Dear ASA, YOU ROCK!

Someone has evidently got their knickers in a twist over the Advertising Standards Authority’s decision to name and shame non-complying digital advertisers…

On the same day the ASA’s Hall of Shame was unveiled, the ASA Sucks website (and associated @Against_the_ASA Twitter account) emerged. I originally decided to ignore this mildly interesting development which has already been blogged elsewhere.

As the names alone indicate, the attack was so childish, petty and ill-advised to be almost beyond parody. In addition to some naive opinions on the nature of science, research and scepticism, the site also exhibited a fair amount of unconstrained anger. It advised CAM practitioners to treat ASA letters as junk mail, described the Nightingale Collaboration as ‘Self Appointed Vigilantes’, and hurled playground insults at the ASA’s Chief Executive, Guy Parker (‘YOU SUCK’); their Director of Complaints and Investigations, Miles Lockwood (‘YOU SUCK’), and the celebrated science author, journalist and TV producer Simon Singh (YOU SUCK BIGTIME). They even went as far as implying Singh has a ‘closed mind’ and is therefore as useful to science as a one armed trapeze artist with an itchy bottom.

The anonymous perpetrators have now removed some of their more hysterical outbursts but they have been saved for posterity by Change Detection:

Their reason for toning down the site was apparently due to a mixed response from their supporters:

When we first launched this campaign this website (and in particular this page) took a more aggressive approach to the ASA. We received a lot of very positive support but some supporters did think we were going a step too far.

Our overall feel from that response was that the CAM industry is running scared of the media and the sceptics. While we have respected the majority of requests asking us to be more polite in the way we fight back against the unfair attacks we believe strongly that the industry should unite to fight injustice.

I find it interesting (but not particularly surprising) that they feel the industry is ‘running scared’ of the media and sceptics. Incidentally, they have just removed these above quoted paragraphs from their site, in addition to their admission that they intend to ignore feedback from ‘nutter “sceptics”‘. Contrary to this statement, I suspect it is feedback from sceptics that forced this latest change. I have heard that another blogger wrote to them explaining his objections to their use of the term ‘nutter’, since he feels it helps to stigmatise mental illness and perpetuate discrimination. (EDIT 10/10/11 19:47 It appears they were busy changing the word ‘nutter’ to ‘nasty’.)

Huzzah for the Advertising Standards Authority!

I will be keeping an eye on further developments – but not as close an eye as the uncommon hero behind the ‘Huzzah for the Advertising Standards Authority’ rival site, also known as www.asa-rocks.org. This magnificent website manages to be both highly amusing and hugely informative at the same time.

Put simply – it ROCKS!

Discussion

The latest additions to both sites were their Discussion pages which emerged yesterday. The ASA Sucks version was remarkably misinformed on the details of clinical trials, stating for example:

Trials are too short to identify long term side effects
Pharmaceutical companies want rapid payback. It is not in their interests to run trials that run long enough to identify long term side effects.

Groups are too small to identify rarer side effects
It is not practical or economical for pharmaceutical companies to run groups of thousands of patients. So rarer side effects are not identified.

If the author is reading this now, I recommend that he or she learn a bit more about clinical trials before deriding them further. This excellent, informative and balanced Clinical Trials For Beginners article published by Scientific American would be a good starting point. It explains, for example, that:

To develop a medicine, from the time of discovery of the chemical until it reaches your drug store, takes an average of 12-15 years and the participation of thousands of volunteers in the process of clinical trials.

The ASA Rocks version is also recommended reading. It is penned by Dr Adrian Hominem from the University of Nonaccreditano in Italy who inadvertently debunks the original while simultaneously promoting his Radionic-Chi-Energy Blood-Hair-Pube Analysis Pendulum Device (supposedly now available from Groupon).

I look forward to reading more from these truly exceptional, elusive authors.

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3 responses to “Dear ASA, YOU ROCK!

  1. You Rock too Josephine Jones!

  2. Thanks very much!

    The ASA Sucks site seems to look slightly different every time I view it and I haven’t really got time to keep reporting on it.

    Recent highlights include their description of the Nightingale Collaboration as “21st Century Witchhunters” and the implication (on the About page) that the NC are deliberately promoting the increased use of pharmaceutical drugs.

    This is clearly not only wrong, but also not very sensible or grown up. Someone is obviously very angry about something.

  3. Pingback: Conflict in provisions of the ASA and CPA advertising matters «

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