Thursday, April 5, 2018

#1992: Eric Merola

Merola being interviewed.
I do not know who the interviewer is.
Eric Merola is a writer, director and producer of silly and often angry conspiracy “documentaries”, especially denialist ones aimed at promoting one or another preposterous form of quackery. His “breakthrough” might have been his involvement in the fantastically idiotic low-production-value conspiracy flick Zeitgeist, which was cleverly and apparently somewhat successfully marketed to the significantly critical-thinking challenged segments of the population. He is probably most famous, however, as an ardent champion of the cancer quackery of Stanislaw Burzynski; Merola’s got not one but twoconspiracy-suffused propaganda pieces promoting Burzynski’s magic elixir treatments for cancerBurzynski: The Movie (reviewed here), and Burzynski The Sequel (reviewed here).

Burzynski: The Movie predictably portrays Burzynski, a man whose career consists of pushing appallingly expensive, unproven treatments to people in desperate situations, as a brave maverick doctor persecuted by the establishment. It was endorsed by crackpots and conspiracy theorists like Joe Mercola and Mike Adams. Apart from conspiracy mongering, the propaganda piece offers testimonials (some discussed here; needless to say, they’re underwhelming) and encourages viewers, who have no medical expertise and no background knowledge to assess evidence for medical claims, to think for themselves. The movie was unsurprisingly met with little enthusiasm among those who actually know how cancer, medicine, evidence and science actually work, so Merola subsequently engaged in a rather aggressive campaign to demonize “The Skeptics”, ostensibly a shadowy organization of people dedicated to protecting Big Pharma and making sure patients don’t have access to the magic hands and potions of Burzynski’s, based on the fact that when someone criticize you for your shoddy work they are always in a conspiracy to hide the truth (also Big Pharma). Having suggested that critics are in a conspiracy to silence him, Merola responded by using a (possibly bogus) DMCA takedown notice to silence his critics. Here is a good discussion of the kinds of tactics Merola engages in to silence critics. Rather predictably, the documentary (extended ad, really) landed Merola an interview on the Dr. Oz show. A new edition, discussed here, was released in 2016.

The sequal was, if possible, even more unhinged, (relying for instance on this one), but then again: it istargeted at i) already converted altmed conspiracy theorists and ii) people in desperate situations, remember.

Merola’s defense of quackery doesn’t stop with Burzynski, however. In 2014 he released “Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering”. No, yes: Merola defends Ralph Moss’s silly old idea of pushing laetrileas a cure for cancer, no less, which is, by now, in roughly the same category as pushing expulsion of blood demons by bloodletting as a cure for cancer (and make no mistake: laetrile touted as a cancer cure is quackery). Anyways, the leadership at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is apparently running the vast conspiracy to suppress this magic cure. (More details here). It would have been interesting to hear Merola or Moss explain precisely why MSKCC would want to cover up evidence of a highly effective cancer treatment, but conspiracy theorists don’t usually think too hard about such tangential details.

Diagnosis: Aggressive conspiracy theorist and promoter of the most egregious forms of quackery and pseudoscience. He is pretty productive and, not the least (as mentioned), aggressive enough to successfully make the world a worse place. Dangerous.

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