Pictured here you can see 15 year old Rhys Morgan being given his grassroots skepticism award at TAM London by James Randi while receiving a standing ovation from the thousand strong crowd. Those familiar with the background were truly delighted that he had won, because it was well deserved. However, some have not heard the story behind this, so I thought I’d take a bit of time now to share some details with you.
I personally first came across Rhys when the SGU (Skeptics Guide the the Universe) Folks had him on to tell his story.
He explains that when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease awhile back, he turned to an on-line forum that offered support and guidance, but was soon quite disturbed to discover that there was a thriving sub-community of folks pushing quack cures. One in particular called MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution) could apparently cure you of anything at all including cancer and even flu. After doing a bit of research, Rhys found out that this supposed miracle cure was simply industrial bleach and that the US FDA had issued a warning that it caused serious harm.
Dig a bit more and you quickly discover that the con artist behind MMS is a chap called Jim Humble who is not at all bothered that this supposed cure is highly toxic, so how do you face up to a complete sleaze-ball like this and take him down, especially when you are just 15. Without any hesitation, Rhys launched his Bleachgate campaign, and what a resounding success it was … here is a posting from Rhys’s blog a couple of weeks ago …
On Friday, the 24th September, Bleachgate went official.
On Monday, I was sitting in my physics lesson when the Ms. Humphreys from the school office came in and said to me that Radio 4 wanted to do an interview. I agreed and this is the result… http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/txzlq/
The rest of the day went by almost normally, until my chemistry lesson in the afternoon. My school principal, Mr. Dorey, was waiting outside. He pointed towards me and said “Don’t think you’re getting away with it that easily!” I was confused and thought I was in trouble, until he congratulated me on my Radio 4 appearance. He then told me that the day was going to get even more surreal, as BBC Radio Wales had contacted him and wanted to do an interview with me. They wanted to do a live interview at 5:30, but unfortunately, I had other plans for after school – another newspaper article in the Echo, more on that in a minute – so wasn’t able to do a live interview. However, the host of “Good Evening Wales”, Adrian Masters, came to my school and interviewed me. Since the program is quite long (2 hours), you might want to skip to the relevant bits. The first interview with me is at roughly 17 minutes. The next part about Bleachgate is an interview with the FSA which confirms once and for all that Miracle Mineral Solution is illegal. This comes roughly at 1 hour 16 minutes.
All this publicity is excellent. Thanks to all who signed up to the Google spreadsheet to complain about MMS Health and various other MMS peddlers to Trading Standards. As it happens, they are already investigating… er… ALL MMS sellers in the UK due to the FSA complaining to a number of the relevant Trading Standards bodies.
Now what is truly fantastic is that this is not simply a one-shot deal, because if you check out Rhys’s blog (click here) you will find that he is out there shooting at all sorts of dubious woo and also giving out advice to other skeptics …
- Last august he was pressuring his MP to withdraw her signature on a parliamentary early day motion in support of Homeopathy
- He has Guidance on how to link to woo sites in a way that does not allow their Google page rank to increase
- He has Postings about twitter spam and how he tracked it
- He blogs about his letter to the local hospital seeking the position on Homeopathy via the FOIA.
So I can only add my heartfelt congratulations to Rhys for his award, it is well deserved. This truly is practical grassroots skepticism in action, and it has made a real difference out there.