Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

The Logophobia of the Georgia Straight

Posted by Ethan Clow on September 25, 2009

Did you hear a loud wet pop earlier this week? It was the sound of the heads of skeptics all over the country exploding in frustration at a recent article published in the Georgia Straight.

For those who don’t know, the Georgia Straight is a local newspaper published in Vancouver. It has the reputation of being a left leaning newspaper that appeals to the “hip” and operates under the presumption of being “anti-establishment.”

However like other “independent” news sources like the Huffington Post or Toronto’s Now magazine, the Georgia Straight also operates under a decidedly anti-science based medicine mandate.

The offending piece this time was an article written by practicing homeopath Sonya McLeod, published September 17th it evoked a strong reaction from readers and skeptics. I won’t go into the details since this has already been excellently covered by other Canadian skeptics including Some Canadian Skeptic Steve Thoms and friend of the show Kennedy Goodkey at Confessions of an Asshole Skeptic. Check them out here and here.

As for Sonya McLeod, she has written articles for the Straight advocating homeopathic remedies before. She sells her own brand of homeopathic medicine, including a first aid kit (which she thinks no household should be without) that goes for about $120. Not only should this be viewed as major conflict of interest but there are also possibilities of nepotism going on here. Sonya is the daughter of the paper’s owner Dan McLeod.

She mentions the chaos around the swine flu calling it the:

‘the supposed swine-flu “epidemic”.’

Wrong, the swine flu is a case 6 pandemic (according the World Health Organization) But I guess basic fact checking is one part of the supposed “newspaper” qualifications the Georgia Straight is too hip to bother with.

On the show I told our listeners to complain via the BC Press Council about the shoddy journalism of the Georgia Straight but it turns out the Straight isn’t part of the BC Press Council! So don’t complain to them. Instead send your complaints to the Straight itself. Here is the information you need for that.

But you know, it’s actually sort of funny. Proponents of alternative medicine often accuse scientists of being closed minded. Yet as soon as you offer any criticism of alternative medicine you’re likely to get labeled a close minded jerk, a sell out, inside the pocket of big pharma, a dream crusher or a Nazi.

I was just reading the most recent issue of Skeptical Inquirer and there was a fascinating article entitled Logophobia by Massimo Pigliucci. Logophobia is a new term that Pigliucci defines as

A skeptical doctrine about rationality… [where] rationality cannot be an objective constraint on us but is just whatever we make it, and what we make it depends on what we value. (Vol. 33, No. 5. page 25.)

Does this not perfectly exemplify the thinking of Sonya McLeod? Hell. It even exemplifies the thinking of her colleges. After the reaction by skeptics, a fellow contributor at the Straight named Charlie Smith wrote this article. I advise all to check out what Steve Thoms had to say about it at

But getting back to Logophobia. I would add something to that definition. Logophobics also can be characterized as to not only making up facts where it suits them. They also respond vehemently and with hostility if anyone should question their lack of rationality. All who disagree with them are part of some paranoid conspiracy; all who question them are clearly brainwashed; all who question them are suppressing the real truth…

I beg and plead with all homeopaths. If you have any proof, any evidence, any rational reasonable empirical data…share it. I won’t ignore it. I’d be happy to be the first skeptic to admit I was wrong.

Until then, have an open mind. An open mind to the fact you might be wrong.

Ethan “The Freethinking Historian”

One Response to “The Logophobia of the Georgia Straight”

  1. By far the most concise and up to date information I found on this topic. Sure glad that I navigated to your page by accident. I’ll be subscribing to your feed so that I can get the latest updates. Appreciate all the information here

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