Sri Sri's Slanted Health Advice
File under: The Siddhi of PR
We were more than mildly disappointed when we encountered this uncritical republication of a health article from an Indian press release service on Lance Armstrong's livestrong.com. The article in question is little more than an advertisement for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living cult, and we find it to be almost dishonest in its claims about Art of Living health practices. For instance:
Elaborating on this, Dr. Manikantan and Dr. Nisha Manikantan, senior ayurvedic doctors at Sri Sri Ayurveda centre said, “Swine flu invades the body because of a breakdown in immunity. Ayurveda offers simple and effective remedies to boost immunity and build resistance. Tea made from Laxmi Taru (botanical name: Simarouba) leaves, Tulsi, Amla and Amrut (Giloy) acts as an immunity enhancer.First of all, these clowns aren't medical doctors, Lance. And their oversimplification of how the flu works is very misleading. You'll get swine flu with a perfectly healthy and normal immune system as well. While a weakened immune system is more vulnerable, folks get the flu because they lack immunity to a new virus, not because they have weak immunity. But to cast the problem this way allows Sri Sri's shills to hawk their own products as the solution to the swine flu, and that could be more than a little dangerous.
The article goes on to make more completely uncritical claims about ayurvedic flu remedies:
“To counter air-borne swine flu viruses, Sambarani dhoop (loban stems) should be burnt in the house twice a day. Sambarani is a very potent atmospheric sterilser”, the doctors added.It doesn't take a medical publisher to know there is no conclusive proof that Sambarani dhoop has any anti-viral properties at all in the air. Just because it's too stinky for mosquitoes doesn't mean it's going to have any effect on semi-alive microscopic disease particles.
You wouldn't expect this article to end without a little pranayama pimping by Sri Sri:
Sri Sri also said, “In addition, our mind also plays an important role in our immunity. Whenever we panic and have fear, our immunity level goes down. Practices like pranayama and meditation play a vital role in reducing panic and keeping ourselves calm.”While we are quite convinced of the many health benefits of meditation and adjacent practices, the last sentence clearly suggests that Sri Sri's meditation products will treble the effectiveness of your immune system. What they fail to disclose is exactly what they were measuring as immune health. Perhaps meditation was shown to increase a certain chemical marker that suggests immune health. This still doesn't mean that the whole system is three times more healthy than it would be without joining the Art of Living cult.
Independent studies conducted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi (AIIMS) and National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bengaluru (NIMHANS) have empirically proved that practices such as pranayama and meditation boosts immunity at least three-fold, he said.
Which is exactly what this little PR stunt is about, to use fear of the swine flu to position Sri Sri as a savior. He does this all the time, usually by showing up at the site of conflict to grandstand in an attempt to better position himself for the Nobel Peace Prize committee.
We watched Lance Armstrong win the Tour 7-times, and podium this year. We are in just as much awe as anyone else, but he really needs to tighten up his editorial policies a bit. As it stands, he's allowed his site to be invaded with the Art of Living virus, an organism that hosts all manner of myth, ignorance, superstition and one man's continuing quest to climb up to worldwide fame on the backs of the poor, downtrodden, and easily duped.
Labels: The Siddhi of PR