Friday, June 22, 2012

The things we print

As an expat, and especially as an expat journalist, it is incumbent upon me to learn about the social mores of my country of residence and adjust my expectations and understanding. I like to think I've done a reasonable job of adapting and blending in, or at least as much as a big, hairy bule can in Indonesia.

That said, sometimes bullshit is just bullshit. Every so often, an article comes across the copy desk whose subject matter makes my eyes start twitching again. There is an understanding on the copy desk that local reporters will sometimes tend toward credulity, not asking follow-up questions or poking at a statement that doesn't pass the smell test out of either a deference to authority or a sheer lack of time. These aren't much fun to edit but are often salvageable.

Then there are articles that are just plain bullshit from soup to nuts. We've had our fair share at Globe Towers — from asking feng shui masters and fortune tellers to predict the events of 2012 to profiling spiritual consultants, shamans and a guy who is so close to Allah he can pray away the rain. We've had woo-tacular health stories about acupressure and a "healer" who says he can cure breast cancer with leeches. Seriously.

This week brought a whopper of unprecedented depths. It was on an "aesthetic wellness clinic" with a handful of entertainers singing the praises of homeopathic remedies and other pseudoscience. Homeopathy, let's remember, has yet to show any efficacy past a placebo effect and is based on the principle of water "remembering" what was once in it. The article also quotes the doctor — of what, I shudder to think — pushing various dubious-sounding remedies, including one that "eliminates free radicals from the body and heals many chronic illnesses, such as cancer." [Emphasis mine — ed.]

Then there was this passage, which was just ... ick.
Indonesian singer Marini said she also maintains her excellent physical condition by visiting the clinic.

“I’m so lucky to have come across Nano Philosophy last year,” she said. “The clinic has helped me look and feel good since then.”

The 65-year-old had previously struggled with constipation that led to severe bloating, lethargy and dull facial skin.

“The doctor treated me with Nano cocktails and organic juices,” she said. “After three treatments, I can move my bowels regularly. I’ve never felt so good in my life. My friends also said my skin looks smoother and more supple.”
I raged against this story for hours, though obviously to no avail. At the very least, I did manage to work the word "claims" into the sentence "Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine that assists the body’s natural tendency to heal itself."

We also managed to cut this bit thanks to a space crunch. Pills that give you a six-pack, beat depression, quit smoking and get over a breakup? Where do I sign?!?
“The pills improve my metabolism and make my body leaner,” said Chicco. “I now have a six-pack [abs].” 
Nano Philosophy has a wide range of homeopathic treatments for hormonal imbalance, joint pain, nerve pain and depression.
“For Chicco, we used a cocktail made of laminaria [brown algae] that destroys fat buildup and excretes them through his lymphatic system,” Muliana said.
The clinic also prescribes homeopathic pills for reducing stress, quitting smoking or even getting over a bad breakup. 
“The lovesick remedy is usually prescribed after a relationship breakup or a sudden bereavement,” Muliana said. “It enhances the mood and energizes patients to continue their lives.”
The pills are taken twice daily, in the morning and at night. Muliana would not say how much they cost.
You know what they call alternative medicine that's proven to work? Medicine.

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