Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Good news on the faux-degree front

On several occasions I have written about my plans to buy myself some genuine phony credentials to increase my credibility. (I even worked that idea into some song lyrics I recently published.) It seemed like a solid plan, not only because "credentials" and "credibility" probably come from the same root word, but also because some of the most successful hustlers in the New-Wage selfish-help industry have questionable doctoral degrees. So I was all set to buy myself a doctorate or two.

Then, tragically, some of my dreams were dashed when I found out about some potential legal problems regarding two of the prestigious online Universities (a word that probably comes from the same root word as "Universe") that I had been considering. It seemed that these two Universities were on the "illegal" list of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). In the great state of Texas, where I live, using these illegal degrees to promote one’s business could be a Class B misdemeanor.

I was dismayed to learn that both of the fine institutions I had been most seriously considering were on the bad list. There was Belford University ("No degree-granting authority from the CB & no accreditation from a CB [Coordinating Board] recognized accreditor. Under investigation by the AG [Attorney General] for operating from a mail forwarding service in Houston. Diplomas mailed from the UAE. Previously had a presence in NV or AZ."). And then there was the University of Metaphysics ("No accreditation from a CB recognized accreditor. AKA University of Sedona."). I was particularly disappointed about the University of Metaphysics, which counts among its alumni such notables as singer/actress/preacher Della Reese-Lett.

Oh, goodness.

Well, Dear Ones, I recently received some very good news about the University of Metaphysics. I announced this news as a May 8 addendum to my October 2007 post entitled, "Faux-degree plans on hold?", but thought it only fair to bring such an important (and long-overdue) announcement up to the front page as well.

Recently a commenter going by the moniker I.A.T.H. pointed out to me that the University of Metaphysics/University of Sedona are no longer on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board "illegal" list. According to this person, the institutions were mistakenly placed there and have since been removed (you can read this person's full comment by clicking here).

I sent an email to the THECB web site asking for more details, and even going so far as to ’splain why I wanted them. I received this reply:

Ms. Schmidt, The University of Metaphysics and the University of Sedona were removed from the list of Institutions whose degrees are illegal to use in Texas in 2007 following the ruling by the Texas Supreme Court in HEB Ministries, Inc. v Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) (no. 03-0995) that the THECB does not have oversight over religious institutions. I hope this answers your question and feel free to contact our agency if you have other questions.

You can read the brief about that case here. Although the case involved a Bible institute/ministry rather than a New-Wagey spiritual bidness such as U of Metaphysics, the ruling was all about re-establishing that the State cannot interfere with religion. In the wake of that ruling the THECB determined that U of Metaphysics is a religious institution. (I’m not the only person who has noticed how religions – mostly born-again Christian-type religions rather than New-Wage spiritual institutions – continually attempt to interfere with the State. The religionistas don’t seem to see any inconsistency with that, asserting that they are simply living their faith, the main tenet of which is apparently that they must shove their beliefs down as many people’s throats as possible. It's really all about power...but that's beyond the usual scope of this blog.)

But anyway. The point is that the University of Metaphysics is no longer on the Texas "illegal" list. And really, it never should have been, especially when you consider what an impressive and well-respected doctoral program they offer.

DOCTORAL DEGREES AWARDED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF METAPHYSICS

  • Doctor of Metaphysical Science, Msc.D.*
  • Doctor of Metaphysical Counseling, Mc.D.*
  • Doctor of Ministry, D.Min. specializing in:
    • New Thought Ministry
    • Holistic Counseling Ministry
    • Pastoral Counseling
    • Holistic Ministry
  • Doctor of Divinity, D.D.,
  • Doctor of Divinity, D.D., specializing in:
    • Pastoral Counseling
    • Spiritual Healing

The University helpfully adds this information:

*The title "Doctor of Metaphysical Science," and the degree letters "Msc.D." and "Doctor of Metaphysical Counseling," and the degree letters "Mc.D" are copyrighted and may not be used by any other school or organization.

Mc.D… hmm, that could almost stand for McDoctorate.

And here’s the rundown on the "doctorates" sold by U of Metaphysics’ sister institution, the University of Sedona:

DOCTORAL DEGREES AWARDED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF SEDONA

  • Doctor of Metaphysical Science, Msc.D.
  • Metaphysical Hypnosis, Mhyp.D.®
  • Doctor of Divinity, D.D.
  • Metaphysical Psychology, Mpsy.D. ®
  • Doctor of Theology, D.Th.
  • Bible Interpretation, D.D.
  • Doctor of Holistic Ministry, Mh.D.
  • Doctor of Philosophy, D.Phil
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D. specializing in:
    • Pastoral Counseling Psychology
    • Metaphysical Counseling
    • Holistic Life Coaching
    • Metaphysical Parapsychology
    • Holistic Life Counseling
    • Mystical Research
    • Transpersonal Counseling
    • Comparative Religion

I know I’ve mentioned this before on this blog (second item down, "Doctoring up your credibility"), and I still don’t know who originally said it, but it’s worth quoting (or perhaps paraphrasing) again: "Nothing says ‘credibility’ like a degree followed by an ® sign!"

The problem some of you may have is that a U of Metaphysics/Sedona eddycashun could get to be a little bit expensive, and in these tough economic times that is a serious consideration. Well, there is a low-cost alternative for those seeking a phony education on a budget. I’ve previously mentioned these folks too (third item down, "A degree of confusion"). At InstantDegrees.com, you can earn your doctorate degree for under $200, with no coursework, and it’s "100 percent legal!"

DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME with a Fake, Replica or Counterfeit degree, diploma or transcript. We provide various types of LEGALLY issued and privately accredited college & university degrees entirely via our online service. Trusted providers online since 2001.

And you even get a bunch of bonus e-books with the deal, including "Hypnotic Writing" by Joe Vitale. (This is not to imply that Joe Vitale has a degree from Instant Degrees.com, or that he has any interest in that company whatsoever.)

If you are concerned that your Instant Degrees may not look real, or at least real-ish, you need not be. You can learn all you need to know about the quality of your Graduation Package right here.

Still, if you want to go for the best, and especially if you live in Texas or some other state that might frown on inexpensive degrees, you really ought to consider the University of Metaphysics. In fact, U of Metaphysics takes pains to explain why you might run into problems if you go for a cheap-o degree.

And that brings me back to the main point of this post, which is that U of Metaphysics being taken off the Texas illegal list is really, really good news. Do you realize what this means, Dear Ones? Not only does it mean that one of the people I've snarked about now has only one fraudulent doctorate (legally speaking) instead of two, but it also means that maybe I really can realize my dream of getting the best flaky degree possible without running afoul of the law.

Who said the Universe (or at least the University) isn't on my side?

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Where's Rhonda?

When people borrow or steal the ideas of others and later claim these same great ideas came miraculously to them, direct from The Universe, it makes you wonder why The Universe sent the great idea to the wrong person in the first place. Is this merely the case of misaligned universal antennae or something of a more sinister nature?
~ Anonymous wag

It has occurred to me more than once in recent months that we haven't seen much media coverage lately about
Rhonda Byrne, the famous (or infamous, depending upon your point of view) producer of the world's most successful New-Wage moviemercial, The Secret. In the months after the DVD's release in March 2006, Rhonda seemed to be everywhere, sporting her signature miniskirts, her yards of bling and that costume-jewel tilak* on her forehead, smiling big for the camera, and gushing giddily about how the Universe had helped her every step of the way in the creation and marketing of The Secret. Once the inevitable backlash began, however, she all but disappeared.

In the more than three years since the original DVD was spewed across the Internet, there has been a nonstop effluvium of product from Secret stars and wannabes, all claiming to reveal "the missing Secret," or tell you everything that The Secret left out, or give you the key to really making The Secret work, or take you beyond The Secret. One of the most eminently ludicrous offerings came from Secret star Bob Proctor, who recently released a product claiming to teach the eleven "forgotten" laws that The Secret left out. (In the process of promoting his product, he totally dissed The Secret, even as he wrote, "But perhaps what I'm most famous now at this point is for my appearance in The Secret.")

Significantly, however, the long-awaited
"official" sequel to The Secret has yet to be released. And Rhonda Byrne herself has, for the most part, become as elusive as Waldo.

In fact, for the past year and a half or so, virtually the only mentions of her in the news media have been pieces here and there about certain Secret-related lawsuits, most notably involving Drew Heriot, the original director and co-creator of The Secret, and Dan Hollings, Rhonda's original Web marketing strategist. Drew claims – credibly, in my opinion – to be a co-creator and therefore to have co-ownership of The Secret; you can find the details here. Dan seems merely to be trying to collect all of the money that Rhonda originally promised him, although she has claimed, among other things, that The Secret didn't make enough money to pay him. You can find those details here.

If you read Drew's and Dan's stories (and I realize you may have already done so, but I linked to them for the benefit of those who haven't), you will see a remarkable difference between their respective versions of how The Secret was created, and the "official" version as told on The Secret web site. The official fairy tale...er...account is right here. Although the Universe, and proper usage of the Law of Attraction, are given their due credit, and there is some mention of a "team," the clear implication is that Rhonda was always the main brains and creative force behind The Secret.

Some folks beg to differ.

I first wrote about the Secret legal woes here in December of 2007. (Not to pat myself on the back too much, but I was one of the very first to publicly write about the legal difficulties brewing in Secretville, and I still think that the accompanying pic was one of my finer Photoshopping efforts (and is certainly more artful than today's crude effort)). A little over a year ago the word was finally out officially about the pending lawsuits, and I blogged about it then as well, although a piece in the New York Times was what really grabbed public attention. (A few months later I blogged about the topic yet again, with another Photoshop offering that continued on the same theme as the December work.)

In the months since the story officially broke there have been numerous articles, pieces of commentary, and blog discussions about how Rhonda Byrne "attracted" all of this trouble to herself. That theme has been done to death by now, but people keep returning to it because it is so rich in irony. And last week in the Huffington Post, self-help gurus Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks wrote a thoughtful piece about what we can learn from The Secret lawsuits.

Now, setting aside the facts that (1) Gay and Kathlyn have their own New-Wage cottage industry, and don't hesitate to plug their new book in the HuffPost article; and (2) They claim to be admirers of two of my favorite snark targets, imaginary-friends-industry leaders Esther and Jerry Hicks, I think they make some valid points in their article. Some might speculate that they are suffering from sour grapes or envy because they were interviewed for The Secret but didn't make the cut, but I don't really see it that way. If their account is accurate, it appears that they didn't make it into The Secret because they displayed a little too much integrity. Or at the very least, they tried to inject a little too much reality into that whole Magic Universe Genie meme:

The interview went fine, but it was clear that Rhonda wanted to focus the interview only on the positive side of the Law of Attraction. There were two key points we wanted to make sure got into the movie, but when we tried to bring them up Rhonda steered us away from them.

Here are the key points about the Law of Attraction that didn't make it into the movie: Key point #1 is that unless you combine the Law of Attraction with impeccable integrity, you can attract a peck of troubles along with anything positive that comes your way...

...Key point #2: Using the Law of Attraction is a quick way to trigger your Upper Limit Problem, an issue I describe in detail in my new book, The Big Leap. The Upper Limit Problem is the tendency to sabotage yourself when you experience a rapid upsurge in success. If you haven't built a solid foundation of integrity under you, a rapid upturn in your fortunes can bring forth old self-esteem issues that cause you to bring yourself back down to your more familiar lower level of success...

...After the interviews, we didn't hear anything from Rhonda for a while. I began to grow more and more concerned that The Secret was not going to give "air-time" to concepts such as integrity, honesty and the keeping of agreements. Then, we heard that Esther and Jerry Hicks, two people of high integrity whom I admire very much, decided to pull out of the project. At that point Kathlyn and I lost interest in the project and began a two-year process of trying to get our footage back...

Kathyln and Gay did get their footage back and plan to make it available soon.

I think the Hendrickses really nailed it when writing about the significance of The Secret lawsuits:

On the surface, it looks like a movie business squabble, but there's a lot more to it. If it were just one movie-type trying to squeeze money out of another, it would be easy to understand. We generally don't expect much in the way of integrity from people in the movie business. A Hollywood wag once said something along the lines of "You can take all the integrity in Hollywood, put it in a gnat's eye, and still have room left over for an agent's heart."

However, most of us have higher standards for those who speak on behalf of God or purport to teach us the laws of the universe. What grips our attention about The Secret lawsuits is the same thing that compels many of us to read stories about preachers who get busted for sexual shenanigans or priests who molest children. Such events remind us of the dangers of hypocrisy and the ever-present possibility of having life turn ironical on us. When a massively successful movie about the Law of Attraction ends up attracting equally massive lawsuits, it blows the lid off the irony-meter, bringing to mind Lily Tomlin's observation that "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

One point on which I don't entirely agree with the Hendrickses is their observation that New Age scandals usually involve sex rather than money. While that arguably may be true of the stories that most frequently become public, in my experience and observation there are just as many financial shenanigans as sexual ones in the New-Wage industry. Maybe more. But the icky sexual stuff is certainly there, and not all of it does become public. (I'm sitting on a couple of potentially explosive secrets about some New-Wage gurus whom you'd never suspect of illicit and even criminal sexual dalliances...but I can't blog about that yet.)

So let's get back to The Secret lawsuits. As Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks write, "'The Secret' scandal is different, and not only because it's about a huge amount of money. At a deeper level it is about the interface of integrity and the power of manifestation, a subject that has truly life-changing consequences."

And that, of course, is what has all of the tongues wagging about how the Law of Attraction has bitten Rhonda in the butt.

So...where IS Rhonda right now?
As it happens, the question in the title of today's post is not rhetorical, and I can tell you where Rhonda has been for at least part of this week: in court. The aforementioned Drew Heriot's case against her went to a jury trial, much to the surprise of some insiders who were expecting an out-of-court settlement. That trial is now in full swing in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

So why aren't we hearing anything about it? Word has it that there seem to be no press or media at all covering the trial. If that's so, you have to wonder why. Are the media simply bored with The Secret? Or have there been concerted attempts to keep this part of the story out of the public eye? I have no idea, but you can bet that if I were in Chicago, I would be at that courthouse live-blogging nonstop. Or at least Tweeting.

Drew Heriot may have a tough hurdle to clear, especially in light of the fact that Rhonda and gang have the big bucks for top-flight attorneys. But I'm rooting for him. And I will be rooting for Dan Hollings, too, when and if his case goes to trial.

"In the meantime," say Kathlyn and Gay Henricks at the conclusion of their HuffPost article (which I'll link to again here), "let's all use the legal dramas around The Secret as a good lesson on using the Law of Attraction in the context of a focus on impeccable integrity."

Amen.

For further reading...
The complete text of the complaints against Rhonda Byrne et al. are available on Amazon:

Drew Heriot's complaint

Dan Hollings' complaint

And here is another lawsuit against a Secret "star," Marie Diamond. Sometimes Diamonds are not a girl's best friend, apparently...

*****
FOLLOW-UP: Although it's difficult to find much information at all about the outcome of this trial (I was informed privately), Drew Heriot did not prevail in this matter. There may, however, be an appeal. It remains to be seen how Dan Hollings' suit against Rhonda will go.

YET ANOTHER FOLLOW-UP, MONTHS LATER: Word has it that Rhonda & gang settled with Dan Hollings for an undisclosed amount, with a boatload of conditions, also undisclosed. Dan seems to be going on about the business of Internet marketing, and I'm following him on Twitter. Maybe you should too.

* Re tilak: Yes, that's really what it is (sometimes) called. Ironically enough, Rhonda had a brief fling with a phony guru and alleged sexual predator named Tilak. I wonder where he disappeared to?

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

All that's missing is the music

Is this simply bad poetry, or the beginning of a schlocky Whirled Musings musical (Whirled Musical?), or just some dopey lyrics in search of a tune? You decide. But I finally sat down and turned my favorite phrase into...well...this. It pretty much wrote itself. Or maybe I channeled it. Yeah...that's it.


I’ve Gotta Find Me A Scam

lyrics by Cosmic Connie
Music by ??

I’ve gotta find me a scam
Make people think
That I’m more than I am
Give ’em a little and make ’em want more
And herd ’em in droves to my Internet store.

They’re gonna make me a star
If I make ’em believe
That they’re more than they are

Make ’em believe that the world can be theirs
And that they’re all destined to be zillionaires.

I’ll forge an online community
Make folks believe
They’ll get special immunity –
Shelter from plagues or a stock market crash –
If only they’ll give me their trust. And their cash.

I’m gonna buy me some phony degrees
A B.S., an M.A., two fake Ph.D.s
I’ll talk quantum physics and quote from the Buddha,
And no one will know (much less care) if I’ve screwed a
Few thousand folks on my way to success
Long as I bilk with a bit of finesse.
Maybe they’ll pay me to pray
Or simply to chant
All their problems away
With four magic phrases, or one magic word
That rational folk would find droll or absurd.

All I’ll be selling is hope
Worth more by far
Than the best Maui dope
Granted, the high doesn’t last quite as long
And costs a lot more. But is that so wrong?

It’s what people want, after all:
Bright shiny visions
To keep them in thrall
It’s all in the packaging, all in the hype
Oh, I can make millions by marketing tripe!

I’m gonna bundle some mixed esoterica,
Pilfer some symbols from Native America,
Quote Albert Einstein, channel some dead guys,
Make up some buzzwords to make me appear wise.
Claim I’m a healer, say I’m hypnotic,
And hook ’em on hope (it’s the greatest narcotic).
I’ll sell a miracle pill
And maybe concoct
A fantastical swill:
Blue solar water with pale yellow “tea”
Will magically morph into more “green” for me!

I’ll buy a grandiose house,
Ditch my old friends
And dump my old spouse,
Replace ’em with new ones befitting my lot
To prove to the world – and myself – that I’m hot.

Folks will pay four grand to suffer
Hoping one weekend
Will make them grow tougher
And happier, healthier, richer and smarter...
Then I'll convince 'em that that's just a starter.

And then for a few thousand more
I'll lead 'em, chanting,
To death's very door
If they pass through it and fail to come back
I'll turn tail and run to avoid the flak.

Yeah, I'm gonna find me a scam
Make folks believe
That I'm more than I am
Make 'em believe that I'm endlessly wise
Till I even believe my own ludicrous lies!


copyright © 2009 by Connie L. Schmidt
Note: the second-to-the-last two verses were added in November 2009, post-"Sweatgate"


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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Viral woes

By now the flu hysteria is dying down, the current scuttlebutt being that perhaps the would-be pandemic isn't quite as serious as previously thought. Or maybe it isn't nearly as serious as previously thought. Or maybe it's just that the talking heads are getting bored with it. Or maybe the public is. Darn it all, I was just getting ready to introduce my new line of pandemic-chic outerwear, footwear and jewelry, featuring designer face masks, haz-maxi dresses and biohaz jumpsuits, biohaz-symbol earrings and pendants, hazmat high-heeled boots, and the like. All is not lost, though: we are in the Age of Pandemics, and there will no doubt be many more product ops, so I'll keep my sketches handy.

Even though the current pandemic scare is fizzling, damage has been done. There has been widespread alarm, if not quite a worldwide panic. There have been renewed hysterical campaigns to "close the border" with Mexico. Untold thousands of folks probably began taking powerful anti-flu drugs unnecessarily, thus not only risking personal harm but also unwittingly speeding up the development of newer and more resistant strains of flu, or maybe even a stronger "second wave" of the current bug. (I apologize to any anti-evolutionists who are firmly convinced that G_d created life, the Universe and everything in six days a few thousand years ago, and that evolution is a big hoax. But work with me here, okay? Besides, what are you doing on this blog anyway?)

Even as the micro-critters become steadily more resistant to everything we can throw at them, we bigger critters are in danger of becoming more resistant to public-health warnings. When something really serious and deadly comes down the pike, many may be far less likely to take proper precautions.

More subtle ill effects have also occurred. For one thing, domestic pigs have once again gotten a bad rap. Although officially designated H1N1 flu, the bug that caused such a stir in the Americas and raised a few eyebrows worldwide has most commonly been referred to as "swine flu." Yet the experts say it's a combination of human, swine, and avian strains. I was thinking that maybe it should be called huswavian (pronounced hyoo-SWAY-vian) flu, but huswavian has way too many syllables for the average busy American, and it sounds more like an Armenian surname than a disease. So maybe I'll just call it noofloo. The point is that I seriously think we need to stop blaming Porcine-Americans for stuff that isn't their fault.

On the up side, the manufacturers of waterless hand sanitizers are really cleaning up, so to speak. Once again I've proven myself to be ahead of the curve; I have been carrying itty-bitty bottles of waterless hand sanitizer in my purse for years and years.

"Oh, Cosmic Connie," I can hear some of you groaning. "No matter what you call it, the flu flap is soooo other-blogs and MSM. Not to mention très overdone. Don't you have better things to write about? Besides, how can this possibly be related to your beat?"

Those are good questions, Dear Ones, but, apart from the fact that I reserve the right to occasionally stray from my normal beat, this is in fact a topic that is entirely relevant to my Whirled. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that some of you already know where I'm going with this. (I am nothing if not predictable.)

First of all, many in the New-Wage/selfish-help biz have had something to say about the noofloo. F'rinstance, Secret star David Schirmer, Australia's leading expert on everything, offered his professional opinions on Twitter:

SWINE FLU! HOW STUPID! Dis-ease is always created in the mind. Amazing how drug companies purpetuate [sic] such fear. from web

@missjordanoslie drug co.'s + media. Disease is ALWAYS creatd [sic] in the mind frm fear. Fear causes the mind 2 be not-at-ease (dis-ease) from TweetDeck in reply to missjordanoslie

@m1ch43lf Yes Micheal, reporters & media is responsible for so much damage in society. Fear creates reality. from TweetDeck in reply to m1ch43lf

@missjordanoslie We will never know y those 159 people died. Many ppl take what the media delivers & believe it as truth without question! from TweetDeck in reply to missjordanoslie

@missjordanoslie A great book to read is the Bird Flu Hoax, will give you a different perception about the dreaded swine flu from TweetDeck in reply to missjordanoslie

Don't bother to try to follow those links to "missjordanoslie." She protects her updates. Well, lah-de-dah.

Naturally, I had been wondering whether Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale would have anything to say about the noofloo. Since Joe has a tendency to gloss over or completely ignore the worldly woes that dominate the headlines (or to put his foot in his mouth when he does mention them), I had been wondering if he would acknowledge the noofloo at all. If he did mention it, I wondered, would he simply advise his followers to "refuse to participate" in the pandemic by ignoring the mainstream media, in much the same way that he advised them about the recession? Or would he acknowledge the existence of a flu bug scare but dismiss it as an overreaction due to the machinations of the mainstream media, the drug companies, etc., kind of like David Schirmer did?

As it turned out, Joe did mention the noofloo several times on Twitter – all in the service of promoting a new health blog by one Marcus L. Gitterle, MD:

3 May, 2009: Get the inside scoop about #swineflu from an ER med doc I trust http://www.health-sense.com

2 May, 2009: New health info http://www.health-sense.com

30 April 2009: Truth about Swine Flu http://tinyurl.com/clctgd

That April 30 link leads to a post that has since been removed. More on that in a moment.

Dr. Gitterle, who among other things is an emergency room director in a central Texas hospital, recently found himself at the center of a controversy. For the past week or so, Internet noofloo watchers and random alarmists have been all agog about an email Dr. G. sent out to a few folks last week, following his attendance at a public-health meeting about the noofloodemic. Apparently he was exposed to some alarming information at the meeting, and his good wife suggested that he share that information with a few people. (I don't think he was going all Adam-and-Eve or anything (as in, "The woman whom you put here with me--she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it!"). More likely, he was simply trying to give his wife proper credit.)

The gist of his message – at least according to the version appearing on this site* – was that the epidemic was many times worse than had been publicized so far. Among other things, the email claimed that the virulence, or deadliness, of the virus was as bad in the US as in Mexico, and that there were swine flu victims on ventilators in the US, fighting for their lives, even as he was writing his email.

The version of the email linked to above also noted that some fudging was going on in the reporting of the cases, and it stated that the virus had "crossed the threshold" for a Phase 6 global pandemic status. Finally, it suggested that a nutritional supplement called N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) might be helpful, as might a homeopathic remedy known as Oscillococinum.

Dr. G. later explained that he had intended his email to be only for close friends and family. I have no doubt that this is the case, but I would think that anyone who has been on the Internet for more than a couple of weeks would know how "close friends and family" have a tendency to forward even marginally interesting emails to everyone they know, plus everyone's dog, plus the horse that everyone rode in on. This is especially likely to happen if the topic is a hot one, and it is almost certainly bound to occur if you don't warn your recipients to keep it confidential, which apparently the doctor did not do.

The upshot was that Dr. Gitterle's "private" email went viral. In the process, according to Dr. G., it was edited and added to and just generally distorted. It was also exploited by some with their own agendas, such as one of those whack-job conspiracy journos who perpetrates a radio show and a few web sites that dare to tell you the "truths" the lib'ruls and the MSM and the New-World-Orderites are deliberately and maliciously keeping from you. (In that sense the conspiro-journos are much like New-Wage marketeers who trade in revealing all the secrets that "they" don't want you to know.) My own brief Googling revealed that some born-agains waiting for Jeezus to return also found Dr. G.'s email worthy of sharing.

To make matters worse, some people apparently included Dr. G.'s full contact information in the forwarded emails, and some even told folks that they could reach the doctor through the hospital that employed him. (The hospital was obliged to inform the media that the doctor was not speaking on the hospital's behalf.)

On or about April 30, Dr. Gitterle published a blog post, "From the Front Lines of the Pandemic: An Update," that appeared to be a somewhat toned-down version of the email he had sent. Some accused him of backpedaling, but, giving him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was simply clarifying. In retrospect, it appears that the post was his first attempt at damage control. But the point is pretty much irrelevant, because that blog post is now gone.

On May 1, however, he published two more posts, the first one simply stating that a fraudlent and edited email of his was circulating the Internet, and the second one detailing his frustrations about the event. "In the future," he wrote, "if I send such a message to friends and family, I will certainly be careful to enjoin folks against forwarding it, if it could be a source of controversy or misunderstanding."

According to a May 1 story in the Austin-American Statesman...

Dr. Marcus Gitterle...said he regretted calling the virus deadlier and doesn't believe it's any worse than seasonal flu, which causes an estimated 36,000 U.S. deaths annually. But he said he does believe the case count is probably many times higher than the state or federal government is reporting.

Despite the blowback, many lauded Dr. G. as a hero for sharing important information that no one else was sharing. Even though it would seem that some of the concerns expressed in his email turned out to be exaggerated, and some of the information turned out to be erroneous, some people were willing to give the doctor props for good intentions.

Follow the money trail
Dr. Marc Gitterle is a longtime friend and business partner of Joe Vitale, who has promoted or written about Dr. G. several times on his own blog. Dr. G. returned the favor, writing a cover blurb for Zero Limits, Joe's 2007 book about the Hawai'ian healing method, Ho'oponopono (you knew you'd seen his name here before, didn't you?). Said Dr. G about ZL:

I love this book! I feel it will be the definitive personal-change/self-help book for at least a generation and viewed as a watershed event by historians. There is real potential for this book to start a movement that will end war, poverty, and the environmental devastation of our beloved planet.

Dr. G. and Joe are partners, along with Internet marketer and product creator Jeff Sargent, in a company called Frontier Nutritional Research. So far they've created a cholesterol-lowering nutritional supplement called CardioSecret (which, according to the site, is no longer available, though no explanation is given), and a bodybuilding supplement called A-Pac. They are also creators of the Fit-A-Rita, a "healthy" margarita mix. Frontier Research is also involved in research about longevity and alternative energy.

Since he devoted not one, not two, but three Twitter entries (thus far) to Dr. Gitterle's blog, my first thought was that Joe was either (1) going above and beyond the call of duty to show his support to his pal and business partner in light of the Internet furor; or (2) prepping for a launch (or re-launch) of a line of Dr. G-and-Joe supplements and/or info-products (perhaps to aid people in dealing with this and future "pandemics"); or (3) both.

On one of his May 1 blog posts, Dr. Gitterle wrote that he had been planning his new blog for some time as a means to discuss various health issues, and particularly to share information on the use of nutritional supplements to bolster the immune system. He explained that he never intended the blog to be a forum for discussing the noofloo, but added that he will try to post anything that in his opinion is "objective, rational information that might help us, as citizens, to partner with public officials in minimizing the impact of the pandemic."

I have no reason to doubt that Dr. G. is a competent physician who is genuinely concerned about public welfare and patient health. Moreover, I am sure he is a loving family man and friend, and I imagine that he had some altruistic motives for writing that initial email, as well as the "disappeared" blog post. However, as this incident no doubt reminded him, a public health professional – particularly an emergency-room physician who describes himself as being "on the front lines of the pandemic" – needs to err on the side of caution and discretion when sharing information with anyone, especially in writing. Because of his professional standing, anything he says or writes, even, unfortunately, in a "private" communication, will have considerably more import than the words of some garden-variety alarmist layperson. That's why the media, both legit and otherwise (and fairly or unfairly) jumped on Dr. G.

In addition, I have a feeling that some folks, particularly those in the medical profession, were put off by the fact that Dr. G.'s email contained a recommendation for a homeopathic remedy such as Oscillococcinum for flu symptoms. (I should note, however, that he does not seem to be advocating these alternatives as a substitute for allopathic medicine, only as a complement.)

For me, the central point is the fact that Dr. Gitterle is a business partner of Joe Vitale. This is not to say that Dr. G. was or is motivated chiefly by a desire to promote products or services in which he might have some kind of financial interest. I do not know him, so I have no idea. I am simply suggesting that when evaluating any information he shares, it might be useful to be aware of his other interests. The same is true of any doctor or other professional. Doctors are certainly not immune to letting their vision be clouded by dollar signs. (An early-1990s incident with Deepak Chopra and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) comes to mind. Dr. Chopra, an M.D., swore to the JAMA that he did not stand to gain financially from an article he'd co-authored about the traditional Indian healing method, Ayurveda, although in point of fact he had financial interest in a line of Ayurvedic products mentioned in the article.)

In other words, it is always a good idea to follow the money trail.

Yada, yada...yagya?!?
Dr. G. has another interest that might raise a few eyebrows. Besides being an M.D. and a creator and peddler of nutriproducts, he is apparently a long-time advocate of
yagyas, or yagnas, those pricey Hindu prayer rituals that he and his pal Joe Vitale have referred to as "karmic surgery." Joe wrote about yagyas in his book The Attractor Factor, and also mentioned them on his blog a few years ago as one of the aids that helped him to finally lose weight permanently. (Well, maybe "permanently" was a bit of an overstatement. Irrational exuberance, as it were. Or overly enthusiastic marketing.) Joe even credited a yagya for bringing Spiritual Marketing, the book that eventually became The Attractor Factor, to a mainstream publisher's attention.

I've written about this matter here before, but for the benefit of those who don't know, here is a link to a piece about yagyas that mentions both Joe and Dr. Gitterle. This story was apparently taken straight from The Attractor Factor, the first edition of which was published in 2005. The tale appeared unchanged in the revised edition of the book, which came out in 2008. The "best friend" Joe mentioned in his yagya anecdote was his late ex-wife, who passed away in October of 2004, nearly four years after their divorce was final. Although her passing was noted elsewhere in both editions of The Attractor Factor, it was not mentioned in the story of how she was miraculously saved from death by a yagya. I am sure it was just an oversight.

Now, whether Dr. Gitterle and/or Joe have or had any financial interest in any company or organization that sells or brokers yagyas, I couldn't tell you. To me, the very fact that they advocate yagyas is noteworthy, whether or not they stand to gain financially. It's one of those things that makes you go, "Hmmm," as the late comedian George Carlin would say. However, FYI, here is the link to the yagya company mentioned in the article I linked to in the paragraph above. It also happens to be the yagya resource recommended in the list at the back of The Attractor Factor. Although the yagyas are actually performed in India, the company appears to be owned by an Asheville, North Carolina couple, Chuck and Annette Hunner. You have to go through them to make arrangements for a yagya. Chuck and Annette are also into sculpting, jewelry making, and labyrinths.** Here's another one of their web sites.

But back to the noofloo. I think I understand something of the frustration and dismay that Dr. Gitterle has experienced as a result of his impulsive email. But I have a feeling that with Joe Vitale in his corner, he will emerge from this mess just fine, and the two of them will even be able to squeeze a few products from it. In fact, I think we can count on it. [Note: see July 26 follow-up below.]

Meanwhile, the people who are really suffering from the noofloo are the pig farmers. They need your prayers.

For that matter, so do the poor pigs.

* Some folks wrote to Dr. Gitterle's blog asking him why he didn't publish his original email so people could compare it to any altered forms that may have been distributed. Thus far he has yet to answer those questions, but he did publish a comment from a contributor named Kevin C., who shared the email he had received (it's on this post, 8th comment). This seemed to be the same email that appeared on the page I linked to above. As Dr. G. did not refute Kevin's implication that this was the email that had originally been sent I will assume that the bits I quoted above were in fact in Dr. Gitterle's original email.
** Speaking of the labyrinth trend, I made fun of it here a couple of years ago.

For more:

Snopes on the noofloo:
http://www.snopes.com/medical/disease/swineflu.asp

A forum that contains the text of both the most commonly shared version of Dr. Gitterle's email and his deleted April 30 blog post (but put on your boots, because you're going to have to wade through some conspiracy theorizing):
http://www.thetreeofliberty.com/vb/showthread.php?t=59310

Follow-up on July 26, 2009: To begin with, Dr. Gitterle's blog is now empty; all of the controversial posts are gone. But swine flu is the story that just won't go away, although health experts had always said we hadn't seen the last of this strain of nooflu (or of nooflu hysteria). And although he may have blundered a bit in his handling of the information to which he was privy back in May, it seems Dr. G. is being vindicated somewhat. According to a July 24 Associated Press story, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia are now saying that up to forty percent of Americans could get the swine flu this year and next, and several hundred thousand could die unless there is a successful vaccine and other effective prevention measures (which health experts are hard at work on even as I write). The flu has already killed several hundred Americans and has displayed an unexpected ability to continue spreading in the summer, not normally known as flu season. Thus far the U.S. has been hit harder by this strain than any other country.

Maybe Dr. G. should arrange for a few extra-special flu-prevention yagyas just to be on the safe side. And I am sure that if the noofloo does become a big deal again worldwide, we'll also hear more from medical expert David Schirmer. Remember, boys and girls, disease is all in your mind, and the wicked mainstream media are just perpetuating fear and disease. Or, in Schirmer parlance, they are leaving you open to the influence of Satan, who, as we learned in a recent Schirmer blog post, is the source of all disease (see his post of 24 July 2009).

And if you really want to see some noofloo hysteria, turn off that mainstream media and turn on some wacko alt-media. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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