Posts Tagged righteous indignation

Snake Oil Or Solution? An Interview With Jim Humble

Proper snake oil salesmen are a dying breed. Time was, travelling grifters with lotions and tonics to cure what ails you were as commonplace as deaths from diseases they claimed to cure. Depictions in pop culture of Victorian-era or Wild-Western vendors of elixirs and tinctures with exotic and wonderous names – and even more glorious claims – are now ubiquitous to the point of cliché. They even show their face in the Cher song ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves‘ (interestingly enough, in combination with evangelicism: ‘Papa would do whatever he could / Preach a little gospel, sell a couple bottles of Doctor Good’ – more of which later).

However, you might say they don’t make them like they used to – while bullshit inevitably still bobs to the surface and the desperate and willing are still taken for their money by sham products, the claims have tended towards a more reserved, vague, wishy-washy and intangible nature. No longer will a smiling charlatan claim to cure you, instead they’ll ‘boost your immune system’ or ‘increase your energy’ or something equally weasel-worded, to avoid making solid and testable claims, and mitigate the potential for angry customers – after all, while the hucksters of yore could back up their medicine cabinet and hop on the first stage coach out of town before their victims smelt a rat, in today’s world it’s far harder to disappear without a trace, and far more lucrative not to have to. Quackery got marketing savvy, you might say. As such, snake oil – with it’s extravagant names and bold claims – has fallen to the wayside.

Or so I thought. However, I was given cause to reassess this line of rationale – if not nostalgia for a time when pseudoscience was so potentially transparent – when I first encountered Jim Humble, and his Miracle Mineral Solution. With a name most Wild-Western-novelists would shun for being somewhat lazily ironic, and a product whose miraculous monicker is matched only by it’s catalogue of cures, it seemed to me like we had a genuine snake oil salesman on our hands. Initial reports of MMS and Jim’s activities did nothing to dissuade me – while we’re now well-acquainted with the experiences of Rhys Morgan when highlighting the dangers of the solution in ‘treating’ Crohn’s disease, it was reports from Martin Robbins (not least in the Guardian) and the blogger Noodlemaz which most solidified my preconception of our Humble salesman.

It’s also what convinced me I had to try and get an interview with him.

For readers who don’t know, and I can perfectly understand that there may be plenty, I co-host the Righteous Indignation podcast. On the show, we’ve often had guests who are themselves proponents of a belief traditionally considered pseudoscientific, and we give them the space and open forum to put across their case, which we debate in polite but often firm tones. It was this offer I emailed to Jim – a friendly-yet-firm forum, and the chance to put forward the case for MMS. I must admit, I submitted the interview request half in jest, so it was an enormous surprise to me when he agreed to speak to us. Read the rest of this entry »

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Righteous Indignation

I’m sure lots of you are aware that as well as my regular role on our ‘Skeptics with a K‘ podcast, and the odd showing on ‘Inkredulous‘, I also moonlight on weekly skeptical news show ‘Righteous Indignation’. If you were indeed previously aware of that – well done, 2 points, carry on. If this is startling, bewildering and infuriating news to you… well, for one thing, don’t over-react, it’s only a podcast. But it’s a decent podcast, and there’s lots of episodes for you to catch up on, starting with the latest episode…

Plus you can visit the website to catch previous episodes and subscribe on iTunes. Which you should, because apart from me being on it, it’s also pretty ace. Plus there’s new episode of Inkredulous and Skeptics with a K to look out for soon. You’re welcome.

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