HuffPo's Dangerous Quacks, Hacks and CultistsS

Salon has a great post by a doctor about medical quackery at the Huffington Post, where a columnist recently suggested colon cleansing could treat swine flu. This is the downside of HuffPo's open, unpaid model — and culty recruiter.

Arianna Huffington is famously aggressive about plucking bloggers from her personal life; in 48 hours last year she invited "someone at a book signing... a fifteen-year-old lecture attendee; a bookstore owner; the Asperger's-afflicted teen-age son of a radio d.j.; a woman... who was trying to stop insecticide spraying."

But the internet mogul doesn't pay the vast majority of her contributors; they must make the work pay elsewhere, and this is where HuffPo gets itself into trouble. Kim Evans, who wrote about treating swine flu with enemas, just happens to be the flacking author of a book called Cleaning Up! The Ultimate Body Cleanse. New York City's comptroller, William Thompson Jr., has used his HuffPo blog as an extension of his mayoral campaign. And so on

More alarming is the site's relationship with Russell Bishop, like Arianna Huffington a disciple of the culty Movement for Spiritual Inner Awareness and its worshipped leader John-Roger. Bishop co-founded the employee development firm Insight Seminars with John-Roger; Insight shares a "Spiritual Director," John Morton, with the religious group and at one point its headquarters was monitored by John-Roger via widespread listening devices, according to a Los Angeles Times exposé.

Arianna Huffington has forced her staff to attend Insight retreats, according to insiders.

She's also installed Bishop as HuffPo "Senior Editor at Large." Bishop's role, an insider tells us, is mainly to recruit bloggers to the Living section and shape its tone; it's this same Living section that contains the pseudo-medical articles Salon's doctor, and a great many science bloggers, complain about. This, perhaps, explains why the section has so many MSIA true believers.

Indeed, Huffington's relationship with MSIA — she is an ordained "Minister of Light" in the group and loads her iPod with guided MSIA meditations — might also give a clue as to why her website has such a heavy focus on alternative treatments.

According to Life 102, a memoir by disaffected ex MSIA member Peter McWilliams, John-Roger discouraged traditional medical treatments, often "healing" people with his own spiritual powers. After McWilliams got sick in Africa, apparently from parasites, the guru advised him to go to a self-described "nutritionist" rather than a real doctor. When he did visit a real doctor, John-Roger admonished him:

When I told J-R about my rapid healing thanks to Western medicine... he told me it was just "a coincidence" that I started getting better within twenty-four hours of taking the prescription. "The natural way was working, and you would have gotten better at exactly the same time because what cured you was the natural medication. The prescription drug just polluted your system, now I've got to work on taking all the toxicity of it out of your system."

Now, thanks to the Huffington Post, we can all question Western medicine in this manner.

(Pic: Huffington and John-Roger at a 2004 book party.)