The Snake Oil Bulletin: The Food Babe Gets Her Revenge! (No, She Doesn't.)

Welcome back, lovers of stuff-and-nonsense. It's your weekly dose of assorted woo known as the Snake Oil Bulletin. Last week we tuckered ourselves out on the infuriating world of vegan cat food. Consider this week a bit of a breather from the rage boil that no doubt still festers inside you, because we're going to watch some teevee! Yay! Remember that joyous feeling you had when you walked into your first class of the day and saw the big black teevee on a cart wheeled in from the AV room sitting at the front of your class? That is like today. Only instead of watching a fun nature documentary that might show us boobies or give us a chance to catch up on our nap homework, we're going to watch one of the most awkward interviews since the Fartknocker Queen herself informed us of her reading habits. So spit out your gum, prop up a textbook to cover your face, and get ready to cringe with your beloved Wonkette.

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Food Babe on the Teevee

Do you know who has missed you terribly, dear reader? Why it is our old champion of chicanery Vani Hari, AKA the Food Babe! We last heard from Ms. Hari a few months ago when she was doing a pre-release media blast in preparation for her book release. Apparently in an attempt to drum up more interest in book sales, Hari's publisher set up an interview with their suddenly camera-shy spokesmodel, possibly hoping for some friendly press for Hari's crusade against common sense. Boy did her publisher fuck that up.

In an interview with Al Jazeera America, Vani Hari faced a withering series of questions such as "Are you full of shit or just full of LOTS of shit?" only, y'know, said more journalistically than that.

When asked about her tendency toward sensationalism, fear-mongering, and click-bait headlines, Hari only responded, "my methods are effective." No one doubts that! The effectiveness of breathless bullshit is the only reason UpWorthy is still a thing. The question was asking if you are mongering fear when in fact the thing that you are "reporting" is bullshit.

Hari claims that her career began when she completely changed her eating habits, getting over eczema, allergies, and asthma, though we will note that it's interesting that her allergies still seem to recur every allergy season, as evidenced by this Facebook post from April 3:

The pollen outside is out of control! I've got puffy eyes and a swollen nose this morning - yuck! Going to neti pot like...

Interesting indeed.

The reporter summarizes Hari's campaigns against Subway and Kraft Foods, while pointing out that she is being completely misleading by implying that Subway bread is full of yoga mats. Hari spins faster than a cycling class in Brentwood Heights. She isn't saying the bread is full of yoga mats. She's just pointing out that a chemical in the bread is used in yoga mats, which is true. We're guessing another chemical that both products share is water. Why are the yoga mat manufacturers not informing the public about this dangerous killer chemical in their products? Do they wish us to drown? And why are these companies denying precious water to the millions of thirsty Californians? Do they wish us to die of thirst? This game is so easy!

Also, allow us to just go super gay for a hot second and note that this interviewer has her side-eye game on POINT:

I'm sorry, is the library open? Because we got us some READING going on.

The Food Babe repeats her oft-touted mantra of "If you don't know what a chemical is, don't eat it." That is an excellent piece of advice, which is why we gave up those chemical-laden apples years ago. We also gave up all food entirely. Incidentally we are also now dead.

Hari continues insisting that she is "waking people up," though she doesn't seem to quite hear that the interviewer is pointing out that her information is wrong. And in perhaps the most hilarious piece of bullshit spinning, when asked about why she doesn't recruit more experts for her blogs, Hari claims that she might consider an advisory board of experts in the future. Except when the reporter asks her in the very next sentence when she will do that, she responds, "it's in the works right now." Damn! In the time it took her to take a breath she'd already set in motion an entire science advisory board! We can only guess this ability of hers came through her Professor Xavier telepathy powers she gained from eating yoga mats.

The entire piece is a joy of an interview, though we continue to be dismayed that the mainstream media continues to ignore Hari's superlative science know-stuff-ness, such as her revelation that airplane air is 50% nitrogen. Sloppy reporting, Al Jazeera. How are we going to wake people up to this fiendish nitrogen theft by the airline industry?

While the interview was not as harrowing as we would have liked, we know that it stung. How do we know that? Otherwise fame-happy Vani Hari didn't even post the piece on her Facebook page. Ouch.

Luddites say they're allergic to wi-fi now

Are you looking for a new excuse to not do your job? Aren't we all, really? Well we have a doozy of a work excuse today: a teacher in Los Angeles claimed that her classroom's wi-fi router was making her sick, and if the school didn't shut off their wi-fi she couldn't do her job. After the school accommodated her non-excuse, the teacher decided to make it her mission to shut off wi-fi in every classroom in the entire state of California. That's how you educate the next generation: take away resources.

Anura Lawson claims that she and her entire family suffer from "electromagnetic hypersensitivity," a condition she claims to have discovered in 2012 when the city installed a wireless gas meter on her house. According to Lawson she began suffering from headaches, heart palpitations, and her "brain running slower," along with other non-specific symptoms our grandmother liked to call "Being Alive Syndrome." Lawson removed all wireless devices from her home and switched to landline phones and cassette tapes. Why she didn't switch to compact discs isn't entirely clear, unless she's claiming that discs now emit phantom wi-fi signals. Spooky!

Lawson claims that her symptoms resurfaced when she moved to a new school district that used wi-fi in the classroom as part of a tablet-based learning system for the kidlings. Lawson complained to the school board that the wi-fi router in her classroom was upsetting her hypersensitivity, and demanded it removed. The school, thinking this would be an easy enough request to accommodate, removed the router, and Lawson claims her symptoms subsided. Why she didn't get sick from the wi-fi being used in all the other classrooms just next door is a bit of a mystery. Nevertheless, emboldened by her victory over science, Lawson has started a petition to get wi-fi removed from every classroom in the state of California.  In other words, because one teacher in one classroom in a single school district feels a little urpy, the state of California should deny all 6 million of their public school students access to wireless internet learning. Unless Lawson also claims to have omnipresence, we're pretty sure wi-fi up in Fresno is not going to upset her sensitivity down in LA.

If it sounds like we're being harsh on Lawson, it's not without reason. The working name for her condition actually goes by the super sciencey name of idiopathic environmental intolerance with attribution to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF), and as of yet the collective evidence that IEI-EMF is real is a big ole doughnut. There is no scientific evidence that electromagnetic sensitivity is a thing. Like at all. Not only have all studies done of the symptoms shown that they have no evidence of being real, but according to a 2015 study of people who claimed to present with the condition:

Results showed that IEI-EMF participants reported lower levels of well-being during real compared to sham exposure during open provocation, but not during double-blind trials. Additionally, participants reported lower levels of well-being during high compared to low load trials and this did not interact with radiofrequency-EMF exposure. These findings are consistent with a growing body of literature indicating there is no causal relationship between short-term exposure to EMFs and subjective well-being in members of the public whether or not they report perceived sensitivity to EMFs.

In other words, people who claimed to be sensitive to electromagnetic frequencies were very good at claiming they felt woozy when they knew EMFs were present, but when the researchers figuratively blindfolded them they couldn't tell the difference between an EMF smorgasbord and an empty room. They were just guessing. This is a classic symptom of the "nocebo" effect, wherein a patient will claim a negative reaction to a thing that clearly is not hurting them. Think of the nocebo like a placebo with a scary goatee.

News coverage of Lawson's story has been rather predictable in its non-diligence. Even the Raw Story article only really cites one doctor on the matter, and he just so happens to be a doctor who is subtly trying to back up Lawson's story by taking the "we don't know it DOESN'T hurt her" tack. While that's true from a science-perspective, that isn't how claims are assessed. The burden to prove it's real is on the people claiming it's real. While they fumble around trying to show that yes HUH they are super allergic to these newfangled whippersnapper contraptions, the rest of us can point and giggle and continue teaching kids how the real world works on their rad-ass iPads. Or at the very least we can try to do that while the squirts secretly download Candy Crush.

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Hokum

Finally, a banquest of bullshit as cooked up by your most beloved of NSFW tumblr accounts, Yr Wonkette!

  • A faith healer is suing a not-dumb lady for not being dumb. And also too for being a secret translady, which is a crime according to the woo woo spirits of The Beyond.
  • We finally have an answer for why Ben Carson can have so much education and yet act so dumb: it's because he copied all his test answers off that Middle Eastern kid in his class. You know, Jesus.
  • A Holocaust denier is calling for Nuremburg Trial for climate scientists, because Nazis never did understand irony.
  • Republicans have perfected the art of the science committee, specifically by removing any of that science stuff. We've got to hand it to them: they really know how to streamline.
  • Abstinence-only sex-ed in Texas is going swimmingly, so long as you ignore all that chlamydia. Was chlamydia mentioned in the Bible? Nuh uh! Checkmate, atheists!

[Al Jazeera America / Everyday Scientist / Raw Story / Neurologica Blog / Pub Med]


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