Thursday, November 29, 2018

#2110: Stephen Phelan

Oh yes, another fundie nutter. Stephen Phelan is the communications director for Human Life International, putatively “the largest international pro-life organization and missionary worldwide”, however they measured that. Of course, much of Phelan’s efforts go toward anti-abortion issues, but as Phelan sees it, demons, evil spirits and Satan are everywhere, and he caught our eye primarily for his criticisms of a pink version of the popular Ouija board game issued by Hasbro in 2010. As Phelan sees it, the game, designed for girls aged 8 and up, is no mere toy but a “dangerous spiritual game” that opens anyone, but particularly Christians, up to attacks on their soul. “There’s a spiritual reality to it and Hasbro is treating it as if it’s just a game,” said Phelan. “It’s not Monopoly. It really is a dangerous spiritual game and for [Hasbro] to treat it as just another game is quite dishonest.” As he points out, the Bible explicitly states “not to mess with spirits”.

What distinguished the game from, say, Harry Potter-themed merchandise, “is that the Ouija board is actually is a portal to talk to spirits and it’s hard to get people to understand that until they actually do it. I don’t pretend to know how it works, but it actually does.” Moreover, the pink version of the game is explicitly marketed to young girls who may want to partake in “something dangerous” during a late-night sleepover.

Diagnosis: Someone evidently has some problems distinguishing teen scream flicks from reality, and it is not girls aged 8 and up. Don’t let this guy watch Harry Potter on his own without a trusted adult nearby.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

#2109: Jesse Lee Peterson

Jesse Lee Peterson is a right-wing pundit, minister, author (e.g. SCAM: How the Black Leadership Exploits Black America), and media personality – host of The Jesse Lee Peterson Show and The Fallen State TV web series – as well as president and founder of BOND (Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny), which is ostensibly dedicated to “rebuilding the family by rebuilding the man.” He is also a friend of Sean Hannity, and often appears on the latter’s show, as well as a national advisory board member of Accuracy in Media, former board member of the California Christian Coalition and self-appointed personal nemesis of Jesse Jackson. Peterson is, basically, a representative of all that is sad and bad, evil, delusional and insane in the world today. 

Civil Rights and welfare
In 2005 Peterson penned a column for WND claiming that the majority of the African-American people stranded in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina were “welfare-pampered”, “lazy” and “immoral”, and therefore presumably got what they deserved. Elsewhere Peterson has claimed that he would like to see black people put “back on the plantation so they would understand the ethic of working… They need a good hard education on what it is to work.” 

Yes, Peterson thinks slavery was a good thing, and is on record thanking “God and white people” for the institution of slavery. After all, Peterson pointed out, were it not for the slave trade, blacks might have never made it to the United State. Then he described traveling on slave ships as akin to “being on a crowded airplane”. Traveling on slave ships was not akin to being on a crowded airplane. At least, as Peterson sees it, picking cotton “makes a man out of you”.

Now, Peterson has indeed recognized that racism is a big problem. In 2009, for instance, he told Hannity that he thought 96 percent of black voters were racist toward whites and that “I think we all agree that Barack Obama was elected by, mostly by black racists and white guilty people.” Weighing in on the Trayvon Martin case, Peterson declared that the outrage over his death was not about justice but rather “about getting even with whites and gaining political power”: “This is black hatred of white people and a result of more than fifty years of brainwashing by racist civil-rights leaders” by demonic aggressors like MLK, as Peterson sees it. Of course, officially Peterson is a fan of MLK, but it is unclear what he associates with him: For the commemoration of 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, for instance, which called for “a national minimum wage act” and “a massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers” in jobs, Peterson accused Obama and everyone else of twisting the message of the original march to spread anti-white racism and socialism by “call[ing] for a minimum wage increase” and pushing “socialist ideas.” “[T]he 50th anniversary commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march and speech looked like a Ku Klux Klan rally!”, said Peterson, and “an outright attempt to rewrite history – and use King’s name to advance an anti-American political agenda.” He did not try to explain what he thought the original march was about.

It’s a general pattern of course. Together with Oprah, President Obama is “encouraging these blacks to attack whites” and inflaming “black thugs [to] attack unsuspecting whites” through “racial demagoguery” and “race baiting” to “encourage division and hatred between races;” they are therefore to blame for the much-hyped “knockout game.” It’s all, in fact, a conspiracy. The 2015 Baltimore protests, for instance? Well, Peterson saw through it and found Obama standing behind it all: Obama was intentionally fomenting unrest as part of his secret evil plot to take over all the nation’s police forces and redistribute wealth. As for Black Lives Matter, Peterson has characterized the movement as “evil,” “wicked,” and “worse than the KKK”; the movement is “led by white anarchists, communists, black homosexuals and lesbians. They hate families and God – two things blacks need most”.

In 2015, Peterson linked, in a column titled “Dear White People: Your Days Are Numbered”, protests over the treatment of students of color at the University of Missouri to the Paris terrorist attacks. While “Europe has been in the process of handing their continent over to Muslims … white Americans are handing over their country to black malcontents – and Muslims,” said Peterson; “[s]omewhere along the way, whites in Europe and America have lost their connection to God and have decided to give up defending their communities and freedoms,” and it is accordingly “time for whites in America, and in Europe, to stop the madness.” (“[t]he greatest civilizations in the world are being destroyed by the godless” and the gays concluded Peterson after a diatribe blaming Muslims, who seem to the untrained eye to be neither godless nor particularly gay.

But what about racism against people of color? In 2015, Peterson said that “[m]y hope is that we are able to dispel the idea of racism being realIt is an illusion. Racism does not exist. It has never existed. It’s a lie.” This sentiment – which he has repeated and expanded upon on several occasions, including his book The Antidote: Healing America From The Poison of Hate, Blame and Victimhood– probably partially explains why, in a 2016 interview on a white supremacist show, he cited the 1954 desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education as evidence that “liberalism is evil” and that “[t]he people who are liberals are children of the lie, their father is Satan,” reminding his listeners that “the battle is a spiritual battle between good and evil, right versus wrong, so liberals are children of the darkness, and we need to understand that they are doing exactly what their father’s nature is, and that is to destroy good.” We know we should be careful about labeling anyone an Uncle Tom, but it is hard to find a more suitable candidate for the title than Jesse Lee Peterson; here is another illuminating exchange (Peterson explaining that African American voters didn’t support Ben Carson’s presidential bid because they’re in an “evil state” and “prefer evil over good”). Here is Peterson declaring that white people, as a group, “represent the goodness of America”. And here is Peterson claiming that Nelson Mandela was evil and South Africa better off under apartheid. Indeed, he “can’t think of one thing” that “black people have gone into and made better.”

Of course, Peterson is dimly aware that some people disagree with him, and has published an open letter to (then) Attorney General Eric Holder that advocates the arrest of such people.

In a 2012 video Peterson asserted his belief that “one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote,” ostensibly because many women disagree with him and democracy doesn’t work if people keep voting differently than he wants them to vote: “We should’ve never turned this over to women. And these women are voting in the wrong people. They’re voting in people who are evil who agrees with them who’re gonna take us down this pathway of destruction […] And this probably was the reason they didn’t allow women to vote when men were men. Because men in the good old days understood the nature of the woman.” Explaining further, Peterson stated that women simply can’t handle “anythingand that – in his experience – “you walk up to them with a issue, they freak out right away. They go nuts. They get mad. They get upset, just like that. They have no patience because it’s not in their nature. They don’t have love. They don’t have love.” Which might tell you quite a bit more about Peterson and his behavior than he seems to realize. Also, women are whores: “I don’t know if you noticed or not, but the liberal Democrat womens are calling themselves whores [Peterson is referring to advocating contraception coverage]. They came out with their so called group of women who are within the Democrat party, and they are admitting that they’re whores and they are saying that they are proud of it.”

After claiming that women are whores who shouldn’t have the right to vote, Peterson complained that “liberal women” and feminists are “destroying our nation day by day” because they’re “fascists in pantsuits.” He did not attempt to define “fascist”. (It means “people I don’t like and therefore you shouldn’t like them either,” of course.)

A rather radical MRA activist, Peterson has called for “the end of one-sided defense,” and for men to re-take the right to physically strike women: “While I certainly do not sanction men attacking women, neither is it right for men to allow themselves to be beaten by a woman,” he wrote. “It’s time for men to re-assert their right to self defense.” Here is a fascinating segment in which Peterson asks a clinical psychologist whether the man should be the head of the wife; the psychologist says that no, they should be partners, whereupon Peterson asserted that the word “partner” is gay and any man who is not the “head of the wife” is “weak.”

As expected, Peterson is a vehement critic of Planned Parenthood, alleging that Planned Parenthood is responsible for killing “over 1,500 black babies” every day.

As Peterson sees it, the only reason for people to have sex is if they are “trying to make a baby,” and he insists that any man who has sex before marriage will eventually cheat on his wife. “I just want to make that point … What’s the need for having sex if you’re not trying to make a baby?” said Peterson, a question that might conceivably explain some of the frustration Peterson expresses elsewhere.

It probably comes as little surprise that Peterson is no fan of homosexuals. Having seen a man (Michael Sam) kiss another man on TV, Peterson claimed that it would destroy free speech and turn other men gay and cause the end of America. “In America today,” said Peterson, “good is mocked and evil is rewarded. People who speak out against the immorality in the culture are accused of being hateful and judgmental” just because they are being hateful and judgmental (“We expect this kind of assault on individual freedom in communist North Korea, not in the United States!” said Peterson). And of course there is a conspiracy: “GLADD and other LGBT homosexual groups are using Michael Sam’s race and his sexuality to force black Americans and, by extension, all Americans to accept an abnormal lifestyle. This is not about tolerance or diversity – it’s an attack on masculinity and the traditional family.” So, not only are LGBT rights destroying America; they’re doing so deliberately.

And if you ever wondered whether one can be born gay, Peterson is ready to explain: “if the mother was mad while being pregnant, that can happen yes, because she can pass that spiritual to her children while in the womb.”

Now, LGBT groups complain about discrimination, but Peterson sees right through the ploy (“Discrimination: noun discrim·ina·tion: The ability to recognize the difference between things that are of good quality and those that are not – Merriam Webster Dictionary,” offers Peterson in an unusually feeble attempt to achieve a gotcha moment): “LGBT groups have been effective in linking their immoral cause to the noble civil rights movement [it would be interesting to hear what Peterson thinks is noble about the civil rights movement given that he supports apartheid]. In reality, gays never wanted equality. They wanted society to accept their sinful lifestyle, or else. LGBT groups – to be blunt – act like fascists. Just like militant Islam demands Shariah law, homosexual pressure groups demand ‘sodomy law.’” Apparently this is what counts as “insightful enough to be worth sharing” in Peterson’s mind. It’s sad, really. 

Meanwhile, people who remarry after getting a divorce “deserve to suffer”. Except for people who agree with Peterson on politics, of course.

Theology and politics
Entirely unsurprisingly, Peterson is “certain without a doubt that Barack Hussein Obama is NOT a Christian,” which says more about Peterson cognitive abilities than it does about Obama. And Obama’s election in 2008 was the work of Satan and the result of Satan’s own candidate selection, a move in a “spiritual war” in which “Satan is targeting the U.S.” As evidence, Peterson pointed out that Obama is “evil” and “an American-hating Socialist” who is “more in harmony with Muhammad than he is with Christ.” Satan’s primary selection criterion was, however, race: “Evil understands that most white Christians have been intimidated and are too afraid to stand up to it,” said Peterson. Perhaps it was a perceived failure of his revelation to gain traction that made Peterson go one step further in 2014 and declared that “I can’t say that [Obama] is Satan, but I definitely am convinced he is the son of Satan.” Then he said that Obama is probably Satan. And if Obama is not the Antichrist, Peterson said, he is, at most, “one step away” from being the Antichrist. Here is further evidence that Obama “hates Christianity”.

A recurring them when Peterson talked about Obama was, unsurprisingly and as mentioned above, the idea that Obama is “racist” against white people (he wants to “replace the white man” with “some black person that agrees with him”), ostensibly partially because his mother “hated being white.” In a 2012 speech to the John Birch Society Peterson said that President Obama and his “angry black female” wife want to “take power away from the white man and give it to people who [want] handouts, with socialism mentalities.” As for Michelle Obama: “We have an angry black female in control and if you want to know what an angry black female can do to you, go to the Post Office.” One could imagine some reasons why Peterson might end up experiencing anger a lot of places.

In 2016 he summed up Obama’s presidency: “America has been hell” and “a nightmare” under President Obama, who has turned the country “into a ghetto,” said Peterson. The reason is apparently that Obama, as a black man, “lacks character” and “has a ghetto personality” that makes him want to destroy things (“the sould is dead, he is an evil man”).

Meanwhile, President Trump is pretty much Jesus (or “a strong example of Christ on Earth”): “as Christians, we are supposed to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We are to be ‘cunning as serpents and innocent as doves.’ President Trump appears to be a living example of this;” if you didn’t vote for him, then “Satan is your father. Peterson was, in fact, an early Trump supporter: “we already have” a race war that’s “happening to white folks by so-called people of color and especially black people,” said Peterson in 2016, asserting that a real Republican like Trump would be the only one able to stop it. Moreover, Trump is “uniquely able to unite America” because “this is a man’s game. The other Republicans are playing it like women – and losing,” and “the only politician who truly loves the people, including black people.” More recently, Peterson has been fond of calling Trump the “great white hope”. Now, Trump was, at one point, accused of sexual assault, but Peterson warned us against focusing on that, since “generation after generation of young girls have been taught” to falsely accuse men of assault and “Trump’s ‘Sexual Assault’ Accusers Are Literally Satan’s Daughters” (the text to an image on his show accompanying a picture of Bill Cosby). That leftists don’t fancy Trump is no wonder: “The left hates God, and it hates real men who display Godly authority. For leftist males, the contrast between President Trump’s strength and their weakness is just too painful. For leftist females, the president represents the masculine force that limits their irrational excesses, such as their hell-bent desire to kill unborn children.”

That Democrats are not of God but the children of Satan is not an empirical claim but treated axiomatically by Peterson; that is, as an assumption through which other events ought to be understood. Naturally, this yields some interestingly bizarre results.

Peterson has actually said that critical thinking is a tool of the devil; not that he has the faintest idea what critical thinking might involve. Accordingly, he has little love for intellectuals: “I notice that the people who are really into the intellect are nutcases. Absolute nutcasessaid Peterson. And that is no coincidence: using intellect leads to Satan and homosexuality: “Because of this intellectual thing taking over and the people rule us, we now have so-called same-sex marriage. That wouldn’t happen if we weren’t into the intellect. Common sense would dictate that is not going to happen and common sense wouldn’t care what you thought about it because we would know that that’s wrong.”

Here is Peterson failing coherence while arguing that the American dream is “fading” because pro-immigration elected officials are “trying to stay in power, so they’re trying to appease the Hispanics” and also arguing that undocumented immigrants (he claims to know some) don’t even want citizenship. The argument could perhaps seem to make more sense when you remember that Peterson hates reason and use of the intellect, but it doesn’t really.

There’s a fine Jesse Lee Peterson resource here.

Diagnosis: A good candidate for the title “most deranged person alive”. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

#2108: Dan & Steve Peters

Dan Peters (I think: there was also
an older brother Jim sometimes
involved in their side-show).
I have no idea whether these guys are still around, and their influence has certainly waned over the last 35 or so years, but they are absolute legends of fundamentalist insanity, so we have to cover them just in case. 

Steve Peters
The Peters brothers were seminal figures in the 80s fundamentalist anti-rock movement (a good overview here), and produced an impressive amount of strikingly self-congratulatory and self-advertising books (including Why Knock Rock?and Rock’s Hidden Persuader: The Truth About Backmasking– with one Cher Merrill), tapes, lectures, TV appearances and what amounts to their very own traveling circus, starting with a widely publicized 1979 record burning event in Minnesota. Their success seems largely to be based on the strategy of taking everything Bob Larson says and going one step further (Jacob Aranza and Jeff Godwin would then go one step beyond the Peters Brothers again.) Their main complaint is what they perceive to be the fundamental themes of rock: nihilism, humanism (not a very profound understanding of that one), hedonism and occultism. And yeah, sometimes rock musicians appear to go in other directions, but things like LIVE AID won’t fool the Peters Brothers: “Many of the stars of LIVE AID got there by helping destroy the moral fiber of America's youth.” Besides, it doesn’t matter so much what rock musicians profess to say, or what it sounds like they are saying – there are also the subliminal messages: The Peters Brothers are very concerned about the subliminal messages in rock music that are either backward-masked (apparently the unconscious mind can still interpret messages like “Here’s to my sweet Satan” in Led Zeppelin) or that they can identify by applying a solid dose of ill-will, motivated reasoning and something resembling numerology to the lyrics (interestingly, what they claim to find is usually related to sexual acts, like promoting “intercourse” and “oral sex” – the interpretations they find seem to tell us more about the “researchers” than the musicians they research). In fact, the Peters brothers don’t really think the musicians consciously put the messages there – rather, Satan himself is speaking through them and conveying his own messages through the music.

Their main data point is the alleged “epidemic” of suicides among kids involved in rock music, and their books tend to go on about the same number of highly mythicized stories about good teens ending up with drugs and shotguns after exposure to rock music (their circus often featured John Tanner – this story – performing for them and supporting their ideas.)

The most obviously lasting legacy of the Peters Brothers’ work “dedicated to exposing the TRUTH about rock” is probably the video titled Truth About Rock. In the video, you will ostensibly learn a lot of things, including:

-      That “Mick Jagger is an avowed homosexual!
-      That “the cover of an Alan Parsons Project album has girls with syphilis sores on their faces cloaked by veils!
-      That “John Denver says that with the help of his guru, he will become God!
-      That “KISS stands for Kids in Service to Satan. Look into the eyes of Gene Simmons. The Bible tells us that the eyes are the windows of the soul. Nobody’s home there!” The Peters Brothers apparently once interviewed Gene Simmons.
-      That “The Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ is about the Church of Satan. I mean, I don’t know any other hotel where they’ll let you check out but you can't leave!

As opposed to some anti-rock figures, the Peters are fine with Christian rock: As long as the lyrics (and artist lifestyles) conform to the Bible, it is OK.

Diagnosis: Again: we don’t really know where they ended up, or whether they are still around for laughs and pointings, but if they are they really need an entry. This is pretty much as delusionally insane as fundamentalism comes.

Friday, November 23, 2018

#2107: Chuck Peters

Chuck Peters is one of the leading voices in the ex-gay movement and currently a “research assistant” with Christopher Doyle’s Voice of the Voiceless, a group that describes itself as “the only anti-defamation league for former homosexuals.” It is really an anti-gay organization, of course, with the pronounced goal of trying to turn gay people’s very real complaints against insane anti-gay bigots against them. Peters, for instance, condemns gay rights advocates for being “heterophobic,” “bigoted,” and “anti-pro-choice.”

The ex-gay movement has its own pride, uh, rallies: “We are ex-queers and we’re not going anywhere so get used to us!exclaimed Peters at one such before launching the cheer “Hip hip hurray for ex-gays. Hip hip hurray for ex-gays. Hip hip hurray for ex-gays.” And just to avoid misunderstanding: ex-gayorganizations do not exist to celebrate people who have experimented and decided that they are heterosexual; the movement is of course not about choice but about getting people to stop being gay because Jesus. 

Peters also has a history of criticizing media for their portrayals of strong women and “stupid,” “buffoon” dads on television, which he thinks are turning kids gay: As a result of these media portrayals boys begin idolizing women and female celebrities while seeing “this caricature of men on TV,” which somehow makes them gay. How you get to that conclusion from the premises is a bit unclear.

Diagnosis: Yeah. No. Don’t be like Chuck Peters.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

#2106: Scott Perry

More silliness in Congress. Scott Gordon Perry is, since 2013, the U.S Representative for Pennsylvania’s 4th congressional district, previously serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 92nd district (2007–2013). Perry is a member of the Freedom Caucus.

He is probably most famous for suggesting, in 2018, that ISIS committed the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which is very clearly false. That his preferred theory looks like it is very clearly false, however, only suggests that there is an elaborate conspiracy in place to make it look falses so as not to inconvenience Muslim-friendly libtards. The theory was championed by luminaries like Wayne Allyn Root, Alex Jones and Laura Loomer, which gives some indication of what Perry considers trustworthy sources in his legislative work. 

Indeed, his Las Vegas shooting speculations are part of a pattern. In 2013, for instance, Perry also suggested that the Obama administration might be hiding a “Saudi connection” or other information about the the Boston bombings, information about factors that might endanger “your town or my town”. Perry is really afraid of Muslims living close to him, and concerning refugee resettlement, Perry commented that “when some folks came to my town unvetted – I’ve got little children and I’ve got a wife that I’m concerned about their safety, their wellbeing.” How thoughtful. Refugees resettled in US towns are, to put it mildly, not unvetted. 

And of course the Obama administration would cover up these things; Perry did for a long time note how the Obama administration turned a “blind eye” to Islamist “influence operations” in the government, ostensibly because the idea that such operations exist is really delusional; Perry knows better, however: Obama is turning a blind eye because he is “really working collaboratively with what I would say is the enemy of freedom and individual freedom and liberty and Western civilization and modernity.” And why would Obama do this? Do you need to ask?

Perry is also a longtime supporter of Brigitte Gabriel’s Act for America.

Diagnosis: Of course, it’s all a matter of FUD, but nothing suggests that Perry isn’t earnestly buying into the crazy. Regardless of what the case is, he really shouldn’t be trusted with any responsibility or power whatsoever.

Monday, November 19, 2018

#2105: David Perlmutter

David Perlmutter is a Florida-based celebrity doctor (neurologist) and author in the tradition of celebrity quacks and frauds like Dr. Oz (indeed, Perlmutter serves as medical advisor for The Dr. Oz Show), and is partially responsible for currently popular and myth-based gluten nonsense fads and for the pseudoscientific basis for popular paleo-diet advice. In particular, Perlmutter advocates a functional and holistic approach to treating brain disorders, and the false main claim of his 2013 pseudoscientific magnum opus Grain Brain is that gluten causes various neurological conditions. The book successful enough for Perlmutter to produce several equally shoddy sequels. He has also contributed to the Huffington Post,The Daily Beast, and Mind Body Green. Perlmutter used to be president of the Perlmutter Health Center until it was sold in 2015, and has also, tellingly, received numerous awards from various quack organization, such as the 2002 Linus Pauling Award of the Institute for Functional Medicine and a 2006 National Nutritional Foods Association thing, as well as a 2015 “Communications and Media Award” from the American College of Nutrition. He also made it onto this list.

It is no exaggeration to call Grain Brain enormously influential; it topped bestselling lists for an unnervingly long period of time (there is a decent explanation for its success here) and really made its author something of a star in the altmed pseudoscience community. In the book (good reviews here and here), Perlmutter ostensibly revealed “the surprising truth” that gluten is a “silent germ” responsible for declining brain health. This is demonstrably complete and utter bullshit. Even pseudoscience advocate David Katz called it a “silly book” that exhibits “the raw power of pop culture repetition, not the staying power of truth.” There is a decent, though sympathetic, summary of Perlmutter’s claims (and the rather serious problems with them) here, and a short summary here.
Meanwhile, real scientists, such as microbiome expert Jonathan Eisen, were not impressed with Perlmutter’s 2015 sequel Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain – for Life: “To think we can magically heal diseases by changing to a gluten-free diet and taking some probiotics is idiotic ... It resembles more the presentation of a snake-oil salesman than that of a person interested in actually figuring out how to help people.” The book was the result of his 90-minute TV special, Perlmutter’s “BRAINCHANGE”, which was aired on over 110 PBS affiliates and has continued to air on a regular basis since then. The book promises to help readers harness “the power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life,” and offers ostensibly groundbreaking preventative measures and treatments for allergies, autism, Alzheimer’s, ALS, dementia, Parkinson’s, and cancer. The claim, though false, is actually not particularly new; Perlmutter has for decades offered readers miraculous” treatments that can prevent and remedy all sorts of medical problems, and claimed that the various supplements and “detoxification” regimens he sells on his website are crucial to optimizing brain health. Needless to say, the data do not bear his claims out (there is for instance a fact check of some of his claims here). But then, Perlmutter is not really a scientist – he had a couple of solid publications (unrelated to his current efforts) four decades ago; the more recent stuff are either case reports or published in scam or bottom-feeding journals like the Journal of Applied Nutrition (listed here). He’s got anecdotes, though. His anecdotes do sound miraculous, we’ll give him that. Miraculous-sounding anecdotes is not exactly a credibility boost. It is worth pointing out that the anecdotes in his 2000 book BrainRecovery sounded equally miraculous (and exhibited a similar complete lack of actual evidence to back them up), only this time around cholesterol and saturated fat were culprits, things he recommends in his later work – in the previous work, nonsense like hyperbaric oxygen chambers (he even ran his own “Perlmutter hyperbaric oxygen center”) and special, proprietary supplements were the order of the day (the FDA was not impressed), including glutathione: it’s effectiveness in Parkinson’s patients, he claims, “is nothing short of miraculous”. His stock of anecdotes is at least remarkably flexible. 

Glutathione, by the way, is demonstrably useless (Perlmutter displayed a momentary lapse of judgment and actually contributed to real research showing that it is useless; he seems to have learned), a conclusion Perlmutter conspicuously aggressively neglected to mention in subsequent recommendations for it. Criticism of his recommendations were (and are) predictably dismissed as Big Pharma trolling.Meanwhile, Perlmutter was himself shilling for Protandim, testifying to its undeniable efficacy for treating and preventing many brain orders; the producer, LifeVantage, eventually revealed that it was a scam and wasn’t, as claimed, developed by a biochemist but cooked up by a business executive. So it goes.

Beyond conspiracies, Perlmutter is also fond of another familiar, general response to his critics: “Each progressive spirit,” he tweets, “is opposed by a thousand mediocre minds appointed to guard the past.” He is, in other words, just like Galileo; indeed, Perlmutter explicitly pulls the Galileo comparison, failing to notice the rather crucial bit of asymmetry that Galileo wasn’t opposed by the contemporaneous scientific community.

And of course, as his empire grows, so does the amount of bullshit. Perlmutter has pushed everything from “empowering coconut oil” to demographically tailored supplement blends (such as a $90 “Scholar’s Advantage Pack” for “young adults seeking to optimize cognitive function,” and a $160 “Senior Empowerment Pack”), his own organic foaming hand soap, as well as a $8,500 brain detoxification at a retreat he runs, which includes shamanic healing ceremonies. Recently, Perlmutter has been a devoted champion of the toxins scare.

To top it all, Perlmutter has also made appeals to the antivaxx community. In particular, he has advocated the “alternative vaccine schedule” nonsense (i.e. advising parents to ask their pediatricians about scheduling childhood vaccinations separately), which would put children and communities at greater risk of contracting preventable diseases. Of course, Perlmutter is advocating this against better judgment, but it resonates with his target audience, and Perlmutter is a disgusting excuse for a human being who apparently wouldn’t think twice about a few hundred dead kids a year if it pads his wallet.

Diagnosis: A remorseless snake oil pusher, and one of the most dangerous and vilest of those  in the US today.

Hat-tip: The Cut.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

#2104: Tom Perkins

Tom Perkins is a rich venture capitalist and founding partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Perkins is also delusional, and in a way that seems to have become rather common. In response to a Matthew Yglesias column, Perkins stated that “[w]riting from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’” The persecution complex is strong with this one – “This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?” – and although we generally shy away from discussing fiscal policies here, it strikes us as important to emphasize how lunatic Perkins’s Godwin venture actually is. Asking Perkins to pay more in taxes is not “like genocidal anti-Jewish rioting orchestrated by Hitler”.

Perkins followed up by revealing his own take on an ideal democratic system: “You don’t get the vote if you don’t pay a dollar in taxes. But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Now, Perkins followed up by stating that he was just “trying to be outrageous,” before doubling down on the rich people/Holocaust comparison (“the parallel holds”), adding that progressive taxation is persecution and “if Germany had American gun laws, there would have never been a Hitler,” which is not only stupid but reveals an almost stunning lack of understanding of the social and political situation in Germany at the time (including details about whoand how many people supported Hitler). Other subjects Perkins discussed were how the Koch brothers are victims of “persecution”, the evils of “child labor laws” and the non-existence of racism. On the question of whether he felt that he might have lost touch with the real world, Perkins responded that “philosophically,” he said, “nobody can prove that they are connected to reality,” an answer that must be characterized as a marvel of delusional hubris.

Apparently he has also written a book.

Diagnosis: Good grief. “Conspiracy theorist with a persecution complex” doesn’t even begin to suggest the inane delusions of Tom Perkins. At least we have to assume that he hurts rather than helps his cause. The notion that one is being persecuted, however, is a very common among lots of different interest groups, from antivaxers to evangelicals. Use Perkins as a mirror.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

#2103: Shelley Penney

The alkaline diet is a diet fad and type of nature woo that has recently gained quite a bit of popularity. The guiding idea is that altering your blood pH through diet change to make it more alkaline is a means to health benefits. As an idea, it is as stupid and insane as they come, because i) ) changing your blood pH will quickly lead to alkaliosis and death and certainly no health benefits, but ii) it doesn’t matter since it is impossible to change your blood pH through diet anyways. There is, in short, no evidence (not even the slightest) for any of the claims made by proponents of the diet, and the dietary recommendations – which are usually related to alkaline pH values at a rate little better than random chance – are often harmful for different reasonsFacts, however, tend to be of minimal importance to promoters of the idea, who often push it as part of some MLM scheme. It is  of course common to mention that diet can alter urine pH (which may reduce the impact of kidney stones), something that is unrelated to your blood or the rest of your body.

One ardent promoter of the alkaline diet, is Shelley Penney, who runs the blog Real Water Health. RWH pushes in particular alkaline water, which ostensibly contains “millions of added electrons” to make the water alkaline and improve cell hydration. The blog does contain a list of 17 “Peer Reviewed Articles on Alkaline Water”, but a quick scan shows that these are articles discussing research on acidosis; none of them mention any benefits from actually drinking alkaline water. So it goes.

Penney herself is a retired nurse with interests in “health, peace and abundance”. Apparently she skipped the chemistry classes one would have hoped nurses (or any student with a highschool diploma) should have had. Penney claims, for instance, that “because it is very alkaline, ionized water may dissolve accumulated acid waste and return the body to a balance.” (The notion of “balance” involved is presumably this one.) She also claims that “keeping our body fluid pH in an alkaline state may be the first line of defense in fighting any disease,” which is technically true since an arterial blood pH much lower than 7.35–7.45 would quickly kill you. Of course, ionized water (which has a pH around seawater in any case) will not have the slightest effect on your body fluid pH. 

Diagnosis: A disgrace to her profession, currently wasting her life on pushing harmful nonsense. A sad and sordid affair.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

#2102: John Pendleton

John Morris Pendleton is one of many creationists littering youtube and traveling around giving lectures to anti-science audiences. Pendleton is apparently a chemist scientist automotive technician with a BA in chemistry, though he likes to dress up in a lab coat to read the Bible to determine how old the Earth is, and does claim to have “worked in cancer research for 1 1/2 years”. His repertoire consists of plenty of familiar creationist PRATTs – in his youtube videos these are rattled off after his standard declaration “Hello, I’m a scientist” (he’s not) – with a particular emphasis (it seems) on scientists hiding evidence for young earth creationism. For instance, according to Pendleton there are cave paintings that show humans and dinosaurs together, but scientists won’t let you see them – his evidence being primarily, it seems, that archaeologists have closed off certain caves with cave paintings to the general public, which could only be because they want to prevent them from seeing evidence that goes against the official narrative.

There is a splendid takedown of his nonsense here, which also goes into details on Pendleton’s specific claims, which we cannot be bothered to do (visit the videos if you are interested). Among Pendleton’s beliefs are, beyond the inerrancy of the Bible, the idea that the speed of light is not constant, that the Leviathan mentioned in the Bible is actually a Tyrannosaurus rex, that radiometric dating is unreliable because it yields results he doesn’t like, and that the pre-Flood average lifespan was 912 years. Among his more novel claims, however, is the claim that giants not only once roamed the Earth, but survived the Flood (Noah himself, by the way, was 3.30 meters tall) and that UFOs are nothing other than “ultra-dimensional visitors of the spiritual world;” i.e. demons, devils and fallen angels: “It is not wonder, because Satan himself he disguises himself (sic) as an angel of light (or a UFO),” says Pendleton. “Demons-UFOs”, however, aren’t actual spacecraft, but illusions used to deceive humans. Moreover, not only did dinosaurs coexist with humans (they were vegetarian back then); they are still alive in the swamps of Congo and in various lakes such as Loch Ness.

Apparently Pendleton is the founder and director of the Grupo Internacional de Científicos Creacionistas, an organization dedicated to “unmasking the lies” of evolution, and a frequent speaker at creationist conferences especially in Central and South American countries, and has produced a number of videos not only for youtube but for Christian television. Apparently, he was also part of “the team that won the debate on CREATION AND EVOLUTION at the University of Morelos in Cuernavaca, Mexico in 1994” – so it goes – and has translated booklets by Ken Ham into Spanish. Apparently Carl Baugh has been impressed by Pendleton’s work, which is not a badge of honor.

He is apparently currently living in Zacatecas, Mexico (but we include him nonetheless), where he delivers his creationist message in local churches and (for instance) public schools, something the state government apparently has allowed him to do.

Diagnosis: Laughable nonsense, of course. We think it is unlikely that he will manage to convert anyone not already lost to dimwittery, but the fact that he apparently has access to public schools should really be a cause for concern.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

#2101: Mike Pence

A.k.a. A disturbingly good reason to be hesitant about wanting President Trump impeached even if the opportunity were to arise.

Mike Pence, the 48th Vice President of the US and formerly Governor of Indiana, radio show host and Represenative from Indiana’s 6th District, is a fundamentalist science denialist and occasional conspiracy theorist. Though appearing to many to be far more balanced, stable and boring than Trump, it is possible to make a case for the claim that Pence is, in many ways, crazier. 

Fundamentalism, anti-gay campaigning and anti-feminism
Claiming to have received his political mandate from Jesus himself, Pence has long campaigned to obliterate the distinction between religion and politics, and maintains a close relationship with various dominionists (although it would admittedly be an exaggeration to call him a dominionist himself). Indeed, he first received national attention when he introduced (and signed into law) a bill that would allow private individuals and companies to discriminate against LGBT people on “religious freedom” grounds. 

In 2000 (Pence’s history of anti-gay campaigning is as long as it is insane), Pence stated that “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals as a ‘discrete and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities,” and his campaign website called for “an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus” but rather redirect resources toward institutions that “provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior”. Meanwhile, homosexuality “is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion.” According to Pence, Obama thus wanted to “advance a radical social agenda,” and he falsely claimed that anti-discrimination efforts would mean that pastors “could be charged or be subject to intimidation for simply expressing a Biblical worldview on the issue of homosexual behavior.” As for marriage equality, Pence has reminded us that “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family”. This is incorrect.

Pence is known to adhere to the rule that men should avoid spending time alone with women to whom they are not married, ostensibly to avoid temptation. He seems less than cognizant about what the rule tells us about his character. It is worth thinking about.

As a radio show host, Pence expressed numerous notable opinions about a variety of subject matters. In 1999, he argued, in an op-ed, that the Disney film Mulanwas a piece of liberal, feminist propaganda: “Obviously, this is Walt Disney’s attempt to add childhood expectation to the cultural debate over the role of women in the military,” though he seemed very satisfied that Disney apparently undercut their own argument by letting Mulan fall in love: “Moral of story: women in military, bad idea,” said Pence.

Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill” – Mike Pence

Pence is a creationist and has a long history of advocating intelligent design creationism, arguing for instance that evolution is “just a theory” and “just one of many theories”; apparently it follows that these many theories are all equal. Also, the science of evolution hasn’t remained the same since Darwin; therefore it must obviously be bullshit. (It is, in other words, abundantly clear that Pence doesn’t have the faintest idea what a scientific theory in general, and the theory of evolution in particular, actually is). In a 2002 statement on the floor of the House of Representatives Pence told his colleagues that “... I also believe that someday scientists will come to see that only the theory of intelligent design provides even a remotely rational explanation for the known universe.” Wishful thinking comes no more delusional than that.

Pence recommends abstinence-only sex education, which demonstrably doesn’t work to achieve the stated aims. But facts be damned when purity and spiritual hygiene are at stake. For similar reasons, Pence claimed that “condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases.”

As for embryonic stem cell research, Pence is opposed to it, wants it banned, and claims that there are alternatives that “obviate” the need for embryonic research, which is bullsit.

Pence also has a long backstory as a climate change denier; he “does not accept the scientific consensus that human activity is the primary driver of climate change,” and claims that “global warming is a myth” and part of a “liberal environmentalist agenda” to raise taxes. Indeed, according to Pence “the earth is actually cooler today than it was about 50 years ago”. This is incorrect, but Pence has probably realized that with his intended audiences there really is no limit to how egregiously he can lie and get away with it; a similar example is when he imagined his way to the claim that there is “growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming.” After all, Pence has patiently tried to explain to them that COcan’t cause global warming because CO2is a “naturally occurring phenomenon”. More recently, however, Pence has actually come out admitting that he, with a bit of hedging and lots of hesitation, accepts that “there’s no question” that human activity affects climate and the environment. If you expect a more reasonable voting and policy-related behavior, you probably shouldn’t hold your breath, however. 

Finally, Pence is largely responsible for passing “the cruel sham known as right-to-try”, which is largely, and despite the rhetoric, an effort to limit the powers of the FDA to intervene when scams are pushed on people in desperate situations.  

He denies that he is anti-science, though. He just rejects the parts he disagrees with. He likes the rest.


Diagnosis: Fundamentalist anti-scientists are hardly uncommon; neither are fundamentalist anti-scientists in positions of power. But few of them (there are admittedly some) have more power than Mike Pence.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki