Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Quest for Advertisers Lands Air America in Bed With Repugnant Huckster

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Quest for Advertisers Lands Air America in Bed With Repugnant Huckster

You've probably heard the advertisements.

Get rich quick by speculating on gold or buying foreclosed real estate. Lose weight. Get ridiculously inexpensive life insurance. Improve your resume by receving your college degree online.

Radio stations nationwide often turn to these lesser advertisers to bring in much-needed capital. It's especially true for stations with low ratings, or in weaker advertising markets. Such stations can't charge as much, and this particular class of advertisers can't afford to spend as much.

It's also true for fledgling networks, like ESPN Radio and Fox News Radio a few years back, and more recently, Air America.

Generally speaking, there's nothing wrong with accepting this kind of advertising. Free enterprise is good for the country. Assuming the given station or network has verified the advertiser as legitimate, and as long as buyers understand that something that sounds too good to be true often is, the system works.

***

I listen to Air America most weekdays driving to or from work. And one advertiser that pops up occasionally is hypnotist Wendy Friesen, who has more than 100 products for sale on various web sites.

Now, I have nothing against hypnosis CDs. But if you are familiar with Penn & Teller's Showtime series, you might remember an episode a few months back in which they look closely at some of Friesen's products. Turns out Friesen not only hawks cds for confidence building or smoking cessation, but also ones in which she claims she can help increase breast or penis size.

And, amazingly, she offers a tape that she claims will help you fight cancer.

Her promotional paragraph for the "Heal Your Body" CD:

"One of our best selling CDs. Designed for those with cancer, chronic or other serious illness, this program inspires you to choose LIFE, stimulates your immune system to fight, and some say ... creates miracles. Three sessions, one will access your ability to heal, the second will strengthen your immune system, another will cleanse your body of bacteria, viruses and toxins. This process can help to speed the healing of surgery, illness, or even a cold or sore throat."

I find this repugnant, and dangerous for anyone who decides Friesen's $29 cd is a worthy alternative to a trip to the doctor, a biopsy, chemotherapy, etc.

This hits close to home because I am a cancer survivor. On Dec. 12th, I celebrated my third anniversary of a successful adult stem cell transplant, which cured me of acute myeloid leukemia. Unfortunately, my father, who developed a similar leukemia in 2002, did not have a donor match, and succumbed to the disease after a 10-month fight.

***

I explained all of this to the Air America advertising representative, Barbara Brown (646-274-4900, ext. 3087), saying simply that Air America shouldn't be this desperate. Friesen doesn't advertise the cancer-healing hypnosis CD on Air America -- a get-out-of-jail-free card, apparently, for Air America's decision-makers -- but she offers the product on the web site she mentions in the Air America spot.

I suggested to Brown that if a known neo-Nazi organization was selling guns through an affiliate that advertised on Fox News Radio, people would be up in arms. Guilt by association, perhaps. But parallels could be made between that hypothetical and the Friesen ads on Air America.

Brown, the ad rep who landed the Friesen account, said she understood my complaint. In fact, she said, several of the on-air personalities had lodged a similar complaint.

Two weeks have passed since my 20-minute telephone call, yet Air America continues to broadcast Friesen's ads. So now I'm asking family and friends to call Brown, and I'm asking JABBS readers to do the same.

Bottom line: If I hear an on-air radio or television personality spew lies, I respond by either calling to complain, or posting an item on JABBS. If I see rampant spin appear in a newspaper article, whether it's in the New York Times or New York Post, I complain.

This isn't much different. Friesen is spewing the lie that hypnosis can help you fight cancer (or grow your breasts or penis). There is no medical evidence to support that theory, and there never will be. And while it's a shame that people will waste money hoping that listening to a CD will help them grow their breasts or penis, it's a potentially fatal decision to listen to a hypnosis CD hoping it will help your immunity system fight cancer.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Air America and the Repugnant Huckster, Part II: Hypocrisy and the Need to Fight Back

JABBS readers may recall that 10 days ago I wrote about Air America Radio's decision to continue running advertisements for hypnotist Wendi Friesen, even after I and other callers alerted the radio network's advertising department that Friesen shops a CD on her web site fraudulently and dangerously claiming to help "heal" cancer victims through hypnotherapy. (If you missed the original story, click here: http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2004/12/quest-for-advertisers-lands-air.html)

Now an update.

Air America, at least for now, apparently will not change its policy, even though it runs counter to the credo preached by its on-air personalities: transparency and honesty, creating an educated society for a better nation. Friesen, who does not advertise the anti-cancer CD "Heal Your Body" on the radio, does not practice transparency and honesty, and she's counting on an uneducated society to propel sales.

I reached out to lots of folks: JABBS readers, friends and family, a host of anti-scam/anti-quackery web sites, and the doctors and nurses at Hackensack University Medical Center, where I had a successful adult stem cell transplant for acute myeloid leukemia on Dec. 12, 2001.

I've received a lot of positive feedback, and I know that calls have been made to the Air America ad rep, Barbara Brown (646-274-4900, ext. 3087) and her bosses.

But I saw this bit of negative news earlier today. Quantum Thought, an anti-quack blog (with a right-wing tilt) run by Norm Weatherby, posted my plea for help. Additionally, Weatherby posted this:

NOTE: I personally called Barbara Brown to check this out and her opinion was that they will take "any ad that is not patently offensive" (meaning no conservative leaning stuff) and "they could care less what the ad does in leading people to a web site that advocates anything dangerous, etc". In other words folks it's the typical in-your-face liberal response of irresponsibility and cultural depravity. You can bet one thing...if this ad led you to a conservative web site the ad would be jerked immediately. Here's an opportunity to talk to a real crass liberal and let them know what you think of their social irresponsibility. Have fun!

Maybe, for once, the right-wing noise machine will do some good, and flood Air America Radio's phone lines with complaints.

***

After reading Weatherby's post, I left another message for Brown, and one for Air America's general manager for East Coast advertising sales, Leon Clark. (I'm forwarding a copy of this blog post to all of Air America's senior advertising executives).

A few minutes later, Brown called me back (actually as I was writing this), and said basically the same thing to me that she said to Weatherby. Air America Radio is in the business of making money, she explained, and there's a "separation of church and state" between the credo of the on-air personalities and the practice of the advertising sales department.I replied that at my company, a very successful financial newsletter publisher, we don't accept ads from companies we know to be dishonest -- i.e. hucksters.

"I'm not telling you not to make money," I said. "I'm saying that you can do the right thing and still turn a profit." To which Brown suggested that someone could find fault with nearly any advertiser. Brown also said that she did not know, at the time she landed the Friesen account, that Friesen was hawking the anti-cancer hypnotherapy CD.

"But that's my point," I said. "Your on-air people browbeat the president all day for not changing his mind after getting new information. But you're doing the same thing."

At that point, Brown said she had to go.

***

So I'm asking JABBS readers, again, to help me with this protest.

Again, I have nothing against the capitalist system. I have nothing against hypnosis CDs. But I do have a problem with Friesen, who advertises her "Heal Your Body" CD this way:

"One of our best selling CDs. Designed for those with cancer, chronic or other serious illness, this program inspires you to choose LIFE, stimulates your immune system to fight, and some say ... creates miracles. Three sessions, one will access your ability to heal, the second will strengthen your immune system, another will cleanse your body of bacteria, viruses and toxins. This process can help to speed the healing of surgery, illness, or even a cold or sore throat."

I find this repugnant, and dangerous for anyone who decides Friesen's $29 CD is a worthy alternative to a trip to the doctor, a biopsy, chemotherapy, etc. Friesen is spewing the lie that hypnosis can help you fight cancer. There is no medical evidence to support that theory, and there never will be. It's a potentially fatal decision to listen to a hypnosis CD hoping it will help your immunity system fight cancer.



Thanks.

David R. Mark
DavidRMark@aol.com
http://jabbs.blogspot.com



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