Acupunture on SABC

Just by chance, I am up watching SABC2 and on the news… THE NEWS, on a regular piece on health issues, they are doing an in depth piece on acupuncture.
They have no medical doctors or scientists on, but a “doctor” of acuputure who keeps talking about “chi” (if that is the correct spelling) and for some reason, he keeps saying that the “energy for the chi comes from the kidneys through to the liver”.
Another thing he keeps talking about is “stagnant blood” and “meridian therapy”.
My head is just exploding that this woo woo nut is being treated like a medical profesional by the news host who seems to believe in all of it.
This is making me sick… must go for now I need to change the channel…
Nevermind, just ended, but there was never a doctor interviewed. The quality, or lack thereof is showing.

We did not see the insert, but it sounds as though it is yet another instance of the media’s prioritisation of sensation over accuracy. In this case, they haven’t even pretended to do any “balanced reporting,” and it’s a double-whammy that they should present it on a channel whose majority viewership doesn’t have even the rudiments for distinguishing between fact and fiction in medical matters.

The incident also illustrates the downside to people’s tendency of accepting authority-based pronouncements as factual. The thinking is essentially that, since certain people are “experts” on XYZ, therefore there must be at least something to XYZ. Theology is perhaps the most glaring example – a pretence of knowledge about the unknowable. And is there any stupidity for which one cannot find an expert, a self-styled one at the very least?

My suggestion would be to draft a short note to the BCCSA, outlining the reasons why the insert did not, in your view, meet the basic requirements of balanced reporting, especially as it was presented as part of a news broadcast which gives the viewer an undeserved impression of truth.


Just finished writing a reply and Firefox crashed! (No more “stagnant blood” in my blood stream!)

What you have described also drives me crazy, I prefer going to gym to get my blood pressure up - it is a lot less stressful.

I think that is a brilliant idea.

Now another one - also on SABC news.
At least it was just a blurb, not a 15 minute piece, but still.
This was about a group of Indian Astrologers on how Barack Obama will do this year.

I am am not making these things up, folks.

Is the gripe that SABC gives acupuncture coverage at all, or that it was done during the news and presented as fact?

I reckon that acupuncture and astrology with their own sets of methods, ideas, and practises, may present a certain - dare I say - charm. Perhaps this justifies giving it a little documentary exposure. While sceptical about it, we can still entertain the notion of sticking needles into a victim (sorry, patient) as an interesting idea, in the same way we enjoy a science fiction movie.

Shielding the masses from the woo will not make it go away, but I certainly agree that its underlying principles and assumptions should not be sold as fact.

Hi again Mintaka.
I understand that these things can have their spot if it sells for the station. However, I think it is totally irresponsible to present it in this way where the undereducated (as well as others) take it as sound medical advice with no input from licensed medical practioners or disclaimers that state the overall view of the medical community about the treatments.
On Sunday mornings, SABC3 have a parade of woo woo programs, but that is different than including it in news pieces.

The issue is mostly the latter, i.e. that it was presented as fact during news time, but it does go deeper than that. One of the cardinal rules of news reporting is fulfilling an obligation of impartiality, which in this case wasn’t followed because no opposing view was presented. While one can understand how this came about – namely, through the unquestioned assumption that an acupuncture “expert” enjoys the sanction of the larger scientific community – it is still not acceptable that it did occur. However, by alerting the broadcaster to the facts via the BCCSA, the SABC will perhaps exercise greater discretion in future inserts examining similar issues.

Shielding the public from these things is hardly the answer – in fact, quite the opposite. Instead, by presenting a more balanced view, the SABC is, in its own small way, actually educating the public in the ways of recognising and weighing up evidence. It should be noted, however, that a balanced view is more than just pitting opposing experts against one another. The current scientific consensus and how strongly it is represented should also be mentioned, otherwise a skewed picture will emerge. For example, in most creationism vs. evolution pieces, the creationist and evolutionary sides are roughly equally well represented in terms of time and number of experts, but it is very rarely mentioned that more than 98% of biological and related scientists accept evolution as both factual and valid.