Sunday, April 21, 2024

#2761: Stacy DeShon

Yes, we’re back to antivaxxers. Some background: In 2019, there was a small chickenpox outbreak at a Marysville High School in Michigan, whereupon unvaccinated students were sent home as a reasonable precaution and to the chagrin and protests of delusional conspiracy theorists. Stacy DeShon, local mother, lawyer (estate planning) and self-appointed spokesperson for the parents of children prevented from attending school until the outbreak cleared, also wrote an op-ed for the local paper, Times Herald, to protest the decision, primarily by misrepresenting the facts and claiming that the school broke the law and showed “total disregard for the emotional welfare or physical safety of the students” (an accusation that everyone but hardcore antivaxxers would level at the parents rather than the school). As for vaccines, “it’s my right”, said DeShon, to refuse vaccines – as usual with “vaccine choice” activists, it’s about them, the parents: the children’s interests aren’t really on their radar. Indeed, DeShon is also affiliated with the hardcore antivaccine group Michigan for Vaccine Choice, which is notable for its persistent promotion of the efforts of leading antivaccine advocate Del Bigtree.

 

Diagnosis: Not particularly notable or noticeable, but DeShon is definitely an anti-vaccine activist, and a rather aggressive one at that, even though she recognizes the benefit, for marketing purposes, on focusing on an Orwellian interpretation of ‘freedom’ rather than on pseudomedical denialism.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

#2760: Gail Derin & Vickie Menear

 

"Dr." Derin
No, we’re not giving a separate entry to QAnon champion and generally deranged madman David DePape, partly because we suspect his brand of lunacy is not the kind we like to cover here but more importantly because he is, in fact, Canadian. And though more obviously a threat to his immediate surroundings, even DePape’s got nothing on Gail Derin and Vickie Menear in terms of dangerous delusions.

 

Derin and Menear are homeopaths. Now, that homeopathy is laughable quackery hardly needs saying, but homeopathic products are also usually mostly harmless, at least to the extent that most frauds are “harmless” and at least as long as you don’t delude yourself into thinking they can actually do anything whatsoever to remedy disease or, even worse, be a legitimate substitute for real treatment. But despite the fact that the proposed mechanisms by which homeopathic products are supposed to treat disease sound too silly to work as a parody of cartoon versions of witches’ brews (or ORMUS), some homeopaths actually think their products can do something. Derin and Menear, in particular, think homeopathic products can be used to treat Ebola.

 

Of course they can’t, but it is nevertheless worth giving the explanation from homeopathic groups for how Derin’s and Menear’s products are supposed to accomplish what they claim: “Dr. Gail Derin studied the symptoms of Ebola Zaire, the most deadly of the three that can infect human beings. Dr. Vickie Menear, M.D. and homeopath, found that the remedy that most closely fit the symptoms of the 1914 “flu” virus, Crolatus horridus, also fits the Ebola virus nearly 95% symptom-wise! Thanks go to these doctors for coming up with the following remedies: 1. Crolatus horridus (rattlesnake venom) 2. Bothrops (yellow viper) 3. Lachesis (bushmaster snake) 4. Phosphorus 5. Merc. cor.” (Note the quotation marks around ‘flu’ and the inaccuracy concerning the year). Yes, the reasoning is that snake venom “closely fits  the symptoms of the Spanish flu (whatever that means) and that the Spanish flu and Ebola are somewhat alike, and therefore snake venom cures Ebola … well, that’s not quite all of it: water that has been exposed to rattlesnake venom but have subsequently been diluted not to contain any trace of it, cures Ebola – as long as you have performed the correct psychic rituals during the dilution process. To assert how responsible they are, the homeopaths also warn you “[d]o not try to take care of yourself without the further education and experience that a homeopath can give you” if you think you suffer from Ebola. And remember fellow homeopath Joetta Calabrese’s point: “In the case of Ebola, no conventional treatment or vaccine is available. Fortunately for us, homeopathy has great renown for its healing ability in epidemics.” No, DePape’s deranged detachment from reality got nothing on these people. Even Mike Adams found the ideas too quacky for serious consideration, and that’s a first.

 

Diagnosis: It’s somewhat tricky to determine how bizarre one’s delusions have to be in order to qualify for a genuine medical diagnosis, but this got to be at least borderline. Their danger to their immediate surroundings is probably limited (one hopes) but it’s not worth it to let them get anywhere near you, your loved ones, your pets or anything else you care about.

Monday, April 15, 2024

#2759: Robert De Niro

Celebrity loons! Robert De Niro is a sometime antivaccine activist and celebrity loon, and although it is a bit unclear exactly how committed he is to antivaxx delusions – concerns over marketing and image seem to weigh more than any intellectual commitments he might harbor – De Niro, who has an autistic son, does seem to think, at least intermittently, that vaccines are a cause of autism (they aren’t), and he has done more than his share of damage on behalf of the antivaccine movement.

 

His most obvious instance of antivaccine activism was greenlighting the screening of disgraced fraud Andrew Wakefield’s and conspiracy theorist Del Bigtree’s anti-vaccine conspiracy flick Vaxxed at the Tribeca Film Festival, which De Niro co-founded – indeed, De Niro admitted that he bypassed the festival’s regular selection process for documentaries and added the film to the festival’s roster. It was eventually pulled due to criticism from scientists and reasonable people (in fact: primarily from other documentary film makers who didn’t want to be associated with the tripe), something De Niro, the person who actually decided to pull the movie over concerns about his public image and market worth, seems to think is an example of “censorship. But De Niro didn’t really back down. He has later appeared at public events devoted to “vaccine safety” with e.g. anti-vaccine movement leader Robert Kennedy, jr., complete with fraudulent show-challenges to pro-vaccine advocates to prove them wrong (as judged by themselves).

 

According to himself, “I want to know the truth,” which, if correct, makes associating himself with Del Bigtree, Andrew Wakefield and Robert Kennedy, jr.’s antivaccine conspiracy theories and misinformation a notoriously poor strategy. About Vaxxed, De Niro claimed that “you must see it”, ostensibly because “There’s a lot of information about things that are happening with the CDC, the pharmaceutical companies [there is: it just isn’t accurate]; there’s a lot of things that are not said”, and yes: there are plenty of claims in Vaxxed that you won’t hear said by real scientists or medical doctors, for obvious reasons. He also recommended the conspiracy flick Trace Amounts. “I’m not anti-vaccine. I want safe vaccines,” added De Niro, regurgitating the oldest anti-vaccine line in the book.

 

But hey: He’s just asking questions: “Some people can’t get a certain kind of shot, and they can die from it, from penicillin. So why should that not be with vaccines?” asks De Niro, as if real scientists haven’t asked those questions, carefully investigated them and shown that vaccines are safe and effective. He is, like most people who are “just asking questions”, not just asking questions. Indeed, De Niro explicitly asserts that there “is a link” between vaccines and autism (there isn’t) and that both he and his wife, Grace Hightower, believe that vaccines were somehow part of the cause of his son’s autism (as opposed to e.g. father’s age, which does in fact correlate with autism). And as for the fact that science pretty conclusively shows that there is no such link? It’s “much more complicated than that,” proclaims De Niro, without explaining the complication since the complication is really just that he is wrong (and his wife is wrong) and it is hard for him to admit that he is wrong and his wife a crazy conspiracy loon. And yes, of course there is a conspiracy: The reason we don’t know about the vaccine-autism link isn’t that it doesn’t exist but that “it benefits the big drug companies.” Also, confronted with the fact that Wakefield is considered discredited because he demonstrably engaged in fraud and misinformation, De Niro countered: “but how was he discredited? By the medical establishment?” He was discredited by the facts, Bob – the facts, and his demonstrably fraudulent behavior. But hey: let’s poison the well with some JAQ-style allusions to grand conspiracies instead, shall we?

 

De Niro’s antivaccine rants received praise from Jim Carrey and Alicia Silverstone. And after the brouhaha with Vaxxed, De Niro quickly announced thatHarvey Weinstein and I are working on doing a documentary” on vaccines. It has yet to materialize and one suspects the project might have hit some snags along the way.

 

Diagnosis: A garbage person full of raging bullshit. And unfortunately, his soapbox is big enough for his bullshit to reach a lot of people, some of whom might, for some reason, think that this befuddled piece of mindrot has anything worthwhile to contribute to public debate.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

#2758: Bob DeMaria

A.k.a. “The Drugless Doctor

 

Bob DeMaria is a chiropractor marketing himself as “the Drugless Doctor”. DeMaria is not a medical doctor, however. That doesn’t prevent him from having views – silly views – on all sorts of medical topics, like vaccines. DeMaria thinks that natural immunity is better than “vaccine-induced” immunity, and he believes that there is a link between vaccinations and autism (there isn’t), presumably because vaccines, as DeMaria sees it, contains elemental mercury (they don’t, of course). Or to use DeMaria’s own formulation: “In the human body, when we have vaccines, or when we have antibodies that are made, it is made in our body to fight an organism and it’s permanent. When they vaccinate a human being today, they use particles and the real issue is what are they using as the base, part of this whole agar and all this growing substance, which is mercury and egg whites and all that, and aluminium, that can be quite toxic to the system.” No, Bob DeMaria doesn’t have the faintest clue about what he is talking about. Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for humanity, neither do many of the people who cross his path.

 

DeMaria also thinks that girls who have the HPV vaccine become dirty sluts and that Coeliac disease is caused by vaccinations affecting glands in your neck (coeliac disease is of course an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine).

 

So what are his qualifications? DeMaria – or “Robert F. DeMaria DC, DABCO, FASBE, NHD” – can boast doctorates! One in “natural health from Clayton College of Natural Health, an unaccredited diploma mill that has also sold diplomas to people like Gillian McKeith and Robert Young, and one in Chiropractic from the National University of Health Science (NUHS), an alternative medicine school. As a NUHS graduate, DeMaria subscribes to the idea, invented by the founder of chiropractic, D.D. Palmer, that subluxation is the sole cause of all disease, an idea Palmer claimed to have learned from a deceased physician in a séance, which still today remains the idea’s sole evidence-base and embodies its complete relationship with reality. As DeMaria sees it, God gave Adam the ability to heal himself, and that is an ability we have all inherited as his descendants – we just have to ensure that a chiropractic (him) clicks our backs into place, and then God’s breath will take care of everything else.

 

Most of all, though, DeMaria is “the Drugless doctor, and he has plenty of promotional materials about why he “became drugless” and has been practicing drugless “for nearly 30 years,” Of course, since DeMaria is a chiropractor with diplomas from diploma mills and not a medical doctor, DeMaria has never had the authority to prescribe drugs in the first place, and his whole schtick is really an attempt to muddy the waters about his credentials to attract potential victims. Of course, he does push plenty of useless dietary supplements, and if they did work, which he claims they do (they don’t), it is unclear how he could market himself as “drugless”; DeMaria doesn’t even attempt to square that circle, insofar as his followers don’t seem not to notice.

 

Apparently, his daughter-in-law, Casen DeMaria, is also currently a Drugless Doctor and starring in youtube videos that give people health information like “lungs are important for breathing” and falsely claim that chiropractic adjustment can help with allergies and asthma and that thermography is effective in screening for breast cancer (it really, really isn’t).

 

DeMaria has views about other health-related issues, too. Indeed, in his youtube series “Ask Dr. Bob” on YouTube’s worst channel for health-related misinformation, iHealthTube , DiMaria answers questions from fans on a range of topics, and consistenly ends up recommending using products that – remarkably enough – are sold on his website. You can for instance use his product chlorella to protect yourself from the radioactivity of the radioactive clouds that the American government are secretly releasing into the environment to prevent rain. He also claims, without evidence, that GMOs are harmful and must be avoided because why not when your whole business model is based on being completely disentangled from reality anyways.

 

ADHD misinformation

A common topic in DeMaria’s videos is ADHD. DeMaria has many inaccurate and potentially dangerous ideas about ADHD and potential (alternative) “treatments” for ADHD, trying to sell struggling parents supplements that have been shown not to work as well as restrictive diets that have been shown not to provide any benefit for the symptoms of ADHD.

 

According to DeMaria, “docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) bathes the brain, and gives the brain information that just helps the brain function optimally” (which is entirely inaccurate, of course) but certain foods “sabotage” DHA somehow and that’s the cause of more or less every mental problem. So, DeMaria recommends various dietary restrictions based on gut feeling, thin air, and supplements he happens to sell, including DHA supplements in the form of fish oil, which demonstrably do not work to alleviate ADHD symptoms. In another video entitled “Causes of ADD and ADHD Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About!”, he claims, of course, that ADHD is caused by misalignment of the spine. There are obvious reasons why you doctor doesn’t know that. DeMaria doesn’t tell you those reasons.

 

He also claims, without evidence of course, that dairy products, sugar, and food dyes cause or worsen the symptoms of ADHD. Well, he’s got no evidence, but he’s got a gotcha question that’ll probably stump you: “I’m not tell am not telling anyone to stop dairy, but when is the last time you saw a cow eating cottage cheese, milk, or ice cream?” It stumped us. He also says that “milk contains arachidonic acid (ARA) which sabotages DHA”, a claim that is supported exclusively by his imagination, lack of understanding of (and lack of understanding of the significance to such claims of) physiology, biology or chemistry. Also, a woman whom he adviced to stop giving milk to her child allegedly “wrote a five star review on Amazon for me”. So there is that. DeMaria’s claims that sugar damages DHA have similar evidential support and coherence, but at least pays homage to the debunked suger-hyperactivity-link myth. Then there are food dyes and the insane piece of quackery that is the Feingold diet.

 

Of course, as the “drugless doctor”, DeMaria also peddles all the dangerous myths and conspiracy theories that exist about actual ADHD medication that demonstrably does help people with ADHD, including (but definitely not limited to) the egregious myth that children who take ADHD medications are at a higher risk for developing a substance abuse disorder. He also accuses, contrary to evidence, fact and decency, parents who give their children ADHD medication of child abuse, apparently in contrast with his own practice of making a living out of selling potentially dangerous and ineffective supplements and misinformation to parents and children in difficult situations. In reality, diet doesn’t make much difference to ADHD, which is mostly genetic … DeMaria, who apparently never misses an opportunity to heap abuse on anyone deciding to follow the path of reality, denies that obvious fact, and instead claims that “ADHD kids become ADHD adults. ADHD adults usually have ADHD kids, and the reason is: they eat from the same trough.

 

Transfat

Another alleged cause of ADHD is transfat. DeMaria has written a book about transfat, Dr. Bob’s Trans Fat Guide: Why No Fat, Low Fat, Trans Fat is Killing You. Now, there are good reasons to limit trans fats in the diet, so to that extent DeMaria’s conclusion isn’t wrong. But instead of reality, DeMaria supports it with an almost otherworldly array of pseudoscientific nonsense and made-up claims, and what is instructive is how much of an impact DeMaria’s nonsense actually seems to have had. Multiple websites have for instance promoted the myth that trans fats are metabolized very slowly and have a half-life of 51 days. As DeMaria presents the claim: “Do you remember in science class when your teacher talked about Madame Curie’s discovery of the half-life of uranium? Well, trans fat has a half life as well. Through research and experience, I have learned that the half-life of trans fat is fifty-one days.” That claim, of course, is bizarre nonsense and reveals, if more revelation is needed, DeMaria’s complete lack of appreciation for facts or coherence. But he goes undeterred on, with no more concern for accuracy, to blame trans fats for ADHD, depression, and Alzheimer’s. He is just making up blathering nonsense as he goes along.

 

Applying that principle has, of course, made DeMaria rather productive, and he has, in addition to the transfat one, written a number of books characterized by exactly zero concerns for reality, evidence, research or what harm his misinformation could possible cause. Titles include:

 

-       Dr. Bob’s Guide to Stop ADHD in 18 Days

-       Dr. Bob’s Guide to Optimal Health: A God-Inspired, Biblically-Based 12 Month Devotional to Natural Health Restoration

-       Dr. Bob’s Drugless Guide to Mental Health

-       Dr. Bob’s Guide to Prevent Surgery

-       Dr. Bob’s Drugless Guide to Balancing Female Hormones

 

Diagnosis: Completely devoid of any appreciation for reality, fact, accuracy or how things work – so much so that even in the few cases where his claims are actually supported by reality, his own explanations are a bizarre stream-of-consciousness mess of bullshit and falsehoods. He is a living, breathing embodiment of the principle of PIDOOMA. What you can be certain of, is that DeMaria’s claims – reality or not, harm or not – will end up aligning with his financial interests. In a reasonable society, there would be justice waiting for vile pieces of garbage like Bob DeMaria. In the actual world, he gets money.

 

Hat-tip: Myles Power; Braden MacBeth @Sciencebasedmedicine

Monday, April 8, 2024

#2757: Martha DeMarco

We’ve had ample opportunity to write about stem cell quackery (e.g. here), which has become a serious problem over the US the last fifteen years or so. In addition to those dubious clinics that market themselves as ‘experimental’ to prey on people in difficult situations with a glimmer of alleged hope in the form of treatment regimes unsupported by evidence, scienceor reason, the marketing potential of ‘stem cells’ has also been discovered by a large array frauds, quacks and promoters of alternative medicine

 

One such is Martha DeMarco. DeMarco is one among many promoters of dubious stem cell-related bullshit, and she offers it for a wide range of conditions including aging, musculoskeletal pain/injury, sexual enhancement, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and cancer. DeMarco, however, is not a doctor, and she has no background in science, medicine or any related field whatsoever. Instead, DeMarco is a homeopath with an “education” in “professional homeopathy” from something called “the Teleosis Homeopathic Collaborative.” Indeed, DeMarco is, according to herself, “nationally certified in homeopathy,” whatever that means (it certainly doesn’t mean that any official or minimally sensible body has recognized her non-education in pseudoscience), and a “Registered Homeopath, North America”, a meaningless slip of paper handed out by the cargo cult-science cult the North American Society of Homeopaths. Apparently, she is herself on the Board of Directors of the Council for Homeopathic Certification and Secretary on its Executive Committee. Now, the joke in ‘homeopathic stem cell therapy’ writes itself and may at least indicate that what she offers is less obviously harmful than what is offered from some other quack purveyors of ‘stem cell therapies’. Still.

 

DeMarco also offers gemmotherapy, which is … plant stem cell remedies “made principally from the embryonic tissue of various trees and shrubs”. If you suspect that DeMarco really doesn’t have the faintest idea about how stem cell therapies – the stuff she is marketing to her victims – are supposed to work, even at the most foundational level, you are probably right. This has nothing to do with reality. Stem cells are, for people like DeMarco, magic props in some pseudo-religious ritual.

 

It is worth noting that DeMarco is the daughter of Roger Callahan, the inventor of the amazingly nonsensical pseudopsychological quackery known as thought field therapy. Indeed, DeMarco can herself boast the “credential TFT-Adv”.

 

Diagnosis: Insane religious fundie, really, and though the religious fundamentalism is expressed with something more akin to fluffy nonsense and affirmation rather than anger, it still has the potential to cause significant harm to real people.

Friday, April 5, 2024

#2756: Joseph Delimater

Minor and forgotten, perhaps, but worth a brief note: Joseph Delimater III is a resident of Anne Arundel and associate of gibberingly insane theocrat Michael Peroutka, the radical Christian Reconstructionist and southern secessionist 2004 presidential nominee for the U.S. Constitution Party and later county council member of Anne Arundel, Maryland, where he ran partially on the platform that the Maryland General Assembly is “no longer a valid legislative body” because it has passed laws that, according to Peroutka, is in violation of “God’s law.” (Peroutka, just to remind people, is also an ally of the League of the South and once donated a dinosaur fossil to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum to keep it out of the hands of zeh evolutionists.) Delimater, on his side, won the 2014 primary for county sheriff on the promise to resist implementation of any law that violates God’s law (in particular, of course, marriage equality-related stuff); according to Peroutka’s communication director, John “teaching children about MLK is child abuse” Lofton, Delimater “would evaluate each piece of legislation to be sure it was authorized by God in the Bible, the U.S. Constitution and the Anne Arundel County Charter.” Delimater himself claimed that his best quality as a candidate is “knowing what the law is,” having taken a twelve-week course on both the state and federal constitutions at Peroutka’s explicitly theocratic Institute of the Constitution.

 

Delimater didn’t win. Still.

 

Diagnosis: Obscure, perhaps, but nevertheless a wild-eyed ISIS sycophant and a genuine danger to his surroundings.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

#2755: Jennifer Delgado

Did you know that there is an “education onslaught” being carried out by LGBTQ activists in Texas public schools? Well, the Texas chapter of the vehement anti-LGBTQ group MassResistance claims so, and has arranged a variety of gatherings and events to warn people about the nefariousness of the gay agenda, including (for instance) a 2017 “Teens4Truth” conference in Dallas aimed at teaching teenagers and their parents stuff like “how to counter LGBT issues in your schools” and “how LGBT activists are influencing your children.” Joined by fellow activists Sharon Armke and Caryl Ayala, Jennifer Delgado warned that one of the ways LGBTQ activists are pushing their agenda is through nefarious gay-straight alliances, which are being used to “recruit” teens to gayness and who knows what: “Gay-straight alliances – you really have to watch out these because these are adult homosexuals coming into the schools to mentor kids and we know that there is a problem with adults preying on young teens, especially in the male homosexual community. It’s how they recruit them, and they’re doing it in the school through these gay-straight alliances.”

 

Diagnosis: No, she has no idea what’s going on, but won’t let that prevent her from fighting it with all she’s got. Utterly deluded, and like so many utterly deluded people, she is very, very angry.