Sunday, December 3, 2023

#2710: Matt Couch

Originally a fringe internet activist, Matt Couch – “Christian, Father of 2, Investigator, Founder The DC Patriot & America First Media Group, Razorback, Truth Slinger” according to himself – rose to prominence for his promotion of Seth Rich murder conspiracy theories and has subsequently risen to become something a leading Qanon conspiracy theorist and promulgator of conspiracy theories about Covid and Covid vaccines.

As for Seth Rich, a relatively anonymous campaign worker for the National Democratic Committee who was killed in a botched robbery in 2016, Couch and fellow deranged loon Ed Butowsky promoted, without a shred of evidence (or coherence), numerous elaborate (silly) conspiracy theories, including the idea that Rich (rather than Russia) was one of WikiLeaks’ sources in a large leak of Hillary Clinton-related emails and that he was murdered on the orders of the Clinton family – apparently, according to Couch, Rich’s brother was the brains behind the effort, a claim that landed Couch in some legal trouble; Couch ultimately had to officially disavow the whole thing. His audiences, however, do not exactly consist of people who give much weight to facts, reason and accountability, so demonstrating, with the help of facts and reason, that Couch is full of shit hardly made a dent in his appeal.

Persistently running the conspiracy theory tracks, Couch spent much of 2020-2022 amplifying and spreading misinformation, pseudoscience and bullshit about Covid and Covid vaccines (“Dr Vladimir Zelenko: Covid Is A BioWeapon, The Poison Death Shot Is Premeditated Mass Murder And We’re In World War III”) through his DC Patriot website and on Twitter, where Couch enjoyed a large number of followers (presumably including a not insubstantial number of bots) ready to swallow up his nonsense, including the claim that the flu vaccine increases the risk of coronavirus by 36% – it doesn’t, of course, and it doesn’t require very much knowledge of, well, anything to recognize that someone (one Benjamin Krause, in fact) must have badly misunderstood something fundamental in order to make such a claim; Couch, of course, reacts to reason as if it were poison. His Twitter account was ultimately suspended for promoting false Covid information.

As a curiosity: In an interview on “The Todd Coconato Show” in 2021, Couch argued that people should avoid the vaccines and rather expose themselves to weakened versions of the virus (“self-inoculation”) to achieve protection, like they did during the Revolutionary War – a.k.a. get vaccinated.

Couch was also an invited speaker at the 2020 AMPfest, a conference at Donald Trump’s Doral Hotel designed to bring together Trump supporters, anti-vaccine activists and QAnon conspiracy theorists. On January 6, 2021, he was also one of the March for Trump/Save America speakers.

Diagnosis: Yes, there is more, though at this point, Couch is just one of many dingbat conspiracy theorists mainstreaming misinformation on the rigthwing clown circuit – he has a substantial number of followers, but we expect that most of them would be just as silly and crazy if Couch hadn’t been around.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

#2709: Curtis Cost

Curtis Cost is a fanatical anti-vaccine activist, author of a book entitled Vaccines Are Dangerous: A Warning to the Global Community (his blog is, likewise, entitled Vaccines Are Dangerous), former Vice President of the Scholar’s Committee of the Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network, and organizer of the 2019 anti-vaccine Harlem Vaccine Forum.


The Forum was an event designed to promote antivaccine propaganda to New York Black communities, and was (originally) hosted by Al Sharpton; keynote speakers at the forum were to include Sharpton, Robert Kennedy, jr., Gary Null (referred to, hilariously, as “Dr. Gary Null”), “Grandmaster of metaphysics” and “hygienic healer” Rev. Dr. Phil Valentine, Mary Holland and Vaxxed star and anti-vaccine activist Sheila Ealey. (Other speakers included anti-Monsanto activist Mitchell Cohen, anti-vaccine activist Walter Sotelo and Shakira Moore, a “holistic” practitioner.) Topics were to include:


-       Are vaccines safe or dangerous?

-       Do vaccines really work?

-       Is there a link between autism and vaccines?

-       Should parents have the right to decide whether or not to vaccinate their children?

-       Are there natural alternatives to vaccines?


Those questions are easily answered correctly, of course. The goal of the forum was, by contrast, to spend plenty of time cherry-picking, misunderstanding, conspiracy-mongering and hand-waving with anecdotes to get different answers. Eventually, however, the press got wind of the event and the whole thing got rescheduled (with Sharpton backing out); the Forum, as it was ultimately held, was a laughable disaster.


Cost himself is the kind of anti-vaxxer who is prominently featured at, where he is described as “professor”, though without divulging what his area of expertise might be or where he is supposed to be employed in such a position. Still, Cost has been an antivaxxer for a long time – in fact, his antivaccine activism predates Andrew Wakefield – the first version of his book Vaccines Are Dangerous: A Warning to the Black Community was published in 1992, and there’s even a movie – and he would even back then employ a range of curiously familiar antivaxxine talking points, which were as silly then as they are now, including various versions of the toxins gambit and appeals to scary-sounding ingredients (“substances, that any rational person would realize are revolting, disgusting”); according to Cost, “they have no idea what the long term implications are. There is no way for them to know.” The fact that vaccines are tested before they’re put on the market is apparently a foreign idea to him. Then, of course, he confuses adverse events and side effects (as well as confusing both with his own imagination) to claim that vaccines can cause “autism, seizures, mental retardation, hyperactivity, dyslexia, convulsions, paralysis, sudden infant death syndrome, blindness, death, premature aging [that one’s new to us], multiple sclerosis, blood and skin disorders, allergies” – yes, it’s a forerunner to the more recent appeal to package insert gambit. “These are documented,” says Cost, and promptly fails to supply the documentation. And instead of considering the possibility that he might be wrong, Cost instead – entirely predictably – goes on to suggest a large-scale conspiracy in the medical establishment to suppress the information.


What would the conspiracy be for? Well, Cost has pushed the claim – later taken up by e.g. Nation of Islam and exploited by Robert Kennedy, jr. – that vaccines are a plot to harm Black people. That claim was also promoted for instance in an antivaccine propaganda movie disguised as a documentary on medical racism called Medical Racism: The New Apartheid, which is specifically designed specifically to spread fear, uncertainty, doubt, and conspiracy theories among Black people and which was co-produced by Cost and a range of anti-vaccine organizations including the Children’s Health Defense, Centner Productions, Kevin Jenkins of the Urban Global Health Alliance, and Rev. Tony Muhammad. There is a review of that movie here (Cost himself makes an appearance to try to fool viewers with a misleading graph about measles mortality).


But Cost’s denialism and conspiracy theories are not restricted to vaccines. Cost is also an HIV denialist who has been part of a “Harlem AIDS forum” DVD where participants (like Michael Ellner, Roberto Giraldo, the late Jack Felder, “Christine Marjorie” – a misspelling of Christine Maggiore – and the aforementioned Phil Valentine) tried to argue that


-       HIV tests are not accurate!

-       HIV/AIDS drugs are deadly

-       HIV is not sexually transmitted!

-       HIV is not the cause of AIDS


It’s not, despite what you’d initially think, funny. Their efforts, including Cost’s, have demonstrably caused serious harm to their communities. Cost’s nonsensical “10 Reasons Why Black People Should Not Take The HIV Tests!”, offered completely free of evidence, are debunked here.


Diagnosis: Batshit crazy denialist and conspiracy theorist without a trace of an ability to distinguish reality from his own delusion, and a demonstrable (potentially fatal) threat to the communities he officially claims to be helping. Stay far away.


Hat-tip: Respectful Insolence

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

#2708: Josh Cornett

Josh Cornett is a Twitter troll who describes himself as “proudly blocked” by several journalists and political Twitter accounts. He should, as such, be completely insignificant, but he also seems to have been the origin of a number of ridiculous, QAnon-related conspiracy theories – apparently some other Twitter users thinks the incoherent mix of paranoia and hate Cornett posts are worth distributing (OK: so many of those who listen to him may be bots). Here is one, constructed out of thin air and Cornett’s apparent hatred of women. Cornett has also, at various times, promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory (with illuminating tweets like “Pizzagate is not fake. The backlash by the MSM is a frantic reaction to their secrets being uncovered #CNN is #Fakenews”) and various standard QAnon nonsense.


Diagnosis: A decently illustrative example of the curd of the sludge, and he does have an audience of delusional conspiracy theorists, idiots, bots and corrosive boogalooers. Not entirely harmless.

Monday, November 27, 2023

#2707: Anne Schlafly Cori

Yes, she is the daughter of Phyllis Schlafly, a prominent member of the Schlafly clan, and a prominent figure in Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, and Anne Schlafly Cori is more or less as deranged as the rest of them. That said, there have been some rifts in the family: In 2016, Anne Schlafly Cori led an Eagle Forum coup attempt (with Cathie Adams, Eunie Smith, Shirley Curry, Carolyn McLarty and Rosina “the anus is weak” Kovar) against her mother after the latter’s endorsement of Trump before the 2016 primaries (the others were Ted Cruz fans), and right before her death, Phyllis removed her daughter as trustee, leaving her son John as the sole trustee. When Phyllis died, the forum split into the “Phyllis Schlafly Forum” (the Schlafly brothers), and the Eagle Forum, run by Anne. We can’t, however, be bothered to go into detail about the internal politics of a lunatic, rabid wingnut organization: they are all loons.


We can’t be bothered to go into much detail when it comes to the garbage that tends to fall out of Anne Cori’s mouth either, but she is, predictably, no fan of LGBTQ rights, and has as such, just as predictably, classified herself as a victim of religious persecution because the separation of church and state (which she opposes) prevents government from forcing others to act in accordance with her religious (and other) views. She has also lamented today’s celebration of single mothers” and feminism in general. And she views immigration as a Democratic ploy to undermine the American two-party system.


Diagnosis: Old-school moral majority stuff, and hopefully headed straight for obscurity, though the modern-day conspiracy-fuelled Christian nationalism replacing it is hardly much of an improvement.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

#2706: Michael Copenhagen

Michael Copenhagen is a member of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton and an anti-vaccine activist (thus directly contradicting the Catholic Church’s doctrine). He has even testified before Congress on behalf of anti-vaccine activists: “Applying a thorough moral analysis [right …], many Catholics and conscientious people see clear immediate forced cooperation in the intrinsic evils of theft, desecration, experimentation and trafficking of human remains obtained through violence to produce the product. And this is one of a number of complex moral issues, including STD vaccines, and those which constitute extraordinary means, defined as those where there is no moral obligation to receive them.” Yes, there are some standard anti-vaccine talking points, including the aborted fetal tissue myth as well as fake concerns about “forced vaccination” underlying that rant, but Copenhagen’s real concern is of course how having life-saving vaccines for illnesses that may be sexually contracted might remove a means he has to scare people from engaging in what he considers immoral behavior (sex). Moreover, politicians considering support vaccine requirements of any form are apparently bearing “for all time the full weight and moral responsibility for outlawing the full public practice of the Catholic Faith”.


Copenhagen was, unsurprisingly, a signatory to a 2020 letter to then-President Donald Trump from Shannon Kroner (President of something called Freedom of Religion – United Solutions), Kevin Barry, Renee Bessone, James A. Moody, JD; and Rev. Robert Schuller, designed to trick religious leaders into supporting their opposition to school vaccine mandates based on religion. Yes, vaccine mandates are religious persecution of anti-vaccine parents, and of course the letter-writers couldn’t resist regurgitating a range of antivaccine talking points, such as myths about what the vaccines contain – including (again) the myth of “human aborted fetal DNA and “neurotoxins such as mercury and aluminum” – and a number of deranged but familiar conspiracy theories, such as the usual misunderstandings of the Nuremberg code, and some that remain relatively fringe even among anti-vaccine activists, such as the idea that tetanus vaccines are causing infertility and thereby genocide.


Diagnosis: In many ways a standard antivaccine conspiracy theorist and liar, but Copenhagen also has a serious following and carries some serious clout. Unlike other antivaccine leaders, he might actually be able to sway people not already converted to his brand of lunacy. Dangerous.

Monday, November 20, 2023

#2705: Larry Cook

Everyone remembers Kellyanne Conway, Senior Counselor to the President in the Trump administration and previously campaign manager, famous e.g. for popularizing the phrase ‘alternative facts’. Now, Conway said a lot of dumb and strange things, but as an official Trump spokesperson tasked with trying to defend whatever nonsense falling out of Trump’s mouth, it is hard to see how she could have avoided that. It is nevertheless worth noting that Conway said some weird things also before joining Trump’s team: In 2012, for instance, she tried to support Todd Akin after Akin famously made a complete fool of himself in a notoriously striking manner. We’ll just note her name and move on.


We can’t, by contrast, overlook Larry Cook. Cook is the founder of the Stop Mandatory Vaccination Facebook group, participant at the 2016 Conspira-Sea Cruise and something of a hero of the antivaccine movement, as well as one of the movement’s most certifiably insane members. Now, Cook has no medical background whatsoever. Instead, Cook has a BA in video production and photography, and he spent some years developing magazines on “natural living” and self-publishing a book about ADHD (presumably not recommended) before becoming the Executive Director of the California Naturopathic Doctors Association (Cook’s background made him as good a fit as any), a position he held for four years before resigning to devote his time to educating” folks about vaccines on social media: “I believe my mission is to educate as many parents and others as possible about the dangers of vaccination [vaccines are not dangerous], the lack of efficacy of vaccination [false, of course], and why natural immunity is superior to vaccination [profoundly silly in a dizzying number of ways],” says Larry Cook.


His Stop Mandatory Vaccination Facebook page apparently reached a total membership of some 360 000  people before Facebook took action; the group got closed down in November 2020 (together with his Twitter account). The facebook page was a hub of wild-eyed conspiracy theories – much QAnon stuff and COVID misinformation in its later phases – and received some media attention when a four-year-old boy died after her mother had taken advice regarding the flu from the group rather than from nice people with genuine knowledge of how things work (the group recommended avoiding Tamiflu, which had been prescribed to the child, and instead recommended using ineffective nonsense naturopath bullshit such as breastmilk, thyme, and elderberry). It also got some attention for its violent rhetoric, threats and harassment campaigns (also this).


The group was also a major source of targeted anti-vaccine Facebook ads, and according to an NBC analysis, Cook’s group was – and might remain – one of three major sources of false claims on vaccination shared on the internet, the others being the fake news site NaturalNews and the Children’s Health Defense. After the Facebook closure, Cook apparently created a website specifically about COVID-19, Qanon and parenting, though it doesn’t seem to have enjoyed the same level of success.


To support his campaigns, Cook raised over $100,000 through multiple GoFundMe campaigns before GoFundMe banned him. He also receives significant funding from his own Amazon storefront, where he promotes anti-vaccine books (like his own The Beginner’s Guide to Natural Living) and films and takes a cut of the sales (usually undisclosed), and raises an unknown amount through his website, where he accepts donations through PayPal that “go directly to me”. “I and I alone decide how to use the funds,” says his website, but some of the money has funded anti-vaccine ads, advocacy and “secret projects”. He has also planned launching a dating site for people with anti-vaccine views.


Cook’s other group, the Medical Freedom Patriots, is explicitly rightwing and trying to mobilize a far-right target audience, reflecting the general political tendency of the antivaccine movement (also this).



Cook’s views are extreme even by anti-vaccine standards. According to Cook, vaccines are a “200 year old mistake”; they are not only “filled with poison” (false) but are also “unnecessary” (false) because they “do not work” (false). But what about disease outbreaks, you may ask? According to Cook, disease outbreaks don’t really exist: disease outbreaks are a manufactured problem ­ the idea that news about epidemics are manufactured by governments to incite people to vaccinate was a mainstay on his Facebook page, as were claims that the public health measures taken to minimize the impact of COVID were aimed at preparing mass forced vaccination or that the 1918 flu epidemic was caused by vaccines). As for dangers, Cook is quick to remind us that “any vaccine given at any age can maim or kill, and often does. There is NO SUCH THING AS A SAFE VACCINE”; at least Cook doesn’t even attempt to pull the “I am not antivaccine but pro-safe vaccine” gambit most antivaxxers favor. And of course there are conspiracies all the way down in order to, as Cook puts it, “cover up” the stories of all the children who die after being vaccinated; it’s “a medical mafia conspiracy.” Members of the conspiracy apparently include everyone who disagrees with him or who correctly believes that vaccines are safe and effective. According to Cook, vaccines are also to blame for mass shootings.


More recently, Cook has red-pilled on QAnon, as he admitted in a 2020 interview where he appeared flanked by a giant Q in one corner and an American flag with the QAnon hashtag #WWG1WGA in the other. In the interview, Cook described how QAnon gave him a context for his distrust of mainstream medicine and his sense of being persecuted and silenced: “When you wrap your head around the idea that it’s the deep state that is facilitating the vaccine mandates,” he said, “all of a sudden it makes complete sense.” It doesn’t, of course, but Cook’s mind has never cared much about sense. Indeed, mandatory vaccinations is an expression of the deep state’s “luciferian” agenda of “controlling everyone on the planet;” they’re “all part of the deep-state plan,” since “when you inject poison into someone, you can incapacitate them very quickly, especially if you’re doing it at birth … as soon as a soul comes in – incarnates.” Vaccinating children is in fact a “deliberate assault designed to suppress their consciousness, designed to shut off their connection to God.” Combatting vaccine mandates is, as such, just one part of the battle to “take the deep state down completely”.


A consequence of Cook’s redpilling is that his campaigns have become more overtly political, since “Democrats are lockstep with the deep state”, and Cook’s “role is to educate the rest of humanity . . . who’s on the side of justice and truth and who’s on the side of God”, the latter being primarily Trump and the “Q Team.” In accordance with his own self image, his fight has become one of epic proportions: “You shut down the deep state and we can have heaven on Earth,” says Cook.


COVID is part of the same satanic deep state plot: “It’s a plandemic,” says Cook: “It was planned, it’s a false flag … Q would say these people are sick. They want complete control of our planet … And if that means killing … millions of people, they could care less.”


During the 2022 monkeypox outbreak, Cook predictably used his social media channels to try to spread massive amounts of misinformation about that disease, too.


And with anti-vaccine nonsense comes quackery. Cook’s 2023-updated “vaccine injury treatment guide” (on “how to help their children who are vaccine injured, have ADD/ADHD or autism, or have other issues related to vaccine injury or similar concerns”) provides a fair overview of Cook’s commitment to insane quackery. It is discussed here. The recommendations include, in addition to a number of claims about nutrition that are unlikely to be harmful but won’t do shit for any of the things Cook recommends you use it for:


-       DETOX using zeolite based Pure Body Extra (cell detox / full body) and Pure Body (gut detox). Cook provides links for purchasing the products. He doesn’t state whether or not he receives kickbacks. The products are hideously expensive and pure quackery, but parents in difficult situations are easy targets for such scams.

-       Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment; but of course: quacks love hyperbaric oxygen, and it does nothing to target what quacks, including Cook, claim that it targets.

-       Autism biomed quackery. According to Cook, “[f]or the most part, autism is extreme vaccine injury” (it demonstrably is not, and his recommendations include, among other nonsensical ideas, “chelation therapy to remove heavy metals,” and “B12 and glutathione injections to help repair detoxification pathways”.

-       CEASE Therapy, which is absolute insanity but according to Cook, a “highly effective and all natural homeopathic detoxification”; also “I just want to remind you again to replace the word ‘autism’ with ‘vaccine injury’ because it is very important to recognize that autism, in most cases, is in fact, extreme vaccine injury.”


Of course, Cook also recommends that you avoid conventional medicine, which he thinks is mostly a scam and at best designed to manage symptoms, not treat the “root cause”, which is nonsense but a common quack talking point and also somewhat ironical given that e.g. homeopathy explicitly denies there being root causes underlying the symptoms they claim their pseudoreligious not-even-alchemy will be useful in treating. The most disturbing element of Cook’s guide, however, is his instructions on what to do after a child dies – which they might if you follow Cook’s recommendations (heck, Cook has promoted Kerri Rivera and MMS! – with strategies designed to find a way to blame vaccines, including strategies to try to falsely blame deaths from shaken baby syndrome or SIDS on vaccines.



The extreme nature of his views are reflected in his tactics. Cook believes that a lot of children who are not injured by vaccines are in fact vaccine injured. Like many other anti-vaccination activists, Cook has actively been seeking testimonies from parents who lost young children to e.g. sudden infant death syndrome (which is not caused by but may be prevented by vaccines) and accidental asphyxiation and who thought – or were led to think by Cook and his group – that vaccines were really to blame (they’re not). Much of the success of his Facebook page were due to the circulation of those stories, which are emotionally effective especially among people with little knowledge of medicine. The story of Catelin Clobes, who accidentally killed her infant child while co-sleeping, but went on to blame vaccines and become a rising star in the antivaccine movement, is an illustrative example; details here. Cook and his group also buy ads that target women who live in areas with measles outbreaks, to ensure that any lawmaker effort to restrict vaccine exemptions will face protests from a group of organized, angry and delusional parents.


Indeed, Cook and his followers would also contact (harass) grieving parents who did not think their children suffered any ‘vaccine injury’ to try to convince them otherwise (and share curated versions of their stories on the Facebook page even if they failed to convince the parents). The tactic includes harassing parents of children who died from vaccine-preventable diseases, up to and including death threats.


Cook and other antivaxx activists affiliated with his Stop Mandatory Vaccination group have also made efforts to identify and threaten parents who encourage others to have their children vaccinated, and has pushed a variety of intimidation campaigns on social media – including intimidating, harassing and threatening grieving parents who discuss how their children died from complication of preventable diseases. Vaccine-promoting doctors have also been viciously targeted, including receiving death threats, fake negative reviews of their practices, and so on. And although Cook officially claimes not to condone such attacks, he also says that people promoting vaccination “can expect push back and resistance”.


Of course, and not unexpectedly when we are dealing with conspiracy theorists at this level, some conspiray theorists – like Leonard Horowitz and Sherri Kanebelieve that Cook is part of the conspiracy and secretly pro-vaccine. So it goes.


Diagnosis: One of the craziest and most dangerous people in the US. Kids die; and kids will continue to die, because of the efforts of Larry Cook. Though barely coherent, his combination of antivaccine and QAnon conspiracy theories are apparently attractive to a significant portion of the American population, and his violent, barely coherent rhetoric is apparently effective with them.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

#2704: Vince Consiglio

It’s been a while since he’s been in the news, but it’s worth reminding you. Context: motorcycle riders who are 21 or older have been allowed to ride without a helmet under certain conditions in Michigan since 2012. Still, Michigan saw a drop in motorcycle-related fatalities over the next few years – despite “the doom and gloom that was predicted when the helmet law was modified in 2012,” according to the group American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) of Michigan. And ABATE’s president, Vince Consiglio, concluded thathelmets don’t prevent accidents ... in Michigan, there's more people killed wearing helmets than without.” That’s technically likely to be correct: In 2014, 50 motorcyclists died while wearing helmets in Michigan, 48 died without helmets, whereas nine were unclear. If you don’t get why Consiglio’s reasoning merits him an entry in our Encyclopedia, you may state your name in the comment section and perhaps get an entry yourself.

In fact, there were also more injuries reported in 2014 for those wearing helmets (1,559) compared to those not wearing helmets (633) (with 99 of unknown helmet-wearing status). We are excused for suspecting that Consiglio would reason his way to thinking that those numbers supported his conclusion rather than completely undermining it. Consiglio isn’t anti-helmets, though; rather, he said that helmets might be appropriate in some circumstances but not in others. He also asserted thathelmet laws have done nothing to improve safety or reduce fatalities or the cost of insurance”, which is astoundingly false. Subsequent years unfortunately saw a lot of doom and gloom.

It is worth noting that Consiglio, by 2023, was still making the same argument, blaming increases in motorcycle fatalities over the last years on COVID restrictions (which apparently limited access to training and certification). He also argued for increasing speed limits to 80 mph, because “it’s actually safer if you can go 80 and get ahead of the traffic.” You get no points for poking holes in that thought process either.

Diagnosis: The most interesting thing about Consiglio’s anti-helmet reasoning is how much it resembles anti-vaccine reasoning about, say, measles or COVID and vaccines. You could even be excused for thinking that he’s just parodying the antivaccine movement. He is probably just exceptionally dense, however.