Sunday, February 26, 2023

#2621: Mark Burns

John Mark Burns is a fundie wingnut, televangelist and all-out conspiracy theorist. Burns is the pastor of the Harvest Praise & Worship Center in South Carolina and co-founder of the NOW Television Network; he was also an early supporter of Donald Trump in 2016, and himself an unsuccessful House of Representatives candidate for South Carolina’s 4th congressional district in 2018 and 2022 on a promiseto help fight to bring God back to the center of American politics and culture” and a general platform of theocratic insanity (it is perhaps noteworthy that Trump didn’t endorse him). As for his background, Burns has claimed to have a Bachelor of Science degree from North Greenville University (he does not) and to have served six years in the U.S. Army Reserve (he did not). After initially claiming that his website had been hacked, Burns later admitted to lying but emphasized that he was attacked for lying because he isa black man supporting Donald Trump for president.


Campaigning for Trump

Describing himself as “Donald Trump’s Top Pastor”, Burns claims to have seen the light in 2016 when he realized that Trump is “a smart man. He knows authenticity. I believe he knows and recognizes real character”, suggesting that what he saw, whatever it was, was not “the light”. Apparently, Trump is powered by the Holy Spirit; that’s why he is facing so many attacks from “the enemy (i.e. those who disagrees with Burns or Trump on politics must be in league with Satan). Burns is in general deeply entrenched in Trump-finds-God religious right fan ficion.


He quickly brought his own character to the show, saying for instance that Bernie Sanders “gotta get saved” and calling on Republican leaders not to attack each other but rather focus on the “enemy”, Clinton – lots of wingnuts are scared of Clinton, but Burns has certainly kicked the paranoia up a couple of notches. He later retweeted a digitally manipulated image of Hillary Clinton in blackface, something for which he offered “a sincere apologyby accusing the Democratic Party for using black people for votes. His benediction delivery at the Republican National Convention in 2016 wasn’t entirely uncontroversial either.


He has also accused, in an interview with InfoWars, Clinton of trying to enact the extermination of or genocide of many in the African American community, which according to Burns is the deliberate plan of Planned Parenthood and pro-choice activists; Planned Parenthood wasdesigned to destroy the African American community.”


After the 2020 election, Burns was an early promoter of stop the steal conspiracy theories. Asserting with no evidence that “President Trump is the clear winner of this 2020 Presidential election”, Burns forwarded a barrage of unfounded accusations of fraud and concerns about “those who seek to undermine the sacred election process in our democracy”, which would primarily be himself. He has subsequently participated in a number of deranged efforts to have Trump reinstalled as presidentaccording to Burns, attempts to deny Trump a second term is “a demonic attack from the gates of Hell,” but he is certain of victory since “in the book of Revelations, Jesus wins.” It is admittedly a challenge, though, since Trumpis under demonic attackfrom e.g. the FBI – precisely because “the hand of God” is upon him so that he can “bring the Christian right back to the forefront of American politics, (Thus, according to Burns, we need “demon-killing machines” to serve as elected officials). He has also (repeatedly) called for civil war.


As for his own Congressional campaign, Burns vowed that if he were elected to Congress, he’d kick Joe Biden in the head” and work tirelessly to reelect “the blackest president that we’ve ever had in the United States of America, and that’s Donald J. Trump.” Here and here are Burns on education (mask mandates and critical race theory are training schoolchildren to become Nazi Stormtroopers: “It is exactly what is happening today. History is repeating itself;” Burns does not appear to have read the history books the rest of us have. Also not singing ‘Jingle Bells’ is a “direct attack” on Christianity.)


His contribution to January 6 is discussed here. Afterwards, Burns was among the conspiracy theorists who tried to argue that people associated with Antifa were responsible for the attack, tweeting e.g. that “This is NOT a Trump supporter...This is a staged #Antifa attack” (Eric Trump was among those who liked the tweet). He went on to urge conservatives to start smashing the car windows of anti-fascist activists (i.e. random bystanders they suspect of not sharing their political views – there is tradition for this kind of move).


Burns’s rather typical combination of theocracy support (according to Burnsany policy that is contrary to the word of God” – such as the First Amendment – needs to be made illegal) and persecution complex is nicely summarized in his praise of televangelist Kenneth Copeland’s Victory Channel network as one of the only places where people like him can openly “talk about Jesus Christ and taking over government.” According to Burns, not only is the US a Christian nation, but a nation thatwas founded on the fact that Jesus is the messiah.”


LGBTQ issues

Burns has called for the arrest of supportive parents of transgender children as “a national security threat” and compared them, as well any teacher sympathetic to LGBTQ issues (“the groomers”, Burns called them), to the leaders of the Hitler Youth; in what might be a world record in poor analogies, Burns described it as being “1922 Nazi Germany all over again when they were indoctrinating children before Hitler came to power in 1933. They were children in 1922, and they were indoctrinating those young minds then. They are doing the very same thing here in America.


Indeed – to ensure that no reasonable person would ever take him seriously – Burns called for parents and teachers to be convicted of treason (because being a national security threat is treason), before reminding us that the penalty for treason is death. He also said that Congress should relaunch the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to hold people “accountable for treason”. In Burns’s mind, the whole LGBT movement is an agenda-driven conspiracy: “The LGBT transgender grooming [of] our children's minds is a national security threat because it is ultimately designed to destabilize the republic we call the United States of America.”


The committee, when reenacted, should also hold Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell accountable for treason for signaling a willingness to consider proposed gun legislation: “Graham should be held accountable for treason for supporting Joe Biden’s gun-grabbing Second Amendment law that he is trying to push forward,” and McConnell for encouraging “other Republican senators to support Lindsey Graham to come after our guns, to confiscate our guns.” We need, said Burns, to have “some public hearings and start executing people”, just “like they did back in 1776.” Apparently, CNN (who broke the news that Burns had lied about his credentials) should be executed, too, as should “any and all members of society […] who work with foreign governments such as […] Ukraine” (the comment was made in July 2022, and thus tells you quite a bit about Burns’s foreign policy stances).


He later claimed that his views were misrepresented (they were astoundingly clearly not) and that he only called for the execution of people like Hillary Clinton and Anthony Fauci.



He has also promoted a simple solution to the issue of gun violence in America: “simply add more guns.”


In 2022, Burns also rushed to the defense of Kanye West after the latter’s anti-semitic remarks, saying that what is happening to West in the wake of the comments is “true, real Nazism in America” and “a form of racism”: “They are ostracizing him. That’s what real Nazism is.” That is not what real Nazism is.


Diagnosis: A firm promoter of Christian nationalism, at least Burns doesn’t seem to care very deeply about the values that the US has actually purported to stand for. At least one would assume that he has little chance of getting elected, but we’ll not take anything for granted anymore.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

#2620: F.W. Burleigh

The online publication American Thinker is generally known as a poor man’s Newsmax, and is primarily characterized by general ineptitude, for instance when it comes to distinguishing fake news and incoherent nonsense from legitimate news stories. That’s how they end up publishing things like pieces by F.W. Burleigh, such as his 2015 piece “Obama and the Muslim Gang Sign”, in which Burleigh alleged, based on a photo, that Obama flashed a “Muslim gang sign” to the prime minister of “Morroco” and the president of Mali during a meeting, something that apparently suggests that Obama was in some secret Muslim conspiracy with several African leaders – at the very least, it is, according to Burleigh, compelling evidence that Obama was really a Muslim. But Burleigh already knew that, given how consistently “Obama is comfortable with Islam’s extreme.”


And Burleigh ought to know, doesn’t he? Burleigh is also the author of It’s All About Muhammad: A Biography of the World’s Most Notorious Prophet (enthusiastically reviewed by e.g. Alan Caruba, whom we had all but forgotten). Burleigh does not seem to have any relevant research background in any relevant field (at least we were unable to find it), but he really doesn’t like Muhammad or Islam – his website also features articles like “How to Bring an End to Islam”; “[d]ropping bombs is certainly part of it”, but Burleigh primarily suggests using cinema: “Hollywood quality blockbusters” depicting … his own books. That ought to do it. Burleigh also wrote a novel, The Imam of Time, to accompany his biography.


Diagnosis: It’s tempting to conclude with “whatever” to such silly conspiracy theorists, but lots of people actually read this kind of stuff and things people like Burleigh has anything going for them, even to the extent that they might mistake him for a serious scholar. That is frightening.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

#2619: Fred Burks


Fred Burks is a former Indonesian translator for the US State Department, “transformation agent” and all-round conspiracy theorist, whose work has been covered e.g. by Coast to Coast AM and the conspiracy & fake news website Globalresearch.


According to himself, his work for the government (“having participated in numerous secret meetings”) has given Burks plenty of inside information he is now more than willing to share about e.g. ritual abuse, mind control, and UFO cover-ups. According to Burks, the government is brainwashing innocent civilians into robotized slaves for use in assassinations and political blackmail plots, and has been doing so for a while. In particular, they are using mind control to manipulate people’s memories by hypnosis – that’s why witnesses to UFOs tend to give conflicting reports. There are documents to prove it all. These documents are secret, so you just have to take Burks’s word for it.


Mostly, however, Burks is into HAARP, having published pieces e.g. for Globalresearch (“HAARP: Secret Weapon Used For Weather Modification, Electromagnetic Warfare”) on how how HAARP is covertly used by government agents for mind control and, in particular, for altering our very moods seemingly at random – Burks has experienced sudden mood changes himself. (He’s in general in tune with such stuff: I have a connection with beings who are not in bodies, says Burks.) His evidence consists of misreading declassified documents related to project MKULTRA (he skipped e.g. the parts of the documents where the agency described its failures to do the stuff Burks claims they’re doing). It is perhaps notable that he, despite his claim to be an insider, provides no new evidence or even concrete anecdotes compared to what is already amply available on conspiracy website..


Diagnosis: Colorful and mostly harmless; indeed, in today’s climate, Burks and his ilk seem almost quaint. But he’s utterly loony, and has a sufficient public presence to warrant pointing and laughing.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

#2618: Raymond Burke

Raymond Leo Burke is a prelate of the Catholic Church – bishop, cardinal, and incumbent patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, former Archbishop of St. Louis, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and hysterically deranged and lunatic wingnut, conspiracy theorist and antivaccine activist. Even the Pope seems to recognize Burke as a frothingly raving lunatic. Burke is also the kind of guy who spends $25 million designated to helping poor people to construct gold-coated monuments in order to “raise spiritual devotion”. In addition to actively trying to ruin the lives of poor people, Burke is known for championing excommunication of anyone who disagrees with him on political issues and for asserting that real Catholics couldn’t vote for Obama in the 2008 election. He is also former chair of the advisory board of the Institute for Human Dignity – yes, Steve Bannon’s group (Burke resigned when that connection became publicly known in order to tend to his career in the Catholic Church), and he has arranged prayer- and fasting-activism to protest signs of tolerance toward people of other religions, in particular toward “pagan” practices among Indigenous groups in various countries.


To most people, Burke is best known for his response to the sex abuse scandal among Catholic priests. He blamed it on “women. In particular, he blamed it on the perceived “feminization” of the Catholic Church by “radical feminism” in the church (he didn’t mention examples or try to define “radical feminism”): radical feminism has “assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized” and forced men to wear dresses led to a lack of emphasis on issues ostensibly important to men, like sex chivalry. That’s apparently why pedophile priests assault young boys. He did not, for obvious reasons, try to explain the causal relationship in further detail.


No fan of same-sex marriage, Burke has called such marriage “a work of deceit, a lie about the most fundamental aspect of our human nature […] There is only one place these types of lies come from, namely Satan. It is a diabolical situation which is aimed at destroying individuals, families, and eventually our nation.” Yes, he’s strong on melodrama and correspondingly thin on details in his attempts to explain things. He then suggested that parents should not allow their children to have contact with sexually active gay people and discourage them from attending family gatherings such as Christmas parties. He has also suggested that gay marriage is a sign of “end times”.


In 2019, Burke and German cardinal Walter Brandmuller wrote a letter to the pope calling for an end to “the plague of the homosexual agenda,” which they blamed for the sexual abuse crisis in the Church (whatever suits them at the moment, apparently), and claimed that the homosexual agenda was spread by “organized networks”. Burke has also compared embryonic stem cell research to slavery – apparently scientists are using the stem cells as “slaves”.


He really let his true colors fly in his take on the COVID-19 pandemic, however, going full-on conspiracy theorist: According to Burke, “the mysterious Wuhan virus” is being used by “certain forces ... to advance their evil agenda” and force people to become “subjects of the so-called ‘Great Reset’, the ‘new normal’, which is dictated to us by their manipulation of citizens and nations through ignorance and fear.” And as for the vaccine, Burke denounced it asstate-mandated microchipping that “violates the integrity of citizens”. He also invoked the tired and utterly dumb “aborted fetal tissue” gambit. And criticized social distancing for good measure.


Then, of course, he got COVID-19, and was put on a ventilator.


Diagnosis: A pitiful excuse for a human being, flailing conspiracy theorist and otherwise fairly unoriginal as a cartoon villain, Raymond Burke is a thoroughly evil man. But he’s managed to sustain a significant career in a huge organization that seems to tend to struggle to weed out rot, and though he comes across as a natural target for pointing and laughing, he enjoys plenty of power and influence. This is a guy who has ruined lives, and who will continue to do so. Dangerous.

Monday, February 13, 2023

#2617: Adam Burke

Proponents of what used to be called “complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) tend, at present, to prefer the term “integrative medicine”. The reason for the preference is obvious: the label “CAM” indicates that what they practice is not really medicine, and the name change accordingly serves their effort to mainstream non-evidence-based treatments – CAM proponents want their woo to be seen as equal to scientific medicine, even though the woo they sell remains as unproven and/or disproven as ever, and hence that pseudoscience and science can coexist and work in tandem, at least as long as those who are concerned with science and evidence and such tone down their imperialistic tendencies and stop pestering CAM proponents with requests for evidence and accountability.


CAM proponents even got a government-sponsored institution to back their efforts, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), formerly the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Indeed, the proponents of woo at NCCAM take their woo so seriously that they even use it as a topic for health disparities research, research that seeks to identify and remedy disparities in disease prevalence and health care based on socioeconomic status, race, gender, and so on. Given their commitment to normalizing woo, it is not entirely surprising that the CAM proponents at NCCAM would try to investigate disparities in CAM care. And thus we end up with things like “Limited Health Knowledge as a Reason for Non-Use of Four Common Complementary Health Practices” by Adam Burke, Richard L. Nahin and Barbara J. Stussman, published in PLoS ONE, where they conclude that the “disparity” in the use of a range of CAM modalities (acupuncture, chiropractic, natural products, and yoga) is due to lack of “knowledge”. “Knowledge” is not the right word here, and the “tooth-fairy science label doesn’t even begin to cover the effort. The study is discussed here. It would have been laughable if it weren’t so sad.


Adam Burke is affiliated with the Institute for Holistic Health Studies, Department of Health Education, San Francisco State University. He is also a former member of the advisory council for NCCAM, together with people like e.g. homeopath Brian Berman and Timothy Birdsall. Indeed, the majority of advisory committee members at NCCAM have been practitioners and advocates for pseudoscience and woo, several of them, like Birdsall, explicitly denying that science can properly be applied to their favored techniques. And given the mandate of the advisory council, real science will never be the part of NCCAM’s activity that it’s mandate suggested it should – instead, it will continue to epitomize cargo cult science, carry out worthless tooth-fairy studies like the one mentioned above and serve as a center for marketing various types of quackery and pseudoscience. And taxpayers are paying for it.


And though his credentials – “PhD, MPH, MS, LAc” – might look impressive to some at first glance, Burke has no biomedical training: his graduate degrees are in Social Psychology and Health Education, and his healthcare “degree” is not from a serious educational institution but from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, where he is also on the faculty. And he doesn’t even like science: contemporary medical science has “shut out millennia of understanding of human illness that could enrich our understanding of healing people.” Examples? “Distant healing: Burke is very impressed by the work of the Institute of Noetic Sciences which has a real Astronaut among its founders. He is also Editor-in-Chief of The American Acupuncturist, the official publication of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM) and former chair of the CA Department Affairs’ (DCA) Board of Acupuncture, certifying (yes, providing state approval for) TCM training programs in California.


He is, however, presumably a different guy from this Adam Burke.


Diagnosis: Adam Burke may not be the most familiar name on the rooster of purveyors of dangerous woo and pseudoscience, but that’s the group he belongs to, and he has all the more power and influence for appearing superficially coherent and level-headed. And he has certainly used his position rather effectively, making the world a slightly darker and more dangerous place, especially for people in vulnerable situations.


Hat-tip: Respectful Insolence

Sunday, February 12, 2023

#2616: Steve Buri

The Discovery Institute is a non-profit religious think-tank infamous for its attempts to get intelligent design creationism taught in American schools, in particular under the guise of “Academic Freedom, but is also associated with climate change denialism and whatnot. Many of its goals are described in the Wedge Document, and among the infamous school textbook candidates published by the institute are Of Pandas and People and Explore Evolution.


Steve Buri is the institute’s president. Now, Buri hasn’t actually said much about the contents of the denialism pushed by the institutions and its various centers, but he has explicitly expressed his support for the activitivies at the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and the center’s activities. And he is president of one of the best organized and tireless anti-science campaign groups in the US, and that is more than bad enough to earn him a brief entry here.


Diagnosis: Yes, the president of the Discovery Institute, no less, and as such an important figure in one of the more significants efforts to undermine science, reason, accountability and civilization, no less.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

#2615: Austin Burdick

Austin Burdick is a laughably idiotic clown and anti-gay family law attorney, who briefly received some attention in 2016 for filing a $6 million federal lawsuit in Alabama against each of the five Supreme court justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.


Burdick charged the justices with violations of the 5th and 14th Amendments, as well as with violating their oaths of office. According to Burdick, the ruling in Obergefell nullifies the Constitution, and he has accordingly standing: He has suffered “damages and harm”, and “seeks recovery of damages exceeding $6,000,000.00”, because by nullifying the Constitution, the courts have deprived him of a lifetime of income he would have received from practicing law, something he can no longer do given that the justices have “destroyed” the Constitution upon which his license to practice law is based. He also asserts that the ruling “rewrites the 14th Amendment,” is an instance of “government intrusion” and that the ruling is “dishonest” – and he gravely points out that “[i]t is a tyrannical usurpation of authority to rewrite the Constitution.”


Burdick apparently also tried to run for office in 2012.


Diagnosis: A laughable character whose ideas are so incoherently dumb that their silliness is only matched by the hate and bigotry behind them. At least there is little chance many people take him seriously, even these days.


Hat-tip: David Badash @ Thenewcivilrightsmovement

Monday, February 6, 2023

#2614: Cliven Bundy

Cliven ‘Y’all Qaida’ Bundy is a rancher, sovereign citizen activist and promoter of views on race issues that were popular in his childhood – he is, in many ways, the unapologetically Christian nationalist and white supremacist version of his spawn Ammon Bundy.


Cliven Bundy’s fame rests on his decade-long legal dispute with the federal government over unpaid grazing fees of cattle on government-owned land which ultimately culminated in an armed standoff in 2014, whereupon he became a hero to frighteningly large groups on the lunatic fringe. Bundy himself attributed the outcome to divine intervention – indeed, Bundy repeatedly cast himself as a divinely inspired prophet, with remarkably accurate prophecies, given that he tended to report them after the facts.


In general, Bundy has adopted the main points of the sovereign citizen ideology, claiming that the US government does not have a right to control the land on which he grazes his cows, arguing that: “[...] at the moment of Statehood land inside the new State is no longer U.S. Territory, and no longer does U.S. Congress or any of the federal agencies have authority to dispose of the land or make any rules or regulations respecting to it.” Bundy himself is acitizen of Nevada and not a citizen of a territory of the United States.” (Of course, he doesn’t want to obey Nevada laws either.) His and his family’s protests are largely based on not quite grasping the concept of public property.


His 2016 court case gives a telling summary of his views (his legal counsel is profiled here), including a plethora of conspiracy theories, incoherent freeman-of-the-land ranting (the kind that provides color to local talks shows) and describing the judge as a “latino activist”. He promptly sued Judge Navarro, Senator Harry Reid & son (Reid & son were ostensibly conspiring to steal his land and sell it to “communist Chinese”), and then-President Barack Obama – the point being that by serving the judge with the lawsuit, she would have to recuse herself from the proceedings because she was now involved in a legal conflict with Bundy. The courts were not impressed.


The militia loons participating in his standoff represented a cornucopia of (what has later become) Qanon bullshit, conspiracy theorists and racism (Black people were better off under slavery) – you’ll find nonsense about the UN, Satan, microchips, hippies, birtherism (Obama is a Muslim, too) and whatnot.


Diagnosis: No, we can’t be bothered too much with this one either. But note that the link from Bundy’s views, followers and actions to the Qanon movement is pretty direct.

Friday, February 3, 2023

#2613: Ammon Bundy

It’s hard to justify not giving a brief entry to this one, so here we go: Ammon Bundy is an anti-government militant wingnut most famous for being the spawn of Cliven Bundy (whom we also unfortunately have to cover) and for leading the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Bundy is also the founder of the far-right People’s Rights network and a candidate for governor of Idaho, and was arrested numerous times during the COVID-19 pandemic for protests and disruptions against pandemic mitigation efforts by the Idaho government.


That last one is worth noting: Bundy’s organization, People’s Rights (a “neighborhood watch on steroids” – or a form of “neighborhood nationalism” in which the “righteous” stand against the “wicked” – with tens of thousands of members), was an on-demand group that anti-maskers and conspiracy theorists could contact to quickly stage local protests. And part of Bundy’s motivation is of course conspiracy theory: According to Bundy, COVID-19 is mostly harmless, and the COVID-19 death toll is massively exaggerated. And the group’s tactics are predictable: When police arrested anti-vaccine activist Sara Brady for trespassing during an anti-lockdown protest, Bundy publicized the address of the officer who arrested her, which led 40 crazy conspiracy theorists to protest outside the officer’s home. And of course Bundy has compared COVID-19 measures to the Holocaust.


But with regard to the wildlife refuge occupation: No, Bundy clearly doesn’t grasp the concept of public property, apparently thinking that something called ‘the federal government’ is illegitimately hoarding land for its (whose?) own personal benefit – here is an apt description). And yes: Bundy is appealing to a religious justification (after all, there is no potential injustice being addressed with his actions): According to Bundy, “We read in Genesis where God gives the earth to man, he did not give it to government, he gave it to man to care and to cultivate, and that means to take care of it and to use it,” and when the federal government is prohibiting economic development on the property he seized, the government was violating “scriptural” precepts. By seizing the land, then, his militia has used “shock and awe” to “remove the chains of tyranny and the chains of oppression so the people can regain a hope.” And yes, he has compared his actions to the civil rights movement, as well as to the women’s rights movement and the Founding Fathers. Apparently, they were also trying to prevent a war.


In June 19, 2021, Bundy announced a bid for the Republican nomination for governor of Idaho, on a platform of protecting Idaho from “Joe Biden and those in the Deep State that control him,” those who, according to Bundy, are trying to eliminate freedom of religion, gun rights, and parental rights. Bundy’s electoral bid was endorsed by Roger Stone. He later decided to run as an independent, partially because of the number of disgusting criminals in the Idaho Republican party (note that Bundy’s concrete allegations are accurate). He also tried to argue in court that his campaigning counted as community service, but the courts were not impressed.


That said, Bundy has also expressed support for the BLM movement, and been a vocal critic of the Trump government’s immigration policies. We grudgingly admit that despite being crazy, he’s got some integrity.


Diagnosis: No, we can’t be bothered. But note that the link from Bundy’s actions to January 6. is pretty direct.