Monday, February 28, 2022

#2517: Tim Barton

Spawn of the fanatic creationist, pseudohistorian, conspiracy theorist and wingnut extremist David Barton, Tim Barton is happy to follow in his father’s footsteps. Barton jr. is the current president of WallBuilders and regular cohost of his father’s “WallBuilders Live” radio program; and like his father, Tim Barton doesn’t seem to know what the word ‘verbatim’ means. And though he ultimately seems to lack his father’s marketing skills, he doesn’t shy away from trying to outdo his father in stupid nuttery.


Here, for instance, is Barton on homosexuality. And here is Barton holding up a copy of the Origin of Species and asking if Darwin was a racist. After all, the full title of the book is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, and the phrase “favoured races, Barton thinks, shows that Darwin was racist and that evolution shouldn’t be studied in school. Did he bother to think about what Darwin could have meant or whether it would be relevant to whether evolution is taught in schools? Not a chance. Instead, Barton invokes the Declaration of Independence to suggest that the Founding Fathers didn’t believe in “favoured races”: “The founding fathers even wrote in the Declaration, ‘All men are created equal.” There’s not favored races.” No prize for thinking about some relevant but inconvenient aspects of the Founding Fathers’ views that Barton didn’t mention.


Like with the Declaration of Independence, Barton has his own take on the Constitution, and has for instance asserted that the Second Amendment really entitles citizens to possess the same types of weapons as the government.


After the protests following George Floyd’s murder, and to forestall any irrelevant comparisons, Tim and his father David were quick to emphasize the lack of violence involved in the American fight for independence: The Boston Tea Party, for instance, was certainly not a “riot” – why else would they call it a “party”? Here is their prediction of the complete lack of rioting activities by Christians on the (then-upcoming) January 6. 2021 protests. And here is Tim Barton on Donald Trump’s Godlike character.


There’s a decent Tim Barton resource here.


Diagnosis: David Barton’s likely heir, and just as silly and crazy and dishonest as his father. Fortunately, he seems to lack his father’s appeal – at least it is very unlikely that anyone listens to him who haven’t already been convinced by his father – which makes him, overall, hopefully relatively toothless.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

#2516: Kevin Barry

More antivaxxers! Kevin Barry is a lawyer and antivaccine activists, and in particular known for pushing the infamous CDC whistleblower conspiracy theory (and no: there was never any whistle to blow there, though if you wish to know what the manufactroversy was supposed to be about, you could do worse than to check out this). He has even written a book about it, Vaccine Whistleblower: Exposing Research Fraud at the CDC, which contains a foreword by Robert F. Kennedy jr., a preface by Boyd Haley, and transcripts of carefully selected telephone conversations between the alleged CDC whistleblower”, William W. Thompson, who – at least if the transcripts are to be trusted – has gone full on antivaxx, and antivaxx conspiracy theorist Brian Hooker. Barry’s book is thoroughly reviewed here. Apart from the transcripts, forewords and some summaries, the book (published by Simon & Schuster, currently the antivaxx publisher of choice, apparently) consists primarily of deceptive propaganda and Barry imploring Congress and the president to subpoena, persecute and remove from office any scientists unwilling to submit to Thompson’s misunderstandings and delusions. Some of the errors propagated by Barry are discussed here.


Barry is of course no newcomer to antivaccine circles. He was apparently President of Jenny McCarthy’s antivaxx organization Generation Rescue until 2006, and subsequently a consultant to Autism Speaks. He has also published conspiracy theories at Age of Autism, a telling example being the post ‘First Peer-Reviewed Study of Vaccinated versus Unvaccinated Children (Censored by an International Scientific Journal) Now Public.’ The study he is referring to is none other than Anthony Mawson’s unscientific and hilariously inept internet survey, which was:


i) not a study in any reasonable sense of the word, 

ii) not the first to compare the health of vaccinated to unvaccinated children – there have been many solid, large-scale studies doing precisely that, but they don’t show what antivaxxers want them to show; and 

iii) not censored, but retracted – from a bottom-feeding journal because it was too garbage even for them; it was subsequently published in what looks, for all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from a predatory journal. Barry needed to push his narrative, though, since he had already made great advance claims for it in his book.


A rather more novel contribution is Barry’s apparently homemade conspiracy theory that the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 was really due to an experimental vaccine, where he concludes that the influenza virus didn’t cause the disease that killed over 50 million people a hundred years ago but that it was all to blame on an experimental meningitis vaccine that caused bacterial pneumonia in army recruits. The theory has about as much going for it as the idea that dolphins are really lizard people from Alpha Centauri. And yes, Barry seems to be entirely unaware that bacterial pneumonia is often the secondary cause of death in influenza or that the 1918 virus has been identified from old clinical samples and been completely sequenced – there really is no mystery here to spin a yarn around, but neither Barry nor his readers seem to be at all aware of the facts. Barry’s evidence? Recruits at Fort Riley received a meningitis vaccine in January 1918, and were hit by the flu in March. That’s it. He is a bit vague about the fact that the flu was also in full bloom worldwide at that time, but you know. Details. He also promotes a number of familiar antivaxx talking points and lies along the way, such as claiming that current vaccine schedules are “experimental and that vaccine manufacturers are not liable for injuries or deaths caused by vaccines, which is blatant bullshit.


As an activist, Barry is known for instance for his attempts to frame opposition to school vaccine mandates as a matter of religious freedoms, as summed up for instance in a letter to then-President Trump he signed together with e.g. Shannon Kroner, Renee Bessone of the Conscience Coalition; James A. Moody, JD, Rev. Robert Schuller, Rabbi Hillel Handler (who has long encouraged Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and Rockland County not to get vaccinated), and the colorful Pastor Ricardo Beas of the Natural Law Church of Health and Healing (they don’t seem to have vetted the signatories particularly carefully), where they tried to argue that “governments are forcing and coercing a pharmaceutical product upon children that is made from religiously objectionable ingredients, specifically human aborted fetal DNA, animal cells, carcinogenic preservatives, and neurotoxins such as mercury and aluminum. This coercion of mandated vaccines is a clear attack on religious liberty and a form of government overreach. Making personal decisions about protecting one’s body is a basic human right, and most religions agree that our sacred bodies are the holiest of temples.” Of course, the fact that they aren’t demanding freedom to make decisions about their own bodies but about their children, is a distinction utterly lost on them. In the letter, they also promote unfounded conspiracy theories, such as suggesting utterly debunked links between vaccines and infertility, as well as concerns about protecting their precious bodily fluids and appeals to Nazis.


Diagnosis: Insane conspiracy theorist, and really one of the leaders of the antivaxx movement, no less. Barry has probably caused more harm than most.

Monday, February 14, 2022

#2515: Lynette Marie Barron

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is the committee that makes decisions regarding the CDC-recommended vaccine schedule. Antivaxxers predictably don’t like the ACIP, or any scientist on it, and promptly assert, without evidence, that these scientists are in the pockets of Big Pharma. There is even – or at least used to be – a facebook group called ‘Inundate the CDC ACIP Meetings’ that tries to encourage wild-eyed conspiracy theorists to swamp said meetings.


The FB group is run by one Lynette Marie Barron, who describes herself as an “Advocate & Activist for Vaccine Truth. Radio Show Host & Business Owner!” and an “Advocate & Activist for Medical Health Freedom”, as well as a “Mother fighting for the lives of our children against Vaccinations”. Barron is apparently the mother of two daughters she describes as “vaccine injured”, and is in general as crazy as they come, tirelessly promoting every piece of antivaccine misinformation she comes across – she retweets Mike Adams, for instance – much of it presented on the YouTube channel for her Forsaken Generation radio show. She did, for instance, do an interview with the VAXXED crew, and the posts on her FB page are the usual lovely bunch, including thinly veiled threats of violence (e.g. the lovely post by one Thomas Milcarek reported here.


Barron also runs a group called Tough Love, which has campaigned against bills to remove religious exemptions for vaccines in Alabama, and more recently – but of course – campaigned to counter what Barron describes as “fearmongering” from the authorities regarding the severity of the coronavirus. The fearmongering is, as Barron sees it, ostensibly a ploy to take away people’s rights (“I think there's a much bigger agenda here,” says Barron, because of course there is).


Diagnosis: Wild-eyed, loud, angry and utterly, completely confused conspiracy theorist. But when thoroughly confused people get angry – and there are lots of confused and angry people around now – they can become dangerous, and Barron, unfettered as she is by the constraints of reality, is pretty dangerous, at least at a local level.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

#2514: Dan Barrett

Many chiropractors do their best to appear to be science-based. Many fail miserably. And some don’t even seem to bother to try. Like Dan Barrett, who is a Maximized Living chiropractor, which means that he advocates a hardline, dogmatic approach that is outright anti-science, anti-vaccine and germ theory denialist. Maximized Living practitioners typically draw on non-new-age fundie religious beliefs as well, and many of them – like many other chiropractors who do not subscribe to Maximized Living ideas in particular – also claim to be able to treat mental illnesses.


Barrett claims to be able to treat and prevent mental illnesses through woo. Indeed, Barrett claims to be able to stop mass murderers with chiropractic, and have for instance claimed that the 2017 Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 people would not have done so had he been undergoing regular chiropractic care since infancy.


Barrett apparently runs something called the Vibrant Life Center in Minnesota together with one Joe Sutcliffe. They offer a range of treatments that they term “science-based”, but the fact that their treatments are trademarked sort of undermines their own assessment (and yes: if a therapeutic technique is trademarked, you can be more or less certain that it is not based on any genuine research). They also promote detox – at least they don’t even bother to list it among their “science-based” techniques – and offer lengthy, incoherent and grammar-challenged anti-vaccine rants, especially targeting (but of course) COVID-vaccines, complete wirth references to the VAERS database, Robert Kennedy jr. and immune system boosting. (Check out Barrett trying to explain what risk is: “The rationale for taking away individual choice in the matter is based on the infallible belief in this math equation: Risk/Benefit = 0 or near zero”, says Barrett, and presumably hopes you don’t think too hard about what that claim could possibly mean. Still confused? Well, he returns to the equation a few sentences later: “There are many rules that we’ve just learned from childhood to function as a society and it’s necessary. All seem to work quite well. the numbers are Risk = 1”. So there.) It’s almost tempting to link to his September 2021 rant in its entirety; we won’t do that, but it is worth quoting his conclusion:


Many say ‘if you don’t vaccinate you are putting others at risk. You may carry the virus and give it to someone’. Nobody puts anyone else at risk. We are at risk ourselves, due to our own history and behavior. Nobody ‘gets you sick’. You don’t catch the bug from some uncaring, unmasked, unvaccinated individual. You get the virus or not because you are a suitable host or not. If it wasn’t that uncaring individual, it would be some other uncaring individual. It’s not somebody else, it’s us.” Therefore, vaccines are pointless and “we don’t need the government experts to tell us we need to get and stay healthy”.


Diagnosis: Yes, this guy fancies himself a sort of healthcare provider. The mind boggles.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

#2513: John Barrasso

John Anthony Barrasso is a US Senator from Wyoming and for the most part roughly what you’d expect from a Trump-promoting wingnut – not the apparently craziest of the lot, though he did for instance promote the utterly discredited and moronic conspiracy theory of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.


Barrasso has, however, a story as one of the staunchest and most quixotic climate change denialists in the US legislature. In a hearing with the Environmental Protection Agency director in 2011, for instance, Barrasso stated, apparently with a straight face, that “forty years ago, the same scientists that are predicting the end of the world now from global warming were predicting the end of the world from global cooling”, a claim that is as common on climate change denialist websites as it is complete and utter nonsense. Asked, in 2014, whether human activity contributes to climate change, Barrasso saidthe climate is constantly changing. The role human activity plays is not known.” Though that kind of claim surely flies with the nuttier part of his electorate, it’s hard to believe that Barrasso is displaying complete intellectual honesty here – he is certainly not shy about engaging in some bald-faced lying about climate proposals he disagrees with. At least listening to Barrasso talk climate change makes for an easy game of denialist talking point bingo.


Barrasso opposed the CIA’s creation of its Center on Climate Change and National Security in 2009, and two years later introduced a bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting CO2 emissions.


That said, he did, in December 2018, publish a New York Times op-ed where he claimed that he believed that climate change was happening but was opposed to a carbon fee and dividend. He was, however, at the same time a firm supporter of Trump’s plan to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement. It may be worth mentioning that he received over $690,000 in funding from oil and gas companies in 2018 alone.


Diagnosis: Mostly an utterly spineless, dishonest liar and opportunist, we suspect. But it is probably safe to say that some of his nonsense statements reflect ideas he genuinely endorses, too. Dangerous.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

#2512: Roseanne Barr

Should we bother? Roseanne Barr is a deranged conspiracy theorist who has represented both leftwing-oriented and, more recently, rightwing-oriented nonsense: at one point, she endorsed dingbat loon Cynthia McKinney; more recently, she’s been a vocal defender of the Trump. Throughout her career, she has promoteda number of conspiracy theories – e.g. about Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, the murder of Seth Rich, George Soros (but of course), chemtrails and COVID-19 (a conspiracy to get rid of baby boomers) – and possibly invented some of her own, including conspiracy theories about why she is promoting such stuff. In particular, she started promoting QAnon conspiracy theories before it was mainstream.


Diagnosis: Bah. Total bullshit, the whole character. Just forget her, shall we?