Sunday, October 4, 2020

#2391: Chris Wark

Chris Beat Cancer is an anti-chemotherapy website that has managed to establish itself a relatively significant and popular source of misinformation. It is run by Chris Wark, who claims that he cured his own bowel cancer by adopting a raw vegan diet. Now, Wark did, in fact, beat cancer; that’s not in doubt. Wark underwent surgery to remove the cancer from his abdomen. Surgery alone (without chemotherapy) has a roughly 60% chance of curing stage-III bowel cancer of Wark’s type. That probability would have increased to around 75% had he also received adjuvant chemotherapy, which he refused (and for the record: Wark really doesn’t understand the difference between adjuvant chemotherapy and chemotherapy administered with curative intent). Of course, instead of attributing his survival to procedures (surgery) that demonstrably works very well against his cancer, he attributes his success to those that demonstrably don’t, and takes his survival without using means (adjuvant chemotherapy) that would have increased his high chance of survival to a very high chance of survival, to show that those means (chemotherapy) don’t work. In short: Wark survived, but his survival is certainly not due to his unusual diet, and/or him worshiping a particular God – long-term, large-population studies have been carried out to determine the impact of going vegetarian after a cancer diagnosis (surprise: it doesn’t help) – contrary to what he himself is convinced of. There is a good discussion of Wark’s story here.

What’s scary, then, is that he uses his own story, which shows nothing that even remotely supports what he claims it supports, to try to convince others to refrain from using means that might actually save them, and instead to rely on a plethora of ridiculous woo that will not – Wark, not being an official caregiver for his audience (he is not a doctor, and his spokesperson Joanna Tackett will emphasize that he “does not provide medical advice”), will of course take no responsibility for the consequences. And people do listen to Wark’s nonsense, and they die from doing so.


The Chris Beat Cancer website promotes a range of quackery, for which Chris is paid commission, including quackery pushers like Cancer Tutor, the Cancer Control Society, Veronique Desaulniers, the American Anti-Cancer Institute, CancerCrackdown, “Best Answer For Cancer”, CANCERactive, “Yes To Life”, “HealingStrong™”, Mike Adams, Keith Scott-Mumby (a poor man’s version of Mike Adams), and Ty Bollinger – Wark also appeared in Bollinger’s straightforwardly insane conspiracy flick “The Truth About Cancer”. The long list of crackpottery promoted by Wark also includes earthing, solfeggio frequencies and the bogus RGCC test.


His website also repeats various conspiracy theories, such as the idea that cures for cancer are being suppressed (those cures would apparently include laetrile) and the endlessly idiotic and often-debunked falsehood that chemotherapy fails 97% of the time and that it even helps spread cancer instead of preventing it. Yes, Wark is, together with Bollinger, one of the leaders of the “chemotherapy doesn’t work” denialist movement, a movement that has aptly been described as the new anti-vaxxers. Other silly myths pushed by Chris Beats Cancer includes the ridiculous claim thatstage 1 breast cancer is a myth” and that all stage 1 breast cancer is really stage 4 (you may perhaps sense how that myth plays a rather significant role in his otherwise thoroughly nonsensical video “How April Healed Stage 4 Breast Cancer with Nutrition and Cannabis”); Wark’s source for the claim seems ultimately to be spam, repeated on other deranged conspiracy blogs before he got hold of it. Heck, Wark even repeats – on several occasions – the easily demonstrable falsehood that since there were fewer incidents of cancer before, cancer must be (primarily) caused by modern-era pollution, completely neglecting the rather obvious explanation for the observed increase, namely that we live vastly longer and no longer tend to die from all the things that used to kill people off before they reached 40 and that cancer has always been, and remains, primarily a set of diseases associated with age(obviously so, if one understood how cancer actually works, which he doesn’t). In fact, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Wark is deliberately misinforming his readers: In a video where he tries to argue that surgery and biopsies spread cancer and cannot treat it, he cites real research, but the conclusions stated in that research contradicts what he attributes to it so blatantly that it is hard to avoid concluding that there is rank lying going on. Here and here are discussions of similar examples, and here is another one that gloriously illustrates how Wark dishonestly and ignorantly spins real studies make them look like they say the opposite of what they say and spins real developments to make them look like setbacks, at least to people who really don’t understand how things work and cannot be bothered to check Wark’s sources.


Self-styled “Cancer Mastermind Chris Wark has of course also monetized his wisdom through his own-brand “healing cancer coaching program”, Square One. In terms of money, it will cost you $197 (or so: the price varies). If you actually suffer from cancer and use Wark’s advice and reject chemotherapy, it will likely cost you far more. He does offer a refund to dissatisfied customers – it used to be a 1-year warranty, but is currently 6 months, for rather obvious reasons. He has also got testimonials, but is rather selective about which of the testimonials you’ll hear: when people he interviews subsequently die of cancer he will delete the evidence from his channel and website. Indeed, Wark’s use of this common trick is well documented; here is a discussion of one good example (among several): Wark pushing a miracle story of someone allegedly curing herself of cancer by “natural” means, only for all traces of the story to miraculously disappear from Wark’s website when said person subsequently died from the putatively cured cancer. On the other hand, Wark is ready to seize on any story he thinks he can spin to make it look like it supports his narrative with sufficient editing, including stories of people dying of cancer, where he’ll lie about the story to claim that the patient didn’t die of cancer, but died from choosing conventional treatment instead of the kind of useless, often expensive, quackery he pushes (and which, remember, wasn’t the stuff that saved him when he battled cancer).


In any case, in his own program, you will receive recommendations for Essiac tea, “Dr. Hulda Clark’s parasite cleanse formula” (yes: that Hulda Clark), colloidal silver, “black-seed expert, Dr. Roby Mitchell” (the Texas medical board described Mitchell as a “threat to public welfare” when they suspended his license in 2004), Nicholas Gonzalez’s enzyme-therapy, The Navarro Urine Test, Richard Schulze’s “herbal detoxification program”, the Gerson therapy, alkaline diets, and Jason Winters anti-cancer tea. The program’s relatively restrained quackwatch entry is here.


Wark’s 2018 book Chris Beat Cancer: A Comprehensive Plan for Healing Naturally garnered over 200 five-star Amazon customer-reviews in ten days (note that fakespot’s AI concluded that the reviews were likely fraudulent, without being able to recognize that reviews by cranks, crackpots or “friends of the author” are unreliable). There is a thorough review of the book here. It contains more or less what you’d expect:


-       Claiming that cancer is a new disease caused by environmental factors: Wark provides a long list consisting mostly of things that are not carcinogens. And no: GMOs have not been shown to be harmful, much less to lead to cancer, and no: coffee enemas do not help.

-       Most of the book is an attempt to blame the victim for getting cancer and failure to be cured, which is an all-too-familiar ploy among quacks and a crucial escape hatch: If their recommendations didn’t work for you, you just didn’t try hard enough. The ploy is never more obvious than in Wark’s promotion of his “Beat Cancer Mindset: you really have to want to get well, and if you didn’t get well, you didn’t really want it hard enough.

-       Silly recommendations for how to avoid cancer. Wark is of course under the misapprehension that cell phones cause brain cancer (they really don’t), and that electromagnetic fields increase cancer risk.

-       Silly dietary advice, of course, including fasting (a bad idea) and Mark Simon’s wooful and useless NORI protocol.


There is a detailed fact check of some of the claims made on Wark’s website here.


In fairness, Wark is making good money of his business and his cancer program, including kickbacks when you follow links on his site. He is not particularly forthcoming about this part, however – a chapter in his book is even titled “It’s not like I need your business”. He does.


Diagnosis: Chris Wark is certainly a true believer, but his promotion of silly and dangerous nonsense, and the dishonestly and misinterpretations that go into that, is indistinguishable from fraud. People listen, and in particular people in desperate situations, and they die. As a loon, Wark is more vile and more dangerous than most loons we cover.


Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

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