I overlooked Bethany Lindsay! My bad!

by | February 8, 2019

Last week I did the 2019 Canadian Atheist awards, which was a smashing success. But… it wasn’t perfect, and that’s entirely my fault. In particular, I may have overlooked a strong candidate for person of the year.

This year, as I did in the first year, I scoured the archives for the previous year, trying my best to make sure I didn’t miss any major stories or people who deserve nominations, or at least mentions. I like to think I managed to give a nod to almost everything that happened in 2018 the attention of CA readers, in some form or another.

But there was one glaring oversight I made.

In the honourable mentions for story of the year, I mentioned the fantastic and bewildering story of Anke Zimmermann. Zimmerman was a licensed BC naturopath who basically diagnosed a 4 year-old boy as being a werewolf, and then treated him with diluted rabid dog saliva. I know, I just wrote that and said “what the fuck?!”, and I already knew the story well. That alone could have been one of the memorable stories of the year, but what elevated it to honourable mention, and almost earned it a nomination for story of the year (it certainly deserved a nomination, but there were so many other stories with much bigger impact), was that the story just kept growing and growing. Once Zimmerman’s story got national attention, the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia defended her, and it was revealed that the homeopathic rabid dog spit was actually approved by Health Canada (though not the specific brand Zimmerman used). And that lead to revelations of high-ranked naturopaths peddling anti-vax bullshit… and then it spread to revelations of chiropractors peddling anti-vax bullshit… and then doctors calling out medical associations and the government for ignoring all the bullshit happening under their tacit approval… and on and on and on.

I knew the story (obviously, since I made it an honourable mention for story of the year), and while reviewing it I even considered whether anyone involved deserved a mention as person of the year. I focused on Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer for BC, and in a bout of tunnel vision, missed someone else whose name I knew had come up repeatedly – someone I even mentioned in some of the Weekly Update items about the evolving story.

[Photo of Bethany Lindsay]
Bethany Lindsay

Folks, meet Bethany Lindsay.

Lindsay is the journalist who first broke the Zimmerman story. That alone is interesting enough, but as the story expanded into more and more stories, Lindsay kept on it. She dug up the fact that the specific “medicine” Zimmerman used is actually illegal in Canada, and then started to uncover the bullshit claims being made by naturopaths – and then chiropractors – such as vaccine denial, claims of being able to cure cancer with smoothies, claims of being able to “cure” autism, and more.

In other words, that entire story I considered to be a serious candidate for for story of the year was almost entirely the work of one journalist: Bethany Lindsay.

You can see for yourself: just check out the recent stories in her portfolio.

But of course, that’s not all that Lindsay worked on in 2018. She also published a book about wildfires in BC, and she’s not shy about pointing the finger at climate change. She also reported on the story of Byron Wood, the BC nurse who lost his job after he refused to be forced into Alcoholics Anonymous, and requested an evidence-based program instead. That was another story that had an impact last year.

What reminded me of Lindsay was the latest instalment of the British Columbia Humanist Association’s podcast. The BCHA invites speakers on various topics to do presentations for their members, and they record those presentations and release them from time to time on their podcast. It is a fascinating follow that I highly recommend because of the diversity of topics covered. The latest instalment with Bethany Lindsay is definitely worth a listen. Lindsay not gives the background on the Zimmerman story and how it came to her attention, she talks about how her investigations kept expanding the story and more, all while giving some fascinating insight into the issues one has to consider when reporting on stories like that.

But I realized, while listening to the presentation, that I’d really dropped the ball by not noticing how much of that story was the work of Bethany Lindsay. If I had, I think Lindsay would definitely have earned a nomination for person of the year… and maybe even given Dr. Gunter a run for her money!

So, I’d like to say sorry to Bethany Lindsay! You really did deserve the recognition, and it’s only my own sloppiness that robbed you of a nomination this year.

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