Though I might have previously been aware of her activity here and there without taking much notice, I think I first ‘directly’ encountered arch homeopathy propagandist Sandra (Hermann-)Courtney when she once turned up at my blog here, and posted a compendium of family/friend/pet anecdotes. After I replied with my objection to her homeopathy-promoting opportunism, she returned in a bit of a seemingly hissy fit. I was being nasty, apparently.
Clicking on her name at her comments there takes you to her Facebook page, where, if you log in and scroll down, you will find repeated re-hashing of (variants of) these tedious stories. I note that it is not possible to comment on her Facebook page. Which, I subsequently discovered, kind of contradicts the claim she (previously) makes on her own pettily paranoid ‘fighting-for-homeopathy‘ blog:
‘I love comments and encourage you to leave one, two or more.’
Having noticed, in one of her posts, erroneous statements as to the credentials/qualifications of Simon Singh and (certainly many) other sceptics critical of her (promotion of her) lifestyle choice, I thought I’d, err, suggest she ‘… do a bit more work on those statements?’ To be fair, she did display my comment – but she has neither responded to it, nor corrected her erroneousness. (Contradiction and wilful ignorance are traits at which Sandra excels). But then, I guess that would be awkward for her in a post attacking various sceptics (whom, for some reason, she considers it appropriate to pictorially collect here), and shamelessly defending such quack il-luminaries as Nancy Malik, and WDDTY QuackRag publisher, Lynne McTaggart, and encouraging them to get litigious on these sceptics’ asses.
Anyway, presumably deeming my blog a bit of a sleepy backwater, she didn’t stick around for long. Nor did she after turning up (as SAHC1) below a letter I later had published in a local newspaper (though as that site is strewn with advertising litter, I can’t say I blame her), where a shortened version of the family anecdote was quickly forthcoming. Quite how she came across this particular item, well, I imagine she spends copious amounts of her time lurking the internet, search-wording ‘homeopathy’, and descending wherever she finds it. Because, it becomes clear that she – and her coterie of like-(small-)minded ‘homeopathy harpies’ – tends to crop up all over the virtual place (as already realised by at least one sceptic critic who certainly has her sussed). And, preferring to fry the bigger fish that is the national newspaper, she recently landed upon, and ‘contributed’ to comment threads below homeopathy-centric articles in The Guardian (closed at 2196 comments) and The Telegraph (closed at 3010 comments). It is at such places where she vividly exemplifies her modi operandi.
In the former article thread, she pops up again with the family anecdote… which looks very familiar, does it not? And, despite having been previously corrected that the ‘article’ to which she refers was actually a ‘rapid response’ letter, she has not even bothered to edit her copy-pasted guano. Assimilation and correction do not concern Sandra Courtney; the important thing is to maintain a presence; which often, upon being corrected, means resorting to the foot-stamping childishness of merely retorting, ‘Wrong’. Over and over. (How old is she? Seven?!) Another version of the family anecdote makes re-appearance in the latter thread. Indeed, I’d wager that wherever she lands up, she will arrive with her own story wet-brushed and ready to re-paste. You’ll find that abbreviated versions of it appear with semi-regularity if you scroll down her Twitter-feed. (And let’s not pass up opportunity to resort to the ever-dumb appeal to celebrity.)
I think it works like this: in long comment threads, stuff gets quickly buried. Therefore, to catch the eye of the newly-arrived reader unlikely to spend the time negotiating all the way down it, Sandra (and the other harpies) re-fleck their guano at the top of the thread. No matter that it has been used before, wherever. No matter that it has been rejected/corrected/challenged/called out. Just re-paste – repeat-ignore… repeat-ignore… Like an unreachable, itching rash. Whilst repeatedly flagging comments she finds objectionable to the gormless moderators who permit her bastardisation of free expression as the freedom to mislead. If this is a tactic to deliberately irritate the fuck out of me and others (because she does like to get under the skin of those who find her objectionable – I imagine this is what it must be like to argue with a scientologist), then it is effective. And I suppose it would perhaps be better for my blood pressure to just turn a blind eye. But I find disturbing that she shamelessly, liberally and repetitively posts links to claimed homeopathic treatments/cures for various cancers, and gleefully endorses such claims made by others in the vicinity. And she also abuses her Twitter account for such purposes:
Never does she reject or call out any claim for homeopathy’s efficacy/effectiveness. This unquestionable, ‘anything goes’ attitude that confidently lauds homeopathy as a magic cure-all ought to make anybody with an ounce of critical faculty at least a tad suspicious. Why should this be allowed to pass? Particularly as others less zealous are apparently failing to protest at such claims being made under homeopathy’s tawdry banner.
But, you might think, it could just be that Sandra genuinely believes all this. And believes it so strongly that she sees it as her mission in life to spread the word. She has every right to do so, hasn’t she, if she considers it all to be true? That might make her many things, but is certainly not grounds to label her a liar, is it?
But wait. Sandra has recently dispelled any doubt, if any were left to be had, that she does not float on honest waters. At the aforementioned national newspaper article threads she repeatedly posted a statement about former homeopath turned sceptic, Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter. Like I said, these are long threads, and I might have missed the earlier buried postings. But I happened to be around when she re-tried this:
I was genuinely confused. Ernst is a prominent sceptic whom she would readily lambast; but here, was she recruiting him in some reaching twisted appeal to authority, or seeking to smear him? As a faux-sceptic who is really continuing to use homeopathy? There ensued another long, tangled sub-thread, from which I will just quote my own response (because this is my argument), which I think serves to make the picture clear:
‘The article is from 2003! Ernst has openly declared that he trained, practiced and used homeopathy… before questioning, testing, reviewing and concluding that it is nothing more than placebo. (I refer you to his book, ‘Trick or Treatment’, published in 2008).
That he did not respond to a few facetious questions on Twitter… and you thus conclude that he must, ergo, still use it?
So, (besides making yourself look foolish) what are you actually saying: Edzard Ernst is a lying hypocrite? Or (because I actually think you do know the real version here) are you merely trying to concoct a scenario that would have him perceived as a lying hypocrite?’
She has certainly labelled him so on Twitter:
Do follow the comment thread via the links here and see for yourself how, rather than clarify what it is she accuses Ernst of, she instead opts for excavating herself a deeper pit of ignominy, culminating in disparaging Ernst… for never having been sufficiently qualified to practice as a homeopath! (Which way does she prefer this?!) Do form your own opinion as to why she does not correct and/or retract this. As for me: I have arrived at the opinion that she is pathologically mendacious. Badly done.
And it seems she has form. An increasing number on Twitter are wise to her ways, and are openly calling her out on them. Sandra’s primary tactic in the face of this is to block. (See here for a concise listing of who she has blocked from her Twitter-feed.) And to crow that such censoring is to her credit. (I’m sure among those comment threads, she who claims ‘I love comments… ‘ commented something about ‘book-burning’… ) Moreover, she is apparently trying to get sceptics who bother her banned from Twitter, whining that she is besieged by ‘trolls’ – which she apparently deems as including anyone who openly objects to her misleading information, regardless of any accompanying insult. Conveniently forgetting the provocatively irresponsible rot she herself spews out, and some of the company she keeps there. Charming.