Yesterday, the article I wrote about the endorsement of non-evidence-based practitioners on Lorna Jane’s corporate blog was reposted at Mamamia, and the response I garnered was largely as expected.
For those of you not interested in reading the full thing, I have distilled it to a couple of convenient dot points:
- Lorna Jane, you are pretty successful;
- The majority of the stuff in your blog is fun and harmless;
- Some of the stuff in your blog is dubious and elevates the credibility of non-evidence-based practices and dangerous anti-vaccine rhetoric by giving it an airing;
- Lots of people read the blog and respect you as a voice in the wellness industry (and you may not even write or control much of the content in your blog anyway); and
- It would be good if that third point wasn’t the case.
Granted, it was a little more challenging to have the point come across: links that took me months to compile and gather as evidence were lost in the translation (and it would have been onerous for Mamamia to have compiled and included every single link), and as such readers may have found it hard to verify the points being made.
So what do I ultimately want?
The same thing every wellness blogger wants: for people to think for themselves, evaluate the evidence on both sides of the fence, and to be able to make informed decisions on the basis of this evidence. This does not entail the following:
- That I want Lorna Jane’s business to fail (I don’t, and her Sarlacc-strength leggings are a veritable public service);
- That I think she makes a poor quality product or that her corporate practices aren’t above-board (firstly, no; secondly, I am grateful for not being clairvoyant every day, so I have no way of knowing what her corporate practices are otherwise);
- That I think anything badly of anyone working either for Lorna Jane retail or corporate (my experiences in the retail stores have been unfailingly good, and yes, I wear Lorna Jane);
- The assumption that she vets all content on the website;
- That the people mentioned in the blog post are behaving fraudulently (there are very few people in the wellness world who are knowingly selling fraudulent material – I believe most are very earnest and honest about what they promote, but that doesn’t make it okay when that advice leads to harm);
What I did want was the following:
- To start a conversation about the corporate responsibility of wellness bloggers
- To highlight that non-evidence-based practitioners who potentially give harmful advice to the public are now viewed as genuine authorities, despite the events of the last few months with Belle Gibson and Jess Ainscough;
- To point out the potential reach of Lorna Jane’s blog and its ability to change public behaviour for good and for bad.
I stand by my statement that 90% of what is posted on the MoveNourishBelieve blog is totally fine and harmless, even if things like oil pulling sound so intensely disgusting that it triggered an involuntary dry-retch in me when I first read about it. But people are hardly doing oil pulling with the goal of curing cancer or as a replacement for vaccines or EBM, so DILLIGAF.
In allowing the republication of my article I geared myself up for some negative feedback, and I certainly got it. It didn’t keep me up at night, to be sure, but there were a handful of things to address:
My educational record is not really a secret: in fact, I’d argue that it’s the point of why I started blogging; because people with very little real education are offering health advice that contravenes evidence-based science. (Funny how this is only objectionable if your advice is “go to a real bloody doctor instead of listening to muppets on the internet”.)
But Cheryl has said something very true: I am indeed overweight, though the skin is in check. I am aggressively plain. I look like a prole from 1984. And a) all of this was mentioned in the first 100 words of my article, and b) it still isn’t germane to whether the points I have raised are valid or not. It is so spectacularly ad hominem as a response that I laughed a bit as I drank my tea (made on fluoridated water) this morning.
Given the changes to the Defamation Act in 2005 which allow for commentary which is true, it’s hard to see what was defamatory about my post. Unless it involves talking about the Institute for Integrative Medicine, of which everything I mentioned was personal opinion. (There is a great saying: throw a rock into a pack of dogs, and the one that barks is the one that got hit. I can understand that graduates of the IIN may feel somewhat slighted.)
Actually, all of this is true. Apart from bliss balls, which are really just shit rum balls. Lorna Jane encourages women to be active and has played a significant role in socialising exercise and making it culturally acceptable to be wearing comfortable work out clothes that enable people to be active through the day. Good for her!
The point of my postscript is to offer people a right of reply (which I am still happy to publish in full without editing). However, there is an insidious trend by those who hold anti-vaccine views to say “I’m not anti vaccine, but…” which is extremely disingenuous and distances themselves from their opinions. People who say they are “pro-choice”, “pro-safe vaccines”, or any of the canards used in recent protests about various pieces of legislation in the US and Australia recently are often astroturfers who pretend to be fence-sitting parents or concerned, disinterested members of the community. Even if they aren’t, it is highly unlikely that for all the cries for presenting ‘both sides of the case’ that they themselves have posted positively about the benefits of vaccines to the community. That donation offer still stands, as does the one for the fulsome apology.
Whether or not LJ makes the changes is entirely up to her: after all, her company, her call, and having yelled at commenters who tried to determine the style and content of my own blog, I would be a hypocrite if I demanded that she changed for me. However, in airing views people bear the responsibility of the consequences of their words. Freedom of speech (even if it is only implied in Australia) entails responsibility for the consequences of that speech. I am taking responsibility for my words, but know the limited impact they can have.
When I have further updates I keep you all posted.