FROM QUACKERY TO MAINSTREAM:
"THERE IS NO TURNING BACK"
From The Cancer Chronicles #13
© Dec. 1992 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
[The comments about the New York Times at the end of this article now
strike me as ironic, considering the barrage of generally negative reporting
that came out of "the Paper" in 1996. --RWM]
One of the most amazing sea changes in this amazing season of change
has been the dizzying conversion of the mainstream media from quackbusters
to enthusiasts of alternative therapy. The existence of the ofÞce of alternative
medicine at NIH has lifted much of the lethal smog that has characterized
the coverage of unconventional therapies in the past. Alternative medicine
has suddenly become highly visible--and the media like what they see!
First out of the box, and to date the best, has been the Washington
Post. The Post has been both objective and fair. By early October it had
run three stories, two of them by Margaret Mason in her excellent "Body
& Soul" column. On June 26, Mason (one of the few mainstream reporters
who has actually attended the sessions) began, "Something wonderful
happened--and a quiet grass-roots revolution in health care was ofÞcially
recognized--last week on the sixth œoor of government Building C in Bethesda."
That "something wonderful" was not any particular treatment, but "the
atmosphere of respect and affection accorded about 90 spokesmen for unconventional
therapies...Few people in the packed hearing room could have missed the
momentousness of the occasion." Mason didn't miss it, for sure.
In her October 2nd article, which followed the Chantilly, VA meeting,
Mason described the rise of a new kind of practitioner. "There¼s no sitting
back and dishing out identical medicine to different people, even if they
do have the same diagnosis," she wrote. And she ends with the stirring
words, "The momentum is there. Hundreds of men and women--kindred health-care
professionals--have found each other. There is no turning back."
[NOTE: You can also download portions of the important Report
that came out of this historic Chantilly meeting and was published
by the Government Printing Office.]
Such serious, even eloquent, treatment of alternative medicine has almost
never been seen before in mainstream US journalism. Another remarkable
milestone was the series that appeared Þve days running on the "Eye on
America" segment of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. The series began
with footage of the September meeting and then sympathetically investigated
acupuncture, ethnobiology, biofeedback, herbs and even the use of Macrobiotics
to treat cancer. (A planned segment on the Gerson therapy was allegedly
dropped at the last minute, however.) The series, titled "New Age--New
Rage" was colorful and upbeat and Dan seemed fascinated.
For counterpoint, we had the business-as-usual vice president of the
American Medical Association. He disparaged alternatives. On July 13,
Newsweek made a startling discovery: "The medical establishment has for
years shunned so-called alternative medicine and insurance companies have
refused to pay for it, while federal ofÞcials have harassed its practitioners."
But faced with spiraling health costs, it announced, "the federal government
can no longer afford to be so smug." They are now "serious about unconventional
The Los Angeles Times, which has in the past been quite hostile to alternatives,
joined the love feast (9/ 29) with a long piece, "Scrutinizing Alternative
Paths to Health." This quoted Frank Wiewel "I believe this is about the
changing face of American medicine. We cannot afford to lose 520,000 to
cancer every year." We¼re even nibbling at the edges of the New York Times.
The Times Magazine¼s Good Health supplement ran a cover story on the "Mainstreaming
of Alternative Medicine." So who knows? Perhaps someday we¼ll even get
a kind word from the science news writers at the daily New York Times
, who have virtually boycotted the subject thus far.
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