For years, people have debated whether Gwyneth Paltrow believes the bullshit (or Goopshit, as we like to call it here at Vox) she peddles through her lifestyle brand Goop. There were the infamous claims that jade eggs for women’s vaginas have the “power to cleanse and clear,” that wearable stickers allegedly similar to spacesuits “promote healing,” and that coffee enemas and colonic irrigations are helpful “detoxes.”
But there’s new evidence that she doesn’t consider herself to be responsible for the truth of any of her site’s “statements” — and therefore is unwilling to be challenged by any outside authority that might question the lack of scientific evidence for such statements.
In a masterful new profile of Paltrow by Taffy Brodesser-Akner in the New York Times Magazine, the actress turned lifestyle guru explained why a magazine collaboration between Goop and the publisher Condé Nast didn’t work out. She told Brodesser-Akner that she didn’t like all the publisher’s “rules.” One big one: Condé Nast insisted the magazine be fact-checked before going out on newsstands, according to the Times:
The article also mentions that come September, Goop will actually hire its own fact-checker, presumably to check the articles run on the Goop website or in the magazine spinoff (which will continue after the Condé Nast split). The move was something Paltrow likened to a “necessary growing pain.”
If you’ve ever read Goop, it’s probably not surprising that Paltrow might resist fact-checking — a process that involves combing through every word in a claim to make sure it’s supported by solid evidence. (Journalist Clive Thompson described it in this great Twitter thread.)
But the details from Brodesser-Akner’s story are stunning for a couple of reasons. First, Paltrow sounds a lot like a certain president here: Truth is provisional, and there are no real facts. Second, she doesn’t seem to understand how science works.
“She equates not using science, and not using facts, with being open-minded,” said health researcher and author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? Tim Caulfield, “which is exactly wrong. If you’re open-minded, you look at the facts, weigh the facts, use the body of evidence we have available to us to make determinations about what the reality is. And she doesn’t seem interested in doing that.”
She also made a classic woo-peddler’s move of making science the enemy, he said. “The idea that somehow science doesn’t have all the answers, science isn’t necessarily a morally good force, displays a misunderstanding of what science is. It’s not an ideology, not an industry, it’s not people. It’s a process.” Yes, pharmaceutical companies and doctors have failed people and done horrible things. But that doesn’t make the scientific method any less valuable; it means we need to strengthen it.
Worst of all, in her desire to inhabit a fact-free universe, Paltrow is saying it’s okay to deliberately mislead people, to have them spend money and make personal health decisions based on claims that could never hold up to scrutiny. Whether she believes the Goopshit herself may be beside the point.