How it’s done

Ars Technica calls the Goop attempt to bully Jen Gunter “a perfectly crafted reference guide for how to sell snake oil.”

In case you’re unfamiliar—or just need an empowering refresher—Goop is a site directed mostly toward affluent women that peddles pricey products and overuses the word “empower” while dabbling in many forms of pseudoscience and quackery—everything from homeopathy to magic crystals and garden-variety dietary-supplement nonsense.

And it’s flourishing. It’s making big bucks. It’s even going into publishing.

This year, the Goop group teamed up with Condé Nast to begin publishing a quarterly print magazine as well as digital content. (Condé Nast also owns Ars, by the way.)

It’s Prince Charles all over again – using fame to market high-priced bullshit as “healthy” and “healing” – from detox socks to jade eggs up the twat.

People who know more about the subject than Paltrow does have been writing about why her claims are wrong so finally they took a deep breath and murmured some incantations and issued a Statement.

As the Internet collectively grabbed popcorn, Paltrow herself tweeted the post, writing, “When they go low, we go high.”

But Goop didn’t go high. Going high would be providing data to back health claims and dubious products. Going high would be denouncing bad products and consulting with evidence-based doctors on effective remedies—or at least discussing potential harms of unproven ones. Even adding clear warnings on products and practices that lack evidence on effectiveness and safety would be inching upward. In general, going high would be clearly putting the health and well-being of customers ahead of profits.

Instead, the Goop team went low—basically not changing position. It defended its evidence-free and sometimes potentially harmful products while personally attacking one specific medical blogger, Dr. Jen Gunter, an Ob/Gyn who has knocked back many of Goop’s products and claims.

I first became aware of Jen Gunter when I was writing about the death of Savita Halappanavar; she wrote a beautifully clear explanation of what happens in an incomplete miscarriage of that kind and thus how horrific Galway University Hospital’s refusal to complete Halappanavar’s was. She’s terrific, and it’s revolting that Paltrow is using movie star celebrity to attack and insult her. (Paltrow didn’t write the statement but it’s her company, she’s responsible.)

Ars Technica describes some of Goop’s expensive bullshit and reckless advice – the jade egg, the vaginal steam cleaning, the “medicine bag,” the “energy healing” stickers, the line of luxury dietary supplements and vitamins, a mere $90 for a month’s supply.

Then it goes through the marketing steps revealed in the Statement.

In its latest post, the Goop team wanders through all the steps. I’ve brought them out and reordered them here for a more coherent interpretation.

Step 1. Assure the customer that you are there for them and can care for them—especially when no one else is or can, including the heartless, mainstream medical community. As Goop puts it:

Our primary place is in addressing people, women in particular, who are tired of feeling less-than-great, who are looking for solutions—these women are not hypochondriacs, and they should not be dismissed or marginalized.

Ya!! Right on! Iz feminism!

2. Explain that you just have more answers than those stuffy evidence-based doctors because you look at things from a fresh, holistic perspective.

Western and Eastern modalities doncha know.

3. Say you don’t know everything; ass covered. 4. Say but at the same time you are The Best, with degrees and all. 5. You are not crazy!!

6. At this point, note that you are the victim of Meany McCriticFaces, who don’t know what they’re talking about and are just trying to sell stuff and promote their own brands, unlike you, who have the customers’ backs (see step 1).

There are third parties who critique Goop to leverage that interest and bring attention to themselves. Encouraging discussion of new ideas is certainly one of our goals, but indiscriminate attacks that question the motivation and integrity of the doctors who contribute to the site is not.

7. Twist the facts to suggest that any critics of you are actually critics of the customer. You’re in this together!

Some of the coverage that Goop receives suggests that women are lemmings, ready to jump off a cliff whenever one of our doctors discusses checking for EBV, or Candida, or low levels of vitamin D—or, heaven forbid, take a walk barefoot. As women, we chafe at the idea that we are not intelligent enough to read something and take what serves us, and leave what does not. We simply want information; we want autonomy over our health.

Ya!! Right on! Iz feminism!

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