Weasely words

The Mountain Express, a newspaper in the liberal bastion of North Carolina, Asheville, ran an article on one of those alt-med quackeries, “medical intuitives”. These are people who claim to be able to see inside you and diagnose diseases, and the newspaper article was completely unquestioning. A reader, Robert J. Woolley, wrote in to complain, and listed some of the claims made.

Specifically, Teresa Eidt claims, “I was shown a cancerous ulcer on the internal wall of [a massage client’s] abdomen,” and “I scan the body system by system.” Kimberly Crowe is said to claim “that when she placed her hands on people, she could see things in their bodies.” Rachel Frezza claims that her ability in this regard was objectively tested: “Frezza was given no information about [10 patients] or their conditions. Only by accurately reporting the conditions did she pass the course.” Tammy Coffee is quoted as saying, “I see the physical body like an X-ray machine, like I have a camera and I am going inside the body … I will look through, for example, the entire small and large intestine.”

The editor’s reply reveals the problem.

Editor’s response: Mountain Xpress does not endorse therapies, and since we are not health professionals ourselves, we are not in a position to evaluate the efficacy of any healing modalities. In this case, we’d also note that medical intuitives do not diagnose illness; there is a legal restriction on their activities. Xpress does share stories about the many modalities for health that are practiced in our region, letting readers know what practitioners are doing and saying as part of covering the entire wellness scene in Asheville. The “Medical Intuitives” article is one of those stories.

I’m not a medical doctor either, but I’m capable of asking questions, like “How do these abilities work?” and “Have your diagnoses been objectively tested?” and “I’ve been to a real doctor, and have had one discrete biological anomaly identified…can you tell me what it is?”. Real doctors can tell you what their procedures do and how they work, and can show you medical literature in which their procedures are constantly evaluated by universally assessable criteria.

Why can’t the Asheville Mountain Express do that? Do their journalists even bother to ask questions?

If I set up a Nasal Manipulation shop — it’s a new health modality I just invented, in which I promote wellness by bopping people in the nose and relieving their brains of excess pressure by the vigorous expression of nasal blood and realignment of facial bones — would the Mountain Express reporter come by for a treatment and write a blandly positive article on me for the paper? I could use the money.


  1. robro says

    Wow, just like Ray Milland in X: The Man With X-Ray Vision.

    I thought journalists had a responsibility to at least pretend to look at the whole story. They typically report any criticism or questioning of a scientific hypothesis or explanation of new evidence . Why not this one?

  2. twas brillig (stevem) says

    So this paper is just publishing what these quaks CLAIM to be able to do, but do not ask any questions, for verification of their abilities, of these quacks? That is not reportage but free advertisment. Yeah, it’s nice to know what some people CLAIM they can do, and it would also be nice to know what the paper, itself, CLAIMS to do, so as to compare its claims to its actions. I want to make a punnified joke about ‘local rag’ but I gots nuthin.

  3. NYC atheist says

    @2 robro

    The answer is in your question. It’s not a scientific hypothesis.

  4. borax says

    Asheville is full of alt-med bullshit and the Mountain Xpress is one the worst enablers of said bullshit. I Should know; I’m a native and still live here.

  5. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This type of crap was refuted by a thirteen year-old, Emily Rosa, who published a paper in JAMA refuting such energy fields.
    Editor, start using your mind and do some fact checking. Google can be your friend.

  6. garnetstar says

    The only person who can do that is my dad. But then, he is an M.D., a general practitioner from the days when there weren’t many scans or tests doctors could do. So, he became expert in accurate diagnoses from physical examinations alone. I’ve heard younger doctors marvel at his ability, and I’ve never known him to be mistaken (truly!)

    Though, he doesn’t actually claim to “see” tumors and internal bleeds and the like. Just says that that’s what the problem is.

    So, find a (very) old GP, someone who trained in the early 1950s and has practiced continually on ever since. Then I’ll believe you.

  7. karmacat says

    By their logic they really shouldn’t be writing about anything. If their excuse that they can’t comment on a treatment because they are not doctors, then they can’t comment on economic policies because they are not economists. They can’t comment on very much by their logic

  8. gmcard says

    That’s not a new health modality, the pope was talking about Nasal Manipulation just the other month.

  9. says

    My favorite new health modality is Phrenotherapy. Generally phrenotherapists use a small silver hammer to adjust the bumps on your head in order to improve intelligence, dexterity, or other stats. Some patients report going from a 17 INT to 18/00 INT after only a few sessions!!

  10. Mark Labozzetta says

    Sounds like your Nasal Manipulation shop would result in you being hare today, goon tomorrow.

  11. drowner says

    @4 and 6

    They are correct: the Mountain XPress readership is quite credulous. Having lived in Asheville and Los Angeles both, it’s no contest as to which community I believe has a larger problem with left-wing lunacy. It seems like half the city of Asheville believes the town was constructed atop an underground crystal growth that channels some unidentified energy (an actual belief). I moved away for three reasons: these people, the rich yuppies multiplying within the city limits, and encroachment of rural attitudes from outside the city limits. Asheville sadly is not the liberal bastion that I had imagined in my own mind, which is a shame, because it does produce some world-class beer (Pisgah Pale and Wedge IPA).

  12. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    because it does produce some world-class beer (Pisgah Pale and Wedge IPA).

    And Wicked Weed… everything.

    But yes, there is a big steaming pile of new age woo in Asheville. I go there to drink… I mean see friends fairly frequently and it’s everywhere.

  13. Monsanto says

    I, too, have x-ray vision. I can easily spot dribbly bits and icky stuff, and that’s been medically verified. More than that, I can detect chakra blockages and restrictions to your flow of chi, and I’ve never been medically contradicted on any of that. I’ve also discovered a secret remedy for anything that ails you from none other than Edgar Cayce. Mix honey with a dash of cinnamon and stir that into grape juice. It cured my Aunt Mahitabel’s cancer, but you have to be careful about the dosage because it’s such a powerful drug — even exceeding professional homeopathic 60x preparations.

    Leave your credit card number with me, and I’ll return an online diagnosis that I’m sure will surprise you.

  14. Lady Mondegreen says

    …Nasal Manipulation…–it’s a new health modality I just invented, in which I promote wellness by bopping people in the nose and relieving their brains of excess pressure by the vigorous expression of nasal blood and realignment of facial bones.

    Something very like your new modality was modish for a while around the turn of the last century. It was supposed to improve mental rather than physical health. It was the brainchild of one Wilhelm Fleiss, a friend and fellow crank of Sigmund Freud’s. If you want to be horrified, read about what they did to Freud’s patient Emma Eckstein.