June 7, 2009

Oprah done over lightly

"Wish Away Cancer! Get A Lunchtime Face-Lift! Eradicate Autism! Turn Back The Clock! Thin Your Thighs! Cure Menopause! Harness Positive Energy! Erase Wrinkles! Banish Obesity! Live Your Best Life Ever!"
All that, and more, care of Oprah, of course.

has attracted much attention and praise for a critical piece on Oprah, published last week. Sure, it offers up a few shards on the obvious flaws in Oprah's fluffy, feel good, pseudo-scientific, barely rational, mostly irrational, never ending spiel in her quest to increase life spans and self esteem, while simultaneously decreasing thigh circumferences and bad relationships.

I mean, the woman's a gem, right? All Jesus wanted to do was bring peace and goodwill to mankind: Oprah is much the same, just with a weight problem and a private jet.

Let's concede some courage to
Newsweek. Their failure to strictly conform is like a perfect spring day, but they've been rather gentle about things, quite kind. Not as soft and squishy as a fresh marshmallow, but they haven't exactly put the boot in either.

This matters, because the pillorying of Oprah is so very long overdue, so morally inexcusable, that
Newsweek could have delivered something harsher, and therefore, more honest and lasting, without risking the ire of anyone. Instead, they've covered a few of the most obvious anecdotes - most of which you'll almost certainly be familiar with, even if you've never watched the show - with barely an analytic sentence here and there, rendering the exercise almost instantly forgettable. A missed opportunity. Much like Oprah herself.

"In January, Oprah Winfrey invited Suzanne Somers on her show to share her unusual secrets to staying young. Each morning, the 62-year-old actress and self-help author rubs a potent estrogen cream into the skin on her arm. She smears progesterone on her other arm two weeks a month. And once a day, she uses a syringe to inject estrogen directly into her vagina. The idea is to use these unregulated "bio-identical" hormones to restore her levels back to what they were when she was in her 30s, thus fooling her body into thinking she's a younger woman.

That was apparently good enough for Oprah. "Many people write Suzanne off as a quackadoo," she said. "But she just might be a pioneer."

Or, as the rest of us have known for a long time, she might just be a quackadoo.

If one addresses this seriously, any woman prepared to inject hormones directly into her vagina every morning, in the belief that this invasive and unnatural act will make her look and feel younger, is likely in need of serious psychological care and support. If that's the case, neither effusive praise and publicity, nor name calling, is appropriate. This sad and desperate woman, must be horribly unhappy with herself and her life to resort to the lengthy list of abuses she inflicts on herself. That she exhorts others to follow her example is an extension of her personal mental health problems and delusions.

"Oprah has made a deal to launch her own cable television channel that will reach 70 million homes. It will be called, of course, the Oprah Winfrey Network and will include Oprah-approved programming on health and living well. In announcing the deal, Oprah said, "I will now have the opportunity to do this 24 hours a day on a platform that goes on forever."

Which is a genuinely frightening development. It might be that the world would be a safer place for children and adults without Oprah. It requires a leap of imagination to envisage the damage that will be done by a 24 hour a day Oprah network. 'Quackadoo' will need a few extra 'ooooos' added.

"The Suzanne Somers episode wasn't an oddball occurrence. This kind of thing happens again and again on Oprah. Some of the many experts who cross her stage offer interesting and useful information (props to you, Dr. Oz). Others gush nonsense. Oprah, who holds up her guests as prophets, can't seem to tell the difference. She has the power to summon the most learned authorities on any subject; who would refuse her? Instead, all too often Oprah winds up putting herself and her trusting audience in the hands of celebrity authors and pop-science artists pitching wonder cures and miracle treatments that are questionable or flat-out wrong, and sometimes dangerous."

Following numerous appearances on Oprah, Jenny McCarthy, the Playboy model and actress, has earned her own Jenny McCarthy Body Count site, which keeps a tab on the number of illnesses and deaths caused by failure to vaccinate children in the US. The peculiar back story on McCarthy and her son is also covered on the site. McCarthy, as you would gather, is the most high profile and persistent crusader against vaccines for children, hence being immortalized with the dedicated body count site.

"McCarthy is certain that her son contracted autism from the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination he received as a baby. She told Oprah that the morning he went in for his checkup, her instincts told her not to allow the doctor to give him the vaccine. "I said to the doctor, I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn't it? And he said no, that is ridiculous; it is a mother's desperate attempt to blame something on autism. And he swore at me." The nurse gave Evan the shot. "And not soon thereafter," McCarthy said, "boom, soul gone from his eyes."

Here is what we do know: before vaccinations, thousands of children died or got sick each year from measles, mumps and rubella.

But back on the Oprah show, McCarthy's charges went virtually unchallenged. Oprah praised McCarthy's bravery and plugged her book."

No mention that her son was already experiencing seizures prior to receiving his vaccination, nor any questioning of the science behind McCarthy's belif that the vaccine causes autism. No mention either that her son has quite likely been misdiagnosed and does not have autism.

Another guest favorite of Oprah's is Dr. Christiane Northrup, a physician and one of the shows regular experts. When an audience member asked about the HPV vaccine (to prevent cervical cancer):

"Northrup advised against getting the shot. "I'm a little against my own profession," she said. "My own profession feels that everyone should be vaccinated." But Northrup cautioned, "There have been some deaths from the vaccine." She suggested a different approach. "Where I'd put my money is getting everybody on a dietary program that would enhance their immunity, and then they would be able to resist that sort of thing. All right?"

Sheesh. Almost makes you wonder why we bother spending money on science at all.

"Northrup holds a special place in Oprah's constellation of regular guests. A Dartmouth-educated ob-gyn, she stresses alternative therapies and unseen connections between the soul and the body that she believes conventional doctors overlook, but that she can see. She has written about how she has used Tarot cards to help diagnose her own illnesses. (On her Web site, she sells her own "Women's Wisdom Healing Cards.")

: So your body ... is only manifesting what's really going on with your spirit?

Northrup: But your intellect doesn't know it. This is the important part. It's not—you're not causing this deliberately ... It's your soul bringing it to your attention.

Oprah: Right. It's your soul trying to speak to you.

We all know that any crazy notion or book touted by Oprah spreads faster than swine flu, and such was the case when she got all frenzied over the The Secret.

"On one of the Secret shows, Oprah gave an example of the scientific power of the concept. She said that once, while she was hosting an episode about a man who could blow really big soap bubbles, she was thinking to herself, "Gee, that looks fun. I would like to blow some bubbles." When she returned to her office after the show, there, on her desk, was a silver Tiffany bubble blower. "So I call my assistant," Oprah told the audience. "I say, 'Did you just run out and get me some bubbles? 'Cause I got bubbles by my desk.' And she says, 'No, the bubbles were always there. I bought you bubbles for your birthday and you didn't notice them until today'."

There are many lessons that might be drawn from this anecdote. One is that if you give Oprah a thoughtful gift, she may not bother to notice it or thank you for it. This is not the lesson Oprah took away from her story. Because the way she sees it, her assistant hadn't really given her the gift at all. She gave it to herself. Using the power of The Secret, she said, "I had called in some bubbles."

I guess that's what really, really, really high self esteem does for you: you don't say thank you and you take personal credit for gifts that others have given you. Such is the natural logical conclusion of being Oprah.

Newsweek - Live your best life ever!


  1. This is amazing.

    My friend and I were discussing the wasteland that is Monday Public Holiday TV. Oprah was on, but Judge Judy wasn't.

    We dissed Oprah, and almost everything she promoted... and how it made whatever it was a bestseller.

    I bought a book which I thought would be interesting, it was one that she'd featured on her programme.

    It also was made into a movie.

    After reading it my friend and I were unhappy that we'd never, ever get those hours back again.

  2. I've never watched an episode of Oprah's show. I don't need to watch to know she is a marketing genius and a huckster who guiles bigger morons than herself into buying whatever nonsense she peddles.

    A perfect example of a person having such an open mind that their brains leaked out.

  3. Kae - I also have to own up to buying one of the books from Oprah's defunct "book club" shows. In my case, the book was an excellent recommendation - Wally Lamb's first book "I know this much is true". I recently bought his long awaited second book, which is about the size of the White Pages, but I'm sure I'll enjoy reading it when I get time.

    Other books often seemed to have a highly ideological reason for the recommendation, rather than strictly literary, so I avoided them.

    Cube - I always thought the "open mind" concept meant there was ample room and opportunity for people to dump any old garbage in there. In Oprah's case, that seems to be how it works out.

    Peculiar how an "open mind" is almost always open to nonsense rather than science. Why is that? I don't get it!