. Boccardi, President, or Mr. William E. Ahearn The Associated Press 50 Rockefeller Plaza New York, NY 10020If sufficient numbers of readers took the time to write and question the accuracy and fairness of these questionable articles, they may be stopped and a major weapon against alternative medicine would be effectively silenced.
Owen R. Fonorow P.O. Box 3097 Lisle, IL 60532 (630) 416-1438 Fax: (630) 416-1309 firstname.lastname@example.org