National Holistic Service

Why is a Liverpool hospital offering dubious “holistic treatments”? Fellow blogger Peter M. Heimlich (Atlanta, GA, US) and I have asked UK oversight agency

A couple of days ago, I reported an item about how Aintree University Hospitals in Liverpool offers, apparently via the publicly-funded National Health Service, these “holistic treatments” (all links to Quackwatch.com):

“aromatherapy”
• “aromatic facial”
“reflexology”
“crystal therapy”
“reiki”
“colour therapy (chromotherapy)”

Today Peter and I co-signed (and are co-blogging) this request for a review to the Care Quality Commission, “the independent regulator of health and social care in England.”

310362646-Request-to-UK-s-Care-Quality-Commission-for-review-of-Liverpool-hospital-s-Holistic-Treatments-page-001310362646-Request-to-UK-s-Care-Quality-Commission-for-review-of-Liverpool-hospital-s-Holistic-Treatments-page-002

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“Freedom of Speech, But” – NUS Edition

Charting the National Union of Students’ (NUS) non-committal position on free speech

It is a modern cliché to qualify one’s support of free speech by citing an exception for [enter preferred social or political cause here].

The NUS, notorious for its policy of deplatforming politically unpopular individuals from speaking at universities, is as guilty of perpetuating this cliché as the “fascists” it claims to oppose, which just goes to show: free speech and censorship have no political ideology.


“We must protect freedom of speech, but not at the cost of student safety” – Richard Brooks, NUS Vice President for Union Development (via the Huffington Post)

“A university has a legal duty to protect freedom of speech, but also whilst protecting student safety and balancing a competing range of conflicting duties, such as equality, or the right to protest” – Official NUS Statement (via The Telegraph)

“It’s not a question of free speech, but a question of ensuring the Students’ Union is a safe and inclusive space for all students” – Michael Rubin, Education Officer and President-Elect of the University of Leicester Students’ Union (via The Ripple)

“Universities are required by the Education Act 1986 to promote freedom of speech, but there are also duties to protect students from harm, including speakers who incite violence and extremism” – Pete Mercer, NUS Vice President for Welfare (via BBC News)

“We strongly support the concept of free speech but we won’t tolerate offensive language or behaviour and we make no apology for taking this position” – Alice Phillips, Equality, Liberation and Access Officer of the University of Bristol Union (via The Amber Lights)

“I support the right to freedom of speech, but I believe there’s a difference between allowing freedom of speech and condoning the existence of hateful groups on campus” – Alexia Karageorghis, Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology Officer, University of Leicester (via The Ripple)

“SURHUL believes strongly in the right to free speech, but acknowledges that this shouldn’t be at the detriment to the rights of other individuals and groups. Intention to incite hatred is never acceptable” – Students’ Union Royal Holloway, University of London (via SURHUL’s Safe Space Policy)

See also: Q&A with Peter Tatchell, my April 21, 2016 item on NUS “LGBT Officer” Fran Cowling’s accusations of racism and transphobia against renowned British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Crystal Therapy on the NHS

UK National Health Service promotes yet more dubious alt-med therapies

Via the Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:

Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Crystal therapy traditionally involves placing quartz crystals on different parts of the body – often corresponding to a person’s “chakras” – in an attempt to construct an “energy grid,” which is purported to surround the subject with healing energy. 

The ancient healing powers of quartz crystals were said to have been discovered by Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), an American mystic whose “psychic readings” foresaw the lost city of Atlantis. He claimed that the citizens of Atlantis used quartz crystals “to obtain power and to amplify the natural energies of the earth and sun.”

Aintree University Hospitals further promotes colour therapy (or chromotherapy), an obscure treatment involving “the use of colour and its own unique vibrational, healing properties to balance energy in the body that may be lacking or over-stimulated.”

Needless to say, the scientific evidence does not support either therapy. 

The NHS’ promotion of the three other therapies listed above – aromatherapy (and aromatic facial), reflexology and reiki – has already garnered the attention of the mainstream media in the UK. However, the range of alternative and complementary therapies currently available on the NHS is not well documented. Stay tuned for more.

See also: EFT on the NHS, my April 4, 2016 item on Derbyshire Community Health Services’ promotion of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), brain child of US author Gary “I am not a doctor” Craig.

Q&A with Peter Tatchell

Free speech is one of the most precious of all human rights” – Renowned human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell answers my questions on racism, transphobia and freedom of speech

For over 40 years, British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has worked tirelessly to advance the causes of freedom, civil rights and social equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide.

As a leading member of the Gay Liberation Front, Tatchell helped organise Britain’s first gay pride rally in 1972. He is also a founding member oLGBT activist group Outrage!, known for its theatrical style of campaigning and flair for political agitprop.

In February this year, Tatchell was forced to fend off unsubstantiated accusations of racism, transphobia and of having incited violence against transgender people from National Union of Students (NUS) LGBT officer” Fran Cowling.

To recap: Tatchell and Cowling were scheduled to speak at an event at Canterbury Christ Church University on Feb. 15. However, Cowling declined to appear on stage with Tatchell, citing an open letter he had signed in the Observer newspaper last year decrying the NUS’ policy of deplatforming politically unpopular individuals from speaking at universities.

On Feb. 22, over 160 academics and activists signed an open letter condemning Tatchell for “bullying, vilifying, and inciting a media furor” against Cowling (you can read Tatchell’s account of what happened by clicking here).

I contacted Tatchell a few months ago to ask him about the incident with Cowling and the broader issues around freedom of speech. He generously agreed to answer my questions.

Q. Why do you think freedom of speech is so important?

A. Free speech is one of the most precious of all human rights and should be defended robustly. It can only be legitimately restricted by the law when it involves harmful libels, harassment, menaces, threats and incitements to violence.

As someone who has risked life and limb for LGBT rights, how do you respond to Cowling’s accusations of transphobia and of inciting violence against transgender people?

She has produced no evidence for those preposterous claims – nor has anyone else. It is pure fabrication.

Are you disappointed in the response from the 160+ academics and activists who signed an open letter condemning you for leaking Cowling’s emails?

Those academics are part of a global network of sectarians who have been attacking me and other activists for several years. They spend more time [complaining] than fighting real racism, anti-Muslim prejudice and corporate power. Their open letter is full of the usual fabrications and unsubstantiated allegations.

What’s your opinion of the NUS policy on “no-platforming” speakers with offensive or politically incorrect views?

No-platforming should be restricted to people who incite violence, such as some far right and Islamist demagogues.

Why is it important that students listen to, engage with and debate people who hold these views?

Hateful and extremist ideas should be challenged, protested and refuted. Bad ideas are most effectively countered by good ideas backed up by rational argument and evidence. Heavy-handed legal restrictions on free speech undermine the democratic, liberal values that extremists oppose and that we cherish.

Bans and censorship don’t defeat bigotry. They merely suppress it. Whereas, exposing bigotry in open debate helps discredit and defeat it, as happened to Nick Griffin and the BNP. Bad ideas are best and most effectively defeated by good ideas.

How would you persuade student activists like Cowling, who perhaps don’t know what it’s like for people living in places such as Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe, that free speech is worth fighting for?

Freedom of speech is one of the most precious and important human rights. It can only be legitimately restricted when someone makes false, damaging allegations – such as that a person is a rapist or tax fraudster – or when they engage in threats, harassment or the endorsement of violence.

A free society depends on the free exchange of ideas. Nearly all ideas are capable of giving offence to someone. Many of the most important, profound ideas in human history, such as those of Galileo Galilei and Charles Darwin, caused great religious offence in their time.

Generations of British people fought and suffered to secure the right to free speech. In many parts of the world people are still suffering for speaking out, including in Iran, Russia, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia. It is an insult to their sacrifices when students and others are so quick to suppress the free speech of others they disagree with.


To learn more about Peter Tatchell’s humanitarian work, click here.
To subscribe to the Peter Tatchell Foundation’s email bulletins, click here

The #ThinkBeforeYouTweet Police

“[W]e would have done well to follow the THINK advice ourselves before tweeting” – Police Scotland responds to my query about Orwellian social media warning

Last week, on April 1, the Greater Glasgow Police force issued a rather cryptic warning to social media users via Twitter to, quote, “think before you post or you may receive a visit from us this weekend.”

Greater Glasgow Police

Unsure whether or not this latest tribute to George Orwell was intended as an April Fool’s joke, I emailed Police Scotland asking what precautions social media users should take to avoid receiving a visit from Glasgow coppers.

Yesterday, I received a thoughtful, informative and – dare I say it – good-humored response from Inspector Kenny Quigley of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities Department, Greater Glasgow Division.

Dear Mr Jones

Thank you for taking the trouble to contact us regarding the recent ‘tweet’ from our Greater Glasgow Police Twitter account.  Firstly, may I apologise for the concerns this has caused you personally as it undoubtedly has for others judging from the reaction on social media, both positive and negative, over the past few days.

This message and acronym ‘THINK’ came from a third party account and was originally ‘re-tweeted’ by a community police team in Lanarkshire and then subsequently re-tweeted by other police teams. Likewise, our Safer Communities team in Glasgow saw these re-tweets (we all follow each other’s accounts for key messages to promote) and thought it was a simple enough message to encourage people to avoid hateful comment on social media which is often reported to the police as bullying, trolling etc..  This message seemed to us particularly pertinent following the dreadful events in Shawlands which had led to some people ‘trolling’ messages of support for the Shah family and wider community.  Occasionally, such trolling crosses the boundaries from being merely distasteful into criminality under various hate crime legislation or indeed domestic abuse or threats. 

To answer specifically your question, there is no test applied by my officers as to what passes the THINK criteria.  Clearly, that is not the Police Service’s role and we are concerned with investigating reports of behaviour on social media that is suspected to be illegal.  We are certainly not the ‘good taste’ police nor are we in any way seeking to stifle free speech – indeed, we regularly police public events where opposing groups do not agree with alternate political standpoints but we ensure that Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights are protected. 

As such, the colloquial phrase, “receive a visit from the police” which appears in this controversial tweet is misspoken and misleading.  Such police action may only be applied when a crime or offence is reported to us by another member of the public – we do not routinely monitor social media as frankly, we are far too busy answering calls from the public for assistance, investigating reported and detected crimes and undertaking a myriad of other duties than to find time to police the internet as some pressure groups would rather have us doing.  Of course we do investigate cybercrime but that is a new and rapidly developing area of law enforcement not concerned with name-calling or offensive remarks on social media.   I am sorry this phrase “receive a visit” was used in the tweet and rest assured, the officer who tweeted this message is sorry too – it was certainly not their intention to cause a furore or any confusion in this regard. 

Thank you again for taking the time to write to Police Scotland.  It is through practical criticism and challenge that we learn how better to police our communities with the public’s consent and support.  Social media is undoubtedly a great opportunity for the Police to quickly and effectively communicate with the public but it also carries the risk of getting our messages wrong on occasion.  I hope I have reassured you that we do not apply a THINK test when assessing complaints about social media and that on this occasion, we would have done well to follow the THINK advice ourselves before tweeting that message. 

Yours sincerely. 

Kenny Quigley

Inspector Kenny Quigley G2436
Greater Glasgow Division
Safer Communities Department
Glasgow City Centre Police Office

With reservations as to whether the police or any other authority should have any jurisdiction over social media, Inspector Quigley’s answer helps ease the dystopian impulse. I don’t recall Orwell being so reassuring.

EFT on the NHS

UK National Health Service promotes dubious alternative medicine therapy

Via the North Derbyshire Health Psychology Service:

Emotional Freedom Technique NHS

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is the brain child of US author Gary Craig, who despite having no medical credentials claims tapping therapy can be used to heal any and all manner of ailments, including “severe vaginal issues” and even cancer. From the horse’s mouth:

“One of the most obvious things about this weekend is the guy who’s running it – namely, me – is not a doctor. And you need to know, not only am I not a doctor, I know zip – I mean zip, or even less – about medical stuff.”

Research into the efficacy of energy psychology has shown EFT has no useful effect beyond that of a placebo. Snake oil, anyone?