Sunday, October 29, 2023

#2697: Joshua Coleman

Joshua Coleman is an antivaxer activist associated with the conspiracy film VAXXED and the originator of the hashtag #SaidNoMother for antivaxx parents to create memes with their child’s (alleged) vaccine injury story in a way that maximizes emotional appeal (so as to downplay the facts). The rationale for the hashtag and campaign is of course that “vaccine injury” is, according to antivaxxers, often scorned in the media, as if “injury can not exist.” But, according to antivaxxers, the campaign shows that “[i]t exists. From this we know.” Yes, who would rely on evidence when they could listen to antivaxxers making memes, and what is careful study compared to antivaccine parents making causal inferences based on gut feeling and failure to grasp basic statistics? In any case, Facebook got littered for a while with memes like “ ‘My child quit talking after getting the MMR vaccine and now bangs his head against the wall every day, lost all his eye contact, doesn’t recognize me anymore and is now afraid to eat new foods, but HEY – I’m glad he doesn’t have the Measles, which can cause a runny nose, cough, and a rash, can be treated with vitamin A, typically lasts only 7-10 days and resolves itself.’ ~Said no mother of a vaccine injured child, ever.” [courtesy of antivaxx conspiracy theorist Lyndsy Karrie] Of course, vaccines demonstrably do not cause autism, and Karrie’s variant of the Brady Bunch misinformation gambit about measles is dangerous nonsense. But yeah: the hashtag was used to run virtually any piece of antivaccine talking point, conspiracy theory and associated quackery in existence.


As an antivaxx activist, Coleman is zealous and tireless, and he has, over the last five years, emerged as a major figure in the antivaccine movement. In 2020, he and his organization V is for Vaccines for instance organized protests outside Jimmy Kimmel Live and the Frozen II premiere to protest vaccines, and had infiltrators interrupt the Jimmy Kimmel broadcast while Kimmel was interviewing Kristen Bell, since Kimmel and Bell, according to Coleman, are “two of the most openly hateful figures towards people who do not or selectively vaccinate” – this is not about facts and evidence for Coleman, but about oppression, marginalization and othering of him and likeminded conspiracy theorists who peddle misunderstandings and falsehoods that seriously threaten public health. Coleman is otherwise the “brain” behind various potentially colorful antivaccine stunts, such as having Star Wars cosplaying antivaxers descend upon Disneyland and V-cosplaying (hence ‘V is for vaccine’, of course) antivaxxers infiltrating the San Diego Comic-Con in 2019.


Coleman himself is the father of a boy that Coleman is convinced is vaccine injured; the boy developed transverse myelitis just over 6 weeks after he received a round of vaccines when he was 17 months old, and according to Coleman, “it was in fact determined that it was vaccine induced transverse myelitis,” even though current research does not support a causal link between vaccines and transverse myelitis. Coleman, however, has read and misunderstood vaccine package inserts, where, for some vaccines, “transverse myelitis” is listed as an adverse reaction (which, to emphasize, just means that some people receiving the vaccine have been reported to also develop transverse myelitis – like Coleman’s son – and not that there is any shred of indication of a causal link). Coleman, however, feels that he was not given true informed consent to the vaccines because he wasn’t told that “transverse myelitis” was listed in the package inserts even though there is no indication that vaccines contribute to transverse myelitis.


Such details – like facts, evidence or accuracy – doesn’t matter much to Coleman. His organization for instance sells packs of protest signs of what they claim to be “basic vaccine facts” filled with familiar antivaccine misinformation and talking points refuted a thousand times, including claiming that


-       Vaccines are not placebo safety tested” (blatantly false; when confronted with the relevant studies, antivaxxers will of course try to move the goalposts)

-       Childhood vaccines: 24 in 1988, 69 in 2019” (this is an easily refuted myth, but it is interesting how it never goes away, even though the numbers antivaxxers use vary wildly).

-       Vaccines are made with aborted fetal cells” (of course they aren’t, but of course Coleman’s group will claim they are)

-       Vaccine makers are exempt from liability” (blatantly false)

-       US Law classifies vaccines as unavoidably unsafe” (yes, of course they would be trying to mislead people with that one; it tells you so much about them and so little about vaccines)

-       Live virus vaccines shed and spread” (nope)


Yeah, the claims on those signs are easily debunked, but Coleman, his organization, and their followers, are using them at protests across the nation, and it wouldn’t be surprising if some parents, who don’t, after all, have expertise in these fields, might be scared. “These are all undisputed facts. Everyone should know these things,” says Coleman.


Coleman and his V is for Vaccine rose to prominence particularly through their campaigning against California’s SB276, which would protect children from potentially lethal, transmissible disease by making it harder to obtain exemptions from vaccine mandates (receiving the patronage of anti-vaxx celebrity Rob Schneider, for instance). Ostensibly peaceful protests, the antivaccine campaigns were notable for their violent rhetoric, and Coleman and Olivia Mikos (another figure in the group – we haven’t tried to determine official positions, if there are any, but Mikos and one Kyle Evatt are recurring figures) were quick to appeal to conspiracy theories to suggest that people associated with the movement who were demonstrably not peaceful were double agents planted to make the movement look bad (which was, needless to say, demonstrably not the case). We guess it’s tricky to stay on the right side of ‘peaceful’ when you have deluded yourself into thinking you are civil rights martyrs fighting not only tyranny but for your children’s lives; Coleman, who had convinced himself his campaigns are addressing a civil rights issue, struggles mightily with how to position himself along the lines here, especially given that stalking and harassment remain among his favorite activist tools. His group quickly expanded their efforts to other states as well.


Coleman was also quick to see the opportunity provided by Covid to ramp up antivaccine rhetoric and attract more followers, especially by coopting the language of rightwing populists to recruit people sympathetic tp wingnut views and associated conspiracy theories – the antivaccine movement was, in March 2020, in Coleman’s words, in “a very unique position in this moment in time.”


More recently, Coleman has teamed up with groups like the Proud Boys: “They seemed like really good guys. Over the last few years I’ve met many more and seen them at events they either organized or attended,” says Coleman, who also thinks they “are being unfairly attacked in the mainstream news”.


Diagnosis: As a deludedly self-declared civil rights warrior and freedom fighter, Coleman apparently feels justified in employing virtually any tactic that will serve his need, and his willingness to do that, combined with tirelessness and zealotry, has made him one of the movers and shakers in the antivaccine movement, A frightening figure, whose path you don’t want to have intersect with yours.


Hat-tip: Vaxopedia

Thursday, October 26, 2023

#2696: William Cole

We have had the opportunity to cover the quackery known as functional medicine a number of times already, and that’s not particularly surprising: functional medicine is quackery, but it is luctrative quackery, so it is a natural gravitation point for people with poor critical thinking skills and/or a poorly developed moral compass. Though it is somewhat hard to define exactly what functional medicine is, given that it is usually described in vague handwaves (descriptions precise enough to be tested and/or legally actionable tend to be avoided – there’s a lot of focus on imbalances), a notable characteristic is practitioners’ tendency to prescribe a vast array of useless and expensive tests, the results of which they use (based on wallet medical intuition and pseudoscience) to develop “individualized treatment plans” (‘individualized’ to ensure that you pay what you can pay) based largely on useless treatment regimes and supplements.

William Cole is a good example. Cole is a chiropractor and practitioner of functional medicine who has written a very helpful article, “Feeling Off? These Are The Tests To Have Your Doctor Run”, that inadvertently lays out the scam insome detail. “As a functional medicine practitioner, I run a lot of labs,” Cole admits. Of course, since he is not a medical doctor, there may be limits to what kind of tests he can actually run (like blood tests); luckily, we can guarantee you that your health problems are to be located in the results of the tests he can and does decide to run. He is quick to point out, however, that “every person’s health case and biochemistry is unique”, or in other words: reading up on science and evidence is pointless. And he admits that a “general practitioner probably won’t be ordering these tests”, so he recommends “working with an integrative or functional medicine doctor” instead. Now, “many of these test won’t be covered by insurance” because they are not science- or evidence-based, but you should trust the holistic intuitions of your local quack to order and interpret them nonetheless. You can also order at-home tests from commercial websites with prominent Quack Miranda Warnings.

His website is slick-looking and replete testimonials, presumably from people who has taken his tests, received a fake diagnosis, gone through his treatments, and then suddenly not suffered from the ailment the fake diagnosis stated that they suffered from anymore. The website titulates his approach as “the future of natural medicine”, and given the money potentially involved in the set-up (and the complete absence of any sense of accountability among natural medicine practitioners), we suspect he might be right about that.

It may be illustrative to look at the kinds of tests Cole actually recommends for people who are feeling tired:

  • a 24-hour adrenal stress index to determine that you suffer from adrenal fatigue, an infamous fake disease  
  • a full thyroid panel: although feeling down can, in rare cases, be a symptom of thyroid disease, the kinds of tests Cole recommends are well-known to be bunk (Cole even recommends potential customers to disregard real lab results that show that your TSH is “normal” – “normal” on real tests just means, according to Cole, that “you’re just like a lot of other sick people” – and rather rely on him and his tests, which will surely not show “normal”; it is telling that he essentially just lies about how reference levels for lab tests are determined 
  • Gut permeability labs 
  • Sex hormone labs 
  • Inflammation labs (rarely helpful
  • Genetic testing

Yeah, no.

Diagnosis: Do not fall for this!

Hat-tip: David Gorski @ sciencebasedmedicine

Monday, October 23, 2023

#2695: Lucy Cole

Lucy Cole (middle)
California bill SB 276 was introduced in 2019 as an effort to curb parents’ use of ideological exemptions to vaccine mandates for children attending public schools, and it was desperately needed. It was, of course, vigorously opposed by antivaccine groups, including lunatic antivaccine conspiracy groups like the Church of Scientology and the Nation of Islam. In California, the efforts of the former group were spearheaded by Lucy Cole, a Scientology Operating Thetan VIII, the highest current auditing level in Scientology. Cole was for instance leading the effort to have the church and the Nation of Islam coordinate their antivaccine efforts, and worked closely for instance with Minister Tony Muhammad, the regional representative for Nation of Islam on the American West Coast and, as it turns out, also a Scientologist, at various antivaccine events. Cole and Muhammad have also for instance appeared together with Del Bigtree, and helped promote the anti-vaccine conspiracy video Vaxxed.


Beyond her membership in the Church of Scientology and her antivaccine activities, we admit that we do not know much about Cole – her church isn’t exactly renowned for its level of transparency. If she’s still around, we doubt that she’s up to anything good, however.


Diagnosis: Crazy and delusional old lady, though on the bright side: scientology’s involvement with anti-vaccine efforts may ultimately harm the latter movement more than it helps.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

#2694: Leonard Coldwell

A.k.a. Bernd Klein (or Bernd Witchner) (original name)


Some promoters of pseudoscience and alternative medicine are dangerous because they are somewhat successful at impersonating real medical experts, and may thereby succeed in fooling otherwise intelligent people. Others are just batshit loons whose attempts to pass as respectable practitioners don’t withstand the most superficial scrutiny, but may yet, because they’re scrupulous when it comes to making grandiose claims, still be able to attract the attention of people in very difficult situations. Leonard Coldwell is definitely among the latter, and something of a legend in the fringier circles of alternative medicine (his videos have a scary amount of views). Coldwell is a promoter of various “natural remedies” and has produced numerous movies and websites promoting pseudoscientific nonsense and conspiracy theories (e.g. pushing cholesterol denialism). Given that his ideas are not anchored in reality (or anything else, really), they tend to change rather arbitrarily, and it is instructive to compare claims made on his more current websites with those made on earlier and abandoned websites.


Coldwell is known to refer to himself as the world’s leading authority on a lot of things, including cancer. (He has actually referred to himself as “the God of Healing”.) Located firmly at the summit of Mount Stupid, Coldwell possesses little understanding of biology and medicine, however, and no understanding of science and how to confirm or disconfirm hypotheses through testing.


(Alleged) Background

Originally active in Germany, Coldwell (then Bernd Klein) claims to have discovered his healing gifts as a child (or adolescent – it seems to vary a bit) when he saved his mother from a suite of serious and terminal illnesses, including hepatitis C (a virus that wasn’t isolated and identified until 1988). He offers no evidence for the claim, of course, and neither a shred of evidence to support his abysmally unlikely claim of having run a string of European hospitals with a 92.3% cure rate. He ostensibly left Germany for the US due to persecution from Big Pharma and the medical establishment who were trying to silence him. In fairness, the notion that he managed to land himself in legal trouble doesn’t strike us as that far-fetched.


In the 90s he changed his name (if his background story were accurate, you might justifiably wonder why he would) and set up shop (the Fit For Life Health Resort and Spa) in Florida together with Harvey Diamond, before launching his membership-based Neuro-associative Programming System® [NAPS], ostenislby “The world’s only integrated self-help system”, promised to cure asthma, rheumatism, muscular dystrophy and cancer, as well as to teach you the “secrets of people who are on average between 120 and 140 years old and healthy and fit.” There are some details on his backstory here.


Coldwell’s qualifications are an area of some murkiness. He claims expertise in a wide range of areas (including naturopathy), though his documented qualifications rarely (well: never) goes beyond the level of diploma mill spam and clip-art – his professed four PhDs, for instance, are in generally indeterminate fields and stems from unclear sources, though he has also claimed to have a doctorate in psychology from Columbia State University, a diploma mill operated by stage hypnotist and legendary fraud Ronald “Dr Dante” Pellar that was closed by court order in 1998. He has also claimed to be a professor at the Virginia Health University of Delaware, an institution for which google returns more or less exclusively results related to Coldwell. He does, in fact, hold an honorary Doctor of Humanities award from the Louisiana Baptist University, which is ostensibly “Non Accredited, but very prestigious”. There is some delving into Coldwell’s ‘credentials’ here.


Coldwell has a history of being aggressively litigious, and for presenting himself as a deranged madman before the courts – there is a good (hilarious) example here and another funny one here (more details here). His court cases are also notable for the conspicuous absence of highly relevant background information that he would otherwise likely be asked to document (like his claims to have run hospitals in Germany and cured thousands of patients).


More recently

Coldwell was for a while an ardent supporter of convicted felon Kevin Trudeau (the support was mutual) and the latter’s Global Information Network (GIN) pyramid scheme, with Coldwell e.g. saying claiming that GIN “will make you become a millionaire or rich beyond your wildest dreams. This is the only answer to success.” They later seem to have had a falling out.


Coldwell, however, promptly set up his own GIN-like personal enhancement plan together with ex-GIN leader Peter Wink, called the Instinct Based Medicine System (IBMS). According to Coldwell, IBMS is “endorsed by every significant physician and healer” (much hinges on the extension of “significant”, which we suspect consists mostly of himself) and has “seen almost 65,000 patients”. Indeed, IBMS is marketed as a “secret society” that is “created by achievers for achievers” Membership is expensive, and what you get for your expenses is unclear. (You can , however, purchase twenty-minute CDs of relaxing nature sounds ($99 for a set of three) and a 13-CD set ‘Curing Life’ ($454.87) without membership). At least the system is explicitly instinct-based rather than evidence-, science- or reality-based. The basic idea is that by listening to Coldwell’s magic CDs you can rewire your brain to achieve whatever you want. IBMS has been described as a “cult.


Though it is somewhat hard to keep track of his activities, he has at least served on the advisory board for the crank organization the Anti-Cancer Institute, and is a regular feature on the YouTube channel ihealthtube, which belongs to infamous quack product distributor Swanson Health Products.



A self-declared authority (world’s leading) on cancer, Coldwell has promoted an impressive range of potential causes of cancer, none of them rooted in reality or evidence, including mental and emotional stress and lack of self-esteem or hope, tap water, dehydration, chemotherapy, mammograms, sunscreen, vaccines, bras, processed meat, conventional (and herbal) medicine, chemtrails, teflon, couches, bras, tuna, deodorants and antiperspirants, baby shampoo, preservatives, GMOs, cell phones and microwave ovens, power lines, computers and laptops, being acidic, root canal work, sugar (including corn syrup) and artificial sweeteners, milk, insulin, MSG, food coloring, pringles, and Obamacare.


The list of proposed cures is even more extensive, and possibly even less anchored in reality, and includes water, herbal medicine, homeopathy (more water), vitamins B, C (injected and in general), D, E; baking soda and alkaline diets, ozone therapy, raw food, pink salt, garlic, aloe vera, curcumin and turmeric, cannabis and hemp seeds, pomegranates and grape seeds, balsamic vinegar, broccoli, beetroot, colloidal silver, dandelion, bee pollen, mushrooms, spirulina, tree nuts, walnuts, everything green, pineapple, raspberries, laetrile, cherry pie, hydrogen peroxide, ginger, sea cucumber, honey, magnesium, frankincense, dirt, smiling and prayer.


A sample of his own words (in relation to Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2014): “I am just watching the criminals on the main stream news making billions for the international bankers (owners of the pharmaceutical and medical industry ) with the breast cancer awareness hoax. Mammograms done prevent cancer they cause cancer. A breast tumor grows 7 to 12 years to a size that they can even find it. There is no need to any hurry and fast surgery and the murder via chemo, radiation and anti hormone therapy in my experience. I can cure every cancer in 2 to 16 weeks. ( not every person but every cancer ). There are over 400 natural cancer cures known today.” But yes: Coldwell continues to claim a 92% cure rate for all cancers, and even challenges doctors to match his cure rate (though he won’t, of course, provide any documentation for any of his own numbers). There is a comment on one of his videos here (note the detail about table salt, which according to Coldwell is “one third” glass or sand, and the reason it causes hypertension is because the glass scratches the arteries and makes them bleed, leading to cholesterol to go there to stop it from bleeding. No, really; and he goes on to claim that humans need a total cholesterol of at least 250 mg/dL and that real doctors are too stupid to know what they are talking about; of course, he also recommends a raw vegan diet, so it’s all moot – and no, he doesn’t notice the tension. He also calls cancer survivors “idiots”.) Then he pivots to claiming that “[c]ancer is systemic the tumor is only the symptom not the cancer. To cure cancer you need to identify and eliminate the root cause of it. Cancer is cause to 86% [science uses numbers so look: he’s a scientist!] by mental and emotional stress. If you don’t eliminate that energy draining stress that allows the body to malfunction you can't eliminate the cancer.” And the solution? Sign up for IBMS, of course. It’s rather hard to fathom that anyone would fall for this ridiculous scam, but they do.


Oh, yes: There is also German New Medicine references, and the claim that there is “[V]ery often a correlation between cancer and fungus / Candida overgrowth is mentioned in the medical world [that would be Tullio Simoncini, but Coldwell wouldn’t be able to distinguish the medical world from the comment section on an incoherent Red Ice Creations videos if his life depended on it]. To make sure I dont suffer from this Candida overgrowth I would do the Candida Remediation Protocol from which was also created after the producer researched my historical use of protocols with my patients in the past”. What happened to the 86% bad attitude claim? Yeah, methinks we are asking the wrong question here. Coldwell also pushes colon cleansing, supplements, alkaline healing, and laetrile, in addition to his insanely overpriced CDs of relaxing nature sounds. People like Ty Bollinger treat him as an expert.


Conspiracy theories

Coldwell has pushed a number of conspiracy theories, though conspiracy theories concerning Big Pharma are of course the most frequent ones. Coldwell claims to have had his car bombed, been “shot at” and received multiple death threats daily from Big Pharma, which according to him spent “42 million dollars just last year to destroy [his] reputation”. He generally has a fondness of dismissing his critics as not only shills, but as (e.g.) paedophiles, former prostitutes and dog poisoners. Or as being Jewish.


But of course. According to Coldwell, “[r]emember the Jews started the first and second world war and financed Hitler and Stalin at the same time to buy all Europe cheap after it was all over. Take the money away from the Rothschild and Rockefeller’s Goldman Sachs and the other Jews and all evil on earth will disappear”. And “[t]he only reason why the jews are starting WW3 is because Russia and most of Europe ended the Fed and the Fiat money, because they created their own REAL money and will drop the worthless piece of paper that says Federal Reserve Note on it” [yes, his understanding of (a.o.) international politics is such that it leaves room for many colorful hypotheses]. But no: this foray into anti-semitism and Holocaust denialism is not a one-time affair, and “Holocaust gas chambers = Jewish Zionist hoax” is some distance beyond dog-whistle level. (As is The Jews were not the victims; the Germans were, and “Did you know that Russian communism was not Russian at all? It was Jewish. Jewish Bolshevik Russians invaded Russia in 1917 and mass murdered Russian Christians in a Jewish communist takeover.”) Also: “After Jews won the First World War they literally robbed the German people of almost everything they had” during “the Jewish Weimar Republic”, so the Holocaust would have been justified if it happened, which Coldwell claims it didn’t. Here are some examples of Coldwell’sviews on Black people, which would have been considered crude in rural Alabama in the 1920s (“Go home to Africa if you hate amerika that much” doesn’t exactly exude intellect).


Coldwell has, unsurprisingly, a difficult relationship with the fact-checking and myth-debunking website Snopes, and claims to have reported the website to the US Justice Department for “[n]ot telling the truth about aspartame”. The rationale for filing such a report is rather unclear (quite apart, of course, from the fact that Snopes did tell the truth about aspartame). Some of his overall strikingly incoherent charges against Snopes include being funded by “uber-Leftist (Marxist) Billionaires”, being owned by “a flaming liberal”, being “a hoax” and having “no formal background or experience”. He even brags about how he managed to “reveal” that Snopes was owned and run by David and Barbara Mikkelson after “several years research”, information that is, of course, readily available on Snopes’s website.


In 2013, after actress Angelina Jolie underwent preventative double mastectomy, Coldwell was infuriated, claiming that she had received hundreds of millions of dollars for “[t]his big hoax and scam”. No, the conspiracy theory never had more of a head or tail (or evidence) than that.


In recent years, Coldwell (and associates) have been largely griping about Facebook, where he tends to land himself in Facebook jail. Facebook, you see, is part of the establishment targeting those “who have spoken out for truth on matters such as politics, COVID-Hoax, Masks, for natural health and not big pharma, called out Monsanto and Bill Gates, or even Georgy Sorros [sic] who wants to destroy the world as we know it are being scrutinized for every word they type. Why? Because Facebook is a communist/socialist website who [sic] is pushing the agenda of the New Normal hard. They want you all to be obedient. They want (end game) for you to be vaccinated mindless drone of a slave to the system.” In response, Coldwell created his own version of Facebook, Champ book, which was promptly overtaken by spammers and bots.



Coldwell has released a number of books in his “The only answer …” series; according to himself, he is a “19 times Mega Bestselling author”. Questions for which Coldwell promises to provide the only answer include cancer; success; becoming a sales champion; stress, anxiety and depression; and surviving your illness and your doctor. Some of them are available as DVDs as well. His websites also advertises a secret book, selling at $99. There is an incomplete list of products here.


Diagnosis: Truly among the most deranged figures on the internet – and a case study for how the most insane, stupid, incoherent and obvious lies can nevertheless remain fairly popular among certain groups. Still dangerous.


Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Monday, October 16, 2023

#2693: Mary Colbert

A.k.a. Paulette Todd (real name)


Mary Colbert is a fundie and self-declared prophet, and one of the central promoters of the genre of Trump-finds-God fan fiction; notably, she is co-author of the book (later movie) The Trump Prophecies with another self-declared prophet – a “firefighter prophet”, in fact – Mark Taylor (they later seem to have had a falling out of sorts); you’ll be hard pressed to find a more insane piece of dingbattery this side of the vanity press. In any case, Colbert claims that she had been supporting Ted Cruz during the 2016 primary until she came across a prophecy that Taylor claims to have received from God declaring that Trump would be president; “What I felt when I read the prophecy was like a Holy Ghost slap in my face,” said Colbert. She still needed confirmation directly from God, however, but that was easy: Colbert self-reportedly had a dream in which she was told to watch the Belmont Stakes horse race, and lo and behold, when she looked up the results, she saw the headline “Creator Wins By A Photo Finish.” (The dream was reported after the events, of course, because prophets who try to state their predictions before the fact tends to lose credibility, and she doesn’t want that.) “Now, you can’t make this stuff up,” said Colbert, so you better believe her. Among Colbert’s other prophecies is her 2017 prophecy that God will vindicate Roy Moore in the 2017 Alabama special election (apparently God told her “directly”).


Given that Trump is anointed and declared by God, opposing him is a sin. Colbert has warned people that God will curse Trump’s opponents, as well as their children and grandchildren. Protection through divine endorsement apparently extends to Colbert-approved self-declared prophets as well, including Jim Bakker, whom Colbert warned people not to mock because he is a prophet of God: “He’s a mouthpiece, he’s an oracle for God, so when he speaks and when he says something, you better listen because it’s true.” As evidence, Colbert cited the fact that Bakker has warned people to “prepare” and that we are currently “seeing catastrophe behind catastrophe”; Bakker is almost as precise and concrete as a glossy tabloid horoscope written by an intern.


She also defended Trump’s use of coarse language (e.g. ‘grab’), which in Colbert’s eyes made Trump like Jesus, who also used coarse language when he spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees and said, ‘You vipers, you snakes’ (as for the ‘grab’ comment: Colbert asserted that Trump asked God for forgiveness over that one, in direct contradiction with Trump’s own statement on the matter). Moreover, when Trump calls people names, he’s acting just like Jesus, and you can’t take offense at it “because you don’t want to take offense to Jesus.” (Of course, that argument is not supposed to extend to people who call Trump names.) Here is Colbert’s response to some concerns some Christians have had over Trump: Trump’s border wall, for instance, is OK, according to Colbert, because “Heaven has gates”. Also remember thatthe actual name ‘Donald’ means in Hebrew ‘national leader,’ so he is a national leader who is a trumpet for God.” ‘Donald’ is not a Hebrew name, of course, but hey: we are far beyond the point where “making things up as you go” is considered a problem here; Colbert has a long history of employing the “making things up as you go” technique (the legitimacy of the technique is apparently a prophetic superpower): Weighing in on the January 6 insurrection, for instance, Colbert baselessly claimed that the woman who was shot and killed while storming the Capitol was “killed not by capital police but by Vice President Biden’s security detail.”


As for climate change, Colbert blames Satan. That is, Satan is not causing climate change – Colbert is a climate change denialist – but is rather using the issue of climate change to distract humanity from the fact that the End Times are rapidly approaching. And it is sin, not climate change, that is causing extreme weather and natural disasters. Accordingly, what “man needs to do is repent”, though it is admittedly a bit unclear what repentance is supposed to achieve given that these are sign of an inevitable End Times. She also has views on the origin of Covid: according to Colbert, China caused coronavirus by eating ‘biblically unclean’ animals (like … pork?)


She is married to Don Colbert, with whom she runs a business called Divine Health in Florida and who is apparently also a prophet. That “health” part matters: Much of the pair’s work is devoted to pushing various types of insane woo, such as alkaline water.


Diagnosis: Calling her a ‘liar for Jesus’ seems to ascribe to her a level of mental acuity – being able, at a general level, to distinguish truth from falsehood – she simply doesn’t possess. She is probably just stupid and insane. Large swaths of people are attracted to that combo, however, so she’ll probably continue to have an audience.

Friday, October 13, 2023

#2692: Patrick Colbeck

Patrick Colbeck is an absolutely batshit insane Michigan-based conspiracy theorist and denialist, who nevertheless (or more likely: therefore) managed to get himself elected to the the Michigan Senate for a northwestern part of Wayne County, representing the Tea Party, where he served from 2011 to 2019. He later tried unsuccessfully to run for governor, and has published two books about his experiences – at least their titles nicely encapsulate Colbeck’s political positions: Wrestling Gators: An Outsider’s Guide to Draining the Swamp and The 2020 Coup: What happened? What we can do?.


Election fraud conspiracy theories

After leaving the state Senate, Colbeck has been a major proponent of unsubstantiated 2020 election fraud conspiracy theories. Already in November 2020, he appeared before several Board of Canvassers to spew unsubstantiated and barely coherent conspiracy theories about election fraud, and for instance filed an affidavit claiming that the computers used by election officials were connected to the Internet, which “opens the door” to vote manipulation. He did not produce a single piece of relevant evidence for his claims, of course, beyond prefacing them with I’m telling you. He also insisted that only fraud could explain how a wonderful guy and magnificent politician like Trump could get only 5% of the vote in Democratic-stronghold Detroit, despite that number being, in fact, an increase compared to the 2016 election.


Colbeck subsequently teamed up with Mike Lindell to produce the wild-eyed documentary Absolute Proof (a corollary of this), which asserted that Chinese cyber hacking was largely responsible for the Biden 2020 victory based on discredited testimony and incoherent speculation; even OAN was apparently hesitant about promoting its claims. Colbeck, however, went on to promote the documentary on Rick Wiles’s show and Kenneth Copeland’s Victory Channel (which don’t maintain the editorial standards of OAN), insisting that the documentary stuck to “100% objective facts” and not “conjecture” because he says so.


In 2021, at a rally in Lansing, Colbeck again called for an audit of Michigan’s 2020 election, describing the effort as a spiritual battle and comparing the 2020 election to the persecution of Jesus Christ. “When are we going to start prosecuting people for these violations?asked Colbeck, who is more than ready to move beyond the stage of trying to provide even a shred of indication that any crime has taken place to punishing the alleged perpetrators.


Anti-vaccine views

Colbeck was antivaccine before it became the mainstream wingnut position during COVID, and was, together with Jeff Noble, the leading antivaxx activist in the Michigan legislature for a while. Already in 2015, Colbeck was palling around with antivaccine activists and promoting the Robert Kennedy jr.-endorsed movie Trace Amounts; Colbeck encouraged people to join him at a screening because “the responsible exercise of freedom depends upon an informed citizenry” because words mean what Colbeck wants them to mean: The last thing someone like Colbeck wants is of course citizens who are actually informed, and early exposure to denialist propaganda might as such be helpful to ensure that they remain uninformed. Similarly, when Colbeck champions health freedom, choice and “an individual’s/parent’s right to informed consent” with regard to vaccination, he doesn’t mean informed.


In addition to Orwellian Newspeak (“informed”), Colbeck has also been caught using a range of antivaccine dogwhistles. He has for instance expressed his support for “independent basic scientific research on the link between vaccination and chronic disease”. Sounds reasonable? Well, an important thing to remember is that such research is already plentiful (e.g. these) – it just doesn’t give the answers antivaxxers would like to have, so they want to keep trying until they, by chance, get an outlier with a different result that they can tout as absolute proof. Colbeck also endorsed the thoroughly debunked antivaccine flick Vaxxed.



It’s important to emphasize, though, that Colbeck didn’t just express anti-vaccine proclivities to appease his delusional voter based; he also fought hard to rescind Michigan’s requirement that parents needed to consult with a doctor before claiming non-medical exemptions to vaccine mandates. The requirement, Colbeck realized in 2017, made it harder for parents to neglect their children’s health and made measles outbreaks less likely, and he promptly introduced bills (with Jeff Noble) to strip the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’s power to put in place such measures. In the process, Colbeck both accepted antivaccine activists’ claims about “adverse effects of vaccines and invoked the aborted fetal cells gambit (the latter was also the basis for Bill No. 1055, sponsored by Colbeck, Tonya Schuitmaker, Mike Kowall, Judy Emmons, Joe Hune, and Mike Shirkey), as well as misinformation about the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.


More pseudoscience and conspiracy theories

Colbeck is, of course, a climate change denialist. Instead of climate change, Colbeck believes that the #1 environmental issue of our day is wireless technology. In December 2018, he even hosted a forum in Lansing to disseminate wifi woo and, as he saw it, discuss the benefits and risks of wireless technology such as smart meters, cell phones and 5G networks – there was, of course, no discussion of benefits, and not of any real risks either – and he introduced legislation that he claimed would empower consumers with increased choice as to the source of their electricity.


Yes, Colbeck is pushing electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) nonsense. According to Colbeck, wireless internet threatens “the health of many of our citizens most notably children babies in the womb and even adults who suffer from hyper sensitivity to wireless transitions”, and he has been spamming people with conspiratorial rants and pseudoscience from various EHS activist websites, such as Bioinitiative 2012 (whose schtick is to claim evidence for a link between wireless technology and an impressive range of conditions based on extreme cherry picking – no really, Bioinitiative’s employment of cherry-picking is somewhat legendary).


And just in case you should ever doubt his commitment to denialism and pseudoscience, Colbeck also expresses “doubt” about the theory of evolution and supports teaching intelligent design creationism in public schools.



Colbeck’s state senate tenure (and other activities) have been characterized also by conspiracy-fueled bigotry.


He got some national attention for his claim that one of his Democratic opponents in the 2018 gubernatorial election had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and (unfounded, of course) was part of an Muslim plot to engage in “civilization jihad” that is attempting to take over the country, based on nothing whatsoever but his opponent’s religious background and skin color. “This is scary stuff”, said Colbeck. It is, though not in the way Colbeck thinks. According to Colbeck, however, “[t]here’s a lot of pressure being applied in our society right now. You’re seeing Muslim legislators in the state legislature. And you’re seeing also a push at the local level at city councils;” these are part of what Colbeck calls “Civilization Jihad Techniques”, and that means that his opponent in question, a Muslim, might be secretly trying to take over Michigan for ISIS. Colbeck’s position was endorsed by various wingnut hate groups like United West. Colbeck’s claims were relatively widely criticized. He responded to criticism by accusing his critics of trying to “silence” him.


Colbeck’s run for governor was endorsed by e.g. David Barton. Colbeck had previously been on Barton’s program to claim that the passage Michigan’s anti-union “right to work” legislation, primarily pushed by him and the aforementioned Mike Shirkey, could be attributed to “divine providence”; God, for some reason, hates unions.


Diagnosis: State legislatures tend to attract nonsense, but Colbeck is deranged even by state legislature batshit wingnut standards. In a reasonable age, people like him would be relegated to basement conspiracy blogging and pity; these are not reasonable times.