Sunday, October 2, 2022

#2572: Sue Bohlin

Sue Bohlin is associate speaker and Web Site Administrator with Probe Ministries and married to Ray Bohlin, whom we have already covered. Sue is herself a fundie and a wingnut, and predictably hateful and bigoted – her views on homosexuality, for instance, are precisely what you’d expect (“homosexuality is no more right, holy or acceptable today than it ever was in Bible times”). She has written a number of publication for Probe ministries, including ‘Homosexuality Q&A’, ‘Homosexual Myths’, ‘Ten Lies of Feminism’, ‘The Value of Suffering’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Can Homosexuals Change?’, ‘5 Lies the Church Tells Women’, ‘A Short Look At Six World Religions’, ‘Worldproofing Our Kids’ [no kidding] and, of course, ‘Creation & Evolution Q&A for Kids’. Now, we haven’t bothered to look at, much less read, any of this, but we think we can reasonably infer a number of things from their titles and a general knowledge of Bohlin’s stances on things – she has for instance written quite a bit on evolution with her husband, Raymond, and we do know his views, e.g. on ‘The Grand Canyon and the Age of the Earth’.

 

Now, what should kids know about evolution, according to Bohlin? Well, they should apparently know that there are gaps in the fossil record, that there are no vestigial structures (we just don’t know what the functions are), that there are no genetic mechanisms for gradual evolution over cosmic time, and that there are things scientists can’t completely explain yet, so you are free to reject it all in favor of whatever you like.

 

A large part of her work consists of responding to questions from readers (or at least questions described as being from readers), and those answers are one reason she warrants an entry here. Telling her readers sternly that they cannot attend their neighbour’s gay wedding is just an example. We can’t be bothered to go through much of it but yes, that’s the standard.

 

Perhaps the main reason for including her, however, is her career as a speaker at various gay conversion camps, both in the US and internationally – indeed, Bohlin is on the Board of Directors for Living Hope Ministries, a deranged conversion therapy cult. According to Bohlin, the latest research shows 80 to 85 per cent of lesbians were sexually abused in the past. She does, of course, not provide any references. Moreover, women who weren’t nurtured or breastfed by their mothers end up sexually attracted to females because: “they want to rest in another woman’s arms; they want to suckle at a breast. They want to gaze into the eyes of another woman like a baby would a mother” (po-mo pseudo-Freudan pseudo-psychology is a major strand of fundie wingnut thought). Part of the blame lies also with popular culture, in particular a “disgusting” new generation of US TV shows and movies that glamorize same-sex relationships.

 

Diagnosis: An abomination, through and through. Undiluted evil, hate and bigotry, augmented by stupidity, ignorance and conspiracy theories.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

#2571: Christian Bogner

Christian Bogner is a board-certified OB/GYN and until recently medical director of the Oxford Recovery Center, a dangerous quack institution where he ostensibly specializes in autism, autoimmune disease, and gastrointestinal issues – something that would strike a careful reader as being rather far removed from his area of specialization. The Oxford Recovery Center’s autism services’ ARTS programs, an integrative approach the center claims can lead to recovery, was created and run by Casey Diskin, a convicted felon with fake credentials stolen from a certified behavioral analyst – something the the center was aware of for a long time but did not do anything about since that’s the kind of organization we are talking about (“As an organization founded by Christians, we believe in forgiveness and redemption”, said ORC’s CEO Tami Peterson, obviously failing to recognize the lack of credentials issue). Bogner, in fairness, resigned from his position there in 2021. Currently, he seems to be promoting the nebulous quackery known as functional medicine.

 

Bogner has his own ideas about autism, and they are not based on reality, evidence or reason. Believing that autism is a neuroinflammatory condition, Bogner is opposed to any pharmaceutical intervention, championing instead a plant-based diet, hyberbaric oxygen chambers and unproven and dangerous stem cell therapies. And Bogner doesn’t treat just autism; he treats almost everything that his customers are willing to pay him to treat, including chronic Lyme disease. He is also antivaccine (an advocate for ‘vaccine choice’), being a regular speaker at the antivaccine quackfest AutismOne and author of antivaccine Letters to the Editor like ‘Vaccines are a choice not a mandate’. In particular, Bogner claims that adjuvants (like aluminum) plus heavy metals in vaccines activate the microglia, which purportedly causes inflammation and autism. It doesn’t, if reality is your standard, but it isn’t Bogner’s. Apparently glyphosate is involved, too, as is aborted fetal cells in vaccines. Yes, Bogner is that kind of practitioner.

 

Bogner is most famous, however, for his pseudoscientific ramblings in favor of phytocannabinoid (marijuana)  therapies for autism. Now, medical marijuana has become something of a new herbalism, a complete and largely (though not fully) pseudoscientific edifice with little root in actual evidence (for a good discussion, see this). The evidence for marijuana therapies for autism is more or less nil (there is evidence for using medical marijuana for spasticity and pain, which is largely irrelevant but which advocates of cannabis for autism often refer to since some children with autism also suffer from seizures). Advocates have claimed “peer reviewed evidence that cannabis not only has the potential to provide palliative relief of symptoms related to autism, but may also have the potential to target the underlying causes of autism itself,” but the “peer reviewed” evidence in question in that quote is merely a blog post, ‘The Endocannabinoid System as it Relates to Autism’, published on the Cannabis for Autism blog written by Bogner and Joe Stone. And the reason it is not a peer-reviewed published article is rather obvious if one looks at it: Apart from some amazing cherry-picking forays, they’ve got anecdotes (mostly about epilepsy), some potential correlations and lots of imaginative extrapolations from preclinical cell culture and animal studies and studies that address other conditions, to conclude that cannabinoids are efficacious treating autism. They do not address the lack of actual clinical trial evidence. The current state of evidence on marijuana for neurological disorders is discussed here (from 2015, but the situation remains generally sordid, and on autism there’s still really nothing that rises above the level of shoddy-borderlining-on-scientific-misconduct).

 

And no, Bogner did not attend medical school at Cornell, but in Poznan.

 

Diagnosis: Pseudoscience and crackpottery, yes, and with the usual yet remarkable opportunism and cynicism associated with the kind of business in which Bogner is involved. A shitty person. Avoid.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

#2570: Lauren Boebert

Lauren Opal Boebert is a high-school dropout, conspiracy theorist and Representative for Colorado’s 3rd district in the US House of Representatives, where she represents the QAnon & stupidity faction together with Marjorie Taylor Greene and Louie Gohmert.

 

Like so many candidates who run on an ostensible “law and order” platform, Boebert has a long criminal record, in addition to an even longer record of morally questionable behavior, having been court summoned and fined a rather impressive number of times for an interestingly variegated set of crimes. She also sports a long record of payments to and cooperation with terrorist groups, including hiring representatives of the Three Percenters group as security for her campaign events.

 

QAnon and other conspiracy groups

thank God for you guys and the Proud Boys

-       Boebert’s campaign manager Sherrona Bishop (“you guys” refers to some self-declared members of the group)

 

Boebert’s official position on the QAnon conspiracy theories vary according to the principle of opportunism. In a May 2020 interview on Ann Vandersteel’s QAnon web show SteelTruth, she claimed to bevery familiar with” the claims, and asserting that “everything I’ve heard of Q, I hope that this is real because it only means America is getting stronger and better.” She was also a follower of a number of QAnon-connected YouTube channels at the time. When her affiliation with the movement later faced some scrutiny, she deleted her YouTube account and denied everything.

 

During a March 2021 town hall in Montrose, however, Boebert responded to an interlocutor wondering when Hillary Clinton and other former officials would be arrested (a recurring delusional dream among QAnon loons) by claiming that she knew someone involved with documents declassified by Trump during the closing days of his presidency, and that the documents would reveal corruption to trigger resignations that would allow Republicans to retake the House and Senate before 2022. That particular piece of Trump fan fiction is familiar e.g. from the ridiculous conspiracy theory outlet The Epoch Times. Boebert, however, urged people to just overlook the outlet’s status as a fake news purveyor (a status earned by fact checks establishing its systematic lack of reliability about anything whatsoever), claiming instead that they were using information from “very good sources” (the sources being, of course, not further specified). For the most part, however, Boebert prefers to ignite the Qanon crowd with the help of dogwhistles her critics tend to miss.

 

Stop the steal and Capitol storming

Boebert has been a staunch supporter of Trump’s false and baseless claims that 2020 election was stolen from him, and she voted to overturn the results of the Electoral College vote count.

 

She has, in particular, tirelessly spread misinformation and baseless conspiracy theories about Arizona’s election results, alleging widespread voter fraud and accusing everyone who intended to accept the “results of this concentrated, coordinated, partisan effort by Democrats” of having allied themselves with the extremist left. In December 2021, Boebert reiterated the claim that hundreds of thousands of ballots were illegally mailed to voters. Did she provide evidence? What do you think?

 

She also supported the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 (“Today is 1776”) and was herself an invited speaker at the March for Trump/Save America rally directly preceding the riot. During the riot itself, Boebert tweeted the location of Nancy Pelosi, which resulted in widespread calls for resignation. At least, her communications director had sufficient integrity to leave the clown ship over Boebert’s January 6 behavior.

 

In June 2021, Boebert voted against a resolution to give the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol. She also rejects the term ‘insurrection’ for the January 6 events, calling the House inquiry into the attack a “sham witch hunt” and equating the riot with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests – which she anyways thinks should be prosecuted en masse and is linked to terrorism, which makes it unclear what her defense of the January 6 riots is really supposed to be. Boebert’s fans don’t seem to notice the tension, and neither does she. She freely used fear of another insurrection when applying for a concealed gun permit in DC, but ranted against the metal detectors in the Capitol designed to prevent attacks on Congress because the detectors made it challenging for her to bring a gun to Congress.

 

Here is her reasoning for why Kamala Harris should be impeached, and it would have been sort of noteworthy if it hadn’t been so daft. (Biden should of course be ‘imeached’, too).

 

Education

Boebert supports eliminating the US Department of Education because “critical race theory, which is not taught in schools but which should be banned from schools nonetheless.

 

Bigotry

A full-time bigot, Boebert is of course opposed to marriage equality and any measure to ease the life of transgender people. She freaked mightily out over the 2021 Equality Act, alleging that it aimed to establish the “supremacy of gays, lesbians and transvestites,” which she probably genuinely believes, and it is very telling.

 

She has also gotten some attention for her altercations with Ilhan Omar, whom Boebert has described asa full-time propagandist for Hamas” and an “honorary member of Hamas”, referred to asthe Jihad Squad member from Minnesota”, and implied to be a terrorist. According to Boebert, she herself would put “America first, never sympathizing with terrorists. Unfortunately, Ilhan can’t say the same thing.” Of course, as opposed to Omar, Boebert has associated with terrorists, even financed them. The Denver Post apologized on Boebert’s behalf for her remarks, saying that it was embarrassing that a Colorado representative engaged in such behavior.

 

COVID denialism

As expected, Boebert is a COVID denialist with a lengthy record of attempts to downplay the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, and her 2020 campaign was largely based on opposition to official COVID restrictions. She kept the restaurant she runs in Colorado open despite a cease-and-desist letter from the sheriff's office and a later suspension of her restaurant license – apparently, you only need to follow the laws you agree with, a principle she struggles to apply to others than herself, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. (Her restaurant, the Shooters Grill, was, before Boebert landed a seat in Congress, mostly famous for causing 80 people to contract food poisoning at a 2017 event due to unsafe food handling. Currently, it operates more likea Trump shrine employing a number of hardcore Qanon adherents, having for instance hired Mona and Bud Demicell as accountant and general manager, respectively.)

 

In Congress, Boebert has consistently opposed measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and has on several occasions posted misinformation and conspiracy theories related to face masks and COVID-19 vaccines (which she keeps falsely calling “experimental because she doesn’t know what ‘experimental’ means). For instance, she falsely claimed that during the two months that followed the end of the Texas mask mandate, the state did not record any COVID-19-related deaths – a claim that is easily fact-checked, of course, but Boebert, playing by Trump’s book, doesn’t really care. She subsequently introduced a bill that would ban all mask mandates on federal property and during travel in interstate commerce, which failed to garner sympathy even with her sometimes Congressional allies.

 

And yes, of course she is antivaccine. Boebert has even employed the familiar antivaccine nonsense gambit of comparing vaccines to the Holocaust (e.g. when comparing the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts toBiden [deploying] his Needle Nazis”). Meanwhile, the COVID-19 virus is just like communism. And no, she really doesn’t know how vaccines – or contagious diseases – work: attempting to mock the point of herd immunity, Boebert wrote: “I woke up with a headache this morning. I took some Tylenol. Now if everyone else could take some Tylenol too so mine would start working, that would be great,” which must be one of the feeblest attempts at a gotcha since Chuck Missler’s peanut butter argument against evolution.

 

Boebert has also accused Anthony Fauci, who told people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, of bullying, because encouraging people to do something they don’t want to do is just what bullying is and Boebert and her fans are apparently some really fragile flowers.

 

In June 2021, Boebert advised her constituents in Mesa County, who were experiencing an uptick of Delta variant cases, that the “easiest way to make the Delta variant go away is to turn off CNN [and] vote Republican” (she quickly deleted that particular tweet).

 

Diagnosis: Stupidity is an interest well served in Congress, but Boebert is among its most systematic champions (though we grudgingly admit that she often seems to be cleverer than her opponents tend to realize). A serious gohmert and a major threat to civilization.

Friday, September 23, 2022

#2569: Jack Blood

Jack Blood is a radio show host, conspiracy theorist and sometimes Alex Jones associate – not one of the big guns in that flock of paranoids, but since he is, indeed, on the herder side of the stampede down the rabbit hole (I mean “Where we go one, we go all” … you really accuse others of being “sheep”?), he is worth a mention. And no: we don’t know whether the name is an alias. Nor is it entirely clear whether his show, Deadlinelive, is still operative.

 

Blood is in any case a 9/11-truther. In fact, Blood doesn’t think Bush was behind the attacks; according to Blood “it was a black op that was above his pay grade. Cheney was in the loop for sure.” The 2008 financial crisis, too, was – just like 9/11 – “engineered to bring about more centralization”. Centralization seems to be the general goal of several og Blood’s conspiracy theories, and is apparently a threat to Blood’s freedoms.

 

His main focus is in general on the shadow government – the Bildeberger group and the Trilateral Commission and suchlike, the ones that are really pulling the strings. Most American presidents have been mere puppets – perhaps apart from Bill Clinton, who was “likely the illegitimate son of Winthrop Rockefeller and was ultimately really behind “the 1993 WTC Bombings, the OKC Bombings, Waco, and TWA 800”. Blood does engage in what he considers research for his claims, but it seems mostly to consist of reading other conspiracy theorists’ (like Jim Fetzer’s) rants; and then they read him, and so it goes, completely independent of reality.

 

And the shadow government is assassinating those that come to close to the truth – like Don Harkin, editor of the Idaho Observer, a famous conspiracy rag popular among the “patriot/survivalists”; Harkin was apparently murdered by “NSA and associated intelligence groups who utilized extremely powerful ‘Psychotronic,’ Electronic Warfare on him.”

 

Diagnosis: A minor but colorful figure. We have no idea what, exactly, he’s up to these days, but we don’t exactly trust it to be to the benefit of humanity.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

#2568: Jennifer Block & Elisa Albert

Nourish the Inner Aspect’ is the slogan of Goop, and it really captures the nature of that organization – utterly contentless, but with a vague air of feel-good deepity about it. Goop is of course Gwyneth Paltrow’s brand, and although it is huge business, it is pseudoscientific drivel to the core – Paltrow is wrong about everything, has no standards that bear any resemblance to truth or accuracy, and really, really doesn’t care. Her project is big enough, however, that Paltrow was given a series on Netflix, which she used to promote the most bullshit of nonsense and woo. Naturally, some reasonable people reacted to that, such as Dr. Jen Gunter, given that much of Paltrow’s randomly insane advice is not always mere harmless drivel but potentially dangerous.

 

And predictably enough, the criticism from the side of reason received some pushback from Paltrow’s dingbat fans. And of course, some of them couldn’t help but employ the ‘we’re-oppressed’ gambit – criticism of Paltrow by people like Jen Gunter just because Paltrow is lying is misogyny and patriarchal oppression. That was the line deployed e.g. by Jennifer Block and (successful author) Elisa Albert, in a piece in the NY Times, where they dismissed criticism of Goop by people like Jen Gunter as “classic patriarchal devaluation”, or shorter Block and Albert: “if you don’t lay off the pseudoscience promoted by Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, you’re treating women and their concerns about their bodies, emotional landscapes, and physiology with disrespect and a lack of humility”.

 

Mostly, their screed was a long exercise in whataboutism, referring to historical and misogynist practices in medicine. But they really didn’t shy away from describing the stuff Paltrow recommends, including psychics and energy healing, as “none of which lack actually lack sound evidence of benefit.” Oh, but it most certainly does; many of the claims Paltrow makes don’t rise to the level of meaningful, but those that do are almost invariably false (Block and Albert try to back up their claim with a link to a press release by a reiki practitioner before quickly moving their focus to the few Paltrow claims that are defensible). And of course, because Block and at least Albert were semi-celebrities, they did get their nonsense screed published – and deservedly attacked.

 

The more general and important point here, though, is this: Falling for this kind of response is to walk right into the Goop trap, line, hook and sinker. Paltrow’s whole marketing strategy is to use references to empowerment and feminist language (not content) to make a huge amount of money selling fraudulent bullshit. She’s a parasite on the feminist movement and every fight for empowerment, a leech who uses the slogans and spirit of those movements in the most cynical way to promote pseudoscientific crackpottery. She is exploiting women (knowledge is empowerment; misinformation isn’t). And useful idiots like Block and Albert prop it up by mistaking slick marketing ploys with genuine emancipatory efforts. This one provides a good summery. Ultimately, it is important to keep in mind what is overwhelmingly likely going on here: It is not that Block and Albert support feminism and mistake Paltrow’s efforts as a means to empowerment; it is that Block and Albert support wellness woo, and use whatever means they can to promote it or at least to justify it to themselves.

 

Diagnosis: It was probably inevitable that someone would endorse this kind of gambit. But it is stupid, and those who use it are genuine shitfucks.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

#2567: Bethany Blankley

Bethany Blankley is “a conservative political analyst and columnist who regularly appears on Fox News Radio”, currently writer for the Center Square, and a hardcore, Taliban-style theocrat deeply influenced by people like David Barton and occasionally taking Barton’s inaccuracies, lies and general drivel one step further.

 

For instance, in an article at the Christian Post, Blankley explains the relationship between the Ten Commandments and Constitutional and human rights, saying for instance of the various commandments that [beyond messing up the numbering]:

 

-       Religious freedom and self-governance are defined in the First Commandment”. Well, that strict ban on having other gods is what fundies mean by religious freedom is rather explanatory.

-       family governance in the Second”. Just think about it. Blankley obviously didn’t (if she did, she’d be even more insane than we make her out to be).

-       private property rights in the Fifth”. One would think a ban on theft hardly defines private property rights but presupposes it, but to think that distinction makes sense to someone like Blankley would be almost as silly as conflating that distinction.

 

Most of the ten Commandments are of course unconstitutional to enforce in the US. To someone like Blankley, who understands neither the Commandments nor the Constitution (nor history, nor thinking), “the founding fathers knew” in their hearts the Biblical commands and shaped the US in their image rather than the opposite. For more of her deep, deep confusions, see this.

 

Blankley was also a champion of Donald Trump (“a Cyrus or a Paul”) due to his Christian virtues, as opposed to e.g. Hillary Clinton (“a worse successor of America’s current nemesis, Ahab: an evil queen Jezebel”). For comparison, even Bryan Fischer recognized Trump’s meanness and lack of virtue (though he voted for him anyways … or perhaps rather precisely for that reason). In 2015, Blankley published a list of 46 senators who “should be tried for treason” because they disagree with her (and by extension: God) on politics.

 

Blankley is not fond of gay marriage, either. You can read about her distaste for rainbow doritos here. We feel no particular inclination to repost it, but it tells you quite a bit about what Blankley is thinking about and how.

 

More recently, her columns have tended to focus on raging against COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates because health freedom, as well as against measures to combat climate change.

 

Diagnosis: There are so many of these, and Bethany Blankley is overall relatively undistinguished. Still.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

#2566: Kirk Blankenship

Kirk Blankenship is Associate Pastor at Meadowview Reformed Presbyterian Church. And Blankenship is a creationist. He wants public schools to “teach both sides” of what he perceives to be the evolution–creation debate, which is not a scientific debate but which he confuses not only with a scientific debate but with a debate over atheism vs theism. In other words, Blankenship maintains a very simple worldview where all distinctions map nicely onto each other. He needs his worldview to be simple.

 

So in his letter-to-the-editor s in The Dispatch of Lexington, North Carolina titled ‘Writers are dogmatic’, he bemoans the narrow-mindedness of freethinkers and recounts his own stint as a … science teacher in public schools and the errors and lies he himself chose to tell his students. For instance, Blankenship quote-mined Darwin by attributing to him a claim admitting that problems (e.g. lack of transitional forms) “would be fatal to the theory.” That of course, was Darwin’s description of an objection, to which Darwin also responded comprehensively (the current status of the record of transitional fossils is also pretty impressive, contrary to what Blankenship told his students). He also repeated a standard, dishonest creationist quote mining of Stephen J. Gould.

 

Even worse, he said “When I was teaching science to sixth-graders, they learned that part of the scientific method is being able to perform a repeatable experiment.” And this is so dumb a misunderstanding of science that you know you are talking to a deranged creationist. No, science isn’t necessarily experimential, and – more importantly – “repeatability” refers to the possibility or repeating the observation, not repeating the phenomenon the observation is evidence for. That other scientists find the same kinds of fossils in the same layers is successful satisfaction of the principle of repeatability! Blankenship, of course, is just parroting the misunderstandings over at Answers in Genesis. He has no real idea about what’s going on about anything.

 

Diagnosis: Denialist moron, supremely unfit for instructing anyone about anything. A minor but harmful figure whose background in public schools is terrifying.

 

Hat-tip: Sensuous Curmudgeon

Sunday, September 11, 2022

#2565: Don Blankenship

Donald Leon Blankenship is an American business executive and (unsuccessful) political candidate. Blankenship is most famous as Chairman and CEO of the Massey Energy Company from 2000 until an explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in 2010 killed 29 miners, cost him his position and landed him in jail for conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards. He tried to run on the Constitution Party ticket in 2018 on a platform consisting mostly of opposing mining safety and environmental measures, as well as claiming that he was innocent of his crimes and would have walked free were it not for dirty politics and conspiracies. Blankenship is otherwise an absolutely horrible human being, to the point of functioning quite well as a straightforward parody of a cartoon villain.

 

His political campaigns have to a large extent targeted environmental “crazies” and “greeniacs”. Blankenship is of course a climate change denier (“I don’t believe climate change is real”, saying “Why should we trust a report by the United Nations? The United Nations includes countries like Venezuela, North Korea and Iran” – one could point out that these countries also believe in gravity, but that might give him ideas). According to Blankenship “the environmental movement isn’t a great cause, it’s a great business”, as opposed to his own coal industry. In 2018, he modified himself a little, admitting that “climate change is probably a fact” but that American-made climate change is not, it’s just China’s contributions that actually lead to climate change.

 

He also rejects mainstream views on mine safety, arguing against government airheads telling mining companies what to do: mining companies themselves are way better suited to the task and should have less oversight: “Washington and state politicians have no idea how to improve miners’ safety.” (The quote is from 2009, the year before the Upper Big Branch explosion.)

 

During his 2018 campaign, Blankenship tried to promote himself as “Trumpier than Trump but complained that the establishment was pushing misinformation about him because they felt threatened. His campaign targeted in particular Mitch McConnell, for instance by stating that McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao was a “China person (when asked whether the comment was racist, Blankenship said it wasn’t, because the Chinese are not a race: “Races are Negro, White Caucasian, Hispanic, and Asian”. So there you go.) He also got into some controversy over repeatedly calling Mitch McConnell “cocaine Mitch”, relying a conspiracy theory based on conflating an impressive number of degrees of separation (Trump himself endorsed Blankenship’s opponent).

 

Diagnosis: A piece of absolutely putrid rot. One of the vilest pieces of garbage alive today. Absolutely everything, on every possible level, is wrong with this excuse for a person.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

#2564: Jeffrey Bland

It’s pretty clear that Christopher Blair, the guy who runs America’s Last Line of Defense, is – whatever he is – not exactly a loon. Jeffrey Bland is. Well, probably.

 

Bland is the father of functional medicine, a form of quackery that encompasses a large number of unproven and disproven methods and treatments backed by pseudoscience, anecdotes, hunches and conspiracy theories. Bland even readily admits that there is no evidence base: “Unfortunately, current research models do not have a way to test each individualized, patient-centered therapeutic plan that is tailored to a person with a unique combination of existing conditions, genetic influences, environmental exposures, and lifestyle choices”, says Bland. It is not true that there is noway of testing their claims (and no, human biochemistry really isn’t that individual, even if we all want to feel special, and they could of course just test whether their individualized plans worked … but of course they won’t), and yes: the claim it’s really just a simple and feeble “get out of jail free” card and the same excuse quacks always use to not have to rely on evidence and instead do what they want and making it up as they go, which is exactly what they do. That it also means that they have no evidence for their recommendations is left unsaid.

 

Allegedly, functional medicine focuses on the “root causes, which is false on any interpretation of ‘root’ and ‘cause’, based on purported interactions between the environment and the gastrointestinal, endocrine, and immune systems … but really based on the opportunity to prescribe a number of useless and expensive tests. As response to whatever they deem to be the root cause, functional medicine proponents develop “individualized treatment plans”, i.e. not based it on cold, hard, impersonal facts, but whatever suits the interests of the practitioners at the moment. There are decent primers on functional medicine here and here.

 

That said, it is really hard to pin down precisely what functional medicine is supposed to be – it’s usually defined in terms of thoroughly vague, largely metaphorical terms like “taking a whole-patient perspective” and “imbalances” in hormones and neurotransmitters – expressions that could mean anything and which functional medicine providers accordingly use to mean whatever they fancy. According to Bland himself, “disease appears real and fixed, just as the earth seems flat, and time and space seem linear and solid.” Apparently that is part of a paradigm-shifting insight. In reality, it is new age guru gobbledygock, nothing else. But that kind of stuff has a rather significant audience.

 

Since 2014, the Cleveland Clinic has despite everything sported a Center for Functional Medicine. Functional medicine remains pure quackery. But there is money in it, and what centers the Cleveland Clinic hosts is not decided by its medical personnel, far less by anyone working in science. It’s apparently been very popular.

 

Bland founded The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) in the early 1990s as part of one of his companies HealthComm. Bland is not a medical doctor but a former chemist and dietary supplement hawker, whose companies have been fined an impressive number of times by the FTC and FDA and have been ordered to stop making medical claims for their products. At least the Nu-Day Diet Program and the UltraClear dietary program were obvious scams: they were falsely claimed to reduce the incidence and severity of symptoms associated with gastrointestinal problems, inflammatory or immunologic problems, fatigue, food allergies, mercury exposure, kidney disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis. Later, Bland’s company Metagenics got in trouble for falsely claiming that their products UltraClear®, UltraMeal®, UltraInflamX™, and UltraGlycemX™ , promoted e.g. for “Support of Metabolic Detoxification, were medical foods rather than bullshit. You can read more about Bland’s colorful adventures in the fields of fraud, scam, and con artistry here. The IFM was arguably founded precisely to push the kinds of supplements Bland used to get in trouble for, and the reason it is hard to pin down what functional medicine is, is presumably exactly because it was invented precisely as a ploy for Bland to sell his supplements.

 

Bland was also on the board of directors for Keats Publishing, possibly America’s most prolific publisher of questionable information about health, nutrition, and “alternative” health methods at least prior to the 2000s. He was also on the “medical advisory board” of Healthshop, an online supplement recommending fraud and spam website. Also before he decided to invent functional medicine, Bland was a central promoter of nutritional supplements and gave talks to and adviced a range of rather influential quack cults trying to pose as legitimate medical associations, such as the Council on Nutrition (a chiropractic organization – Bland and functional medicine remains popular with chiropractors, apparently). He is even on the Advisory Board of Julian Whitaker’s lobbying organization known as the American Association of Health Freedom (AAHF). But of course he is. Ask him about his views on vaccines.

 

What’s thoroughly scary, though, is that even in 2015, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education would accredit organizations like The Institute for Functional Medicine, with speakers like Bland, for continuing medical education credits. He is regularly featured as a speaker by organizations and groups that really should know better.

 

Diagnosis: One of the most influential quacks in the US, Bland is most of all a kind of spineless guru who seems to have evolved from cynically employing any scheme possible to push his supplements to becoming something like a true believer in whatever he makes up as he goes along. Yes, it’s hard to believe that he takes his own helpless metaphorical gestures seriously, but he seems to do.