Sunday, March 7, 2021

#2448: Mary Ackerley

Fake illnesses, or more accurately: fake diagnoses, are a major problem, and they come in a variety of forms, from Morgellons disease to electromagnetic hypersensitivity. And to emphasize: There is no doubt that many of the people diagnosed with these diagnoses, either by quacks or by themselves, suffer – they may, indeed, really suffer from real diseases. But they are not suffering from the non-existing diseases they have been labeled with and that the quacks descending on these people, who are often in difficult situations, claim to be able to cure.

Mary Ackerley listed as an ostensibly “certified” provider who runs the website survivingmold.com, apparently the go-to site for those who have been convinced that they suffer from chronic mold sensitivity, or, as the website puts it, “mold illness” or “chronic inflammatory response syndrome” – the nonsense was even featured in Netflix’s Afflicted. The diagnosis is not recognized by any serious medical organization, because there is no such illness, but according to Ackerley’s site, it can be the cause of as many as 40 different, unrelated and often vague symptoms. Ackerley’s opportunities to hand out the diagnosis and suggest sometimes relatively costly “remedies” to people in real difficult situations, are accordingly significant.

 

Ackerley herself is apparently a trained psychiatrist, who at some point turned to pushing various types of woo, including unnecessarysupplements galore” (her own phrase) and various techniques unsupported by evidence, on her potential clients instead. She is also president of something called “The International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness” (ISEAI), which is probably not an organization to turn to for advice if you have actual health issues, and – according to herself – “a leader in the chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS) field”. “CIRS” is a fake fad diagnosis that sounds like something that could be confused with something that Ackerley, a psychiatrist, has no qualifications to offer advice on. She has also written a book, Brain on Fire: The Role of Toxic Mold in Triggering Psychiatric Symptoms, and, like her website, it is full of references to toxins, one of the core gambits in modern health pseudoscience. Indeed, Ackerley seems to think that most of what we think of as psychiatric illnesses are really caused by toxins in the environment. This is false, and dangerously so, but in Ackerley’s mind her ideas represent an imminent paradigm shift that will soon be adopted by the reactionary scientific community. She’s just like Semmelweiss.

 

Diagnosis: She knows how to sound professional, but her ideas are as quacky as any snakeoil salesman’s, and they have the potential to harm real people. A potential rising star on the woo circuit, so attention is warranted.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

#2447: Jim Abeler

For a long time, creationism and climate change denialism were associated with the American right whereas antivaccine views and woo were associated with the left. The picture was inaccurate back in the days, too, but it is certainly obviously false today, as most antivaccine efforts in state (and federal) legislatures are primarily made by representatives of the Republican party. In Minnesota, for instance, the central antivaccine representative is probably state senator James J. Abeler II, who represents District 35 in the northern Twin Cities metropolitan area. When previously serving in the House, Abeler was even chair of the Health Policy and Finance Subcommittee for the Health Care Cost Containment Division for a time. He formed the MN Autism Council in fall 2018 to really give antivaccine activism political legs, and promptly appointed well-known antivaccine activist and dingbat conspiracy theorist Wayne Rohde, cofounder of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, to said council. There is a relatively substantial portrait of Abeler from 2019 here, though it portrays him as a potential “stealth antivaccine advocate” – at present, there is little that is stealthy about Abeler’s antivaccine views anymore.

 

Abeler is a vocal opponent of school vaccinations, and has worked closely with the antivaccine organization Age of Autism (yes, that’s Jenny McCarthy’s organization) to fight vaccines and legislation supportive of vaccination. He has also been involved with the antivaccine quack summit Autism One, which is famous for promoting not only the demonstrably false claim that vaccines can lead to autism, but also a variety of dangerous and ineffective autism “cures”. Abeler’s associates are tied to concerted efforts to spread fear, uncertainty, doubt and misinformation about the MMR vaccine specifically in Minnesota’s substantial Somali community, and are largely responsible for a large measles outbreak in the community in2017. Patti Carroll, a local antivaccine loon who was heavily involved with organizing antivaccine outreach in the Minnesota Somali community, was also appointed by Abeler to serve on the MN Autism Council.

 

Abeler was one of eight state senators who expressed skepticism about vaccines in opposing Senate File 1520, which would have mandated vaccines for all school-aged children. Abeler emphasized that parents should be allowed to have “informed consent,” by which antivaccine activists meanmisinformed consent”, and lamented that antivaccine parents were being impugned. “Most of the people who have concerns about vaccines never thought twice about it until their own child got damaged or their friend was injured by a vaccine,” said Abeler, adding that “[i]t turns out they’re not nearly as safe as they’re told, and they’re not even as effective as they’re told.” His claims are, of course, wrong: vaccines are safe and effective, and as safe and effective as those who know a bit about vaccines and the evidence obtained from studying them claim, though to people like Abeler, extensive, carefully conducted studies cannot trump judiciously selected and mischaracterized, emotionally effective personal anecdotes and causation/correlation confusions. The claims do reflect common tropes on antivaccine conspiracy websites, however.

 

Abeler has claimed that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” and has been sharing Del Bigtree videos to fans to “support” his claims, saying “[t]hank you for standing for truth on vaccines. The CDC & HHS have admitted they have not done a safety study for ANY of the vaccines on the market. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled, ‘Vaccines are unavoidably unsafe.’ So just trust your doctor? Oh the ones who keep prescribing oxycodone? People need to be just as angry about the lack of safety studies on vaccines as this!”. Of course, everything in that quote is at best misleading: the Supreme Court has not ruled what Abeler and Bigtree think they have ruled by any stretch of the imagination, and vaccines are thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy – indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more blatant lie than the claim that there are no safety studies for vaccines.

 

A chiropractor by trade, Abeler himself claims to be able to treat ADHD with spinal adjustments. He cannot, but chiropractors, especially those who espouse the dangerous pseudoscience that is chiropractic neurology, constitute a notable subgroup of the antivaccine movement. Before joining the Minnesota legislature, Abeler was a tireless lobbyist for getting healthcare companies to cover chiropractic. He also claims that chiropractic can boost your immunity, no less, a claim that should remove any doubt that we are dealing with a spineless and/or deluded grifter for anyone with even minimal understanding of how the human body (especially the immune system) works, and he even suggests that chiropractic can help remedy ear infections, colds, allergies, and tonsillitis among children. It cannot.

 

Abeler is not alone among Minnesota legislators when it comes to promoting or accommodating antivaccine conspiracy theories, however. Others include State Senator Scott Jensen (R-Chaska), who is famous for spreading Covid-19 misinformation, and State Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), who has for instance shared antivaccine depopulation conspiracy theories (in particular this one) on her facebook page.

 

More recently, Abeler, too, has been spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19, in particular – parroting one of President Trump’s most outrageous and baseless conspiracy theories – that doctors and the CDC are overcounting Covid-19-related deaths for financial reasons.

 

Diagnosis: Deluded conspiracy theorist, and given his position in the Minnesota legislature Abeler is, in fact, a serious threat to human health and welfare – demonstrably so, if you keep in mind the 2017 measles outbreak (as well as COVID-19).

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

#2446: Saeed Abedini

Saeed Abedini is an Iranian American Christian pastor, famous for being imprisoned in Iran in 2012 based on allegations that he compromised national security, an incident that created international controversy; he was released in 2016 along with other American prisoners following international pressure. But although he is, indeed – and as opposed to most Americans who claim to be – a genuine victim of religious persecution, Abedini is also a loon, as well as a generally shitty and abusive character. And of course, Abedini also believes that Christians are persecuted in the US today, too, by Muslims, liberals, seculars and others ostensibly controlled by the free-roaming spirit of the Antichrist, a force that is apparently best defeated by rejecting globalism, nurturing nationalism and closing the borders.

 

During the 2016 election, Abedini was firmly opposed to a Clinton presidency, but not for more or less reasonable political reasons: “if a woman can’t be the head of a small group of people such as the family or church, how can she, Biblically, be the head of a country with millions of people?!asked Abedini, and accused Clinton of being possessed by a Jezebel spirit that “is NOT from God, nor is it Biblical.” Nominally an advocate for complementarianism, Abedini hastened to add that he “believe in equality of women and men,”  before, predictably, adding “but there are differences in how God orchestrated the leadership of our homes and life so that we can function in an orderly manner.” Of course, “orderly manner” should be understood in light of being uttered by someone who has plead guilty to domestic abuse charges.

 

Diagnosis: No, he shouldn’t have been imprisoned in Iran, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the guy is garbage. Not even the war-on-Christmas crowd seems to have given him much attention after his return, though, possibly because they might realize that he is, indeed, garbage and would come across as such if they gave him a microphone.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Launching round 4

So that was actually the end of round 3 through the alphabet. It took us several years. At some points we might have thought that, with more than 2000 loons covered, “that’s it”. 

But here’s the thing. Given that it has taken so long to get through this round, many new loons have managed to come to prominence in the meantime (in addition to a few that have managed to slip through thus far), especially in relation to the emergence of Qanon and COVID denialism. So if you look at the list, you might discover that we have no entry for Del Bigtree, nor Josh Bernstein, Jordan Sather or Mike Cernovich. We have thus far overlooked Shiva Ayyadurai, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jillian Mai Thi Epperly and Teal Swan, not to mention Liz Crokin, Laura Loomer, Larry Cook and Judy Mikovits. Heck, even Roger Stone managed to escape inclusion in the previous round.

We have compiled a list and feel that we have little choice but to launch a round 4. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

#2445: Emeal Zwayne

Emeal Zwayne is not only affiliated with Ray Comfort’s Living Waters Ministry, where he is, indeed, the president, but is also Ray’s son-in-law. Zwayne has been involved in several of Ray’s publications and has been an executive producer and regular co-host on Comfort’s Way of the Master television program together with Comfort and Kirk Cameron, often chiming in to repeat and back up Ray’s own points in the silliest and feeblest ways imaginable. So for instance, when Lawrence Krauss suggested in a book that religion was on its way out, Comfort and Zwayne would of course not assess his arguments or evidence on its merits (probably flimsy), but rather conclude that Krauss not only hates Christianity, but that “he hates Christ” and then agree that “Hitler said some similar thingsHitler’s Youth.” And that, Zwayne gravely concluded, is “very, very terrifying, friends.” Because when you have no intellect and no moorings in reality, you have no choice but to follow your obtuse imagination to the most utterly foolish and brainless places it will float you.
 
Zwayne is also Executive Producer of Ray Comfort’s movies The Atheist Delusion, 180: Changing the Heart of a Nation, Evolution vs. God: Shaking the Foundations of Faith and, most recently (perhaps – they tend to vomit out these kinds of videos), Pandemic, Ray Comfort’s own take on the Covid-19 pandemic, which, as you would have guessed, is feeble even by the standards of the nonsense that is going around on the fundie conspiracy theory circuit.
 
Zwayne is apparently also a regular at various young-earth creationist conferences and homeschooling summits, as well as an official spokesman for the National Bible Bee organization. 
 
Diagnosis: No, we couldn’t really be bothered to look up many of Zwayne’s talking points. The very fact that he’s on board with – and helps promote – Ray Comfort’s silliness, is all you need to know. That some people – homeschooling parents in particular – listen to him is less funny.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

#2444: Sher Zieve

RenewAmerica is a fringe-rightwing, fundamentalist conspiracy theory website that would qualify as ridiculous even by the standards of fringe-rightwing conspiracy websites. And among the site’s numerous idiots and deranged maniacs, Sher Zieve might just possibly be the most batshit insane of them all – though RenewAmerica also runs Bryan Fischer’s column; competition is fierce.

 

Obama

Zieve was no fan of Obama, and this column nicely illustrates the general tenor of her criticisms. Basically, Obama was a tyrant and everything his administration did, including environmental regulations, was “completely illegal and unconstitutional” because … well, it’s not even clear that Zieve actually disagrees with all the policies, and she doesn’t offer a hint of a reason why it should be illegal and unconstitutional beyond the fact that they were implemented by “Obama and his Marxist Dems” – in fact, the reason their policies are illegal and unconstitutional may ultimately be because Obama was a Marxist, and therefore a tyrant, and as such everything he did was illegal. And the reason he nevertheless succeeded was that Congress “is now composed almost entirely of Marxist-Leninist Democrats and RINO Marxist wannabees,” including the overt Marxists John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who were just happy as clams to be “overtly supporting the tyrant” Obama (according to Zieve, “at some point almost all politicians become leftists in order to enrich themselves”). Reason, facts and what words mean are tools Zieve hasn’t quite gotten the hang of.

 

Nor did any of the Republicans ever even try to stop Obama and his co-conspirators from executing their “plans to overthrow virtually all” Middle Eastern governments “within a close proximity to Israel” to “replace them with Muslim Brotherhood rulers”. Indeed, Obama, who always stood “with the Islamic terrorists, was “installing Muslim Brotherhood members as quickly as possible into the US government,” too. “Shari’a is only a short step away, folks,” says Zieve. In a follow-up column, Zieve accused “Imam” Obama of being bent on turning Americainto full-fledged Marxist Communo-Fascist elitist-ruled Islamo-Drug cartel Narco/Nazi State.” Distinctions is a communist plot to derail paranoid wingnut streams of consciousness and wild accusations.

 

But why would Obama try to ruin America? Well, you didn’t have to ask, did you? Obama is actually a demon mentioned in the Bible. “By the way, has Obama said yet that his name is really Legion? Just wondering …” Even Zieve seems to have dimly sensed that the idea was silly. But then she went on to assert it anyway.

 

Other crimes committed by the Obama administration include 

  • usurpation of the State of Tennessee and its melding into the Obama government” – that was apparently connected to the Emergency Alert System, through which the administration confiscated “ALL television and Radio broadcasts for a supposed ‘test’ of the EAS” (you didn’t notice, did you?); “supposed”, because it all seems to have really been a ploy to abuse children, an accusation that makes Zieve something of a proto-Qanon dimwit
  • dismantling the US and replacing it with “either East Germany or the Stalinist USSR”, and 
  • supporting and implementing the “‘Occupy Wall Street’ flea circus” as a “cover for his implementation of the finalization of his Police State” (don’t think too hard about how the ploy was supposed to work; Zieve has a couple of views on Occupy Wall Street). 

Zieve was also a major pusher of the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theory, claiming – without a shred of evidence or reason, of course – that the exercise was part of a ploy to “install Martial Law nationwide.”

 

Weighing in on the Bundy Ranch standoff, Zieve concluded that the Bureau of Land Management had become “Obama’s private army”, one “that will be used against American citizens and likely very soon”, and the whole incident was part of their plot to “begin the process of turning the USA into a meatless society.” In general, Zieve has no idea what is going on, and doesn’t care. The relevance of facts and understanding are nothing but Satanic-gay-islamic gambits to silence fundie wingnuts. A good example of Zieve’s attitude toward facts is her 2014 proclamation thatObama has announced that he will very shortly issue an Executive Order to begin flying illegals (renamed ‘refugees’) from Central Americans countries into the USA. These will be indoctrinated as Democrat voters and trained to worship Obama the minute they set foot on the plane … or even before.” The purpose of doing so is “to replace the current population in the US” with “MS-13 gang members and Islamists … including ISIS/ISIL members.” And the ultimate goal of that, as Zieve has repeatedly stated and which the administration was always on the brink of attaining, was to create a “Marxist-Islamic North American Caliphate” with Obama himself as the leader. And after having imported thousands of Central American Muslims from Central America, the Obama administration would, with the help of covert (or possibly overt) Islamo-Marxist Mitch McConnell, have non-Muslims stoned to death – in particular, Obama was long planning a genocide against white people because he is black a demon of Satan: “to the Obama Administration white lives don’t matter”.

 

Obama was also pushing for gun control in order to make it easier for Islamists to kill Americans; indeed, the whole point of immigration is to kill Americans: Obama wanted toeliminate at least 25,000,000 people” and possibly “many more millions of us” to make room for undocumented immigrants. After killing all these Americans, Obama would then give your homes to the immigrants, who would then support his political goals. And people allow this to happen, including the administration’s explicit commitment to enslaving them, because they are afraid to be called ‘racist’.

 

Indeed, by 2015 Obama had alreadydecimated the US economy” (Zieve needed to emphasize that “[t]he downfall in the US economy did begin under President Bush but, ONLY after the Marxist-Democrats took control of both houses of Congress,” because it is so obviously false that even her own readers might not already have believed it) and submitted “to the will of Iran”. She even offers some explanations for how this state of affairs came to be: Republicans have been made weak by taking too much estrogen “[w]hile all too many of the American sheeple continue to sleep”, and it is all predicted in the Bible, according to which the “coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonder”.

 

Trump

At least electing Trump provided some respite from the perennial destruction of America. According to Zieve, Trump “has been and continues to be one of the strongest, brightest and most influential men in current world history,” and voting him in was a major step in thwarting the Satanists in Congress and their push for a one-world government. The fight certainly didn’t end, however. In response to the 2016 election, “the globalist powers visibly headed by Luciferian leader and ObamaFriend George Soros began their malicious work to overturn the election and end the USA as it was founded.” We haven’t bothered to look up her reactions to the 2020 election.

 

Education

According to Zieve, public schools today regularly teach Marxist and Islamic propaganda – the Holy Bible is being banned in schools along with the targeting of any and all Christian thought and speech, while Islam is being actively taught.” (It is not entirely clear whether Zieve has ever been to a school.) In fact, Common Core is “designed to train good Communist subjects; that is subjects in the feudal sense. More on Zieve’s view of Common Core here (recommended).

 

Oh, and Zieve is also a Sandy Hook truther. The Sandy Hook massacre was just one of many false flag operations undertaken by the Obama administration for unclear but definitely Satanic reasons. Apparently, Zieve managed to convince herself that “[w]ith the exception of the actors on set, Sandy Hook school wasn’t even open for business … and […] hadn’t been for years.”

 

Diagnosis: A serious candidate for being the most unhinged wingnut columnist on the Internet – her mind is apparently just a chaotic storm of delusional paranoia that she is utterly unable to distinguish from reality or channel into anything remotely coherent: What she thinks reality is like is so far removed from reality, and what binds her views together is so far removed from anything resembling reason, that it is hard to imagine how the gap could even in theory be closed. Nevertheless, her ideas might have gone more mainstream than many of us like to believe.

Monday, February 22, 2021

#2443: Eric Zielinski

A.k.a. EricZ

 

Eric Zielinski, DC, is a chiropractor, essential oil salesman, and apparently a practitioner of “biblical healththrough an Atlanta-based online ministry. Despite his almost painful lack of relevant expertise, Zielinski is one of several (equally credible) “experts” used to provide anti-vaccine talking points in Ty Bollinger’s 2011 antivaccine conspiracy flick The Truth about Vaccines (thoroughly reviewed here, here, here, here and here.

 

Zielinski’s website, Natural Living Family, is primarily pushing essential oils for all sorts of conditions, backed up with vague but deeply religious fluff and occasional handwavy appeals to “valid research to suggest that they [essential oils] can help in a myriad of ways” with (e.g.) cancer, without actually citing any such research or even trying to specify the “myriad of ways” (when he pushes turmeric Zielinski tellingly cites Mike Adams as a researcher, no less). They do have plenty of quack miranda warnings, though. “Beat cancer God’s way” announces one of the articles, which recommends that you buy essential oils from him and otherwise put your trust in the will of God. “When it comes to beating cancer, or any disease for that matter, there is no right or wrong,” says Zielinski. There is, and Zielinski’s way is wrong. It is hard to fathom how reasonable people could fail to be put off by his grift, but then: reasonable people are probably not in his target audience. Desperate people in desperate situations constitute a far more profitable customer base.

 

Zielinski recommends for instance foregoing the flu shot and using his essential oils instead. “There is a growing body of research showing that various essential oils attenuate not only the flu, but other viruses as well,” says Zielinski, because he can say whatever he wants as long as it is vague enough not to be legally compromising.

 

Zielinski is not a nobody on the crazier fringe of Big Wellness, however, and he was found sufficiently notable to receive some attention in Netflix’s relentless balance-fallacy pushing in the documentary (Un)Well, from which Zielinski at least didn’t emerge entirely unscathed (“I mean, our most expensive masterclass is $77 dollars for digital access. I mean, anyone can afford that! […] Even if you’re on food stamps, government assistancehey, stop drinking Starbucks for two weeks in a row and there’s $75 bucks, right?). But even (Un)Well didn’t bring up Zielinski’s 5G fearmongering or his (subsequently deleted) attempts to downplay the coronavirus epidemic on social media.

 

Beyond Netflix, Zielinski may be most familiar for his involvement in Chad Tackett’s weight-loss scam: Zielinski, together with his wife Sabrina Ann (“Mama Z”), would recruit people for a “weight loss study” aimed at demonstrating the efficacy of Tackett’s program for a cut of the registration fee (people with any experience with real studies should have noticed plenty of red flags, but there are probably few of those on Zielinski’s mailing list). In 2018, the mailing list for “Dr. Eric and Mama Z’s Essential Oils” sent out an “URGENT” notice about a “university-sponsored” weight loss study in which[q]ualified applicants would “safely lose 10 Lbs” by the end of the following week. The study, of course, didn’t exist, and instead of admitting that, Zielinski doubled down and claimed, completely falsely, that the study was associated with actual doctors as well as with the University of Arizona.

 

Diagnosis: Oh, we have no doubt that he believes his own falsehoods and nonsense, but what he is engaged in is nevertheless a grift. Being deranged doesn’t relieve you from moral blame.