Simon Singh threatened with legal action for criticising health magazine

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Writing on Twitter, Singh accused WDDTY magazine of promoting health advice that could potentially harm readers


The science writer and libel reform campaigner Simon Singh has been threatened with legal action after criticising an alternative health magazine on Twitter.

Earlier this week, Singh took to the social media network to denounce a magazine called What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY). Described by its editor, Lynne McTaggart, as being aimed at “intelligent women between 35-55″ the magazine claims to provide information about what works and what does not work in both conventional and alternative medicines. Coverlines on the current issue include “sunbathe your diabetes away” and “how I avoided my hysterectomy through diet”.

Writing on Facebook on Tuesday, McTaggart called on the magazine’s supporters to fight the actions of “bully boys” who wanted to push it off newsagents’ shelves. “Simon Singh, who was leading the charge, was just told by our distributor essentially to shove off and reminded that tweeting untrue statements about us or them is, well, libel,” she wrote.

Singh confirmed that he had contacted Comag, the distributors of WDDTY, to say that in his opinion the magazine was largely unscientific and was promoting advice that could potentially harm readers.

“Also, many of the adverts appear to make pseudoscientific and unsubstantiated claims,” he said. “I even offered to meet with Comag and introduce them to medical experts, but they have not accepted this invitation. When I suggested that I would blog about our email exchange, their reaction was to tell me in no uncertain terms: ‘I should inform you that we have sought legal advice in respect of this matter. We would take any attempts to damage our reputation on social media or elsewhere very seriously.’”

Written By: Alok Jha
continue to source article at guardian.co.uk

30 COMMENTS

  1. For goodness sake! Get rid of those ridiculous libel laws already! This is getting beyond annoying. It’s outright absurd! 

    ” McTaggart called on the magazine’s supporters to fight the actions of “bully boys” who wanted to push it off newsagents’ shelves”

    How ironic. The only bully in this story is a charlatan called McTaggart. 

  2. My understanding of libel was that the defamatory material either had to be untrue or not in the public interest (i.e. to do with private, confidential or otherwise privileged words or deeds). And don’t you have to have a GOOD reputation to begin with?

    Or is this not the case with the current UK law?

  3.  Is this really the guy to threaten with libel? Are we really going to watch another bunch of idiots walk into a burning building just like the back crackers did? They truly have no capacity for observation; maybe that is why they have to do fake medicine. They can’t science.

  4. ‘Oh, herbal
    medicine’s been around for thousands of years!’

    “Indeed it has, and then
    we tested it all, and the stuff that worked became ‘medicine’, and the
    rest of it is just a nice bowl of soup and some potpourri”

    Dara O’Briain

  5. Comag informed Singh of the company’s intent not to discuss the matter further and that it had instructed legal counsel.

    I would say bring it on….
    But I am not Simon and maybe after the last debacle with the BCA is not up for another duel with utter idiocy.

    But I hope he does tweak their stupidity into court.
    Problem is these sort of comics are targeted at middle class woo induced women…

    “intelligent women between 35-55″

    with not a functioning analytical brain cell between them, despite  McTaggart’s boast, otherwise the trash would not sell.

    “a bridge between science and spirituality”

    Say’s it all…’quack’ and then some.

  6. I doubt they will when see what the British Chiropractic Society had to pay when they sued Simon Singh. I wish I could have been bothered to get off my arse and complain when one of my wife’s magazines printed a story about the “dangers” of the anti cervical cancer jab. Their scientific evidence consisted solely on readers letters and predictably covered every possible supposed side effect from alopeica  to brain tumours. 

    So yet again anecdotal stories where two things happen coincidentally and one is assumed to be the cause of the other wins out over extensive scientifically trials (Big Pharma is LYING to us etc,etc )

  7. “Described by its editor, Lynne McTaggart, as being aimed at “intelligent women between 35-55″ “

    ???

    Is there something special about this group, apparently based on their gender, age and mental capacity, that means they need to know what the doctor doesn’t tell them but nobody else does?

    Presumably NON-intelligent women are already talking bullshit.

  8. As a doctor, Simon is having his good name libelled by this magazine which implicates him in a conspiracy to withold important information from patients so should get on the gravy train

    it is ironic how they can make such claims, using the premise that they are some sort of brave whistle-blower then run for their lawyers as soon a doctor does start telling

  9. I think Singh is a graduate of Imperial College of Medicine Science and Technology; chances are he knows what he’s talking about I would have thought.

    In any case, if what he’s saying is true he can’t be sued for it; can he? 

  10. Sorry, I should have explained. WDDTY positions itself as a health magazine. If WDDTY promotes products, services and advice that is not proven to be healthy, is it not conducting an act of self defamatory behaviour? It is defaming itself. If it is and I comment on that, I am not so much conducting defamatory behaviour as I am pointing it out. 

    Would it not be required of WDDTY to first prove that Singh’s behaviour is defamatory by proving its content is actually healthy and safe? Singh’s comments may be harmful to WDDTY but the only defamatory action being conducted in the exchange comes from WDDTY.

    I just don’t understand how obviously false claims are not weeded out as fraud by a system with the capacity to observe trial results. Fucking blows my mind. 

  11. In any case, if what he’s saying is true he can’t be sued for it; can he?

    Yes, he can be sued for it.  He can assert truth as an affirmative defense, but under English law he has the burden of proving that his statements are true and not intended to defame (instead of the plaintiff having the burden of proving that his statements are false and intended to defame as under U.S. law).  This is one of the reasons why a lot of people are trying to have the English libel and defamation laws revised.

  12. Watching them squirm in the courts is worth my money and support, if it ever comes to that. Keeping an eye on this. He could maybe use help from the academic community to strengthen his case. It’s not like all these pseudo-science claims haven’t been rebuked already, times and times over.

    Could set an interesting precedent. Don’t bullshit about science and public health (or anything really, for that matter) if you don’t have the facts to back you up.

  13. Since I started getting involved financially (which isn’t much but is a difference) I feel much more able to actually have an impact on things I want to change. $100 is not much for many of us on this site. Multiplied by thousands of us, it makes a big difference.

  14.  It’s sadly not that easy under the current lible laws in England and Wales, as you rightly say, you face potential ruin just on the cost of fighting it if you don’t win. Fine I suppose for a large institution but a tad more daunting for a private individual and that is how it is used, the party making the threat can often afford to fund the action but the poor person being told to shut up, often does so as they just can’t afford to take a chance on losing.
    The current law is just not fit for purpose and these organisations know it, hence bringing the case to court in England gives them the best chance of a pretty cheap victory, they only need to start threatening whoever they want to shut up and most of the time they get away with it.

  15. He writes for main-line newspapers.  They could probably sell a series of exposes and wipe the floor with these jumped up pseudoscientists if the editors decided it was worth the effort and it would sell papers. 

    WDDTY is  probably all wind and noise anyway.

    It would not do any harm if the BMA jumped on some of these quacks!

  16. I’m pretty sure that after the years spent in the Chiropracter crap he’s well equipped with supporting evidence and all sorts of science based chaps like Dara O’Brien,are available to help?

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