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Michael Hiltzik

Dr. Oz gets what's coming to him on Twitter

Dr. Oz asks for questions on Twitter, gets no respect

You can add Dr. Mehmet Oz to the list of big shots, individual and corporate, who expect sedulous respect from the denizens of social media, only to get their heads handed to them.

Dr. Oz, a licensed medical doctor who shamelessly promotes all varieties of charlatanism on his hugely popular daytime television show, on Tuesday asked Twitter followers to put questions to him via the hashtag #OzsInBox. He should have asked around first, because the social media world can be very impolite. 

The Twitter feed exploded with questions devoted less to medicine -- or whatever it is Dr. Oz practices on the air -- than to how he reconciles the Hippocratic Oath with his incessant hawking of patent nostrums and other forms of snake oil. Ridicule was rife. One asked: "I accidentally dropped my sonic crystals in the dirt. Are they dishwasher safe?"

Oz deserves all this, and more. I've reported on his shilling for such upstanding healthcare organizations as the National Football League. He was not apologetic about that, in response. Why should he be? He's rich.

Pertinent questions have also been raised about how someone so closely identified with pseudoscience can keep his medical license. The irresponsibility of many of Oz's hucksterish claims was aired earlier this year before a congressional committee.

For some of the best Dr. Oz questions, see these curated collections at Salon, Vox and the Washington Post.

In opening himself to backlash on social media, Oz follows a lengthening tradition. Last October, the anti-deficit lobbying group Fix the Debt tried the same thing. The organization, which is affiliated with hedge fund billionaire Pete Peterson, who wants to cut Social Security benefits, got massively trolled. Our favorite question: "What's more popular at your board luncheons, the blood of workers or tears of homeless seniors? Asking for a friend." 

Heedless of that experience, JPMorgan planned to stage its own Twitter Q&A last November at hashtag #AskJPM. After getting a look at some of the advance questions -- "What's it like working with Mexican drug cartels? Do they tip?" and "Did you have a specific number of people's lives you needed to ruin before you considered your business model a success?" -- the bank canceled the session before it launched.

Then there's Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who had the bright idea in March of posting a poll on his Facebook page: "Obamacare was signed into law four years ago yesterday. Are you better off now than you were then? Comment with Yes or NO!" Plainly he didn't expect the tsunami of "YES" votes that came in among the 47,000 responses he received.

Here's our informal poll: What celebrity or corporation will be dumb enough to invite a similarly embarrassing response?

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