TEAM SCIENCE BABE!
There's nothing better than waking up to seeing an article critical of The Food Babe go viral. In this piece for Gawker, the always hilarious and very brave Science Babe takes on the incoherent ramblings of a well-known alarmist Vani Hari, also known as The Food Babe.
I’ve written about Vani Hari (The Food Babe) for years (see my pieces here, here, here and here) and have watched in awe and horror as her star has risen. She’s been the subject of glowing exposes in major newspapers and magazines which cast her as a sort of Erin Brockovich-esque consumer advocate. She’s been invited to speak at major universities. She's been a guest on most popular morning talk shows, and her just released book of woo, that can only be described as epic in it’s misunderstanding of food science and chemistry, is a best seller.
To those confounded by her success, she can sometimes seem unstoppable. In the few years she’s been on the scene, she’s managed to create a base of thousands of devotees. She calls them the Food Babe Army.
Vani Hari rejects any sort of criticism–even the well-meaning question posed by her followers. Step out of line by asking a question and you're promptly banned from following her Facebook and Twitter pages (I received my ban this year and I drank a whole can of Diet Coke (not Food Babe approved!) to celebrate). Her knee jerk banning makes dialogue or debate among her followers impossible and prevents any dissent of her claims or qualifications. When she is criticized by a journalist or opinion writer, she trots out a standard reply: the attack was sexist, racist…choose your “ist” or “ism.”
But, The Science Babe–an actual chemist–is a good match for The Food Babe and her alarmist nonsense. The Science Babe doesn’t mess around, first explaining why Hari isn’t qualified to discuss these issues:
Hari's superhero origin story is that she came down with appendicitis and didn't accept the explanation that appendicitis just happens sometimes. So she quit her job as a consultant, attended Google University and transformed herself into an uncredentialed expert in everything she admittedly can't pronounce. Slap the catchy moniker "Food Babe" on top, throw in a couple of trend stories and some appearances on the Dr. Oz show, and we have the new organic media darling.
The Science Babe then ticks down many of her most newsworthy alarmist claims–from Hari's attacks on Starbucks and her claims that GMOs are dangerous to her truly dangerous advice to parents to forgo vaccines. I encourage you to read the entire Gawker article here.
I also think it’s important, as a non-scientist who also writes on scientific issues, to point out that The Science Babe isn’t suggesting Hari can’t talk about these issues because she doesn’t have a degree in science. Rather, The Science Babe is attacking Hari’s shocking hubris on these topics. Hari presents herself as an expert, a scientist, a toxicologist, someone who is qualified to talk about these complex issues. She uses a mix of junk science and personal anecdotes to create her own theories on incredibly complex health and nutrition issues.
When I write about these issues, I quote and refer readers to the experts on these topics. I don’t just editorialize my own personal feeling about these matters. I realize that my opinion and my own experiences don't matter. In Hari's world, she's really all that matters and she expects her readers to fall in line with her way of living and thinking. The difference between Hari and many other writers who cover these issues is that Hari will never tell you to trust the medical community, the scientists—like The Science Babe–and other experts (farmers, nurses, nutritionists) who have spent their lives studying these issues so that they can advise people like me who decided on a Political Science major instead of biology, chemistry or pre-med. In Hari's world, there's no one better trained to talk about your own personal health issues than her.
Let's hope we start to see a few deserters from the Food Babe Army.