When you don’t have the answer — stonewall & bully. NeriumGate, part 1.
Mahatma Ghandi famously said, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” If that’s the case, then we seem to be on the verge of victory in our quest to get answers to key questions about Nerium AD.
As regular readers know, our mission at BFT includes shedding light into the mode of action of many cosmeceutical active ingredients, as this information may reveal activation of cellular pathways that are anything but anti-aging over the long term, or simply just don’t add up. We have had occasion to question many such actives on the basis of data, available science, and reasoned logic. In some cases, an illuminating debate has followed. Sometimes companies have offered additional data or logical insights in to their products, which have allowed us to come to new and favorable conclusions regarding their products.
Several of BFT’s recent blog posts have featured some concerns and questions about NeriumAD’s effect on healthy skin cells (not blood borne systemic toxicity) with long-term use. We at BFT have repeatedly:
- Invited Nerium to provide information that would answer key questions about why a class of chemicals (cardiac glycoside extracts of nerium oleander), well known to cause cellular oxidative stress, and to kill cancer cells, would provide anti-aging benefit when applied topically.
- Invited them to have any of their scientists write or call, and
- Have promised to share with our readers Nerium’s perspective on any of these questions, in a spirit of fairness and because we are not averse to having diverse opinions appear on these pages. In fact, we encourage it.
Instead, Nerium International has shown contempt not just for the ideas we express, but for our very existence.
On October 16, 2012, Nerium showed their true colors by posting an article titled Deceptive bloggers are challenging the safety of NeriumAD with false and misleading statements on its Facebook page. Some observations:
- Nowhere in their article do they identify any of the statements they deem to be false, or supply any refutations of same.
- What you will find, instead, is a series of declarative statements about “these bloggers”. Ad hominem attacks. Containing statements that are untrue.
- The article then (again) expounds on Nerium product safety (based on toxicology tests and brief clinical trial) — statements that are oft repeated in this blog and that we have never challenged. A smokescreen?
- What is lacking, of course, is any reference to the legitimate questions that we do ask and have never been offered an answer, or even been offered the opportunity to talk with anyone who could discuss it expertly with us.
Their e-mail blast and FB article post also makes good on the threats alluded to in a Nerium broadcast conference call during the week prior, in which Nerium targeted us by inference, in coarse street language no less, and expressed an unabashed delight in planning to distribute information that would cause much anticipated reputational damage. As to what to think of a corporation whose upper management delights in doing such things gleefully to real people , rather than being saddened by them –we leave that to you readers to ponder.
As of this writing, Nerium has not responded to our questions. We know they hear them, because a number of you loyal readers keep telling us what is going on at Nerium, what management is saying in public meetings, the names they call us (yes, we have heard them all), the “drama” we seem to incite.
Instead of addressing our questions (which should be quite simple to answer), they have done two things:
- First, they try to obfuscate the issue (blow smoke, if you will) by bloviating repeatedly about safety studies which were never the question in the first place. We have said over and over we believe the results of those acute systemic toxicity studies. You only have to read the posts and comments to know how many times we have affirmed that, over and over again, in these pages.
- Second, they have engaged in a concerted effort to “kill the messenger.” metaphorically speaking. In other words, silence us (which they in fact stated was their motive). In order to divert attention from the issues we raise, they have chosen to attack us, as individuals. Is this fair play?
To this we say, simply, “Shame on you.”
In past commentary, we have openly condemned the use of ad hominem attacks in scientific discourse. Ad hominems are a way to create a smoke screen, by focusing on some (typically irrelevant) quality of your opponent in order to discredit their opinion. Such tactics are considered logical fallacies in debate terms.
In fact, we have not published (we edited out) many comments that attack Nerium management by name, submitted by readers who have been exposed to Nerium the MLM. We have adhered to a higher standard on these pages. Personal attacks and name calling are not allowed. Sadly, not everyone seems to agree with these principles. The management of Nerium seems to want to make us the issue instead of the questions we raise. They set BFT up as a classical “straw man” (and I suppose by extension, anyone who disagrees with them, or questions them, or their science or business model) focusing on us, instead of the ideas we discuss.
Readers, we refuse to be dragged down to this level of discourse. While we may be personally attacked, accused of being unqualified to render an opinion, or even wrongly accused of violating some imagined statute by blogging about science, we will stand fast on our opinions, based on the facts and data in published peer-reviewed scientific literature. And we are not going to be bullied or intimidated by baseless attacks dotted with factual errors.
Just like politicians, business people like to talk about tactics. Tactics can be successful or unsuccessful, and can be based on high-minded or low-minded principles. Tactics can be categorized in a way that tells you something about the philosophical and moral underpinnings of those using such tactics. Emblematic of this is the term “Watergate tactics.” It encompasses a set of tactics employed by President Nixon’s White House during the Watergate Scandal. For those of you too young to remember Watergate, here is a great resource: http://www.maryferrell.org/wiki/index.php/Watergate
One of the most insidious “Watergate tactics” was the “White House Enemies List.” It seems President Nixon and/or his staff were always on the lookout for troublemakers
(those who opposed his policies, or questioned his actions and decisions, especially journalists), and they seemed intent on making sure they were discredited, marginalized, or punished in some way. In some cases (according to reports of the day), he used the enormous power of his office to do so in an unsavory and illegal manner. Like having the IRS do impromptu investigations on perceived enemies. Truly an abuse of power, money, and office.
We have never tried to hide our distaste for MLMs because of the statistically high number of people who get hurt. But we believe we are witnessing here something that says less about MLMs, and more about the character of Nerium as a single instantiation of an MLM. We at BFT are fond of neologisms. Our newest is “Neriumgate.”
Like most scientists, the docs at BFT are interested in scientific facts, theories, and hypotheses. We don’t have an exclusive on the truth — we are just interested in pursuing it, wherever it leads us. We value free speech, but we also practice restraint in how we express our ideas. We ask a lot of questions, but we don’t yell “fire!” in theaters as a prank. We don’t practice character assassination. We certainly don’t emulate Nixon’s White House.
Let me remind all here that BFT is an independent blog with no ads, no income, and no profits. We donate our time as a public service. It’s not a thing, or an entity, it’s just us docs, regular guys with wives and kids and grandkids, who continue to pursue medical research and spend time here with you readers, because we love the science and care about people it affects.
We don’t like seeing people get hurt, or victimized, or abused. We especially don’t like bullies. For that reason, we will persist in investigating and discussing skin science and therapeutics, wherever that takes us. We are not so easily silenced. We are confident that the truth will win out in the end, and that no amount of money can alter it nor suppress it.
We once again invite Nerium International, and all Neriumites, to join us in our quest for truth. Perhaps we could start by agreeing to condemn together any tactics that even remotely call to mind “politics of personal destruction”. Such do not have a place in debates about science. This is about ideas, not personalities.
In all of us there is a “small, still voice” that informs us whether our thoughts and actions are right or wrong. Are we treating our family, friends, neighbors with compassion, or with contempt ? Are we motivated by a desire to benefit our fellow man, or just ourselves? The docs at BFT advocate that we all listen to this voice. And that we all let honor and dignity be our guiding principles.