Purging the World of PURIFI: How Watching TV Globo Makes You Stupider

NMM(-TV)SNB(B)CNN(P)BS on Google Video follows up on

“Under the new rule, it is forbidden to air or publish information obtained through false identities and hidden cameras. According to the text, this can only be done to bring to light information of relevant public interest and when the professional has exhausted all alternatives that would permit him or her to refuse to use it.” –See Brazil: “Journalists Adopt Anti-Videoscandal Principle”

Few writers need to be reminded that we seek and publish a response from anyone criticized in our pages. But when the criticism is serious, we have a special obligation to describe the scope of the accusation and let the subject respond in detail. No subject should be taken by surprise when the paper appears, or feel that there was no chance to respond. –New York Times, Guidelines on Integrity.

Independent research by Dr Robert Becker and Dr John Zimmerman during the 1980’s investigated what happens whilst people practice therapies like Reiki. They found that not only do the brain wave patterns of practitioner and receiver become synchronised in the alpha state, characteristic of deep relaxation and meditation, but they pulse in unison with the earth’s magnetic field, known as the Schuman Resonance. During these moments, the biomagnetic field of the practitioners’ hands is at least 1000 times greater than normal, and not as a result of internal body current. … Prof Paul Davies and Dr John Gribben in The Matter Myth (1991), discuss the quantum physics view of a ‘living universe’ in which everything is connected in a ‘living web of interdependence’. All of this supports the subjective experience of ‘oneness’ and ‘expanded consciousness’ related by those who regularly receive or self-treat with Reiki. –“Science Validates Spiritual Healing

Correction to the subtitles there above: Not “Ten PGA golfers use magnets,” but “Eight out of 10 PGA golfers use magnets.”

Also, not ” … to help center-fielder Bernie Williams” (go Yankees!) but ” … to heal (sarar) the torn ligament of center-fielder Bernie Williams.”

Which is important: It states quite directly that the magnets are used to heal.

When Globo ran one of its trademark “debunking charlatanism” consumer segments on Fantástico recently (the second segment shown here) — Father Quevedo is a frequent protagonist of this type of Fantástico segment– the company in question, PURIFI, objected violently.

In its rebuttal, PURIFI pointed out the first segment here, in which Fantástico cites a “fashion” for the “Oriental practice” of “biomagnetism” among “famous American athletes,” (1) highlights a number of arguments in favor of the notion that biomagnetism has a scientific basis, (2) interviews not a single skeptic on the subject, and (3) appears to make the claim, in a voiceover, that “more and more, medicine is saving lives using biomagnetism.”

(Note that I have not yet compared the uploaded version with the version from Globo itself.

I should do so, just to make sure that the voiceover making that claim has not been added in later. It sounds like the usual voiceover guy, though. I know that sounds paranoid, but the incidence of  the virulent pathogen of gabbling fabrication here in Brazil really does require such careful boiling, out of an abundance of caution.)

The fact is, as far as I can discover from relatively hasty research — because Globo somehow failed to even mention this important aspect to the story, much less present any factoids about it — that the U.S. FTC and FDA continue to forbid certain advertising claims about the effects of magnetism on the body, and relatedly, about the effects of magnetized water on the body, because they have not been substantiated by scientific testing.

Both Globo and this PURIFIC do seem, on first inspection, to be flirting with making, or implying or insinuating such claims. I am sure a roomful of lawyers could debate the fine points for months.

But the astonishing thing, as always, I think, is the quality of Globo journalism demonstrated here.

Globo journalism is capable of asserting, or insinuating, both A and not-A with equal (lack of) conviction — where neither A nor not-A are well-founded or properly documented, as presented.

Note also the use of hidden cameras and actors impersonating potential customers, rather than journalists, in the “sting” segment. And the little political plug for the sitting city government of São Paulo.

Globo journalism is a schizogenic discourse: fact is fiction, and science explains everything — except when the laws of physics are commercially inconvenient, in which case get ready for a special series on the mysteries of faith.

The acephalic baby who can hear, see, and sense is a current favorite.

On which see also

Globo journalism is also often, as I like to point out — see Miriam Leitão: “Authoritarian” Moral Panic Moment No. 999 — based on a crude psychology of “moral panic” common to a lot of Brazilian telejournalism.

“Charlatans are everywhere, but Globo — and Mayor Kassab — are out there looking out for your interests!”

The real content of this “reporting” is not the facts investigated, but what I call the The Commedia Dell’arte of Journalistic Due Diligence.

Journalistically, these reports are a total farce.

But journalism is not their purpose.

Their primary purpose is to create an emotional identification on the part of the viewer with the figure of the journalist, who is to seen to be as identifying with and working diligently to defend the viewer from (imaginary or grossly inflated or distorted risk of) harm.

In that sense, Globo news programming tends to operate on exactly the same principles as its groundbreaking children’s show, starring the spunky Xuxa (who may be in a bit of trouble with the tax man, still, I understand, over those alleged undeclared Swiss bank accounts of hers.)

Globo news programming assumes an infantile viewer — “Homer Simpon,” as William Bonner famously put it — whom it works to further infantilize, by telling it fairy tales.

See also

Whether the Brazilian water-filter manufacturer is engaged in deceptive marketing practices or not — and again, it does seem that some of its claims might not meet FDA or FTC standards, but then I do not know what Brazilian standards on this are (does anyone?) — the crudeness of the techniques used to railroad and ratfink the company selected to play the part of the scapegoat here is jaw-dropping.

Globo, for example, shows a series of garden-variety scams — those loan-shark interests rates, by the way, are actually not THAT much higher than bank rates, believe it or not — then says, “but of all these, the PURIFI ad was the most incredible.”

(There is actually nothing particularly incredible, deceptive or fake about the loan scheme, by the way. You get the money and you pay the vig. Or else. Straightforward Brooklyn rules.

Given that the guy told the actor what the vig was, in what way was he dishonest? Besides the fact that loan-sharking may be illegal? People do a lot of things here that are technically illegal but that they feel need to get done. Such as holiday shopping at the 25 de Março, gambling at bingos, or making computer purchases in the black or grey market.)

As PURIFI indignantly pointed out, however, the report never does actually establish that the woman represents PURIFI, which at least claims it trains its sales force not to use any but the approved pitches, on pain of severance.

Indeed, and correct me if I am wrong, I am not sure it even establishes on camera that the gizmo the woman has on offer is a PURIFI.

And the other salesperson the Globo actors solicit a pitch from — while utilizing hidden cameras and undisclosed recording of their conversations: Is HE a certified PURIFI sales rep?

And so on.

When it is convenient to the thesis Globo wishes to promote, mere science pales beside the thrilling mystery of “oriental practices” [cue vaguely oriental-sounding spooky music].

There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio.

When it is convenient to the thesis Globo wishes to promote, endlessly looped footage of white-coated scientists is used to reinforce the idea that Globo courageously uses science as a sword of São Jorge to defend its viewers from the dragon of “quackery.”

Note that the the segment provides hardly any details about the tests conducted as well.

The water filter with magnets, we are told, was found not to be any better (– or worse –) than a “normal” or “ordinary” water filter.

What is a “normal” water filter?

What brands did it test the PURIFI against?

How much do they cost?

What tests were performed, exactly?

The statement of results from the lady in the white coat — the jaleco branco — is edited down to some two seconds.

PURIFI is not given an opportunity to address those results on camera.

Among many things I find astonishing here, I also find the claim astonishing, in the first segment, that “If horses are cured by biomagnetism, then it cannot be because of a placebo effect.”

Horses cannot tell you whether their pain has gone away or not.

This point needs much more fact-checking, but a quick google turns up this from Horse Previews Magazine, August 1996:

Over a two day period in mid-July 1996, 16 Veterinary offices local to the Spokane, Washington area servicing large animals were contacted by telephone; 22 Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVM’s) responded individually to the QUESTION: “Do you prescribe the application of magnets as an appropriate therapy for horse injuries? ANSWER: Yes–3 No–19

Are horses cured by biomagnetism? Globo does not reality-test that proposition. It merely presents an argument it describes as favorable to the notion that biomagnetism has a scientific basis.

(Along with a real-life testimonial: “I used the magnets and my pain disappeared.”

And not a single argument unfavorable to that notion.)

Globo journalism tends to behave like a very small child: It simply repeats what people it considers to be “suthorities” — inlcuding, apparently, people who induce them to promote their products with stealth advertorial, or ratfink their competition — tell it to say, no matter how nonsensical.

And often garbles the message in the process.

Warning to consumers of information services: Filter Globo thoroughly by any means proven effective.

Personally, I find that the “off” (apagar) button on the old flatscreen Positivo works very well for this purpose.

I raise that question about Globo “stealth advertorial,” by the way, because it is so common to see Brazilian advertising shops posting segments of Globo programming on YouTube, claiming to have produced the segments themselves or otherwise “placed” the story with Globo.

I have some further examples to show you, in the next episode of … NMM(-TV)SNB(B)CNN(P)BS!

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