Dear Dietitians of South Africa: You Look Like @$$holes Right Now

Dear Dietitians of South Africa and HPCSA prosecutors —

Take a look at this brief clip from the movie Boogie Nights:

That character, like many in the film, is a doofus. But he nonetheless possesses a capacity Nature provides to (most) humans as a useful form of self-correction: namely, he recognizes when he looks like an @$$hole.

I look like an @$$hole right now!, like guilt, is uncomfortable to experience but also crucial for the well-being of both individuals and society as a whole. When people are devoid of the capacity for guilt, they become sociopaths. When people are devoid of the capacity to recognize I look like an @$$hole right now!, they engage in behaviors that prompt normal people to shake their heads and say, What the @#$% does that @$$hole think he’s doing?!

Dietitians of South Africa and HPCSA prosecutors, you look like @$$holes right now — and not just in your own country. Trust me, countless people around the world are watching your ongoing attempt to prosecute Professor Tim Noakes and saying to themselves (and everyone else), Holy @#$%! Why don’t those @$$holes just accept that they lost and leave the guy alone?

I realize it’s difficult for @$$holes to recognize their own @$$hole behavior — after all, that’s the root of the problem. So I’ll take the opposite approach and explain how people who aren’t @$$holes view this entire sorry episode. You won’t change your minds or behavior, of course, but perhaps you’ll understand why if people recognize you on the street, they stop and whisper to each other, “Hey, look! There’s one of those @$$holes who kept going after Tim Noakes.”

Things people who aren’t @$$holes understand, but you don’t:

1. Nobody should be prosecuted for answering a question tweeted to him by a fan.

I won’t even bother explaining that one.

2. It isn’t necessary to prosecute people who offer contrary dietary advice if they’re actually wrong.

People seek alternative dietary advice for exactly one reason: they want better results than they’ve gotten with other diets. Tim Noakes recommends a diet he believes helps people become leaner and healthier. If he’s wrong, people will discover that for themselves. They’ll flock to the internet to warn others that a low-carb, high-fat diet made them sicker and fatter or whatever.

But of course, that isn’t happening.  Instead, people are flocking to the internet to describe how switching to the kind of diet Noakes recommends has changed their lives for the better.  That’s how it happens in a marketplace of ideas: bad advice eventually gets squeezed out by advice that actually works.  Obviously, that scares the hell out of you.

3. Tim Noakes isn’t your real problem. Results are your real problem.

Yes, I know you want to believe that people are questioning the standard dietary advice because of Tim Noakes. But as much as I applaud his work, he’s not the reason people are turning away from you. They’re turning away from you because they’re not happy with the results of the advice you offer.

Noakes is just one of countless conduits for advice that just flat-out works for many, many people. In an age of nearly unlimited access to information, people who are frustrated with the standard dietary advice are going to seek and find alternative advice.

4. There’s no positive outcome to your continued harassment of Tim Noakes.

You seem to believe that if you keep prosecuting until you get a guilty verdict, people are going to say to themselves, Oh, so Noakes was found guilty this time? Well then, those dietitians must have been right all along. I’m going to go back to the diet they recommend.

No, that isn’t going to happen. You apparently don’t realize it yet, but the days of people simply kowtowing to supposed experts are over. Nassim Nicholas Taleb put it rather nicely in the opening of an essay describing what he calls The Intellectual Yet Idiot:

What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

You will not regain any respect by prosecuting Noakes. In fact, the more likely result is that more people will view you the way Dr. Malcolm Kendrick described the medical establishment in his book Doctoring Data:

I feel they are like those highly decorated generals in North Korea with the funny hats. They look splendid and important, but the only point of their existence is to suppress dissent and keep an idiotic regime in place.

Maybe you’ll get your precious guilty verdict this time around. I pray you don’t. But either way, nearly everyone who becomes aware of this ongoing harassment of a principled scientist will see you as a bush-league version of The Spanish Inquisition.

You look like @$$holes right now. Your failure to recognize that makes you your own worst enemies.


52 thoughts on “Dear Dietitians of South Africa: You Look Like @$$holes Right Now

  1. Wayne Gage

    I detect anger in your post and for good reason. This anti Noakes action by SA parallels the global (man made) warming supporters who want to prosecute the global warming skeptics (global warming deniers). Tow the line or suffer.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Whatever your beliefs on diet, politics, climate change, whatever, when governing bodies prosecute people who dare to disagree with them, that should scare the hell out of you.

      1. Walter

        The message is antifragile; the more they attack the more the message spreads. Just like lists of prohibited books. Nothing stimulates sales like a prohibition.

        I just finished reading, first pass, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s _Antifragile Things That Gain from Disorder_, and even after reading other of his books it’s still a shock.

        Examples of a trader, Joe Siegal that made a profession in trading green lumber, when he thought it was lumber that was painted green. You don’t have to know what you are buying and selling, IF you know the market.

        Highly recommended. Some people have to hit over the head with a big book, I reckon. (The other books of his I read were much shorter.)

        Another thing that caught my attention was that even in areas where we think the normal curve applies, a slight error in the standard deviation has huge consequences for rare events. Being confident where not warranted is not good in the market.

      2. Eric Schmitz

        See also Mark Z. Jacobson _vs_ Christopher Clack and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

        In 2015, Jacobson, et al, published a study in PNAS, claiming that we can supply all electricity worldwide using only hydro, wind, and solar power by 2050. His findings have been widely promoted by such scientific luminaries as Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. Last summer, Clack, et al, published, also in PNAS, a rebuttal, pointing out faulty assumptions and modeling errors. For example, Jacobson assumes that existing hydro-electric power can be increased between ten and 100-fold.

        In response, Jacobson published a counter-rebut…. Wait, no. In response, Jacobson has filed a lawsuit against Clack and PNAS — but not, oddly enough, against any of the other authors of the rebuttal. It should be noted that Clack is the only author of the rebuttal who does not have the backing of an academic institution to assist in his defense. He is on his own. One hopes that the case will be assigned to a competent judge who will promptly throw it out on its face.

        To those of us who know a little about electrical power generation. Jacobson looks like an @$$hole. Not surprisingly, he is not capable of realizing that he looks like an @$$hole. In fact, he goes out of his way to ignore the fact that he looks like an @$$hole by blocking on social media anyone who disagrees with him.

        (For what it’s worth, I accept the scientific consensus on global warming. And I have no desire whatsoever to see anyone who disagrees prosecuted, nor do I know anyone who does. Hell, I won’t even argue about it. But then I try not to be an @$$hole anyway.)

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Reminds me of Robert Bryce, an environmental/energy reporter who once believed we could meet all our energy needs with wind, solar, etc., until he was “mugged by the laws of thermodynamics,” as he put it.

          The urge to muzzle people who espouse contrary opinions mystifies me. If I hear that someone is being muzzled, I assume he has something interesting or important to say and become more determined to learn what it is.

          1. Eric Schmitz

            Exactly. We are hoping this backfires seriously. And it looks hopeful:


            (There’s a subscription wall, but you can get a free trial.)

            From the article:

            >> Judge Elizabeth Wingo noted that in a 2016 case, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals clearly laid out two types of statements that could be at issue in a defamation claim: those that challenge an individual’s ideas and those that serve as a personal attack.


            [Jacobson’s attorney Paul] Thaler argued that while there are “gradations” of defamation, Clack’s suggestion that Jacobson made a modeling error crossed the line because criticism of his professional competency is essentially the same as a personal attack.

            Wingo appeared sympathetic to Clack and the academy, noting that the Clack paper appears to focus on alleged errors in Jacobson’s work but does not imply misconduct.

            “Whether it offends you is not the standard; it has to be defamatory,” she said, adding later: “You can make all kinds of mistakes completely honestly.” <<

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              “Clack’s suggestion that Jacobson made a modeling error crossed the line because criticism of his professional competency is essentially the same as a personal attack.”

              Good lord. If criticizing a scientist’s work is ever accepted as a “personal attack” that rises to the level of defamation, it will be the end of science.

            2. Eric Schmitz

              That is exactly what I and my pro-nuclear friends who are following this have been saying. And it’s why we hope it will be summarily tossed out. Some hope that it does go to trial and Jacobson gets has @$$ handed to him, but to allow something like this to proceed on the basis that “criticism of his professional competency [might be] the same as a personal attack” is a very dangerous precedent to set. Even the threat of litigation for scientific critique is chilling in the legal sense, as well as the colloquial.

              In the case of climate scientist Michael Mann, it was allowed to proceed because Mann had been publicly accused of outright intentional fraud and misconduct, and referred to as the “Jerry Sandusky of climate science.” That is what crosses the line into defamation. Clack did no such thing, and certainly Tim Noakes did not. It’s one thing, and completely fair and legitimate, to be a critic and a skeptic. It’s quite another to get personally ugly (defamation) or make unfounded criminal accusations (libel).

            3. Thomas E.

              The lawsuit against Exxon will get interesting, Exxon is fighting back hard, and finally the “Human Caused” part of climate change may get the due scrutiny it deserves.

              It is tiring listening to the media talk about the modest declines of ice in the Arctic, completely oblivious to the record ice in the Great Lakes and healthy ice in Antarctic. Cry about the wild fires and water shortage in California, ignoring the absolutely lack of anything resembling forest management and the open damns from the Sierras.


              We know the planet has been warmer, we know the CO2 concentration has been much greater. It has been clearly shown that temperature records have been “adjusted” without proper documentation.

              Human Cause Global Warming, I mean Climate Change, ‘um, ‘er, is still an immature science. Many of the scientists are appropriately described by Sinclair “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

              And thus, one of the little details about Trump that is likely good. He, and his team, understand this.

              Now, let’s hope his attention turns to the AMA and ADA (et al). As we all know, the first job of fixing health care is not trying to find the best way to pay for it, but, the best way to all doctors to determine the half of their knowledge that is wrong.

              Harvard Medical School Dean (1935-1949) Charles Sidney Burwell

              Dr. Burwell was a cardiologist who specialized in circulation changes associated with heart disease. He is credited with bringing attention to obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. In 1944, while Dr. Burwell was Dean, women entered Harvard Medical School for the first time on an equal basis with men. In an address to students at the Medical School, he said, “Half of what we are going to teach you is wrong, and half of it is right. Our problem is that we don’t know which half is which.”

            4. Eric Schmitz

              After the initial hearing, Jacobson has dropped his lawsuit. I kinda wanted to see it get laughed out of the courtroom, but that’s just prurient, and this case is over.

  2. Pam Young

    Well said Tom. I wasn’t aware of this. I thrive in our cozy mountain home on a low-carb, high fat diet. My husband and I are going on eight years of this way of life thanks to Gary Taubes and your DVD Fat Head.

  3. Robin Sutcliffe

    I wish there was something we could do to help. I’ve followed this case against Prof Noakes from the beginning. It’s been one big witch hunt. In my mind, the HPCSA are the witches.

  4. Mic Terpstra

    “They’ll flock to the internet to warn others that a low-carb, high-fat diet made them sicker and fatter or whatever.”

    I’m STILL trying to find one genuine twitter post or youtube video of this… I found one YT video that was a vegan obviously faking it… but that’s it…

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup, there have been a few efforts at spreading disinformation, but as far as I can tell, they never got anywhere.

  5. Orvan Taurus

    I already bought (and read, and liked, and have sort of loaned out [to $HOUSEMATE, so]) the book to raise funds for the good Prof. Noakes. Are these jokers his unofficial marketing department just begging for more sales? I half expect any moment now they’ll try to tell me radium is good for me. To Noakes I might raise a glass. To these.. Arschlocker.. perhaps a finger.

  6. Desmond

    “…bush-league version of The Spanish Inquisition.”

    Comparing the HPCSA to the Spanish Inquisition is unfair. The Inquisition at least provided a council to the defense (Tim is paying for his own lawyer) and generally honored their own verdicts.

  7. Deb

    Derision and ridicule are the only things that have the power to pierce the arrogance of the True Believers(TM), and even then, are not universally successful. How can we use common sense with these folks when they have demonstrated that sense is anything but common for them?

    I have a new book recommendation for you ( but you may already know about it): “The 12 Rules for Life” by Jordan B. Peterson, a Canadian psychologist who is rocking the world (at least the YouTube version of the world). Heady stuff. I particularly liked his interview at Harvard on postmodernism and the mask of compassion.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      It’s on my to-read list. I’ve watched quite a few of his lectures on YouTube and his recent interview with Joe Rogan.

    2. The Older Brother

      I watched the interview he did with the idio–, excuse me, journalist he did on UK channel 4.

      You couldn’t have made up the resolute cluelessness of the woman. It was like a caricature of a Woke Feminist for a satirical skit.

      I was hugely impressed that Peterson, instead of searing the host, instead simply kept replying rationally to everything she said, no matter how insipid, and regardless of many times she simply ignored his informed, fact-based answers and asked the same question again.


      1. Thomas E.

        I saw a video of Dr. Peterson talking about that interview. He is truly a kind and generous man.

        It is his understanding that they had no idea how incendiary that interview was. He has reached to her and her team to have a followup conversation. I have yet to hear if they have responded to him.

        I also understand he is now on meat and greens diet, actually both him and his daughter. Both of them long suffered from auto-immune diseases which seem to have been cleared up by dietary changes.

        Dr. Peterson is a true gem in this world! At least in my humble opinion.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          That hostile interview was probably the best thing that every happened to him from a career standpoint. Millions of people (myself included) had never heard of him until then. Suddenly he was on everyone’s radar, just in time for his book to come out. He couldn’t have bought better P.R.

        2. Deb

          I read somewhere he was working to resolve some health issues; I wish him the best in overcoming them. He is such a brilliant iconoclast, he would be a powerful voice for going against the “perceived wisdom” of mainstream nutrition advice, if he has indeed come around to low-carb for health reasons.

  8. Dianne

    I wonder if their determination to “get” Tim Noakes isn’t fueled by the fear that if he’s allowed to get away with giving advice that opposes the official party line, dietitians within their organization might learn something from him and start giving the same kind of advice. That would put the Defenders of Established Untruths on very shaky ground. Actually, there may well be dietitians within the organization who are at least willing to consider a different school of thought about fats and carbs, but who have seen what happened to Tim Noakes and are afraid to break ranks lest it happen to them.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I see this as yet another case of “follow the money.” These organizations are heavily funded by the makers of Big Food. Follow advice from people like Noakes, you reduce or eliminate what Big Food produces from you diet. So unless they’re willing to give up the generous funding, the dietitian organizations can’t fundamentally change their advice.

      Meanwhile, more and more people are ignoring the dietitians and listening to people like Naokes — another serious threat to their professional well-being. This battle has nothing to do with the health effects of his advice and everything to do with the financial ramifications of people listening to his advice.

  9. Emily

    South African authorities are assholes immune to embarrassment. Their country had apartheid until 1991 — culture doesn’t change that fast. (Also I’ve felt culture’s been sort of frozen in the 90s for a long time, which is driving me nuts with boredom, but that’s another topic.) Of course this isn’t anywhere on the same planet as bad as apartheid, but it’s the same braindead authoritarian impulse that everyone’s either completely sick of or doubling down on.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I almost wish culture had been frozen in the ’90s. Seinfeld was a huge hit then. Today he won’t perform at colleges because the snowflakes are so easily offended, even his comedy upsets them. I also read that many of today’s snowflakes have started watching reruns of “Friends” on Netflix and declared it sexist, homophobic and transphobic. In today’s culture, your value is apparently a function of how easily you’re offended.

      1. Firebird7478

        I’m one of the few who didn’t care for either “Friends” or “Seinfeld”. I also didn’t care for “Wings” and could only take “Home Improvement” in small doses.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I liked “Seinfeld.” Only saw a few episodes of “Friends.” Just didn’t do it for me. Never saw an episode of “Wings,” saw a handful of “Home Improvement” episodes. Also saw two members of the “Home Improvement” cast in the Disney cafeteria when I was a programmer there. Turns out Wilson did have a face.

          1. Firebird7478

            LOL! Also “The X-Files”. Never got into that, either. Then again, I worked 60 hours a week, evenings and weekends at ESPN so the only thing I caught were the late night “donate to me, er, Jesus” shows.

      2. Emily

        Not “many,” no. That kind of thing is a combination of the rare weirdo/attention-starved 13 year old with social media and people desperate for advertising dollars writing ragebait. Also, I don’t believe Seinfeld. Chris Rock said the same thing, and him I believe, but not Seinfeld. I think Seinfeld’s just too boring for college students and probably rather old and exhausted for standup. As for Friends, everyone and I mean everyone I know on the left who saw that nonsense article made fun of the sentiments behind it. Yeah, there are people online who talk about Friends being “problematic” — like, five of them. Believing they’re representative of the left or of a generation is like believing people who lived in hippie communes were entirely representative of Baby Boomers.

        This idea of “snowflakes” on the left is way overblown. There are also people who are ridiculously easily offended, and loud about it, on the right. But again, not very many. What the internet truly is infested with are trolls. A tiny number of people can destroy trust between thousands — and I’ve seen them do it time and time again. It’s often for money and fame (Alex Jones), but it’s also often because they’re psychopaths. Again, a TINY number. What keeps striking me is how totally unprepared nearly everyone is for people online to be dishonest.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I hope the snowflakes are rare. But when I see footage of large protests on college campuses over nonsense like “offensive” Halloween costumes, I don’t think they’re as rare as they ought to be.

        2. KidPsych

          Well stated. It’s clear that this is now a reflexive, hollow insult. I spend a ton of time with kids, my own and others, in schools, in clinics, elsewhere, and I can’t think of any of them being easily insulted. In fact, their saturation with media has left them immune to insult, if anything. The irony of course is that the prime mover of such insults are followers of our absurdly thin-skinned president, the ultimate snowflake.

          To Tom’s point below, honestly I don’t recall any large protests involving Halloween costumes.

  10. Stephen T

    Well said, indeed, Tom.

    The marketplace of ideas is of no use to those who prefer a monopoly of stupidity.

    This foolishness comes from insecurity and weakness. It was a mistake from the beginning and they succeed only in advertising their folly to a wider audience.

  11. Stephen T

    Tim Noakes embodies low-carb in South Africa in a way no individual occupies in any other country.

    The determination to get Tim Noakes is because of his high profile and stature in South Africa. His success in promoting this way of eating and his public debunking of the low-fat diet has discredited dietitians there to a degree not yet felt elsewhere. Hence the utter determination of dietitians, and their sponsors, to silence or discredit him. No other ‘profession’ has such fragile confidence or feels so threatened.

    The other factor in South Africa is, let me be tactful, the ‘compromised’ nature of many government institutions under the former president Jacob Zuma. People get found guilty of serious wrong doing or incompetence and stay in place. The breath-taking incompetence of the HPCSA in preparing and presenting their pathetic case has been laugh-out-loud funny, if you’re not on the receiving end. Tim Noakes’ and his legal team cut the prosecution to bits during the original hearing. Dietitians began backing away from the case, suddenly pretending that this wasn’t about dietary advice, but social media use (even though the HPCSA has no guidelines on this subject). They keep moving the goalposts because they can’t hit anything.

    Noakes acquittal and demolition of the HPCSA in the first hearing has simply made stupid, angry people make another stupid decision. If the second hearing goes ahead, it will have the fairness of a Russian show trial under Stalin. Thankfully, the South African court system still has credibility and that’s where this case is likely to go in the end where I believe the HPCSA will be publicly torn to shreds. But how many years of Tim Noakes’ life will that have taken up?

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Perhaps that explains the decision to go ahead with what is clearly a witch-hunt. If nothing else, they’ll keep him too busy to spend his time on the more important work.

    2. The Older Brother

      “Thankfully, the South African court system still has credibility…”


      Uh, huh. It started in 2014. Just think — if instead of answering a tweet about what food to possibly add to a nursing baby’s diet he’d just shot his girlfriend through the bathroom door, he’d probably have all of this behind him by now.


  12. chris c

    I spent part of yesterday catching up on Marika’s tweets from the trial. At the same time Trump was wittering on on the TV news in the background.

    I started to think someone had slipped me some bad acid and I had entered an alternative reality.

    What got to me (same for all the previous trial episodes) was how totally clueless the prosecution was, and how they expected to be believed because of their attitude and their social status.

    “We don’ need no steenking science”

    What is truly frightening is that there has been exactly zero coverage of the Noakes Trial(s) or Gary Fettke or even the recent Virta study in the mainstream media. It’s like a completely different world here on the internet.


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