Windmills & Red Herring
Missing in the Media
The boycott of the chiropractic profession in the media is more pervasive than I could have ever imagined. When I researched the frequency of chiropractic as a topic on my favorite NPR programs, I was startled by the findings:
· All Things Considered: 8 of 87,252 segments since 1990 = 0.009%
· Morning Edition: 4 of 79,782 = 0.005%
· Talk of the Nation Science Friday: 0 of 1,918 = 0.0%
· Weekend All Things Considered: 0 of 5,346 = 0.0%
· Fresh Air: 0 of 1,286 = 0.0%
· Talk of the Nation: 1 of 9,485 since 1997 = 0.01054%
This accounting shows only 13 articles on chiropractic in 185,069 segments on these NPR programs which equates to a frequency rate of only 0.0070091%. Considering the fact that the chiropractic is the third-largest physician-level profession in the world, the scarcity of accurate news coverage is appalling.
NPR is not alone in this avoidance of chiropractic as subject matter. Here is a list of other prominent publications’ rates of a mere mention of chiropractic, which may include notice in an obituary, an arrest, or just anything at all.
- Chicago Sun-Times: 204 of 1,303,165 articles = 0.01565%
- Daily News (New York): 2 of 80,426 = 0.00248%
- The Boston Globe: 306 of 1,244,388 = 0.02459%
- The Mirror (London): 54 of 1,665,961 = 0.00324%
- The Christian Science Monitor: 4 of 80,664 = 0.00495%
- New Zealand Herald (Auckland): 20 of 119,824 = 0.01669%
- Winnipeg Free Press: 53 of 142,531 = 0.037%
- International Herald Tribune: 11 of 240,425 = 0.00457%
- Cape Times (South Africa): 4 of 76,000 = 0.00526%
- TIME magazine: 62 articles from 1923 to 2010
The presence of chiropractic in the world of film and video is not any better considering there were only 42 articles since 1987 in the archives of the Film and Video from the Associated Press.
As you can clearly see, chiropractic issues are hardly a blip on the radar screen of most lay publications. Keep in mind that most of the articles were very negative towards chiropractic especially in the era before the Wilk trial. For examples, enjoy these titles from a sampling of TIME articles:
Oct 19, 1925
Dr. Morris Fishbein, as Editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, is spokesman for over 90,000 physicians and surgeons— the largest body of medical men in the world. Few laymen read medical journals, for they inevitably suspect, behind the lurch and trundle of ill-teamed words, the machinations of a cloudy mind. Dr. Fishbein’s …
Feb 17, 1930
The chiropractors who, as the American Bureau of Chiropractic, met in Manhattan last week, saw no fun in the pun and joke played on them by the new Encyclopedia Britannica. Explained therein in immediate sequence are Chiromancy (Palmistry), Chiron (centaur wise in healing), Chiropodist, Chiropractic, Chiroptera (Bats). In chronicling Chiropractic the Encyclopedia commits one of …
1099 words | view cover
May 18, 1931
Chiropractic took a hard slugging in a Jamaica, L. I., court last week. William H. Werner, president of the American Bureau of Chiropractic, was on trial for practicing medicine without a license. His income from chiropractic treatments and teaching was figured to be $70,000 a year. Some 200 of his patients, who believed him a …
207 words | view cover
Oct 12, 1936
The State of California licenses 10,859 doctors of medicine, 3,375 chiropractors. One out of five of the world’s chiropractors presumably practices in California. This summer San Francisco’s M. (for Michael) Jas. (for James) McGranaghan (for McGranahan) was therefore gambling the future of a large section of his profession when he went to court to compel …
365 words | view cover
Aug 21, 1933
Assaults on their livelihood are an old story to chiropractors. Their curative technique (chiefly spinal manipulation) rouses the ire of many a medical man. The American Medical Association has long waged bitter warfare against chiropractic. In five States chiropractors may be arrested for chiropracticing without a medical license.* Last month a new kind of attack …
351 words | view cover
Mar 28, 1932
In case anyone ever questioned the American Medical Association’s power to quell a quack completely, the Association’s Journal last week detailed its handling of Norman Baker. He flourished at Muscatine, Iowa, in a region of many unorthodox Corn Belt medical ideas.* Originally the man was a die-&-tool maker, then a builder of calliopes. Somehow he ..
Mar 18, 1940
Half-century ago, a lush-bearded storekeeper in What Cheer, Iowa developed a passion for collecting goldfish bones. From fishbones, Daniel David Palmer turned to human vertebrae and founded the spine-tickling business of chiropractic. Today chiropractic is a $70,000,000-a-year industry, with 20,000 practitioners in 44 States legally manipulating everything from colds to high blood pressure. Instead of …
261 words | view cover
Feb 26, 1945
The M.D.s last week dropped another blockbuster on their old enemies, the chiropractors. Rallying to defeat a bill in the legislature which would license chiropractors to practice in the State of New York, the New York Medical Society issued a pamphlet containing this report by a Queens County medical examiner of a case in 1942. …
Mar 17, 1947
The chiropractors were in trouble again last week. In Charleston, S.C., three patients had died after chiropractic treatments. M.D.s had never seen the like before: two of the patients had apparently succumbed to brain injuries.* The Journal of the American Medical Association printed the horrifying report. A boat captain and a young woman had collapsed …
443 words | view cover
Jun 16, 1952
As a man already dedicated to a lifetime of playing Dixie on the human spine, slim, soft-spoken Victor Meyers gave little thought to worldly matters during 1921; at that point he was about to graduate from the Riley School of Chiropractic in Washington, D.C., and to go forth seeking his first sacroiliac. Consequently, when a …
By Andrew Purvis Sep 23, 1991
Once scorned as quackery, chiropractic is winning adherents and respect…
1172 words | view cover
By Leon Jaroff Apr 30, 2001
No one was less surprised by the news about St. John’s wort than Stephen Barrett, 67, a retired Allentown, Pa., psychiatrist who for nearly 30 years has made it his business to sniff out health-related frauds, fads, myths and fallacies. Through newsletters, books and now the World Wide Web, he has become one of America’s …
By Leon Jaroff Feb 27, 2002
Recent research suggests some chiropractic techniques may be dangerous for patients…
Certainly when the mass media either ignores our profession or when it does print something, we can usually expect it to be a negative attack stemming from medical misinformation.
The Sociology of Chiropractic
For years now I’ve wondered why the image of chiropractic was so bad despite our good results and patient satisfaction rates. I finally learned what few people understand that our image was imposed by a vindictive medical society hell-bent on total monopolization of the healthcare industry and a complicit media all too willing to demonize chiropractors.
Let me sort out the issues prevalent in chiropractic that few have ever written about that may explain this entrenched medical/media bias against chiropractic. Rather than another theoretic or scientific paper, perhaps we ought to take a sociological look at our profession. For clarity, sociology is defined as “the study of the origin, development, and structure of human societies and the behavior of individual people and groups in society.”
If we are to understand the behavior of people in our society toward chiropractic care, we must look at the origins of their beliefs, most of which have been develop by an intense, century-long campaign by the AMA to defame our reputation. Of course, we know the behavior of the AMA was notorious and found guilty by Judge Getzendanner, but it did not change the strategy to have chiropractic “wither on the vine,” a cold war policy of the AMA that continues to this day with the insurance industry.
Certainly a reluctant AMA and a complicit media is no match for our beleaguered ACA, nor can the F4CP match the resources of the multimillion dollar coffers of the “most terrifying trade association on earth” according to Harper’s magazine.
Before we can change our image and increase our market share, we must look at changing the underlying skeptical attitude of many people who still regard chiropractors as the ugly step-child in our healthcare system, an image imposed upon us by the AMA. Perhaps a quick lesson in sociology might help us all better understand how to change this phenomenon.
An interview on NPR with guest Patrick Ball broadcast on “On the Media” (March 18, 2012) inadvertently alluded to what I believe is the problem we chiropractors seemingly face in the media—that is, a trend he called “citation laundering” of erroneous facts that are passed on as “perceived wisdom” by other newscasters. (http://www.onthemedia.org/2012/mar/16/calculating-body-counts)
The issue of medical “citation laundering” made against chiropractors is unknown to the public, but it forms the public conception of our image. Namely, since the 1960s, the AMA’s Committee on Quackery promoted its slur that “everybody knows chiropractic is an unscientific cult.” This claim is not speculation, but a fact.
William Trever first outlined this ill-begotten propaganda strategy used by the AMA’s Committee on Quackery to destroy the reputation of the chiropractic profession.
Time and time again the AMA’s merchants of Misinformation have subverted the truth for their own fascist ends. Using these tactics to “build up a case” against chiropractic they have taken objective reports, studies and individual opinions in favor of chiropractic and reversed them into what appears to be anti-chiropractic views coming from many “non-medical” sources. Done enough, this tactic would give the appearance that “everybody knows that chiropractic is an unscientific cult.”
While most Americans respect religious freedom, nevertheless, most mainstream churches still consider the Jehovah Witnesses as a cult. In effect, the AMA, aka, The Church of Modern Medicine, has cast chiropractic in the same light as the Jehovah Witnesses of healthcare—a marginal cult with a pseudo-science. Plus, their attitude that “everybody knows chiropractic is an unscientific cult,” implies that if you don’t agree, then something is wrong with you, too. In effect, it has become the perceived wisdom in our country.
However, during the Wilk v. AMA federal antitrust trial as well as during the New Zealand Commission’s Inquiry into Chiropractic, when the medical leaders’ feet were held to the fire in the witness box, they admitted they could not prove this allegation; they were simply repeating lies from their own propaganda. It was a small embarrassment in court for the damage done to our reputation.
Mr. George McAndrews addressed the issue of quackery. Again, no expert witnesses were provided by the AMA’s attorneys to prove this point. Instead of bringing in experts in the field of spinal mechanics, neurophysiology or orthopedic medicine to testify against the art or science of chiropractic, the best the medical attorneys could do was produce tacky hyperbolic chiropractic ads:
I have counted up the exhibits of the ads and there is no doubt that some of the ads were distasteful. I have seen one where the chiropractor has an ad that says “the only thing that can’t be cured by spinal adjusting is rigor mortis itself.”
I do notice, though, that for the AMA that claims it had a full-time committee for eleven years to produce approximately 50 ads from an entire profession, says something about the fact that they may not have found as many chiropractors behaving in an aberrant fashion as they would like the Court to believe. The American Medical Association in their closing argument read three ads. 
Despite the lack of proof, the medical propagandists still portray with impunity chiropractors as fringe practitioners of “dangerous quackery” and a “pseudo-science” or, most notably, the medical claim to protect “patient safety,” all of which are the red herring of medical bigots.
Medical demagoguery remains paramount in the minds of these bigots, not the call for evidence-based healthcare, higher standards of education, or RCTs, the gold standard of modern research. These are merely windmills the AMA throws up to delude themselves of their superiority.
In fact, the newest evidence in spine care now supports chiropractic care over anything the medical world has to offer for the majority of non-specific back pain that affects 80+% of adults, such as shown by AHCPR, Manga, Meade, to name a few studies.
Market share in the $100 billion annual spine care business reigns supreme over ethics or research to the AMA. Certainly, the bottom line is money, not evidence-based science or the red herring of quackery.
Judge Getzendanner mentioned in her Opinion:
The activities of the AMA undoubtedly have injured the reputation of chiropractors generally…In my judgment, this injury continues to the present time and likely continues to adversely affect the plaintiffs. The AMA has never made any attempt to publicly repair the damage the boycott did to chiropractors’ reputations.
Nor has the chiropractic profession effectively repaired its own image. I think patient testimonials and research have had little, if any, impact on our public image that continues to be soiled by medical bigotry in a biased press. Plus, no one in the media is telling the public of this new-found evidence, guidelines, or the paradigm shift from medical care to conservative care.
Although this medical “citation laundering” is obviously based on medical lies, it remains unchallenged in the media as the prevailing “perceived wisdom” that continues due to old bias despite the newfound research supporting chiropractic care.
Another example of insidious media bias is deemed “professional amnesia” by Tony Rosner, PhD. A perfect example is another NPR broadcast, “Surgery May Not Be the Answer to an Aching Back,” by Joanne Silberner, (April 6, 2010) when she failed to mention chiropractic as the most viable alternative to surgery.
Indeed, how can anyone write an article on back pain and exclude chiropractic care unless there is a strong bias (oftentimes unknown to the writer) or a severe case of professional amnesia when writers forget to mention the role of chiropractic in the treatment of back pain patients?
This inaccurate and biased reporting of chiropractic also undermines our rightful role as the cultural authority as primary spine care practitioners, thereby forcing unsuspecting patients to unqualified medical PCPs posing as spine experts who figuratively sell patients a ticket on the medical railroad to more costly, less effective, often addictive, and disabling medical treatments of drugs, shots, and disc surgery. Of course, any inquiry by patients about chiro care is met with the standard knee-jerk slurs in most cases. Don’t get me started. (Power of Prejudice)
The complicit media misrepresentation and omission of chiropractic will continue until we call out these journalists. This is where the ACA and the F4CP must step forward to exert pressure on the medically-controlled media. Indeed, this is a story onto itself.
Push Back Journalism
Do you think the day will come when the medical pejorative Q-word will be as reviled as the N-word? This is our simple message to the public that we must champion to bring awareness to the medical demagoguery.
Just as the opponents to inter-racial marriages and homosexuality in the military have been muted lately after a change of “perceived wisdom” in the media, the glass ceilings in corporations for women are now considered retrograde by most reporters in American media. It is our time to make the anti-chiropractic demagoguery appear just as outdated, hurtful, and un-American. But it won’t happen until we push back and act up.
The sociology of chiropractic has been a calamity of medical machinations and media defamation never seen in any other industry. This century of medical misinformation did not cease with the verdict of the Wilk trial; if anything, it only entrenched the AMA with a new attitude of insurgency to continue to undermine chiropractic as we saw in the original Medicare legislation battle.
Howard Wolinsky, author of The Serpent’s Staff and writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote of the continued cold war in an article, “AMA snubs overture from chiropractors.” (March 24, 2000)
The cold war between the Chicago-based American Medical Association and the American Chiropractic Association is heating up again, nearly a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the groups to bury the scalpel, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
In a Feb. 28 letter to the ACA, AMA Chairman D. Ted Lewers said, “It is our understanding that the ACA desires to meet with the leadership of the AMA in order to `focus on those issues we have in common.’ However, the AMA has a different view and no desire for such a meeting.”
The leaders of the ACA, whose 18,000 members provide drug-free therapies, have been trying to meet with the AMA for more than two years.
The time is ripe for this push back considering the recent examples of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich complaining of the liberal bias in the media, and the public outcry to the sexist slur made by Rush Limbaugh that also received gross condemnation. Indeed, it is past time for the chiropractic profession to call out the medical slander and slurs in the media, such as we heard on NPR’s Morning Edition on Feb. 15th.
I had hoped the days of slurs against chiropractors were behind us, but obviously I am wrong. Moreover, I was saddened it occurred on my favorite radio network, NPR, a supposedly liberal news outlet, which simply reveals this medical “acceptable prejudice” remains entrenched in the minds of many. (You can read my letter to the executive director @ Letter to NPR).
But we cannot remain silent any longer. “Our silence is not golden, it’s consent,” according to Keith Charlton, past President of the then Australian Chiropractors’ Association in Queensland.
Consent by default is a dangerous thing because it requires no action, just passivity, but appalling outcomes arise just as easily as if we had energetically pursued self-harm. Could the future we are compelled to inhabit be determined not just by our actions, but by a LACK of action on our part?
I agree emphatically with Dr. Charlton. The main reason why we haven’t gained such national attention is primarily due to the fact that no one has told the public about the details of the medical war to eliminate our profession. Although most people know this cold war exists, they do not know the details, how it led to an antitrust trial, or how it affects them personally with inferior medical care for spinal problems.
Like a secret war waged by the CIA, the medical war is an issue newsmen like Sanjay Gupta will never broadcast for fear of being exposed. (You might enjoy my letter to Fareed Zakaria on this issue @ Letter to CNN).
Even paid ads by the F4CP were recently rejected by the Archives of Internal Medicine and the American Family Physician Journal, indicating the boycott of chiro continues in medical journals. Until we call out this retrograde attitude, the medical bigots will continue to discriminate against us with impunity. Censorship in any form is unconscionable, but will continue until we push back publicly.
These examples of media bias reaffirm the need for our colleges to educate a new wave of creative journalists to confront these biased reporters, monitor the news media, and write informative articles about the benefits of our brand of care. We need writers to take the scientific research and health policy issues and translate them into lay articles for the public’s consumption. We need a thousand voices in the social media to push back whenever the medical bigots attack.
The Bottom Line
We’ve already used litigation in the courts and legislation on Capitol Hill to some degree of success, but we cannot win in the court of public opinion unless we can:
- change the prevailing perceived wisdom,
- confront the citation laundering,
- challenge the journalistic amnesia,
- reveal the acceptable medical bigotry, and
- push back on the outright slurs some journalists still print.
Indeed, chiro bashing remains the last bastion of acceptable bigotry that goes unchallenged. It is time to push back. I’m about creating an intelligent narrative about the role of chiro care in healthcare reform and the emerging science supporting CAM care as well as the increasing evidence against drugs, shots, and disc surgeries.
We have a great story to tell from our roots as the first civil rights activists in healthcare to victims of an illegal boycott to the vindicated warriors in the medical war. But it’s a story that will not tell itself.
 William Trever, “in the Public Interest,” Scriptures Unlimited, Los Angeles, Calif., (1972): 11
 George McAndrews, closing argument, Wilk v. AMA, January 28, 1981, p. 3051-52.
 Opinion pp. 10
 A Rosner, “Evidence or Eminence-Based Medicine? Leveling the Playing Field Instead of the Patient,” Dynamic Chiropractic, 20/25 (November 30, 2002)