In 1995, the Church of Scientology attempted to suppress the Fishman Affidavit which contained Church-copyrighted versions of Operating Thetan levels I-VII. This promptly resulted in hundreds of copies being circulated around the world.

In 2003, Barbra Streisand’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to the California Coastal Records Project about the inclusion of a photo of her Malibu beach house on their website. When the website operators rejected the demand, Streisand sued. Subsequently, the Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed the case and the worlds attention focussed on her villa (see below).


Today, there are numerous further cases where someone has tried to censor another party and the attempt spectacularly backfired thus resulting in the opposite effect. Ever since the events surrounding the Streisand affair, the phenomenon has been called the ‘Streisand Effect‘. But recently, German sceptics have proposed to re-name it in


The reason is that a firm producing homeopathic remedies in Germany, Hevert, sent a desist letter to German critics of homeopathy demanding they stop stating that homeopathy is not effective beyond placebo (I did mention the story in a previous post).

I do get the impression that Hevert are not very lucky with their PR. On their website, they claim that homeopathy activates the body’s own self-healing powers. I fear this is much more wishful thinking than fact; at least I know of no sound evidence that would prove this statement to be correct. They also claim that homeopathy is a naturopathic treatment method that was developed at the beginning of the 19th century by German physician and pharmacist Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). This does not seem correct either; homeopathy does not fall under the umbrella of naturopathic medicine, not least because it includes plenty of remedies as unnatural as the Berlin Wall. The Hevert website furthermore states that Hahnemann discovered that, with many substances, the healing powers are only released by potentization. He also discovered that toxic substances became valuable medicines when potentized. I fear that this is wrong too; in fact, Hahnemann discovered nothing of the sort – he merely postulated stuff that evidently turned out to be untrue.

Anyway, one of the recipients of the above mentioned desist letters, Natalie Grams, decided not to comply and rather risk the penalty of Euro 5 100. This news then resulted in a storm of angry protests. Germans do not like to be told what to say, and freedom of speech is valued highly these days. Numerous newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, blogs and tweets thus sided firmly with Dr Grams.

This week, even a prominent and rather excellent German TV satirical programme aired a long film mercilessly mocking Hevert and homeopathy (no, nothing to do with me!). It is is, in my view, the best critique of homeopathy ever broadcast on German TV. Even if you do not understand the language , it is worth watching, if only for the musical finale:

One theme that occurs repeatedly in the film is the concept of ‘the three pillars of homeopathy’:

  1. dilute;
  2. shake;
  3. waffle BS (the German original is even less polite [‘Scheisse labern’]).

The ‘three pillars’ have become an instant hit on twitter, with bloggers and elsewhere. They look destined to become the future hallmark of homeopathy. Hevert will now be asking themselves whether the thing with the desist letters was such a brilliant idea.

I suspect it wasn’t – perhaps only trumped by the idea to sell homeopathic remedies?




8 Responses to The ‘Hevert Effect’ and the ‘three pillars of homeopathy’

  • First class work again from Herr Böhmermann. (Already known to the English-speaking world as the guy who got threatened with jail by Erdogan for writing a poem).

    A few highlights:
    –listing a few positive stories appearing in various magazines about homeopathy and revealing that they were all funded by the German Homeopathy Union (DHU)
    –taking globules from a C30 (€9) and a C100 (€40) product and putting them together in a petri dish, mixing them up and pointing out that they are indistinguishable from each other
    –spelling out the financial advantages to doctors who earn more by prescribing homeopathy than real medicine (with specific examples)
    –showing that homeopathy is most popular among better educated people with money to spare — people who are usually ecologically and social justice-minded. He lists things like care for the aged and the poor, which suffer reduced funding due to the prioritising of homeopathy. He labels this demographic as asocial — which will sting
    — showing a hilarious rap song about homeopathy which turned out to be a genuine ad run by a medical insurance company
    –showing the rapper who made the ad for homeopathy singing a rather lame commercial for Saaland, and noted that the guy seems to be employed for things you need to fool yourself into believing are good (nice joke at the expense of Saarlanders!)
    –towards the end showing a flash of genuine anger and calling homeopaths swindlers, charlatans and quacks
    –singing a good song at the end, and getting the aforementioned rapper the chance to come on and distance himself from the ad he made (and rescue his reputation)
    –ending by daring homeopaths to sue him like they did Dr Grams

    (He didn’t get around to pointing out something that is rarely if ever pointed out by skeptics — that the ‘law of similars’ is itself utter rubbish, so even if a homeopathic treatment did have an effect, no one knows what it would be. I’m not criticising him for this — he only had 25 minutes. But I do think skeptics have ignored this aspect. It would be easy to clinically any ‘proving’ and check if the stuff really does have the effect claimed. Of course, I’d leave the dog poo and the wolf’s milk etc to homeopaths to test…)

  • Well, to name it “Hevert-Effect” may be misleading, as sometimes effects are named by their inventors to give them a positive tribute. However, the nomenclature should be clear about the nature of this effect. I would prefer “Hevert backfire effect” or simply “Hevert failure” or “Hevert’s error”.

  • That video really got me laughing and held my interest. I’d just sent someone a description of how homeopathy believers could test whether the homeopathic preparations they believe in work better than a placebo, using blind self-testing.
    But none that I’ve ever heard of, have done such careful testing of their beliefs.

    And then the video pointed out – Look, it’s just plain silly. That guy knocking his bottle on something …
    Nobody with a grain of sense could believe in it, unless they really were ignorant about what homeopathic preparations really are.

    • I once asked a Jewish colleague of mine how Kosher wine differed from the regular kind. He explained that it was the state of mind (specifically piety) of the winemaker.

      My understanding is that homeopathic remedies are similar, and rely upon the intent to the practitioner and the manufacturers for their effect.

  • It depends on a particular country’s regulation of the “homeopathic” label.
    Last I looked there was a regulation in the EU, where that video was made, that homeopathic preparations couldn’t have any more than a very small amount of the “active” ingredient. So it looks like they are *required* to not have a pharmacological effect.
    In the USA, things can be described as “homeopathic” that do have a significant amount of the ingredient. For example, Zicam for colds.
    The ingredients are Zincum aceticum 2x, Zincum gluconicum 1x. So it has a good deal of zinc – 1x being 1/10, 2x being 1/100.
    This both confuses the skeptics in their criticisms and enables the believers in their belief.

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