Wednesday, December 30, 2020

#2423: Judy Wood

Judy Wood being her usual silly self

Judy Wood is a materials scientist and former assistant professor of mechanical engineering, as well as one of the leading figures in the 9/11 truther movement. Since 2006 she has been an independent researcher and author.


Wood believes the World Trade Center towers were destroyed by a directed energy weapon from space, which ostensibly hit said towers at the same time the planes did. She also coined the term “dustification”, a central term to her theory, as laid out in detail for instance on Coast to Coast AM (notably, even George Noory seemed skeptical) and in her essentially self-published 544-page book Where Did the Towers Go? Evidence of Directed Free-energy Technology on 9/11 (yes, there are free energy conspiracies in the mix, too. And HAARP). Her theories have been thoroughly rebutted – there is a detailed rebuttal here, and another review of her book here (follow-ups here and here) – even by other truthers. Her writings are notable for making elementary mistakes on issues related to materials science and mechanical engineering, her own putative fields of expertise. Some other pieces of insanity from her book are discussed here.


According to Wood, dustification involves molecular dissociation and transmutation, and the term is introduced mostly because according to Wood, the debris pile on 9/11 was nowhere near tall enough to account for the aggregate mass of the towers and their contents (when confronted with the fact that it took a year to haul away the debris, which included more than a million tons of steel and concrete, Wood claims that “they were hauling in dirt, dumping it, then hauling it out again” because otherwise the observation would falsify her theory and using observations and facts to falsify her theory would be offensive). There is a decent criticism of her dustification idea here and the lengths she goes to in order to disregard obvious empirical data here. Anyways, the only available alternative is thus, as Wood sees it, that the towers were pulverized in mid-air and simply blew away on the breeze. The current go-to site for her ideas is her website Where Did the Towers Go – down isn’t good enough for Wood: “the majority of the material went up rather than down”, says Wood. The idiocy of the idea is worth a moment’s reflection.


As for the space beam, Wood consistently declines to speculate about its exact nature, where it was situated or who operated it. Apparently this is because he considers herself a scientist and trying to account for the claims in her idea that are supposed to do the explanatory work – notably: the whole point of scientific investigations by way of hypothesis forming and testing – would be to engage in political questions.


Wood has also instigated a number of legal actions and petition, including a 2007 qui tam petition to The United States District Court, Southern District of New York, ostensibly on behalf of the United States of America, where she named a number of scientists she claimed acted fraudulently in giving advice to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) during their investigation of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. The petition was dismissed, of course, as was her 2009 petition for a writ of a certiorari. It is worth noting that Wood would have stood to cash in a lot of money had the petitions succeeded.


Diagnosis: Dingbat nutter. Her ideas are so ridiculously nonsensical that even most truthers want nothing to do with her. Probably more of a liability to the truther conspiracy theory movement than anything else.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

#2422: Jeffrey Wolynski

Jeffrey Wolynski is a physics crank who, despite being obscure to most people (especially scientists, his claims to be a “top dog in astronomy” notwithstanding), has had some influence on certain groups of conspiracy theorists and pseudoscience dabblers, including UFO groups, proponents of (various forms of) the electric universe and aetherometry, and Zecharia Sitchin acolytes.

Wolynski’s pet pseudoscientific theory is something called stellar metamorphosis, a theory that claims to solve and explain the mystery of star and planet formation, which was ever only a mystery to proponents of stellar metamorphosis. The main idea is that stars slowly evolve into planets and that planets are just ancient (possibly trillions of years) stars. Wolynski offers a lot of strange interpretations of ancient texts as well as other forms of bizarre wordplay to back up his theory, as well as, predictably, a dearth of empirical evidence.


As for the theory itself, it is not a quantitative model, there is no peer-reviewed support for it and its proponents aren’t really engaged in testing it using simulations, calculations or quantitative observations. Rather, Wolynski states principles with no intention to derive predictions or make observations to confirm or disconfirm them – here), for instance is a full Wolynski paper; take careful note of the design and observational data sections. (He doesn’t hesitate to just reject observations that don’t fit, however.) His research is published primarily on youtube and viXra. Ultimately, the theory is interesting primarily as a study in how not to do science.


As a grand, unifying theory, proponents of the idea, like Wolynsky, also have to adopt an impressive range of novel ad hoc explanations of a wide range of phenomena: that matter is the real vacuum, that the Big Bang never happened, that red giant stars are way closer than parallax measurements allow for (so they’re not giant stars but really close red dwarfs), alternative interpretations of the rock cycle and Earth’s formation (physical vacuum vapor deposition inside of a young star, which means that stars are not fusion reactors, but electro- or thermochemical), and so on. Perhaps most significantly, Wolynski thinks that the Sun is hollow, which means that it will shrink in size and, in the future, become a life-hosting planet. Yes, it’s all egregious nonsense. Wolynski is also a member of the crackpot Natural Philosophy Alliance, where his profile lists his occupation as “Scientific Revolutionary”.


Oh, and he is also a UFO nut who claims that extraterrestrial life forms are regularly visiting Earth using technology far superior to ours.


Diagnosis: Ridiculous nonsense, but it does offer a good case study of the strategies and intellectual trappings of pseudoscientific ramblings, at least.


Hat-tip: rationalwiki

Monday, December 21, 2020

#2421: Scott Wolter

One of the most versatile cranks in the US, Scott Wolter is a self-proclaimed forensic geologist and former host of the television series America Unearthed, a popular hit series where Wolter would “investigate” and engage in JAQing off about mysteries and artifacts that he believes reveal an alternative history of North America before the United States. “There’s a hidden history in this country that nobody knows about,” says Wolter, failing to address the most obvious reason no one knows about it.

His show is based cherry-picking “evidence” from all manners of nonsense, including secret symbols, alleged secret societies, hoaxes, alleged coverups, vague coincidences, testimony from other cranks and complete fabrication, in order to shoehorn it into his own, grand unified conspiracy theory. For the most parts, he completely ignores the facts before him (as well as the claims of the other conspiracy theorists and crackpots he cites) to invent his own.

There is a comprehensive review of his TV series here. The episodes of season one (link to reviews in the titles) are:

  • 1.1. “American Maya Secrets” (more here), which discusses the supposed end of the Mayan calendar in the context of what Wolter, together with local cranks Jon Haskell and Richard Thornton, suggests is a possible Mayan village in Georgia, while conspiracy theories and incoherent attempts at pseudoscience fly.
  • 1.2. “Medieval Desert Mystery”, wherein Wolter investigates a burial site in the mountains of Arizona that he claims belongs to a medieval Englishman whom Wolter believes taught the art of building cliff dwellings to the Native Americans. His conclusion is primarily based on an obviously newly made rune stone that was recently placed at the site (the inscription is gibberish but Wolter finds a message): a local archaeologist points out that the stone wasn’t there when the site was recorded by the state in 1984, which leads Wolter to conclude not that it is recent but that the local archaeologists intentionally did not record the stone and are thus involved in a nefarious cover-up. (Wolter doesn’t like people who knows anything about an issue telling him anything about that issue.)
  • 1.3. “Great Lakes Copper Heist”, where Wolter suggests that old Michigan copper mines are connected to the Minoan civilization and the Bronze Age.
  • 1.4. “Giants in Minnesota”, in which Wolter visits a Minnesota farmer, Roger Saker, who believes some bones found by professional dowser Leonard Engen may stem from a 9-foot tall Norse giant. They find no evidence whatsoever, leading Wolter to conclude that Norse giants settled the area in the Middle Ages.
  • 1.5. “A Deadly Sacrifice”, featuring Wolter investigating a large boulder from the Arkansas River inscribed with a bull symbol, which could either be very old or recent. It’s recent. Wolter concludes otherwise.
  • 1.6. “Stonehenge in America”, where Wolter claims that the 20th-century structure known as “America’s Stonehenge” is New Age-related to England’s Stonehenge and has something to do with ancient Phoenicians – apparently Phoenicians arriving in North America to move rocks and carve in them didn’t know their own culture very well.
  • 1.7. “Mystery of Roanoke”, in which Wolter determines that a series of clues that are usually considered frauds may be related to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. They’re not. They’re frauds.
  • 1.8. “Chamber Hunting”, where Wolter claims that an underground stone chamber in Pennsylvania may have been a ritual bath chamber for a secret society.
  • 1.9. “Motive for Murder” (follow-up discussions here, here and here), where Wolter and retired local tv anchor Don Shelby investigate the death of Meriwether Lewis and rejects any established narratives, since who wants the simple and correct explanation when you can spin a yarn that is incoherent, complicated and wrong? (Wolter suggests Lewis was murdered because he, through his explorations, had come to know too much about what Wolter thinks happened in prehistoric North America.)
  • 1.10. “The Desert Cross”, where Wolter teams up with his son Grant to investigate the infamous Tucson artifacts (an obvious hoax). Interestingly, Wolter tries to shoehorn the nonsense into a mythology of his own making, thereby contradicting both the claims the hoaxsters were trying to make as well as the facts about the items. (Follow-up on some claims here.)
  • 1.11. “Tracking the Templars” (follow-up here), where Wolter finds alleged evidence of the Knights Templars (and Freemasons) in the US, including the “hooked X” symbol, which Wolter has written a book about (he has also trademarked the phrase “hooked X”). The Knights Templars are central to Wolter’s grand unified conspiracy (an interesting side note on that here).
  • 1.12. “America’s Oldest Secrets”, in which The Newport Tower, too, is connected to the Knights Templar. Prior to getting his own show, Wolter was perhaps best known for his 2009 two-hour special “Holy Grail in America”, which aired on the very nexus of all pseudohistory drivel promotion, History Channel, and where he explores, in brilliantly crackpot pseudoscience fashion, the idea that the Kensington Runestone is evidence that the Knights Templar sailed to America about one hundred years before Columbus’s voyage. There is a review of a talk Wolter gave on the Kensington Runestone (including its connection to Oreo cookies) here.
  • 1.13. “Hunt for the Holy Grail”, where Wolter hunts for – you guessed it – the holy grail.

And that, of course, was only the start. Later seasons are even lighter on research and go into even sillier territory, with Wolter investigating for instance whether the Ark of the Covenant could be in America (as per a well-known documentary; Wolter doesn’t find it), whether the New World Order was behind the Denver International Airport and the Georgia Guidestones, and Bigfoot). There is a sample review of one of the episodes here.

Wolter’s rantings are endlessly silly, of course, but if you lean toward thinking that the alt-history of people like Scott Wolter is just harmless fun, we encourage you to read this.

Diagnosis: Absolute rubbish, and calling it “pseudoscience” is a stretch – “incoherent conspiracy theories that Wolter doesn’t even try to back up” would be closer. And again: if you think the stuff people like Scott Wolter is doing is just harmless fun, it isn’t.

Hat-tip: Jason Colavito

Friday, December 18, 2020

#2420: Ben Wolfinger

Ben Wolfinger is the Sheriff of Kootenai County, Idaho, and he espouses a, shall we say, “American traditional” view of what his role involves. He is tough, independent, likes to lock people up, and has only a relatively dim idea of the distinction between the law and what he’d like the law to be, perhaps in particular when it comes to being gay and other wussy activities.


So in 2013 (Wolfinger has been in office for a while), Wolfinger decided to drop his agency’s sponsorship of a Boy Scout troop because the group is now “promoting sodomy, which according to Wolfinger is illegal. “It would be inappropriate for the sheriff’s office to sponsor an organization that is promoting a lifestyle that is in violation of state law,” said Wolfinger. “Sodomy is against the law in Idaho,” he added. It isn’t. But what can one really expect a chief law enforcement officer of the county to know, right?


Diagnosis: Old-fashioned fundamentalist. He’s apparently retiring in January 2021, at least, though given the ideas and behavior of other Idaho sheriffs (Bonner County Sheriff and Covid-denialist Daryl Wheeler, for instance) and candidates for replacing him (Oath Keeper Richard Whitehead and tireless promoter of fake news related to Covid-19 John Grimm, for instance), we’re not particularly optimistic about the future either.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

#2419: Steve Wilson

Steve Wilson is an investigative reporter who became a bit of a celebrity in the early 2000s for his attacks on Monsanto and for painting himself as a whistleblower and victim when his then-employer WTVT refused to run the story the way he wanted: the conflict that led to Wilson’s contract not being renewed and several court cases (that Wilson lost). His story was picked up and portrayed as a conspiracy e.g. by antivaccine star Robert F. Kennedy jr. Until 2010 Wilson also served as Chief Investigative Reporter for WXYZ-TV, Detroit.


Wilson is an antivaccine crank and conspiracy theorist, and he has a long and notoriously difficult relationship with truth, accuracy and science; several of his “investigative” reports – also when he worked for WXYZ-TV – have been crammed with antivaccine misinformation. Here, for instance, is a deconstruction of one of his “news articles”: Starting from the false premise that autism rates have been skyrocketing, Wilson goes on to quote antivaccine parents and quote-mine statements from doctors to conclude that vaccines (which demonstrably do not cause autism) are to blame – thimerosal, to be specific (which isn’t even in childhood vaccines) – and suggests that “there’s a big incentive for industry and government to cover up the truth” (precisely what that incentive might be is left open, however). To bolster the conclusion, Wilson cites Boyd Haley, whom Wilson calls “a scientist and pioneer in the study of this issue” (Haley has no relevant credentials or scientific or research background on the issues), and pulls an impressive array of antivaccine canards, including Andrew Wakefield’s infamous “monkey study”, the claim that the Amish don’t vaccinate (false) and have a much lower incidence of autism (false) and the Hannah Poling case. There is a detailed breakdown of Wilson’s antivaccine reporting and the canards he employs here; also here.


And lest you make the mistake of thinking that Wilson is just a naïve journalist JAQing off or trying to present “both sides”: Wilson is hardcore antivaccine, and doesn’t respond particularly well to criticism of his errors. The argument that “yes, there are studies suggesting that vaccines are safe, but those are criticized by anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists have their own lists of irrelevant, terrible and refuted studies, so therefore the science isn’t settled, so therefore vaccines are dangerous” does not qualify even as a balance fallacy.


Diagnosis: The kind of crank who gives “investigative reporting” a bad name: promoting conspiracy theories and pseudoscience as news is not investigative reporting.

Monday, December 14, 2020

#2418: Mike Wilson

State legislatures, again. Mike Wilson is the General Manager of the WCVK Christian Family Radio and has been a member of the Kentucky Senate representing District 32 since 2011, where he has served for instance as chair of the Senate education committee. As chair of that committee, he vehemently objected for instance to adopting the suggested Next Generation Science Standards of 2013, on the grounds that the standards included material on evolution and climate change, topics on which Wilson, as so many others (remember that Kentucky is home to the Creation Museum), chooses to reject the science completely and accordingly doesn’t want that science to be taught to children either.

Now, the Kentucky Board of Education had actually already voted, unanimously, to adopt the standards; but to finalize them, they would also have to go through the state’s regulatory process, which involves public hearings and a review by the state legislature’s House and Senate committees on education. And that’s, of course, where Wilson stepped in to proclaim his ignorance and denialism under the slogan [p]olitical correctness bears watching and should never be the arbiter of learning. Of course, he really claimed that correctness shouldn’t be the arbiter of learning; it just became “political correctness” because Wilson’s denial of the science is certainly political and therefore science is politics. Instead of science, evolution and climate change, Wilson has advocated for Bible classes in Kentucky public schools.

Diagnosis: Denialist religious fundamentalist. Kentucky is a fertile breeding ground for such.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

#2417: Melissa Wilson

It seems almost quaint these days, but back in 2013 Melissa Wilson, wife of Missouri State Representative Kenneth Wilson, gained some notice for testifying before a state committee that the state’s divers license bureau, which was also tasked with overseeing concealed-carry permits, is part of a plot to impose United Nations policies in the US. According to Wilson, “I have been doing some study on U.N. Agenda 21,” and by bringing this information before the state committee, she “feel that I will be a target. With Agenda 21, I will be someone who will be put on a watch list,” adding that Agenda 21 was being pushed through in part because of a mass brainwashing known as the Delphi Technique. Similar ideas were already then being mainstreamed in the GOP by people like Louie Gohmert. It belongs to the story that the state legislature voted to cut funding for the bureau.


Diagnosis: In current QAnon-times, Wilson’s delusions seem almost moderate. Still, Melissa Wilson is an utterly deranged loon, and she belongs in our encyclopedia. We wager a bet that she is currently into QAnon nonsense, too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

#2416: Buster Wilson

Buster Wilson used to be the general manager of the American Family Association’s radio network and host of the program “AFA Today. Precisely what he is up to these days is less clear (as is why he suddenly left the AFA), but he seems to be running a blog – in any case, he managed to produce a remarkable amount of hateful bullshit during his time at the AFA.


Anti-gay efforts

More than anything else, Wilson was known as a virulent opponent to gay rights and gay marriage – gay marriage, if made legal, would of course lead to legal approval of marriages to buildings, cars and dogs (Wilson’s inability to draw relevant distinctions should be duly noted; and here is an example of how he does research.)


But of course, Wilson is the victim in this “controversy”, and supporters of gay rights and marriage equality – apparently they consider themselves “wiser” than God – are the most hateful and mean people in the land: Christians in America may soon face imprisonment and death over their views on homosexuality, a claim that probably tells you more about what Wilson would really like to do with those who disagree with him than about supporters of marriage equality. To illustrate how mean and unfair gay rights supporters are, Wilson claimed thatI never see them digging for dirt on Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, etc. They only dig for the dirt on the evangelical Christians like us.” If only they had been civil, then “maybe, just maybe we could reach some kind of understanding”; the only thing Wilson would be unwilling to compromise on, if only the debate were civil, is the fact that homosexuality is a Satanic sin that must be banned. He has also called on media networks to fire (“clean their stables of”) their (“hateful”) homosexual employees and critics of religious fundamentalists. Note that hos own network’s most popular host is Bryan Fischer.


As for the 2012 AFA’s campaign to have JC Penney fire Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson, Wilson and Fred Jackson explained that DeGeneres needed to be fired not because she is hateful but because she “wholesome”; DeGeneres is particularly “dangerous” because she is just so darn nice. The lack of civility was, in other words, not really the core issue, was it?


There is, as Wilson sees it, really no end to what ills recognizing gay rights will lead to. Repeal of DADT in the military will, as Wilson saw it, already have led to a massive increase in suicides. And indeed, from the perspective of 2013, the U.S. may even disappear if the country approves marriage equality for gays and lesbians: after all, “nations in history’s past” that allowed same-sex marriage “no longer exist,” which means that “it is a nation-killing issue” (that the nations that didn’t outlaw homosexuality back in Antiquity tend not to exist either is not relevant.) Responding to a gallup poll on the number of people who openly identify as LGBT, Wilson claimed that the gay community is attempting to “redefine all of life” and undermine the freedom of speech and religion (he was vaguer on the alleged mechanisms at work). Allowing gay people in the boy scouts, meanwhile, will lead not only to abuse and suicides, but cause God torain down destruction” on America as he did to Sodom.


Responding to the fact that the AFA has taken a rather inconsistent view of boycotts – boycotting a long list of companies themselves for extending benefits to same-sex couples and not firing LGBT people just for being LGBT, while at the same time criticizing boycotts of anti-gay organizations as un-American – Wilson tried to justify the position by claiming that anti-gay organizations are “neutral” in the culture wars, as opposed to companies that are backing “the pro-homosexual movement”.



Wilson was no fan of Obama, and in 2012 he declared that God would “curse” America for re-electing him due to his support for gay rights, healthcare reform and alleged mistreatment of Israel. He also pushed a delusional conspiracy theory that the Obama administration (which is/was “part of the Antichrist spirit) is planning for a civil war and building military units that are “the President’s version of the Brownshirts,” in order to round up Christians and put them in FEMA concentration camps. In response to criticism, Wilson claimed that he was proven right because the Department of Homeland Security has access to “riot gear for the presidential conventions and inauguration,” which is … not quite the same as establishing a personal brownshirts army. Elsewhere, Wilson has claimed that the government has been seeking to make ammunition unavailable to gun owners, and that Obama might take guns away from anti-gay activists like himself. He didn’t bother to try to offer any evidence for that claim, but he did say that he remained “neutral” on whether it is appropriate for someone “to shoot down United States Marshals when they come to take our weapons.”


Later, Wilson pushed the conspiracy theory that the government would eventually classify Christians as mentally ill in order to “get us out of the picturesince they “hate” Christians.



Also in 2012, Wilson warned that the European Union is setting the stage for the emergence of the Antichrist. According to Wilson, the EU is (or was) poised to abolish the member states and institute a single, dictatorial ruler, who he believes may be the Antichrist, since that’s just how these things work.


Weighing in on the imaginary War on Christmas, Wilson’s position is that Christians are currently being forced not to celebrate Christmas. Given the war’s imaginary nature, you can of course construe it whatever way you want, and Wilson is not going to miss the opportunity to do the silliest spin possible.


As for school shootings, Wilson takes the predictably and infinitely idiotic position that guns are not the problem; lack of mandatory school prayer is the problem – this in response to a caller who stated that he owns an AR-15 assault rifle, hates President Obama and warned that the government is turning him into a vigilante and that “when the bullets start flying, well, I got plenty of bullets;” Wilson answered that “those were the kind of sentiments” that were expressed by the Founding Fathers leading up to the Revolutionary War. They were not.


Diagnosis: Silly, confused and hateful conspiracy theorist. He seems to be out of the picture, however. One almost feels a bit sorry for him.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

#2415: Marianne Williamson

Marianne Deborah Williamson is a New Age self-help guru, woo promoter, conspiracy theorist, author and spiritual advisor” to Oprah Winfrey. She also got quite a bit of attention for being one of the candidates in the 2020 Democratic primaries, where she became something of a well-deserved laughing stock. It was actually not her first attempt to run for office – in 2014, she also tried to run for the US House of Representatives. Both attempts to run for office were motivated in part by the vague, fluffy and not entirely coherent belief that the United States needs a moral and spiritual awakening. Though not all her views on politics may be unreasonable – that said, she ran mostly on a platform of gesturing and preciously few concrete policy plans – Williamson is particularly notable for her “problematic” (stupid) views on vaccines and various New Age bullshit, often promoted under the guise of anti-corporatist and anti-elite sentiments.

New Age nonsense

Williamson’s career in the New Age movement was launched with her book A Return to Love, which was largely a commentary and endorsement of a 1976 book of alleged channelings known as A Course in Miracles (also here). She has subsequently written numerous books, earning her the title “the high priestess of pop religion”. She is, at the very least, one of the major proponents of New Thought.


A central element in Williamson’s teachings – and New Thought beliefs in general – has been the non-denominational version of the prosperity gospel beliefs: (variations over) the law of attraction. In her 2012 book The Law of Divine Compensation it was formulated as: “To whatever extent your mind is aligned with love, you will receive divine compensation for any lack in your material existence. From spiritual substance will come material manifestation. This is not just a theory; it is a fact.” so there. After all, she can state that it’s a fact because the whole point of the idea is that you can make claims true by asserting them.


Other pieces of wisdom offered by Williamson include:


-       Just beneath the surface, this isn’t politics it’s black magic. Entirely a psychic battle. Use your shield of Virtue and your sword of Truth

-       disease is loveless thinking materialized” (Williamson is understandably cagey about what she means by that, but it is false no matter how you parse it)

-       Everyone feels on some level like an alien in this world, because we ARE. We come from another realm of consciousness, and long for home.”

-       God is BIG, swine flu SMALL. See every cell of your body filled with divine light. Pour God’s love on our immune systems. Truth protects,” in connection with the H1N1 pandemic

-       Yin is feminine, earth; yang is masculine, sky. When God is seen as He, the soul is seen as She. Just archetypes. Spirit impregnates soul.”

-       A wisdom culture is emerging from the imaginal cells of a disintegrating individualistic society. We’re pregnant with the possible world.”

-       Every soul on earth is pregnant now with a new possibility. Do you have the courage to face your fear and give it birth within yourself?” (Strange references to pregnancy is a recurring feature in Williamson’s words of wisdom.)


When launching her presidential campaign, Williamson said thatI want this to be a campaign for people who are ready to be deep thinkers. These are very serious times. We need deep thinking,” thus effectively warning potential voters to pick a different candidate.


Williamson’s New Thought beliefs – and how remarkably they reflect the New Thought beliefs of another presidential candidate, Donald Trump – are discussed in illuminating detail here.


Anti-vaccine sympathies

Williamson is anti-vaccine. And yes, we will repeat it: Marianne Williamson is antivaccine. And that is the case even if she often sometimes across as merely moderately sympathetic to the movement to those who don’t recognize the dogwhistles.


Officially, Williamson believes that vaccine mandates are “Orwellian” and “draconian” and has compared vaccine mandates to abortion, saying that the mandates interfere with what people want to do with their bodies. “Personal choice” is, of course, a standard call from anti-vaccinationists, who tend not to focus on the fact that it is their children they don’t vaccinate nor on the immunocompromised members of their societies – in short that the personal choice not to vaccinate is more analogous to the personal choice to drunk drive with your kids unsecured in the back seat.


Williamson has, on numerous occasions, tried to suggest she was walking back her anti-vaccine remarks, but they keep popping up. In 2019, for instance, she claimed that vaccines require further safety studies and raised concerns about something she called “neurons-toxins” (you might think she meant “neurotoxins”, but vaccines don’t contain any of those). She also vowed that, as president, she’d order the CDC to establish “an independent commission to review/reform vaccine safety,” being apparently blithely unaware of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee.


She has earlier stated thatI understand the controversial aspects of vaccinations, and I share many of the concerns” (2011) and that she believes that the skepticism is healthy (2015) and that while vaccines do protect against measles, she is rather concerned about the “overload” of vaccines (know your dogwhistle!). She also claimed that Big Pharma apparently covers up results of studies of vaccines they don’t like and that vaccines are currently not being independently tested (utterly false), and she has elsewhere suggested that there is a link between vaccines and an (imaginary) worsening of health among American kids: Indeed, Williamson claimed that the incidence of chronic disease in children has risen to “54%”. That’s false, but what is particularly telling is that the figure comes from antivaxxer Robert Kennedy, Jr’s Children’s Health Defense (Williamson stated that she was JAQing off over the causes of those putative numbers, but immediately continued to talk about vaccines, even though vaccines couldn’t have been the cause even if the figure had been correct; here is a discussion of how Kennedy arrived at the figure. The figure is not correct). Moreover, Williamson has suggested that the existence of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program shows that vaccines are unsafe.


Of course, you might claim that she is just pandering to the antivaccine crowd, not necessarily sharing their beliefs. Which really doesn’t matter. Pandering to the antivaccine crowd makes you antivaccine – whether you share their beliefs in your heart’s heart or not is pretty fucking irrelevant (though evidence is, for the record, pretty strong that Williamson does share them and is just desperately trying to come across as reasonable – no one likes being called “anti-vaccine”). We’ll also include a dishonorable mention to Faye Flam for her clueless defenseof Williamson’s antivaccine views.


Other forays into denialism and pseudoscience

Williamson has called for a ban on glyphosate, claiming that it can cause cancer (no, there is no evidence that shows such a link) and, to frame it as anti-corporatism, that the use of glyphosate helps Monsanto, whose patent on glyphosate expired in 2000.


She is also a GMO denialist, and has for instance linked to the anti-GMO conspiracy organization Center for Food Safety. In addition, Williamson has dismissed antidepressant drugs as “medicalization” of normal sadness (“a normal spectrum of human despair, normal human despair, which traditionally was seen as the purview of spirituality and religion”), and suggested that her New Age wellness advice is much better. There is an illuminating analysis of Williamson’s anti-psychiatry rhetoric here and her disease-denialist rhetoric in general here.


According to herself, she isn’t anti-science, though: “I am not anti-science (that one is almost funny, given how much I quote Einstein).” Of course, as JoeWV points out, “[q]uoting Einstein doesn’t make you pro-science but accusing all of western world’s universities, doctors, hospitals, governments and scientific organizations of being bribed by pharmaceutical companies is what makes you anti-science.” What is true, though, is that Williamson does have a long history of spreading fake quotes attributed to Einstein.


During her 2020 presidential nominee run, many of her more idiotic quotes were brought to light. Williamson herself often responded by claiming that they were taken out of context, so here we will present a few in context:


-       In the traditional Western medical model, a healer’s job is to attack disease. But if the consciousness of attack is the ultimate problem, how could it be the ultimate answer? A miracle worker’s job is not to attack illness, but rather to stimulate the natural forces of healing. We turn our eyes away from sickness to the love that lies beyond it.”

-       God is all that is good. He creates only love, therefore he did not create sickness. Sickness is an illusion and does not actually exist. It is part of our worldly dream, our self-created nightmare. Our prayer to God is that He awaken us from the dream.”

-       When a child presents a cut finger to his or her mother, the woman doesn’t say, ‘Bad cut.’ Rather, she kisses the finger, showers it with love in an unconscious, instinctive activation of the healing process. Why should we think differently about critical illness? Cancer and AIDS and other serious illnesses are physical manifestations of a psychic scream, and their message is not ‘Hate me,’ but ‘Love me’.”


The picture her critics painted of her as an idiot offering grifts and nonsense to people in difficult situations is, in other words, accurate. There is a good analysis of some of the dangers associated with Williamson’s ideas here.


Diagnosis: To some extent, at least, a love-and-fluff version of Donald Trump, complete with post-truth rhetoric, denialism and New Thought bullshit. We won’t say she’s “as dangerous as Trump”, but she’s pretty damn dangerous.


Hat-tip: rationalwiki