Come for the Oz-kicking, stay for the information

This is an excellent piece on that quack, Dr Oz, by John Oliver. The first 5 minutes is spent mocking the fraud, but then, the last ten minutes are all about the real problem: the evisceration of the FDA’s regulatory power over supplements, thanks to Senators Hatch and Harkin.

OK, there is a silly bit at the end where they show that you can pander to your audience without lying to them about the health benefits of magic beans, but still — let’s beef up the FDA, all right?


  1. says

    It’s largely an out-of-left-field surprise ( for me at least), but Joh Oliver has fucking knocked a number of segments out of the ball park… His one on climate change, internet neutrality, now this… He is really shaping up to be another fine addition to the pantheon of ‘satire/ comedy commentary (the only place where news seems to be taken seriously ironically.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Ooohhh, I could just see the herbal and dietary supplement industry if the FDA came knocking on their door. And asking for validated methods to show what is in the bottle, is actually what they claim, and what concentration is the real active ingredient.
    Consumer Reports has found many herbal remedies don’t even contain any of the plant matter on the label. It’s like paying for MJ, and getting oregano.

  3. says

    On an up note, I am still pretty amazed that the congressional hearing even HAPPENED in the first place…That joyous bit came out of nowhere. I don’t know anything about McCaskill except for this, but if this is any indication of future ‘enterprises’ of a similar nature, then chalk ANOTHER one up for women in congress! They seem to be just about the only one with the guts to stand up to the ‘man’

  4. doublereed says

    I feel like I would get more news out of an hour with John Oliver than two days over at CNN.

  5. gussnarp says

    Mel Fucking Gibson? I never knew before that he’s always been completely unhinged and just a horrible person.

    John Oliver could be the greatest thing for getting Americans to actually reject some of this pseudoscience if he doesn’t make the mistakes of giving some of these people a free pass like Jon Stewart sometimes does.

  6. says

    First, I’m in agreement with ashleybell on being amazed the hearing happened in the first place…but, I’m otherwise rather depressed…depressed at the anti-science liberals, particularly the ones who are all “concerned” about vaccines and/or GMO’s, but don’t say one word about supplements. Heck, it would not surprise me if a lot of those same people buy a lot of supplements. Because, truth be told, a number of those people are only concerned about vaccines and/or GMO’s because they don’t like “big pharma” or “big ag,” while being completely oblivious to “big supplement” (or “big organic” for that matter). Perhaps that’s because there are lots of smaller companies rather than a handful of large companies that they fly under the radar?

  7. gussnarp says

    @Leo Buzalsky:

    Perhaps that’s because there are lots of smaller companies rather than a handful of large companies that they fly under the radar?

    I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think those who oppose vaccines and trot out the “Big Pharma” canard, or those who trot out “Big Ag” when talking about GMOs are just ignorant of the facts. There are certainly some small companies out there, but in this era of corporate greenwashing, mergers, and acquisitions, the truth is that for all intents and purposes “big pharma” = “big supplement” and “big ag” = “big organic”. Major drug companies own supplement lines and take full advantage of playing in a less regulated environment than they have to for their actual drugs. Huge agribusiness conglomerates have organic product lines.

  8. laurentweppe says

    You know, if scientists had found that the “magic” bean supposedly capable of making you effortlessly lose fat was a big fat placebo at best, I would have been completely unimpressed by this Oz.

    But a bean that gives you diabetes? It’s magical all right: the good doctor Oz just rolled a DoT Warlock instead of a Healer.

  9. swampfoot says

    I remember very well the uproar in the early 90s. I do NOT recall it being bi-partisan at all. Republicans went to war against David Kessler, partly because of his attempts to more tightly regulate tobacco, but mainly due to his attempts to crack down on the nutritional supplement industry. Right-wing rags like the American Spectator were just hysterical about the guy. Gordon Liddy never went a day without smearing him.

  10. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    Jon Oliver has really come into his own. Perhaps in a few years he’ll have ironed the kinks out of his awkward deliveries. Or maybe that’s just a quirk that will always stay. Either way, that part isn’t endearing. But he is otherwise right on target with that wit and pithiness.

  11. =8)-DX says

    This really was a good one. Yes, pandering to audiences is possible without flogging ineffective dietery supplements!

  12. Mobius says

    I really like John Oliver. I loved his bits on the Daily Show.

    I don’t have HBO, so I don’t have access to his show. However, this seems to be not much of a disadvantage since the best clips are continually appearing here and on other blogs (in particular Mano’s).

    The Daily Show, IMHO, has been phenomenal. Jon Stewart has found a very successful niche and does an excellent job as the “anchor”. And the show has been a successful launching point for other comedic careers such as Oliver and Colbert. Kudos.

  13. jrobie says

    I kind of want to give Oliver bonus points for calling them “women in trashy dresses throwing wine at each other” rather than “trashy women.”

  14. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Throwaway, the “awkward” deliver is part of it. His timing is much more “British” than “American”. We (Brits) talk with a different rhythm & emphasis, if you listen closely to British comedians you’ll find several who have a similar approach to John Oliver. Deadpan snarkery is pretty much a default in our comedy heritage.

    He is very good at it, though!

  15. says

    Dear John Oliver, You are fucking awesome. Comedy backed up with facts, and with in-depth reporting that would make Rachel Maddow proud.

    Kisses and hugs,


  16. HolyPinkUnicorn says

    The early ’90s lobbying ad with Mel Gibson is definitely the strangest part of the whole clip–especially when it looks like it could be the start of a scene from one of the Lethal Weapon movies.

    Hope at least a few more consumers wake up to what a woo-peddling wacko Oz is, even if appearing before Congress makes some people defend their idols even more. The lack of FDA regulatory power over supplements is still shameful though.

  17. Rich Woods says

    @Nerd #2:

    It’s like paying for MJ, and getting oregano.

    Oh come on, we’ve all done that. What could be more natural before getting hooked on homeopathics?

  18. w00dview says

    let’s beef up the FDA, all right?

    This is one reason why I find libertarian sceptics like Penn Jilette puzzling. They may not like quackery but in their ideal free market utopia wouldn’t quacks thrive and prosper even more than they do now? Wouldn’t strengthening the power of the FDA at least reduce the damage these assholes do? How do libertarian sceptics reconcile their scepticism with their distaste for government regulation of any sort? I’m genuinely curious.

  19. Drolfe says


    Invisible hand will sort that right out. Self regulation! For-profit regulators aka ratings agencies! Every consumer will have perfect knowledge and universal expertise! I am told.

    Weird though that they don’t consider products that kill you over time a market failure.

  20. Pierce R. Butler says

    Nerd of Redhead… @ # 2: It’s like paying for MJ, and getting oregano.

    Not really: the effects of MJ fall in a specific and fairly predictable range; filler herbs provide placebo effect at best. Few bottled herb products, even those with ingredients exactly as listed, can claim impacts remotely comparable to C. Sativa/Indica.

  21. ck says

    Drolfe wrote:

    Invisible hand will sort that right out. Self regulation! For-profit regulators aka ratings agencies! Every consumer will have perfect knowledge and universal expertise! I am told.

    And it’s only marginally less improbable than a free energy or perpetual motion device. And since it’s not completely and totally impossible in theory, that means it can and must happen!

  22. says

    Seconded for the Bugle recommendation. He and Andy Zaltzman were talking about drones and kill lists long before anyone else even sniffed the problem. Of course, being a comedy podcast, it was also rather righteously funny.

  23. davroslives says

    The Bugle is a real gem of political satire (and puns). I really, REALLY hope Andy gets to go on John’s show, at least once. It would be a shame not to have that happen.

    Funnily enough, their current hiatus is almost entirely because of the show that might lead more people to it…

  24. says

    Thirded and Fourthed about the Bugle’s excellence. If one is combing the archives, I highly recommend the episode about the time when some guy smacked Berlusconi in the face with a small replica of a cathedral.

  25. shoeguy says

    The diet supplement pill shops that cover the landscape have a loyal following and their customers are rabid in their belief of their brand of woo. Senators were buried under an avalanche of letters ( a paper thing used before email for the purpose of communication) protesting any oversight of the dietary supplement business. I remember their argument was that the products were “food” and not drugs even though the manufacturers made drug like claims for their effect. Politics bends towards mass consensus, even if it is wrong.

    Oliver has the advantage of not needing to make advertisers happy so can step on some huge toes without fear of economic retaliation. It is well worth the cost of the HBO subscription for his show alone, but we get “True Detective” and “Game of Thrones” thrown in. I tolerate Bill Maher’s intolerable anti-scientific woo because of his religion and politics.