It’s been very strange to watch some of the reaction to the The Primitive Nutrition Series.
I provided a quality reference for practically everything I said in it. I tried to make my arguments as data- and logic-driven as I could. Yet I was still called a propagandist.
This was expected. Any time a vegan voices a rational case for a plant-based diet, he comes off to some as radical and shrill. Vegans shouldn’t promote their ideas. If they do, it just comes off as propaganda.
When my videos are called propaganda, an insinuation is made that I have been somehow dishonest. In this video, I’ll show you what I think propaganda looks like.
Two prominent bloggers who criticized my work in the Primitive Nutrition Series were Anthony Colpo and Denise Minger. Both are what I would call cholesterol deniers, or confusionists, and both are critical of veganism. I’ll address them both at length later.
One of the major benefits of veganism is lower cholesterol and consequently a lesser chance of suffering from heart disease. When you hear a doctor talk about the importance of keeping your cholesterol down, you are hearing advice based on the lipid hypothesis.
According to the lipid hypothesis, high blood cholesterol causes heart disease. Because fatty animal foods contain saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, they can raise blood cholesterol. Therefore, according to the lipid hypothesis, these foods contribute to the development of heart disease. Vegetarianism and veganism are hardly mainstream, but the lipid hypothesis is quite well-accepted. If you’re a blogger who wants to weaken the rationale for veganism, at some point you’ll probably be tempted to take on the lipid hypothesis. Colpo and Minger have done that, as have most other apologists for saturated fat consumption.
Cholesterol denialism and anti-veganism tend to go hand in hand.
Upon a first encounter with their pro-cholesterol arguments, one might take pity on the denialists. As I have shown you in the Primitive Nutrition Series, many lines of evidence developed through over a hundred years of research have firmly established the validity of the lipid hypothesis. The task of overturning it at this point might remind one of the punishment chosen by the gods for Sisyphus, who was condemned for eternity to repeatedly roll a boulder up a steep hill, only to have it roll back down once he neared the top. The endless wasting of effort on an impossible task would be a miserable fate, and make no mistake, overturning the lipid hypothesis looks to be nearly impossible, yet this is the path the deniers have chosen. So why do they do it? Are they as miserable as Sisyphus?
While the objective of legitimately undermining and replacing the lipid hypothesis may be a nearly impossible task, especially for individuals who lack the appropriate education, I doubt the confusionists feel like Sisyphus because I don’t think they are really trying to win this battle. If they were, they would head off to school, gain some legitimacy, and wage their campaign within the science community. But they don’t because they have goals that don’t require all that dedication and integrity. They want to find an audience, grow it, and sell books to them, and these goals have nothing to do with science. Anthony Colpo already has his book for sale.
Denise Minger will soon have hers, too. For an entrepreneur in the diet book business, it isn’t necessary to be accurate, rigorous, or responsible. All you have to do is cater to your audience, and this is fundamentally a marketing task.
And as a marketing strategy, a self-aggrandizing one-sided battle with the scientific mainstream is pretty smart. First, the actual experts in the mainstream are unlikely to fight back. Why should they engage in public mud-wrestling with someone who has only demonstrated an ability to win fans on the web when they have real and pressing work to do? Because the people who actually know the science on cholesterol don’t engage the fringe bloggers, the bloggers can declare themselves experts to their hearts’ content. There hasn’t been much risk of public embarrassment for them. At least, not until now. Moreover, the health authorities have a common disadvantage with the vegans. They are asking people to give up or cut back on foods they like, and who wants to give up things they like? If you want to reach the status of internet diet guru, you might have an easier time of it by differentiating yourself in the marketplace by giving contrarian advice and by telling people what they want to hear.
To make this strategy effective, it’s best to never show a hint of modesty or doubt despite your lack of appropriate training. Just use a lot of references and people will think you know your stuff. It’s easy these days to find references that seem to support practically anything, and hardly anyone will actually bother to read them to see if you understood them. Also, a guru wannabe should ignore the environmental or ethical considerations of food choices. If vegans raise these issues, reflexively mock them. Because cholesterol denialism is mostly a marketing effort, you may find the tactics of political campaigns to be helpful. Pretend you and your audience are gifted with unusually fine critical thinking skills. You and they are too smart to listen to the mainstream experts. Smart people do their own thinking on PhD-level medical research. That makes them independent. Also, find anti-government buttons to push. The people in government are entirely animated by a desire to control you, including those nerds at the NIH. Demagogue your opponents while you’re at it, too. They’re idiots, haha! Lastly, make use of focused and repeated messaging. It really helps to have everyone on your team reciting the same talking points.
T Colin Campbell has had these techniques used against him. He is cast as a villain who should be shut up. The classy individual who wrote this has a book to sell as well. I have received hostility like this now, too, which puts me in some good company…
With both Dr Campbell, who Mr Colpo says is lying to sell books, something Colpo would never do, …
And with Ancel Keys, who was shamelessly biased. Colpo is not at all biased. This is a rare quality among humans.
Denise Minger seems to think it is necessary to mockingly include photos of vegans in her blogs who have absolutely nothing to do with whatever topic she is discussing. We need good guys and bad guys to create a story line. We need people to laugh at. This is how this fresh new critical thinker among the confusionists has decided she should present her ideas.
A key technique for the demagogue is focused messaging, and the confusionists are great at it. This reminds me of Steven Colbert’s word “wikiality”. Colbert noticed that on Wikipedia, the truth could be made into whatever people wanted it to be if enough people agreed on it, even if the new “truth” was factually false. Wikiality need not be confined to Wikipedia.
Here’s an example of how wikiality works in the confusionist subculture. This was pointed out to me by a good friend who won’t let me give him credit. This website is promoting the so-called “wise traditions” of the Weston A Price Foundation. Apparently, a brochure of theirs gives us what appears to be a solid journal reference to shoot down the myth that vegetarianism is healthy. The truth, they say, is that both vegetarian men and women have higher all-cause mortality than their omnivorous counterparts. Hazard ratios and a journal citation make this appear to be an unbiased and rigorously proven fact. The Weston Price people have just proven that meat helps you to live longer. Eating meat is wise indeed!
But let’s look at that reference. The study the Weston Price people chose actually found that vegetarians have a lower death rate from ischemic heart disease.
Look at the tables for overall mortality in the study and you will see that the standardized mortality ratios were actually lower for both vegetarian men and women. The lower this number is, the fewer deaths occurred compared to the number of deaths that were expected. The study authors say, “these results give further support to the belief that vegetarians have a lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease than other persons.” How can this be explained?
Maybe the vegetarians were just more health-conscious. That makes sense. After all, they were so health-conscious, they stopped eating meat! Agree with me or not, but really, is it possible the Weston Price people somehow innocently misunderstood the conclusion of this paper? Get real. Their work is what I call propaganda.
This very same text from the Weston A Price Foundation is repeated all over the internet. Every one of these results has this same false information. It’s not based on any truth in the real world, but online, it is now wikiality.
The deniers don’t need to be logically consistent. In his same blog ridiculing me, this individual also attacked Don Matesz.
Matesz expressed support for my video series so he had this coming to him.
This individual criticized him on the grounds that he studied and practices Chinese medicine. This isn’t science-based, he says, so it’s not good enough for him. He says the only alternative medicine practitioner he likes is someone named Chris Kresser, whose name he fails to spell correctly. How rich is this? He approves of an alternative medicine practitioner because he rejects the lipid hypothesis, a product of several generations of scientific research by scientists from around the world, yet he casts himself as a defender of science. These guys don’t experience cognitive dissonance, it seems.
Go to Kresser’s website and you will see that he is sharing a video that he believes debunks what he calls the saturated fat myth. You see at the top of my slide the video he likes, called “Big Fat Lies”. It is a video perpetuating the untruth that a scientist named Ancel Keys tossed out original data to make a fraudulent case against saturated fat, a lie I exposed in The Primitive Nutrition Series.
Yet Keys is the one who is called a liar by these people. Let’s take a moment to see how the use of this one false claim has been used by the cholesterol deniers. This clip comes from a movie promoting cholesterol denialism. I don’t recall Jimmy Moore calling this one propaganda.
Low carb patriarch Robert Atkins asserted that Keys cherry-picked data. He thought the Seven Countries Study was published in the 1950s, but it wasn’t. Dr Atkins was totally misinformed about what the Seven Countries Study was. But we should consider Keys the liar.
Wikiality is on display on Wikipedia as well. Whoever wrote this had no clue what the Seven Countries Study was, either, yet they think they can educate you about it.
Johnny Bowden is all mixed up as well. He thinks he has more integrity than this great scientist.
Kurt Harris tells us Keys’ work was criminal. He says this even though he obviously never bothered to investigate the matter for himself. Harris’s libel seems closer to real criminality than does Keys’ investigation to me.
Here’s another MD who says Keys was more interested in pursuing an agenda rather than the truth. This man didn’t know what he was talking about either.
Of course, I’ve shown you how sloppy Mark Sisson’s been on this one.
Chris Masterjohn didn’t mind repeating this smear against Keys.
Which this blogger spread further.
This veterinarian thinks Keys was shown to be a charlatan.
Internet entrepreneur Joe Mercola doesn’t have a clue about any of this, either. He thinks the Seven Countries Study should have been called the 22 Countries Study. He must be comparing notes with Mark Sisson.
Also confused is Donald Miller, the star of my Confusionist Mind video.
Gary Taubes twists this data as well to suit his ends.
Even this textbook buys in on this gross distortion of history.
To just briefly repeat myself and show you why all these confusionists are wrong, at the time Keys compared those countries, he had not yet determined that it was the saturated fat found in animal foods that elevated cholesterol, rather than all dietary fats. He eventually realized unsaturated fats did not do this. He changed his mind, so I don’t see evidence here of a man with an agenda.
He was very careful not to get ahead of the science in his recommendations, only encouraging the reasonable substitution of certain fats until more definitive research was conducted.
The development of Keys’ ideas is described here. This historical context is essential to understand how and why saturated fat was ultimately singled out as a problematic dietary factor.
As I said in my other videos, the paper criticizing Keys’ comparison of six countries in 1953, the same one all those confusionists are using to smear him, found there were other food categories that correlated to heart disease more strongly than fat, in particular, animal protein.
In 1978, using the same data as Keys, Jeremiah Stamler found reason to suspect animal-sourced foods as well. Somehow all those confusionists think it’s just fine to bash away at Keys for his imagined distortions, while not a single one reports the rest of the story. They don’t tell us that animal protein and saturated fat correlated best with heart disease.
To the rescue has come Denise Minger, who used her blog to announce that the confusionists have been wrong about Keys all along. Minger says she was “inspired” to do this blog post correcting these distortions about Ancel Keys and his alleged abuse of data by my videos, but doesn’t really give me credit for my work. She is content to leave her readers with the impression she is sharing the fruits of her own research. She even takes a little potshot at me by saying I glossed over something of importance in my videos. Someone reading this who had not seen my videos might assume I had bought in on these lies about Keys, just like all the others.
Here you can see I uploaded the video with my observations on December 1, 2011.
On December 17, Minger makes it clear she is learning about this big lie from my videos. “I watched part of the Plant Positive guy’s first video on Ancel Keys, and he’s actually kind of right,” she says.
Yet five days later on December 22 she says she is about to reveal the truth about Keys because she has so much integrity, she is willing to bust a myth regardless of whose ox is gored. She is claiming to be a truth-teller, even as she misrepresents this research as her own. This is the standard for integrity in the confusionist echo chamber.
I’ll address Minger further in later videos. But before I do, I want to talk a bit more about cholesterol, since that is the big theme of this batch of videos