Recently I heard some bizarre medical advice offered by someone called Gary Null on his WPFW (DC area) radio show. I took a quick look on the web to find out about this guy, and it wasn't pretty. I wrote a letter to the station.1
WPFW forwarded the letter to Gary Null's people. One of them wrote back,2 accusing me of being part of a shadowy conspiracy, threatening to sue me, and inviting on the show to debate, all the while assuming that I'm a medical doctor.
The letter also claims that Gary Null cures AIDS, cancer, and autism, and suggests that I'm probably one of those people who refuses to believe that autism is caused by vaccines. Actually, I am one of those people, although he's wrong about the part where I am a doctor, and I humbly suggest that he's wrong that Mr. Null cures AIDS.
Apparently you forwarded my letter to Gary Null's organization and received a response from someone there named “Doug” with an email address of email@example.com.
While accusing me of hiding in the bushes, this man prefers not to sign his mail with his full name; since I like to know who I'm talking to, I just googled “dhender499”. I suggest you do the same. You find Doug Henderson, who seems to have been working for Gary Null & Associates for some time, taking job applications and performing other clerical duties.
You also find a glowing review of one of Mr. Null's books on Amazon, written by this same Doug Henderson. In the review, which is way over the top in its praise, Mr. Henderson never reveals his connection with Gary Null or his business. Classy.
I'll leave it to you to guess whether the review was written by Mr. Henderson or by Mr. Null himself. You will also find some very embarrassing and personal things about dhender499 in your Google search, but I'll resist the temptation to bring those up, as they are not relevant to the issue of Gay Null's radio show. The details are there for anyone to see, and provide an effective reminder to use the internet with care.
Mr. Henderson is not very clear in his writing, but he seems to be threatening to sue me for writing a letter to the station. I don't mind that you forwarded my letter to the Null organization, and I appreciate receiving the forwarded response. But are you really OK with this? That a listener can respond to your invitation on your website to write in with concerns about a show and in return be threatened with a lawsuit from the producers of that show? Surely this is just about the worst insult to listeners that could be imagined.
If WPFW thinks that this is acceptable, I suggest that they include a warning on the web page that solicits feedback, to the effect that any criticism of Gary Null's show will be forwarded to them and may result in legal action. Although any such lawsuit would obviously have no merit, most individuals can not afford to defend themselves against a wealthy organization with a legal staff, and Gary Null's people know this. So the threats of lawsuits, even without any legal basis, are enough to silence many potential critics. The practice is beneath contempt, and resorted to by people who have no respect for free speech and who are afraid that they can not prevail in an honest and open exchange of ideas.
Note how in Mr. Henderson's response he never comments on the references I provided as evidence that Gary Null's recommendation to consume 15,000 mg of vitamin C daily is way over the established safe dosage; nor does he deal directly with my pointing out the dangerous comments about AIDS on Mr. Null's website. Instead, he resorts to personal attacks and threats of lawsuits.
For my part, I would never consider using the courts, the FCC, or any other form of external pressure to try to intimidate WPFW into dropping Gary Null or anything else. There is way too much of this kind of thing going around. If, after taking a hard look at Gary Null's bizarre medical claims and the bullying tactics of his organization, WPFW decides in good conscience to keep him on the air, it is their choice to make.
Rather than respond to Doug Henderson's barrage of childish insults, I would like him to know that I would be happy to debate or discuss anything with Gary Null on his show, any time. He can pick the subject and the format. Just let me know so I can arrange my schedule. This correspondence is being published on my website, where my readers can find out whether Gary Null's people follow through with their offer of a debate or whether they back down.
When I appear on the show, the first thing I want to talk to Mr. Null about is why his organization's employees threaten their listeners with lawsuits if they raise concerns about the content of his show. Then we can move on to his bogus credentials and how he can cure AIDS. We can talk about Doug Henderson's review of his book, too, if there is time.
Mr. Henderson seems to be under the impression that I am a medical doctor, although I never claimed to be. I put “Dr.” in front of my name as kind of a private joke, as, unlike Gary Null, I have an accredited Ph.D. and am therefore entitled to use the honorific. But in my community of scientists, we know that titles and credentials don't mean much; it's evidence and argument that matters. Things are different if you're building bridges or dispensing medical advice, however. In that case you really should have the proper professional certifications, and trying to pretend that you do by a liberal sprinkling of “Dr.” and “Ph.D.” in a context where you are selling health products to the public, in an obvious and sordid attempt to make yourself appear to have the qualifications that you never earned, is reprehensible.
For the record, as well as not being a doctor, I have no connection to the Quackbuster organization or any other group that cares about Gary Null, and I am not a part of a conspiracy. I found the quackwatch website because it is the fourth result returned by Google (imagine that) when you search for “Gary Null”. I included a link to the quackwatch website in my letter; I think this would make me a pretty incompetent member of a secret quackwatch conspiracy. I really am just an individual listener who heard some alarming things on Gary Null's radio show, did some quick research on the web, and discovered some even more alarming things. I also happen to be a scientist who can tell the difference between real research and evidence, on the one hand, and nonsense on the other hand. And since I don't like to see people harmed by nonsense, and feel grateful to WPFW for so much good radio over the years, I wrote a letter.
Dr. Lee Phillips