Crystals, Spiritual Speed Dating, And The New York Times

Once again the New York Times has published a story that contains pseudoscientific, completely unsupported health claims without providing any critical perspective on the topic.

A few weeks ago I wrote an open letter to the New York Times Public Editor about an egregious article in the Style and Fashion section about sound bath “healers.” Now the Times has once again gone to crazy town, this time in a Sunday “Neighborhood Joint” column focusing on the Maha Rose Center for Healing in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Maha Rose offers conventional modalities like yoga, meditation and acupuncture, but among its specialties are the more offbeat and the esoteric: crystal bowl sound baths, tarot card readings, shamanic purification rituals, laughter therapy, spiritual speed dating and fairy school.

You know you’re in trouble when yoga, meditation and acupuncture are described as conventional healing methods. There’s a lot more nonsense in the story, including a fawning portrait of a burlesque dancer turned healer. Here’s how the article ends:

Krista Porreca, 26, a poet, shopped for crystals for a friend on a recent weekend. “You have to be careful about this energetic stuff,” she said, referring to an inferior chakra cleansing she had received in Manhattan. After a tarot card reading, Barrie Cohen, 27, described the clarity and wisdom she received. “I’m going through a big transition,” she said, referring to a breakup and a cross-country move. “It’s peaceful here. I see myself coming back.”

When a customer asked about the magic wands — sticks collected from a Long Island beach and decorated with yarn and glitter — Luke Simon, a founder of Maha Rose, laughed.

“I usually get the same questions,” said Mr. Simon, 29. “What are they and do they work? I say, ‘Of course they do!’” He paused and grinned. “But,” Mr. Simon added, “you have to choose to believe in your own magic power.”

Now I suspect that the author of the story, Sara Beck, may have doubts about the reliability of this stuff, but the editorial position seems to be that all ideas and opinions– even about scientific and health matters– are valid and  do not require any sort of reality check from actual scientists or doctors. Beck may be having a quiet laugh to herself, but it’s absolutely certain that a significant portion of the Times’ large readership won’t be in on the joke. You can bet that to the owners of the Maha Rose establishment this Times article is as good as gold and even better than a magic wand.

If the New York Times continues to publish this sort of crap, what possible hope is there for other media outlets with even lower standards than the Times? Of course it is well within the purview of the Times to cover places and trends like these, but that doesn’t mean the paper should abandon all its critical faculties. Coverage shouldn’t bleed into endorsement; it must include thoughtful scrutiny. Topics that include health and science issues should never be covered as mere fashion or lifestyle stories. Too much is at stake.

Perhaps the Times editors and reporters should read their own paper. Another recent article— miraculously containing real journalism– informed readers about several criminal cases in which psychics– perhaps not entirely unlike the Maha Rose characters– went to jail for defrauding clients of hundreds of thousands of dollars.



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