And then I was incompetently libelled by a litigious millionaire

July 19th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, gillian mckeith, legal chill, libel | 81 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Monday 19 July 2010

What do you do, as a campaigner for libel reform, when a litigious millionaire calls you a liar? This ethical quandary was presented to me last week when twitter account of Gillian McKeith – or to give her full medical title, “Gillian McKeith” – called my book “lies”.

Now, firstly, there is little doubt that this is actionable, and probably undefendable. “Lies”, I can tell you from personal experience, is one word you can never use in England: even if you can show that someone was obviously wrong, even if you can show that they probably knew they were wrong, you still need to show that they deliberately distorted the truth, and that’s almost always impossible, without direct access to their thoughts. They might just have been mistaken, after all. Or sloppy. Or stupid.

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Musical accompaniment written and performed by Doghorse.

So I have an amusingly strong case against the litigious millionaire. And I have a reasonably good reputation for honesty to defend. And although I believe libel laws stifle debate in science at great risk to public health, there’s no issue of science here.

But I’ve always believed that in most cases a simple correction, with the same prominence as the initial libel, should be sufficient. That’s why I contacted @gillianmckeith, firstly to explain that I’d be happy to debate my concerns about her work, and secondly, to make a simple request: could she please just tweet “Bad Science by Ben Goldacre is not lies”. That would be fine with me.

But by now all hell had broken loose. @gillianmckeith’s twitter feed was filled with the abuse of a random passing twitterer, and long, detailed tweets from McKeith explaining how her PhD from a non-accredited correspondence course college was entirely valid. Then they all disappeared. Then the tone shifted: instead of first person stuff about Gillian’s life, lots of third person PR tweets appeared. Then they disappeared. Then, as over 1,000 people were tweeting about her, making it the top trending topic on Twitter, @gillianmckeith announced “do you really believe this is real twitter site for the GM?”

Yes, replied the geeks. Well, the twitter account @gillianmckeith is linked to from gillianmckeith.info, explained some. Then that link was deleted. But, explained others, only half-deleted. If you look at the “source code” for the page, the link is still there, just temporarily inactivated. And that twitter account is still linked from gillianmckeith.tv, Gillian’s youtube page, and in fact her whole empire. Yes, yes we really do believe this is the real twitter site for the real Gillian McKeith. If you’re going to play silly buggers online, at least do it competently. And really, very seriously, don’t call investigative journalists liars. You never know: we might sue too.

Links:

Sorry for no images, I’m having a nice time in a field. There is an excellent account of the incompetent and integrity-torpedoing attempts to cover up for this, and records of the original embarrassing posts, at legal blog JackOfKent, and lots of other excellent blogs:

jackofkent.blogspot.com/2010/07/integrity-and-honesty-of-gillianmckeith.html

I contacted Gillian McKeith last week to ask when she was posting the correction on Twitter. She has not yet replied. We shall see what happens next.

The full story of Gillian McKeith’s legal threats can be read here and here.

No dreary libel of Dr McKeith in the comments please, I’m not interested.


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81 Responses



  1. ignoranceisalearnedbehavior said,

    July 19, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Her DNS is not very comprehensive. www.drgillianmckeith.tv/ gives you the site with the live link to her shwitter feed. :)

  2. Xobbo said,

    July 19, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Gosh, I hope she doesn’t post that retraction. I’d love to see her and her drivel scrutinised in the courts and the media.

  3. Flashpig said,

    July 19, 2010 at 1:42 am

    I hope Bad Science is reprinted once the retraction comes through. I will certainly buy a copy with “‘Bad Science by Ben Goldacre is not lies’ – Gillian McKeith” on the cover.

  4. CoralBloom said,

    July 19, 2010 at 2:47 am

    @Flashpig

    I’m thinking that would be good for Christmas presents rather than giving book tokens as gifts.

  5. Bikerman said,

    July 19, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Methinks the lady has done what many silly people do – posted in anger and, realising the implications, attempted a really terrible cover-up. The final attempt to make it go away using 3rd person denial was quite sad/pathetic.

    As you say, this is not a matter of science, and I think you really have to make an example of the woman to stop similar silly people thinking this is acceptable. Otherwise people in dire need of your book might be put off by this sort of comment (which would, itself, demonstrate how dire their need is).
    Give her a couple of weeks then issue a writ. Donating the damages to a worthy cause will take any potential wind out of her sails when she is forced to stump up a barrow-load of the folding stuff.

  6. ellieban said,

    July 19, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Yes, our libel laws do need reforming and, yes, in their current form they do stifle scientific debate, but everyone is agreed that we need protection from libel in some form. This is precisely the sort of situation they are supposed to be for, and so I would really love to see you take this one all the way. Unless she retracts of course, your acceptance of that as a solution is a noble and generous one. I really hope she doesn’t…

  7. 5ynic said,

    July 19, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Exactly the right approach. Crowdsource the anger and ridicule, and stand back and make gentle fun.
    Keep every scrap of evidence as the story gets changed and rechanged, and the various websites and accounts get clumsily edited and the position as to who said what gets redacted over time tho – ridicule is best when the behaviour has been palpably ridiculous :)

  8. aimaz said,

    July 19, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Well if @gillianmckeith is admitting being a fraud. It should be reported to Twitter, who can take the correct course of action and remove the account.

  9. aimaz said,

    July 19, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Perhaps Twitter should be informed that @gillianmckeith admits being an impostor.

  10. MrNick said,

    July 19, 2010 at 9:25 am

    This is such fun.

    I would certainly buy another copy of Bad Science with “‘Bad Science by Ben Goldacre is not lies’ – Gillian McKeith” on the cover. You just need a few more quacks to libel you to have a really compelling cover:
    “‘Bad Science by Ben Goldacre is the truth’ – A Homeopath”
    “‘Bad Science by Ben Goldacre is the best thing I ever read’ – British Chiropractic Association (or whatever)”
    “‘Reading Bad Science by Ben Goldacre stopped me being a quack’ – A former quack”

    I just can’t stop chuckling.

    Nick

  11. NickBarnes said,

    July 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

    On the subject of incompetent libel by litigious millionaires (especially pompous twits with an inflated sense of their own importance) see also: hot-topic.co.nz/support-john-abraham/

  12. notadoctorjustalawyer said,

    July 19, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Please please please sue her. It would bring so much joy to so many people. See if you can get Carter F*** to do it on a CFA.

    By the way, I am pleased to see that the investigative tool of applying for bogus professional qualifications in the name of beloved pets used to good effect in the case of GM has been validated by the High Court this year(BSkyB Limited v HP Enterprise Services UK Limited[2010] EWHC 86 – find it at www.bailii.org).

    Paragraph 178 of the judgment records that Mark Howard QC cast doubt upon the integrity of the director’s “MBA” by obtaining a similar degree from the same “college” for his pet dog Lulu. Lulu in fact gained slightly better marks.

  13. Waider said,

    July 19, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Awesome stuff. You’ve been nominated a hero of the day on my local radio station (Phantom 105.2), had a snippet of the song played twice, and they’re apparently putting it up on their facebook page or website (or both, I didn’t catch which).

  14. cassiel said,

    July 19, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Never mind “You Are What You Eat” – perhaps Ms. McKeith is learning that “You Are What You Write.”

  15. rlongstaff said,

    July 19, 2010 at 10:35 am

    BTW just want to make sure no-one mixes up ‘nutritionist’ with ‘dietician’.

    The latter is a professional title which is only gained after demonstrating qualifications from an accredited university as well as maintaining high work standards and undertaking continual professional development. It is regulated by the Health Professions Council.

    www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/professions/index.asp?id=5#profDetails

  16. mikey2gorgeous said,

    July 19, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Please do let us know when she next does a book signing. I’ll be happy to ask her to sign it ‘for Ben Truthbringer Goldacre’!

  17. mikey2gorgeous said,

    July 19, 2010 at 10:41 am

    & present her with one of yours to sign!

  18. Soilman said,

    July 19, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Much though I adore the thought of your suing McKeith for libel, I fear the case doesn’t meet the test of whether her allegation would ‘lower you in the estimation of right-thinking individuals’.

    It’s got to be highly debatable whether right-thinking people think less of a person just because Gillian McKeith calls him/her a liar.

  19. Nicolap said,

    July 19, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Has she been taking lessong from Orlando Figes on “How to cover your tracks on the internet, and come up with a really good explanation for what you have done”?

    They could start a course together – “PR disasters and how to create them”. BP would sign up, I’m sure.

  20. salmson said,

    July 19, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    @cassiel – how about “You Are What You Tweet” ? (sorry)

  21. socialpolicygroup said,

    July 19, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Public debate please. In a field on a sunny day if possible.

  22. lyndonius said,

    July 19, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Issue a flood warning – we all pissed ourselves laughing. Be seen to act reasonable and when she doesn’t – pounce (those that live by the sword must be prepared to fall by it.)

    Does anybody remember the comments posted by iceprincess here www.badscience.net/2004/09/dr-gillian-mckeith-phd-continued/#comments ?

    Remember – you can take legal action against those of sound mind

  23. oceanclub said,

    July 19, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Unless she publically and very overtly apologises, you should sue. She’s a bully and needs to be taught a lesson.

    P.

  24. rptb1 said,

    July 19, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Incidentally, Christopher Monckton is now directly accusing John Abraham of “lying repeatedly” (page iv of scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/response_to_john_abraham.pdf ). Charlatans seem quick to use the L-word.

  25. T.J. Crowder said,

    July 19, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Sorry to hear you were libelled. What an silly thing for her and/or her team to do, assuming they did. Silly to think she/they would get away with the initial tweet without backlash (what, you were going to miss it and no one was going to bring it to your attention?), silly to try to cover up at all, much less in such ham-handed fashion. *sigh*

    I hope you get your apology. Unlike some of the commenters above, I think that would probably be the better outcome. Aside from not sidetracking your energy and limited funds for several months (at least), it would be proof that alternative approaches to rushing to the courts can work. Taking that approach shows one of your better sides (and you seem to have many).

    Linking to Doghorse’s derogatory song about Ms. McKeith from within this same post, on the other hand, doesn’t show your better side. By all means link to it from other posts deriding the “science” behind the woman’s books/talks/etc., but to do so from this post is inappropriate and a bit sophomoric, to be blunt.

  26. TheSacredMongoose said,

    July 19, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Apart from anything else, that wasn’t a very nice thing to do.

    Sorry to hear it happened, quite amused to hear that the nerds descended once again and of the coverup that resulted. She really should have just apologised – it would have been better, not to mention that it wouldn’t have done her reputation that much harm.

  27. Bikerman said,

    July 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Just a point of info, Soilman.
    The point about a reasonable person not believing the claim is well made, but you miss an important comma:
    ’causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of them.’

    I think the case could easily be brought citing potential loss of trade.

  28. mostly sunny said,

    July 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    the court of public opinion is where the best fights happen and the best victories scored.

    do what you do best Ben – put her in the stocks and chuck rotten cabbages at her (in the interwebs sense of course)

  29. SteveGJ said,

    July 19, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Blimey – can we please keep this in perspective. Whilst Princess Poo is an unpleasant, hectoring, individual who deserves all the crap poured virtually upon her head, there is surely more important stuff for the courts to spend their time on than adjudicating on the basis of some rashly put out words on Twitter.

    Given the apparent source of the accusation, then nobody who reads Ben’s book in anything other than a partisan manner is likely to think any the worse of him. In fact he’ll likely have his reputation enhanced. The faithful followers of the scatalogical Scot aren’t likely to be swayed by rational criticism anyway. For the rest of the population, I doubt they’ll ever notice.

    It’s a storm in a teacup. Let’s keep the courts for where serious damage is done. I don’t think it is in the dame of the dodgy doctorates power to really harm Ben. I rather suspect that going to court with a libel case over this one would do exactly that. In general, the advice for those wanting to sue for libel is simply don’t.

    The right approach here is to surely to embarrass the nauseating nutritionist should an ethically appropriate opportunity arise. I think it better to spend the effort on libel reform so that most of these petty spats are kept out of our expensive court system.

  30. Soilman said,

    July 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Hardly, Bikerman.

    In order to ‘disparage a person in his office, trade or profession’, the allegation firstly has to be credible. The ‘lowers a person’ definition is the over-arching one upon which all the others (‘disparage…’, ’cause him to be shunned or avoided’, ‘expose him to hatred or ridicule’) depend.

  31. Pewter Tankard said,

    July 19, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    I almost hate to write this, but… the irony of receiving such a clumsy libel from a woman who derives a great deal of her public profile from poking through other people’s shit is not lost on me; perhaps you’d care to return the favour?

    Perhaps somebody should have told the poor dear to keep her fingers out of others’ business…

    ..and yes, I will buy another copy of Bad Science if it contains such an affirmation by the aforesaid non-doctor.

  32. skyesteve said,

    July 19, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Ben – do the honourable thing – sue. It’s time to stop playing soft and cuddly.

  33. rod liddle said,

    July 19, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    So, are you going to sue, Ben? I see you’re asking for donations, as if you were Rosa Parkes or Galileo. All you wanted her to do was state that she was wrong on her website. Well, hell, that’s all Glaxo wanted of me last month.

    Get a grip, science boy. For what it’s worth I believe you are absolutely right and she is wrong. Queering the pitch for a moment I also think she is absolutely ghastly in almost every conceivable manner and, most of the time, I thoroughly enjoy your columns and usually agree with them. But you are not the only scientist in Britain, and you do not have a monopoly of right and wrong. She thinks you’re lying, let her have her say. She’s wrong.

  34. glistering said,

    July 19, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    You should just do what you feel is best Ben.

    I like your very dignified stance thus far and hope this can be resolved as amicably as possible.

    As a complete aside, I am in the middle of writing up the stats for my thesis and would like to have a fanboy moment by saying that your attention to statistical rigor has really made an impression on me. I am not in a discipline known for it’s statistical rigor (archaeology) but I am trying my best :)

  35. DaveHolter said,

    July 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Don’t sue. Straight criticism was clearly having an effect, to the point where a really elementary mistake was made. Sue and you’ll win the case, but you’ll watch aggressor morph into victim. She deserves derision, but not for name calling. You have bigger fish to fry.

  36. janik17 said,

    July 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    “32.rod liddle said,
    July 19, 2010 at 7:47 pm
    So, are you going to sue, Ben? I see you’re asking for donations, as if you were Rosa Parkes or Galileo. All you wanted her to do was state that she was wrong on her website. Well, hell, that’s all Glaxo wanted of me last month.
    Get a grip, science boy. For what it’s worth I believe you are absolutely right and she is wrong. Queering the pitch for a moment I also think she is absolutely ghastly in almost every conceivable manner and, most of the time, I thoroughly enjoy your columns and usually agree with them. But you are not the only scientist in Britain, and you do not have a monopoly of right and wrong. She thinks you’re lying, let her have her say. She’s wrong.”

    Oh, cool. Has Rod Liddle really just given us carte blanche to call him a liar? After all, he wouldn’t want to give the impression he is the only journalist in Britain, with a monopoly of right or wrong, would he?

    Unless, of course, the person who posted as “Rod Liddle” is not, in fact, Rod Liddle. But as this incident and others passim have shown, if you post something under your own name that you realise afterwards is actionable or maybe just stupid or offensive, trying to backtrack and claim it wasn’t actually you who wrote it can often be easily uncovered and leaves you looking like a cackhanded idiot, without removing the stain of responsiblity.

  37. rod liddle said,

    July 19, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    You dingbat, Janik – but you do make a useful counter point for Ben, at least. If you genuinely think that any of that stuff dredged up was even halfway remotely true, then that is a decent reason for Ben to sue. Because I suppose there will always be people too thick or too lazy or too politically sold to try to ascertain the truth. The question, I suppose, is how many. I could have sued, of course, and even – having been encouraged – thought about it for a while. But I agree with ben re libel laws and in any case, more than that, you have to assume that one day the truth will out. That’s why we’re journalists, I would guess. That you have a faith, however vague, in peoples ability to see the truth in the end.

    I hope Ben leaves the hag alone, save to ridicule her fatuous arguments and expose her methodology. She can call him a liar; you can call me a liar. I’ve heard worse and I daresay so has Mr Goldacre.

  38. NorthernBoy said,

    July 19, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    So, Rod, when you called Geordies thick over the Facebook site that originated in Doncaster, or got the stats on crime factually wrong, were you too thick, too lazy, or too politically sold to ascertain the truth?

    The “we’re” journalists bit is funny, you’re far closer to the poo lady in your attitude to truth than you are to Ben.

  39. rod liddle said,

    July 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    No, when I said thick geordies, I meant you. But I wasd too nice to say so.

  40. janik17 said,

    July 19, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I like the assumption that I’m talking about you. But I wasn’t. Your slighty similar troubles involved an alias, did they not? You’ve got that on Mrs McKeith, she was dumb enough to put this in her own name.

    Quick, someone, get a gun before Rod’s ego crushes us all.

  41. Bikerman said,

    July 20, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Soilman,
    yes indeed, but then, as you know, we have to look to what a ‘reasonable’ person might believe. I would say that many people followed McKeith’s program, books and advice. Are they all ‘unreasonable’. Someone convinced of McKeith’s bona-fides could well ‘reasonably’ believe her when she disparages a person as a liar.
    Now you might argue that such people are, almost by definition, unreasonable (and I might be tempted to agree), but 2.5 million people bought her book, and whilst I am wary of any ‘ad populum’ fallacy, I think there is a case that any decent barrister could argue…

  42. Dudley said,

    July 20, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Rod Liddle likes Bad Science? Sue him for bringing you into disrepute, Ben.

  43. Yoss said,

    July 20, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Suing someone over a twitter comment does seem somewhat trivial. However, seemingly, it has been done: www.gadgetell.com/tech/comment/watch-what-you-tweet-woman-sued-over-twitter-update/

  44. Happy Camper said,

    July 20, 2010 at 8:02 am

    At first I thought her account was hacked, but if you read the offending comments here
    www.zenbuffy.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/screentweets.jpg
    you realise that it’s at least the person who has been Tweeting all along – definitely different from the “do you really believe this is real twitter site for the GM?” person.

    I think it’s an intern who was given the Twitter job over the weekend and tried back-pedalling to save their job. Gill’s people temporarily isolated the Twitter account from their websites with the intention of resuming linking to it once it’s been scrubbed clean. Amazing that the above comment is still on Twitter.

  45. Happy Camper said,

    July 20, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Someone gave the intern the Twitter job for the weekend.

  46. outeast said,

    July 20, 2010 at 9:02 am

    really, really seriously, don’t sue. An apology would be amusing, yes, but you’ve got better things to do with your time than suing nutritionists for libel.

    If she thinks Bad Science is all lies, she can sue you and we can all have a laugh as your claims about her are upheld as true in court. But if you sue over the lies thing it won’t even prove anything amusing: as you point out the onus would be on her to prove you’re lying rather than wrong, so the case wouldn’t even test your claims.

    It would just be another boring instance of one media figure suing another, and dude, we don’t need to see you in that tiresome role.

  47. Alan Bird said,

    July 20, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Mind you, if you do sue and she defends, and if she seriously prepared for a court appearance, she’d be forced actually to read your book (and even better, buy it first). I very much doubt if she’s read it yet, & the thought of her doing so is cheering me up no end. If you could derive energy from concentrated cognitive dissonance there’d be enough to light London.

  48. skyesteve said,

    July 20, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    By the way ben – thanks for introducing me to JackofKent – brilliant stuff – you couldn’t make it up! Just finished reading about Hackney Council – quelle surprise…

  49. andybrice said,

    July 20, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I bet all this attention has made her poo an unpleasant consistency. If you are reading this Gillian, I recommend lots of vitamin rich pumpkin seeds followed by a grovelling retraction.

  50. maloushe said,

    July 21, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Why not just publicly invite her to clarify specifically what the supposed lies are (sureley not the whole book?) and also back-up, with evidence, why her chosen statements are lies?

    Oh, and that a non-reaction by such-and-such a date will be taken as a full retraction?

  51. cat said,

    July 21, 2010 at 10:28 am

    @rod liddle

    “She thinks you’re lying, let her have her say. She’s wrong.”

    While I agree with your opinion of McKeith and would say she’s embarrassed herself enough in this instance, and agree that suing would be petty, I have to point out that she does not think Ben’s lying.

    She is well aware that he isn’t.Which is why she rather noticeably has declined to specify any of his “lies”. She is, however, lying. And it’s a tad infuriating.

  52. Andrew G said,

    July 21, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Hilarious!

    The ‘institution’ that gave Ms McKeith her ‘PhD’ has apparently closed. I wonder what they will do with the copy of her ‘thesis’ that they presumably hold in their library? Might be worth checking local garage sales!

  53. Colonel_Mad said,

    July 22, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Keep your dignity Ben.

    An asylum warder wouldn’t sue for libel if one of the inmates called them a liar.

    Enjoy the moral upper hand for a while. You now have a powerful position in your relationship with her and her kind. Use it wisely to promote right over wrong.

    They say nothing is black and white but it is when you’re talking about chlorophyll oxygenating human blood.

    Jonathan

  54. NorthernBoy said,

    July 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Come on now, Rod, have some integrity just once in your career, and own up when you got something so completely wrong.

    People can forgive you not being very bright, and not being very nice, as neither of these qualities really matters in journalism, but being wrong quite so consistently is a bit of a bigger problem.

    As others have suggested, if you want Ben to succeed in his aims of bringing some quality into science journalism, you are not doing him any favours by associating yourself with him.

  55. outeast said,

    July 22, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    @Colonel_Mad

    They say nothing is black and white but it is when you’re talking about chlorophyll oxygenating human blood.

    That’s a claim that reads very, very oddly.

  56. pv said,

    July 22, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Oh dear. Rod Liddle doesn’t know the difference between telling someone they are wrong and calling them a liar.
    Tis to be expected I suppose!

  57. jhaaglund said,

    July 22, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Are you really petty enough to sue someone over being called a liar on twitter?

    I loved your book and I regularly read this blog, but this is unbelievably childish and hypocritical.

  58. Steve August said,

    July 23, 2010 at 6:21 am

    On page 123 of the Fourth Estate paperback version of ‘Bad Science’, you mention Gillian McKeith’s PhD is from the Clayton College of Natural Health. Now you may have had another New Zealander or Australian point this out, but to those of us who watched television out here in the 1970s and early 1980s, there is something inadvertently very funny about this concept.

    Over that time, a common TV ad was for a non-alcoholic whisky-looking drink called a ‘Clayton’s’ (or ‘Claytons’). A bloke in a bar says he doesn’t feel like a drink, he’ll have a Claytons instead. “What’s that?” “Oh, that’s the drink I have when I’m not having a drink.” It was a worthy attempt against drink-driving. I think it went down like a lead balloon.

    Anyway, for those of us of that generation, it’s entered idiom. So that a ‘Clayton’s holiday’ would be one where you were actually working all the time. Or a ‘Clayton’s climbing trip’ would be one where you were hut-bound the whole time. It’s the thing you have when you’re not having the thing you intended, even though it’s got the same label.

    Hence, in the same vein, the Clayton College of Natural Health would be…. the College of Natural Health you have when you’re not having a College of Natural Health. Ho ho ho. (Unless you find it was started up by Antipodeans, which would put a whole new slant on it..)

  59. Steve August said,

    July 23, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Hi Ben.

    I know you’ve seen this but as G. McKeith is top of the pops at the moment, I thought others might get a grin also.

    Best wishes,

    Steve August.

    On page 123 of the Fourth Estate paperback version of ‘Bad Science’, you mention Gillian McKeith’s PhD is from the Clayton College of Natural Health. Now you may have had another New Zealander or Australian point this out, but to those of us who watched television out here in the 1970s and early 1980s, there is something inadvertently very funny about this concept.

    Over that time, a common TV ad was for a non-alcoholic whisky-looking drink called a ‘Clayton’s’ (or ‘Claytons’). A bloke in a bar says he doesn’t feel like a drink, he’ll have a Claytons instead. “What’s that?” “Oh, that’s the drink I have when I’m not having a drink.” It was a worthy attempt against drink-driving. I think it went down like a lead balloon.

    Anyway, for those of us of that generation, it’s entered idiom. So that a ‘Clayton’s holiday’ would be one where you were actually working all the time. Or a ‘Clayton’s climbing trip’ would be one where you were hut-bound the whole time. It’s the thing you have when you’re not having the thing you intended, even though it’s got the same label.

    Hence, in the same vein, the Clayton College of Natural Health would be…. the College of Natural Health you have when you’re not having a College of Natural Health. Ho ho ho. (Unless you find it was started up by Antipodeans, which would put a whole new slant on it..)

  60. Guy said,

    July 23, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Outeast “That’s a claim that reads very, very oddly.”
    Welcome to the whacky nonsense world of McKeith pseudo-science.

  61. Guy said,

    July 23, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Posted on Skepdic
    21 July 2010. According to Consumer Health Digest, Clayton College of Natural Health (CCNH), a diploma mill notorious for selling health-related “degrees,” is shutting down. The non-accredited correspondence school boasts such “graduates” as Jillian McKeith and Hulda Clark. Future “nutritionists” or “naturopaths” looking for a quick degree to impress the unsuspecting need not worry. The folks at Clayton claim that the recession has been bad for business, but the stagnant economy has not deterred the folks at a place called the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). They’ve taken out an ad on Google for “Clayton College” searches, with the heading Clayton College Closed. Clicking on the link takes you to an IIN page where you are told that a “limited number” of partial tuition scholarships are available to students “enrolled” at Clayton College. IIN promises:

    We can help you stay on track and become a certified Health Coach with a deep knowledge of holistic nutrition and wellness.
    A certified “health coach”? Whatever it is, you can start practicing midway through the program, which is delivered on a “gorgeous red iPod completely customized with the course materials including, video, audio, lectures from world-renowned experts, and more.”

    End of quote – So good news if you wish to follow in Gillian’s illustrious academic footsteps. The door closed but is open again!!

  62. T.J. Crowder said,

    July 23, 2010 at 10:16 am

    What, still no response from Ms. McKeith?

  63. skyesteve said,

    July 23, 2010 at 10:16 am

    @jhaaglund – I think you are missing the point. Whilst I fully respect Ben’s approach here (and he is probably taking the right line) the decision to sue would not be about petty vindictiveness. GMcK didn’t just call Ben a liar in a playground kind of way – the Twitter feed specically accused Ben of writing lies in his book about GMcK. Some of us see this as the perfect chance to get the lady to stand up in a public court of law and prove that what Ben has written is lies. That’s the point because in that court her reputation would stand or fall.

  64. bjc said,

    July 23, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Apologies for being a little off topic but this has potential for annoying you more!

    www.familynutritioninpractice.com/
    was interviewed on BBC 5Live Drive yesterday to comment on a study looking at the relationship between meat consumption and weight gain.

    A nutritional therapist commenting on real scientific research of all things!

    www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00t4n7c

    Go to 1hr 53 mins into the show (1:53.15) for a wondeful description of how food provides calories and how acidic meat unbalances your body.

    The study for reference:

    Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the EPIC-PANACEA study
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20592131?dopt=Abstract

  65. bjc said,

    July 23, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Further apologies for bad linking..
    It’s Maria Griffiths from www.familynutritioninpractice.com/

  66. JMS said,

    July 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    @bjc Off topic certainly, but stunning. Do you think that the nutritionist even read the abstract of the paper she was invited to comment on? I must admit that’s all I’ve read, I’m not a biologist so I probably wouldn’t get much more from the paper than I would from the abstract. Anyway as far as I can tell she failed on the first question. Is it all meat or just some kinds? According to the paper’s abstract no distinction was made between calories from red meat or poultry. So according to this research the answer is presumably – don’t know. She seemed to be suggesting that she had undertaken her own research, did the Imperial college paper cite her work?

    She also suggested that the reason why eating meat should make you fatter had to do with the calories in the meat. The abstract of the paper says that total calorific intake was controlled for, I take this to mean that the calories in the meat cannot be the explanation for the weight gain observed.

    Finally, we are alkali and meat is acid apparently. I thought we were essentially meat, does being dead make that much of a difference? I seem to remember from O-level biology (yes I am that old) that the stomach is full of concentrated acid, my guess is this is much more acidic than any meat, so what is she talking about?

  67. jhaaglund said,

    July 23, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    @skyesteve, well as Ben Goldacre points out in the article at the top, the case would stand and fall on whether he deliberately set out to mislead, not the truth value of the claims he makes in the book.

  68. sime said,

    July 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    And now over to Stephen Barrett, M.D. and his apply named site Quackwatch.

    It would appear that Ms Gillian McKeith who is apparently “The world’s top nutritionist” and Clayton College of Natural Health have already been sussed by the good Doctor.

    “Clayton College of Natural Health: Be Wary of the School and Its Graduates” … ouch!

    Meaningless “Accreditation”… looking good for Ms McKeith then.

    “Unscientific Teachings…” Who would have thought eh

    And the good doctors final words…

    The Bottom Line

    CCNH does have one potentially valuable aspect. Its credentials are a reliable sign of someone not to consult for advice.

    Sliced and diced…

    www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/Nonrecorg/clayton.html

    Enjoy

  69. skyesteve said,

    July 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    @jhaaglund – I am no lawyer but I thought libel was about reputation not intention. If someone claims that what Ben wrote in his book amounts to lying then the ramifications of that, given that much of what is in the book has been published or said in some form or anotehr elsewhere (e.g. The Guardian, on Tv and radio, etc.), is that his lying goes beyond a single book. In my “book” (no pun intended!) that amounts to a damaged reputation. As I say, I think Ben has taken the right approach in this instance (more’s the pity) but if he did decide to sue I can’t for the life of me see how his action could be described as “petty, childish and hypocritical”.

  70. bjc said,

    July 23, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I’ve realised the error of my ways and will post other off-topic remarks on the forum.

    With regard to McTweet-gate, I think the heat has got to be kept up, as there is the chance that a well publicised apology or if it’s the only way, a libel case, may then be followed by a debate/recognition in the media that people such as McKieth and Griffiths are not to be continually referred to – to give out “expert” advice to a public who assume that this is bona fide nutritional info from an educated source.

  71. bladesman said,

    July 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Funny how in the ‘Latest News’ section of Ms McKeith’s official website they proudly announce a “Great editorial feature in the MAIL on SUNDAY (13th June 2010), one of the UK’s highest circulation newspapers” but nothing about her alleged twitter comments…….

    Guess humble pie isn’t that nutritious?

  72. Antares said,

    August 3, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    @JMS: That whole “teh acids will murders you” is a typical alt-med thing. It is practically a mile-wide exaggeration of actual metabolic acidosis, combined with utter misunderstanding of pH and the acid-base balance.

    You can read a few claims here (Caution, woo site)
    gaia-health.com/articles201/000225-acidosis-the-cure.shtml

    and a respectfully insolent takedown here
    scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/09/your_friday_dose_of_woo_acid_base_or_woo_1.php

  73. starbuck said,

    August 6, 2010 at 7:01 am

    She is an idiot. Sue me.

  74. jjad said,

    August 20, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    I can’t wait for the “Bad Science by Ben Goldacre is not lies” T-shirts! Keep the pressure on: it was a silly claim to make and could be quickly retracted with such an apology. Not apologising is, in effect, maintaining that the author of the tweets still believes the book to be “lies”.
    I note that the ‘Gillian McKeith Official Website’ (gillianmckeith.info/) still has the link to the originating twitter site (twitter.com/gillianmckeith), albeit hidden, in the source code.

  75. T.J. Crowder said,

    August 22, 2010 at 11:55 am

    So here we are, a month later, is anything happening on this front?

  76. wardin said,

    August 27, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Has anyone seen this twitter account? Seems like that slipped through the cracks, oh Gilly.

    > twitter.com/gillian_mckeith

    Let the real Gillian McKeith stand up?

    Cheers

  77. wardin said,

    August 27, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    In case it ‘disappears’ I have a screenshot available here:
    imgur.com/38kB6.png

  78. wardin said,

    August 27, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Never mind that seems to have been old news : )

  79. Synsei said,

    September 26, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Off topic but it’s my first visit on this blog and I wanted to say how awesome I find it. Though I listen to a lot of skeptics podcast, I never found this one before.
    I wish we could have a bigger and more active skeptics movement in France, where I live, and some people like Ben, Simon Singh, the guys from Skeptic Zone, Skepticality, Skeptics guide… Keep up the good work!

  80. 09philj said,

    June 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Your story about getting your dead cat the same membership as Gillian McKeith was so funny I became hysterical with laughter.

  81. RKC said,

    October 7, 2013 at 4:26 am

    I trolled Gillian McKeith and I’m 12. Her email seems to be info@mckeithresearch.com