Hazy promises of healing in exchange for cold, hard cash… Noted French naturopath, Irene Grosjean, became the center of a controversy in August after promoting a “derivative bath” method involving rubbing cold water on the sexual organs of young children. On Facebook, she celebrated a “real opportunity for the widest possible audience to discover the benefits” of these practices. The nonagenarian offers online courses at a price of €110.
Since the Covid-19 crisis, anti-science, anti-vax, conspiracy and other new age narratives have never seemed so well-aligned with good business sense. “There’s often a business angle that goes hand in hand with fringe beliefs,” observed Romy Sauvayre, a sociologist of beliefs at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). “At the moment, lithotherapy [a pseudo-science consisting of healing with stones] is so popular that many Internet sites are selling fake healing stones. When someone is deeply committed to a belief, they may be willing to spend a fortune.”
In this disparate world made up of a range of health policy opponents to promoters of alternative health care methods, the mingling of topics is common.
A naturopathic apprentice convinced that conventional medicine is being corrupted by Big Pharma (the concentration of large companies in the pharmaceutical business sector) defended herself to Le Monde for wanting to choose her professional job title according to the most popular requests on Google. For the moment, she’s leaning towards “health educator.” If she ventures into providing diagnoses and treatments, she’ll risk committing the offense of illegally practicing medicine.
Patients with serious illnesses targeted
Jérémie Mercier, a pillar of the ReinfoCovid antivax collective, describes himself using the term “health educator”, or even “doctor-in-training” – a status defined by the French national medical association as being concerned with general health management. He has no hesitation in describing breast cancer screenings as “useless” and their promotion as a “scam.” In addition to his highly critical speeches on the pharmaceutical industry, he offers online training courses combined with webinars, self-published books and recipes, for between 100 and 300 euros.
Mr. Mercier is a disciple of the controversial Christian Tal Schaller, a former doctor who began to embrace alternative conspiracy narratives. He’s also a promoter of the benefits of drinking urine – something he calls “the most extraordinary of natural remedies” – and says he’s addressing “motivated people who want to maintain or regain full health.”
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