Wednesday, November 29, 2023

#2709: Curtis Cost

Curtis Cost is a fanatical anti-vaccine activist, author of a book entitled Vaccines Are Dangerous: A Warning to the Global Community (his blog is, likewise, entitled Vaccines Are Dangerous), former Vice President of the Scholar’s Committee of the Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network, and organizer of the 2019 anti-vaccine Harlem Vaccine Forum.


The Forum was an event designed to promote antivaccine propaganda to New York Black communities, and was (originally) hosted by Al Sharpton; keynote speakers at the forum were to include Sharpton, Robert Kennedy, jr., Gary Null (referred to, hilariously, as “Dr. Gary Null”), “Grandmaster of metaphysics” and “hygienic healer” Rev. Dr. Phil Valentine, Mary Holland and Vaxxed star and anti-vaccine activist Sheila Ealey. (Other speakers included anti-Monsanto activist Mitchell Cohen, anti-vaccine activist Walter Sotelo and Shakira Moore, a “holistic” practitioner.) Topics were to include:


-       Are vaccines safe or dangerous?

-       Do vaccines really work?

-       Is there a link between autism and vaccines?

-       Should parents have the right to decide whether or not to vaccinate their children?

-       Are there natural alternatives to vaccines?


Those questions are easily answered correctly, of course. The goal of the forum was, by contrast, to spend plenty of time cherry-picking, misunderstanding, conspiracy-mongering and hand-waving with anecdotes to get different answers. Eventually, however, the press got wind of the event and the whole thing got rescheduled (with Sharpton backing out); the Forum, as it was ultimately held, was a laughable disaster.


Cost himself is the kind of anti-vaxxer who is prominently featured at, where he is described as “professor”, though without divulging what his area of expertise might be or where he is supposed to be employed in such a position. Still, Cost has been an antivaxxer for a long time – in fact, his antivaccine activism predates Andrew Wakefield – the first version of his book Vaccines Are Dangerous: A Warning to the Black Community was published in 1992, and there’s even a movie – and he would even back then employ a range of curiously familiar antivaxxine talking points, which were as silly then as they are now, including various versions of the toxins gambit and appeals to scary-sounding ingredients (“substances, that any rational person would realize are revolting, disgusting”); according to Cost, “they have no idea what the long term implications are. There is no way for them to know.” The fact that vaccines are tested before they’re put on the market is apparently a foreign idea to him. Then, of course, he confuses adverse events and side effects (as well as confusing both with his own imagination) to claim that vaccines can cause “autism, seizures, mental retardation, hyperactivity, dyslexia, convulsions, paralysis, sudden infant death syndrome, blindness, death, premature aging [that one’s new to us], multiple sclerosis, blood and skin disorders, allergies” – yes, it’s a forerunner to the more recent appeal to package insert gambit. “These are documented,” says Cost, and promptly fails to supply the documentation. And instead of considering the possibility that he might be wrong, Cost instead – entirely predictably – goes on to suggest a large-scale conspiracy in the medical establishment to suppress the information.


What would the conspiracy be for? Well, Cost has pushed the claim – later taken up by e.g. Nation of Islam and exploited by Robert Kennedy, jr. – that vaccines are a plot to harm Black people. That claim was also promoted for instance in an antivaccine propaganda movie disguised as a documentary on medical racism called Medical Racism: The New Apartheid, which is specifically designed specifically to spread fear, uncertainty, doubt, and conspiracy theories among Black people and which was co-produced by Cost and a range of anti-vaccine organizations including the Children’s Health Defense, Centner Productions, Kevin Jenkins of the Urban Global Health Alliance, and Rev. Tony Muhammad. There is a review of that movie here (Cost himself makes an appearance to try to fool viewers with a misleading graph about measles mortality).


But Cost’s denialism and conspiracy theories are not restricted to vaccines. Cost is also an HIV denialist who has been part of a “Harlem AIDS forum” DVD where participants (like Michael Ellner, Roberto Giraldo, the late Jack Felder, “Christine Marjorie” – a misspelling of Christine Maggiore – and the aforementioned Phil Valentine) tried to argue that


-       HIV tests are not accurate!

-       HIV/AIDS drugs are deadly

-       HIV is not sexually transmitted!

-       HIV is not the cause of AIDS


It’s not, despite what you’d initially think, funny. Their efforts, including Cost’s, have demonstrably caused serious harm to their communities. Cost’s nonsensical “10 Reasons Why Black People Should Not Take The HIV Tests!”, offered completely free of evidence, are debunked here.


Diagnosis: Batshit crazy denialist and conspiracy theorist without a trace of an ability to distinguish reality from his own delusion, and a demonstrable (potentially fatal) threat to the communities he officially claims to be helping. Stay far away.


Hat-tip: Respectful Insolence

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

#2708: Josh Cornett

Josh Cornett is a Twitter troll who describes himself as “proudly blocked” by several journalists and political Twitter accounts. He should, as such, be completely insignificant, but he also seems to have been the origin of a number of ridiculous, QAnon-related conspiracy theories – apparently some other Twitter users thinks the incoherent mix of paranoia and hate Cornett posts are worth distributing (OK: so many of those who listen to him may be bots). Here is one, constructed out of thin air and Cornett’s apparent hatred of women. Cornett has also, at various times, promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory (with illuminating tweets like “Pizzagate is not fake. The backlash by the MSM is a frantic reaction to their secrets being uncovered #CNN is #Fakenews”) and various standard QAnon nonsense.


Diagnosis: A decently illustrative example of the curd of the sludge, and he does have an audience of delusional conspiracy theorists, idiots, bots and corrosive boogalooers. Not entirely harmless.

Monday, November 27, 2023

#2707: Anne Schlafly Cori

Yes, she is the daughter of Phyllis Schlafly, a prominent member of the Schlafly clan, and a prominent figure in Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, and Anne Schlafly Cori is more or less as deranged as the rest of them. That said, there have been some rifts in the family: In 2016, Anne Schlafly Cori led an Eagle Forum coup attempt (with Cathie Adams, Eunie Smith, Shirley Curry, Carolyn McLarty and Rosina “the anus is weak” Kovar) against her mother after the latter’s endorsement of Trump before the 2016 primaries (the others were Ted Cruz fans), and right before her death, Phyllis removed her daughter as trustee, leaving her son John as the sole trustee. When Phyllis died, the forum split into the “Phyllis Schlafly Forum” (the Schlafly brothers), and the Eagle Forum, run by Anne. We can’t, however, be bothered to go into detail about the internal politics of a lunatic, rabid wingnut organization: they are all loons.


We can’t be bothered to go into much detail when it comes to the garbage that tends to fall out of Anne Cori’s mouth either, but she is, predictably, no fan of LGBTQ rights, and has as such, just as predictably, classified herself as a victim of religious persecution because the separation of church and state (which she opposes) prevents government from forcing others to act in accordance with her religious (and other) views. She has also lamented today’s celebration of single mothers” and feminism in general. And she views immigration as a Democratic ploy to undermine the American two-party system.


Diagnosis: Old-school moral majority stuff, and hopefully headed straight for obscurity, though the modern-day conspiracy-fuelled Christian nationalism replacing it is hardly much of an improvement.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

#2706: Michael Copenhagen

Michael Copenhagen is a member of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton and an anti-vaccine activist (thus directly contradicting the Catholic Church’s doctrine). He has even testified before Congress on behalf of anti-vaccine activists: “Applying a thorough moral analysis [right …], many Catholics and conscientious people see clear immediate forced cooperation in the intrinsic evils of theft, desecration, experimentation and trafficking of human remains obtained through violence to produce the product. And this is one of a number of complex moral issues, including STD vaccines, and those which constitute extraordinary means, defined as those where there is no moral obligation to receive them.” Yes, there are some standard anti-vaccine talking points, including the aborted fetal tissue myth as well as fake concerns about “forced vaccination” underlying that rant, but Copenhagen’s real concern is of course how having life-saving vaccines for illnesses that may be sexually contracted might remove a means he has to scare people from engaging in what he considers immoral behavior (sex). Moreover, politicians considering support vaccine requirements of any form are apparently bearing “for all time the full weight and moral responsibility for outlawing the full public practice of the Catholic Faith”.


Copenhagen was, unsurprisingly, a signatory to a 2020 letter to then-President Donald Trump from Shannon Kroner (President of something called Freedom of Religion – United Solutions), Kevin Barry, Renee Bessone, James A. Moody, JD; and Rev. Robert Schuller, designed to trick religious leaders into supporting their opposition to school vaccine mandates based on religion. Yes, vaccine mandates are religious persecution of anti-vaccine parents, and of course the letter-writers couldn’t resist regurgitating a range of antivaccine talking points, such as myths about what the vaccines contain – including (again) the myth of “human aborted fetal DNA and “neurotoxins such as mercury and aluminum” – and a number of deranged but familiar conspiracy theories, such as the usual misunderstandings of the Nuremberg code, and some that remain relatively fringe even among anti-vaccine activists, such as the idea that tetanus vaccines are causing infertility and thereby genocide.


Diagnosis: In many ways a standard antivaccine conspiracy theorist and liar, but Copenhagen also has a serious following and carries some serious clout. Unlike other antivaccine leaders, he might actually be able to sway people not already converted to his brand of lunacy. Dangerous.

Monday, November 20, 2023

#2705: Larry Cook

Everyone remembers Kellyanne Conway, Senior Counselor to the President in the Trump administration and previously campaign manager, famous e.g. for popularizing the phrase ‘alternative facts’. Now, Conway said a lot of dumb and strange things, but as an official Trump spokesperson tasked with trying to defend whatever nonsense falling out of Trump’s mouth, it is hard to see how she could have avoided that. It is nevertheless worth noting that Conway said some weird things also before joining Trump’s team: In 2012, for instance, she tried to support Todd Akin after Akin famously made a complete fool of himself in a notoriously striking manner. We’ll just note her name and move on.


We can’t, by contrast, overlook Larry Cook. Cook is the founder of the Stop Mandatory Vaccination Facebook group, participant at the 2016 Conspira-Sea Cruise and something of a hero of the antivaccine movement, as well as one of the movement’s most certifiably insane members. Now, Cook has no medical background whatsoever. Instead, Cook has a BA in video production and photography, and he spent some years developing magazines on “natural living” and self-publishing a book about ADHD (presumably not recommended) before becoming the Executive Director of the California Naturopathic Doctors Association (Cook’s background made him as good a fit as any), a position he held for four years before resigning to devote his time to educating” folks about vaccines on social media: “I believe my mission is to educate as many parents and others as possible about the dangers of vaccination [vaccines are not dangerous], the lack of efficacy of vaccination [false, of course], and why natural immunity is superior to vaccination [profoundly silly in a dizzying number of ways],” says Larry Cook.


His Stop Mandatory Vaccination Facebook page apparently reached a total membership of some 360 000  people before Facebook took action; the group got closed down in November 2020 (together with his Twitter account). The facebook page was a hub of wild-eyed conspiracy theories – much QAnon stuff and COVID misinformation in its later phases – and received some media attention when a four-year-old boy died after her mother had taken advice regarding the flu from the group rather than from nice people with genuine knowledge of how things work (the group recommended avoiding Tamiflu, which had been prescribed to the child, and instead recommended using ineffective nonsense naturopath bullshit such as breastmilk, thyme, and elderberry). It also got some attention for its violent rhetoric, threats and harassment campaigns (also this).


The group was also a major source of targeted anti-vaccine Facebook ads, and according to an NBC analysis, Cook’s group was – and might remain – one of three major sources of false claims on vaccination shared on the internet, the others being the fake news site NaturalNews and the Children’s Health Defense. After the Facebook closure, Cook apparently created a website specifically about COVID-19, Qanon and parenting, though it doesn’t seem to have enjoyed the same level of success.


To support his campaigns, Cook raised over $100,000 through multiple GoFundMe campaigns before GoFundMe banned him. He also receives significant funding from his own Amazon storefront, where he promotes anti-vaccine books (like his own The Beginner’s Guide to Natural Living) and films and takes a cut of the sales (usually undisclosed), and raises an unknown amount through his website, where he accepts donations through PayPal that “go directly to me”. “I and I alone decide how to use the funds,” says his website, but some of the money has funded anti-vaccine ads, advocacy and “secret projects”. He has also planned launching a dating site for people with anti-vaccine views.


Cook’s other group, the Medical Freedom Patriots, is explicitly rightwing and trying to mobilize a far-right target audience, reflecting the general political tendency of the antivaccine movement (also this).



Cook’s views are extreme even by anti-vaccine standards. According to Cook, vaccines are a “200 year old mistake”; they are not only “filled with poison” (false) but are also “unnecessary” (false) because they “do not work” (false). But what about disease outbreaks, you may ask? According to Cook, disease outbreaks don’t really exist: disease outbreaks are a manufactured problem ­ the idea that news about epidemics are manufactured by governments to incite people to vaccinate was a mainstay on his Facebook page, as were claims that the public health measures taken to minimize the impact of COVID were aimed at preparing mass forced vaccination or that the 1918 flu epidemic was caused by vaccines). As for dangers, Cook is quick to remind us that “any vaccine given at any age can maim or kill, and often does. There is NO SUCH THING AS A SAFE VACCINE”; at least Cook doesn’t even attempt to pull the “I am not antivaccine but pro-safe vaccine” gambit most antivaxxers favor. And of course there are conspiracies all the way down in order to, as Cook puts it, “cover up” the stories of all the children who die after being vaccinated; it’s “a medical mafia conspiracy.” Members of the conspiracy apparently include everyone who disagrees with him or who correctly believes that vaccines are safe and effective. According to Cook, vaccines are also to blame for mass shootings.


More recently, Cook has red-pilled on QAnon, as he admitted in a 2020 interview where he appeared flanked by a giant Q in one corner and an American flag with the QAnon hashtag #WWG1WGA in the other. In the interview, Cook described how QAnon gave him a context for his distrust of mainstream medicine and his sense of being persecuted and silenced: “When you wrap your head around the idea that it’s the deep state that is facilitating the vaccine mandates,” he said, “all of a sudden it makes complete sense.” It doesn’t, of course, but Cook’s mind has never cared much about sense. Indeed, mandatory vaccinations is an expression of the deep state’s “luciferian” agenda of “controlling everyone on the planet;” they’re “all part of the deep-state plan,” since “when you inject poison into someone, you can incapacitate them very quickly, especially if you’re doing it at birth … as soon as a soul comes in – incarnates.” Vaccinating children is in fact a “deliberate assault designed to suppress their consciousness, designed to shut off their connection to God.” Combatting vaccine mandates is, as such, just one part of the battle to “take the deep state down completely”.


A consequence of Cook’s redpilling is that his campaigns have become more overtly political, since “Democrats are lockstep with the deep state”, and Cook’s “role is to educate the rest of humanity . . . who’s on the side of justice and truth and who’s on the side of God”, the latter being primarily Trump and the “Q Team.” In accordance with his own self image, his fight has become one of epic proportions: “You shut down the deep state and we can have heaven on Earth,” says Cook.


COVID is part of the same satanic deep state plot: “It’s a plandemic,” says Cook: “It was planned, it’s a false flag … Q would say these people are sick. They want complete control of our planet … And if that means killing … millions of people, they could care less.”


During the 2022 monkeypox outbreak, Cook predictably used his social media channels to try to spread massive amounts of misinformation about that disease, too.


And with anti-vaccine nonsense comes quackery. Cook’s 2023-updated “vaccine injury treatment guide” (on “how to help their children who are vaccine injured, have ADD/ADHD or autism, or have other issues related to vaccine injury or similar concerns”) provides a fair overview of Cook’s commitment to insane quackery. It is discussed here. The recommendations include, in addition to a number of claims about nutrition that are unlikely to be harmful but won’t do shit for any of the things Cook recommends you use it for:


-       DETOX using zeolite based Pure Body Extra (cell detox / full body) and Pure Body (gut detox). Cook provides links for purchasing the products. He doesn’t state whether or not he receives kickbacks. The products are hideously expensive and pure quackery, but parents in difficult situations are easy targets for such scams.

-       Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment; but of course: quacks love hyperbaric oxygen, and it does nothing to target what quacks, including Cook, claim that it targets.

-       Autism biomed quackery. According to Cook, “[f]or the most part, autism is extreme vaccine injury” (it demonstrably is not, and his recommendations include, among other nonsensical ideas, “chelation therapy to remove heavy metals,” and “B12 and glutathione injections to help repair detoxification pathways”.

-       CEASE Therapy, which is absolute insanity but according to Cook, a “highly effective and all natural homeopathic detoxification”; also “I just want to remind you again to replace the word ‘autism’ with ‘vaccine injury’ because it is very important to recognize that autism, in most cases, is in fact, extreme vaccine injury.”


Of course, Cook also recommends that you avoid conventional medicine, which he thinks is mostly a scam and at best designed to manage symptoms, not treat the “root cause”, which is nonsense but a common quack talking point and also somewhat ironical given that e.g. homeopathy explicitly denies there being root causes underlying the symptoms they claim their pseudoreligious not-even-alchemy will be useful in treating. The most disturbing element of Cook’s guide, however, is his instructions on what to do after a child dies – which they might if you follow Cook’s recommendations (heck, Cook has promoted Kerri Rivera and MMS! – with strategies designed to find a way to blame vaccines, including strategies to try to falsely blame deaths from shaken baby syndrome or SIDS on vaccines.



The extreme nature of his views are reflected in his tactics. Cook believes that a lot of children who are not injured by vaccines are in fact vaccine injured. Like many other anti-vaccination activists, Cook has actively been seeking testimonies from parents who lost young children to e.g. sudden infant death syndrome (which is not caused by but may be prevented by vaccines) and accidental asphyxiation and who thought – or were led to think by Cook and his group – that vaccines were really to blame (they’re not). Much of the success of his Facebook page were due to the circulation of those stories, which are emotionally effective especially among people with little knowledge of medicine. The story of Catelin Clobes, who accidentally killed her infant child while co-sleeping, but went on to blame vaccines and become a rising star in the antivaccine movement, is an illustrative example; details here. Cook and his group also buy ads that target women who live in areas with measles outbreaks, to ensure that any lawmaker effort to restrict vaccine exemptions will face protests from a group of organized, angry and delusional parents.


Indeed, Cook and his followers would also contact (harass) grieving parents who did not think their children suffered any ‘vaccine injury’ to try to convince them otherwise (and share curated versions of their stories on the Facebook page even if they failed to convince the parents). The tactic includes harassing parents of children who died from vaccine-preventable diseases, up to and including death threats.


Cook and other antivaxx activists affiliated with his Stop Mandatory Vaccination group have also made efforts to identify and threaten parents who encourage others to have their children vaccinated, and has pushed a variety of intimidation campaigns on social media – including intimidating, harassing and threatening grieving parents who discuss how their children died from complication of preventable diseases. Vaccine-promoting doctors have also been viciously targeted, including receiving death threats, fake negative reviews of their practices, and so on. And although Cook officially claimes not to condone such attacks, he also says that people promoting vaccination “can expect push back and resistance”.


Of course, and not unexpectedly when we are dealing with conspiracy theorists at this level, some conspiray theorists – like Leonard Horowitz and Sherri Kanebelieve that Cook is part of the conspiracy and secretly pro-vaccine. So it goes.


Diagnosis: One of the craziest and most dangerous people in the US. Kids die; and kids will continue to die, because of the efforts of Larry Cook. Though barely coherent, his combination of antivaccine and QAnon conspiracy theories are apparently attractive to a significant portion of the American population, and his violent, barely coherent rhetoric is apparently effective with them.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

#2704: Vince Consiglio

It’s been a while since he’s been in the news, but it’s worth reminding you. Context: motorcycle riders who are 21 or older have been allowed to ride without a helmet under certain conditions in Michigan since 2012. Still, Michigan saw a drop in motorcycle-related fatalities over the next few years – despite “the doom and gloom that was predicted when the helmet law was modified in 2012,” according to the group American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) of Michigan. And ABATE’s president, Vince Consiglio, concluded thathelmets don’t prevent accidents ... in Michigan, there's more people killed wearing helmets than without.” That’s technically likely to be correct: In 2014, 50 motorcyclists died while wearing helmets in Michigan, 48 died without helmets, whereas nine were unclear. If you don’t get why Consiglio’s reasoning merits him an entry in our Encyclopedia, you may state your name in the comment section and perhaps get an entry yourself.

In fact, there were also more injuries reported in 2014 for those wearing helmets (1,559) compared to those not wearing helmets (633) (with 99 of unknown helmet-wearing status). We are excused for suspecting that Consiglio would reason his way to thinking that those numbers supported his conclusion rather than completely undermining it. Consiglio isn’t anti-helmets, though; rather, he said that helmets might be appropriate in some circumstances but not in others. He also asserted thathelmet laws have done nothing to improve safety or reduce fatalities or the cost of insurance”, which is astoundingly false. Subsequent years unfortunately saw a lot of doom and gloom.

It is worth noting that Consiglio, by 2023, was still making the same argument, blaming increases in motorcycle fatalities over the last years on COVID restrictions (which apparently limited access to training and certification). He also argued for increasing speed limits to 80 mph, because “it’s actually safer if you can go 80 and get ahead of the traffic.” You get no points for poking holes in that thought process either.

Diagnosis: The most interesting thing about Consiglio’s anti-helmet reasoning is how much it resembles anti-vaccine reasoning about, say, measles or COVID and vaccines. You could even be excused for thinking that he’s just parodying the antivaccine movement. He is probably just exceptionally dense, however.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

#2703: Teresa Conrick

No, it never stops. Teresa Conrick is yet another antivaxxer and conspiracy theorist, and she is associated with the antivaccine group Health Choice and writes for the antivaccine blog Age of Autism. Conrick, for the most part, employs the same old lies and PRATTs antivaxxers tend to use to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt about vaccines that she has, and they have, on no good evidence whatsoever already decided are dangerous and worthless – and she appeals to the same old, groundless conspiracy theories to try to explain away why evidence from substantial and careful studies show the opposite of what she wants them to show.

Her reaction to the launch of Vaxelis, discussed here, is a case in point. Vaxelis, FDA-approved in 2018, was thoroughly tested (the FDA evaluated six clinical trials, two of which encompassed nearly 4,000 children in the US, and found no serious side effects). Conrick predictably concluded that it was basically untested, that serious side-effects were (or were going to be) covered up, that the manufacturers paid off the FDA, and that the vaccine was launched over the holidays so that people wouldn’t notice. Then she appealed to scary-sounding ingredients and what she deems to be ‘toxins, which in real life are utterly harmless in doses many orders of magnitude bigger than those found in vaccines (besides, Vaxelis was thoroughly tested with those ingredients, so the toxins gambit would be moot anyways). Her rant is instructive, given that antivaxxers often claim to be not antivaxx but pro-safe vaccines and Conrick clearly illustrates why that claim is a lie: No amount of safety testing or evidence would be enough for Conrick, even in principle. Here is Conrick complaining, in 2019, how nothing has changed over the last decade: the label ‘anti-vaccine’ is still “being used to brand us all as kooks and paranoid conspiracy theorists” and the medical establishment is still claiming that vaccines are safe, effective based on testing and evidence. No, she doesn’t take the hint.

And of course, being unable to discuss the scientific evidence on scientific terms and get the results she wants, Conrick is quick to launch into conspiracy mongering, in particular the shill gambits. And the conspiracy is a huge one: “there are many groups who have been fighting hard to suppress the fact that vaccines can cause autism [they can’t]. They are people in the media, in public health, in medical organizations, in vaccine development and patents, in universities with autism gene chasing grants, in the public sector (NIH, CDC, AAP, et al) in the private sector, (pharmaceutical companies) and many in between”. You can identify them easily by using Conrick’s own method for identifying people with evil intentions: Does the person or institution in question agree with me? Responding for instance to Trine Tsouderos’s  criticism of various quack treatments for autism endorsed by the antivaccine movement, Conrick managed to discover that Tsouderos’s sister worked for a company that did contract work for academic institutions and government agencies, including NIH, Harvard, HHS, and the Department of Defense; clearly, Tsouderos cannot be trusted on the issue of vaccines! And oh, not only does vaccines lead to autism, as Conrick falsely sees it; influenza vaccines are probably the cause of Alzheimer’s, too, mostly because autism, as Conrick delusionally sees it, is kind of like autism and both are “A MYSTERY”. The level of detail in the analysis behind her suggestion is telling.

Conrick isn’t just antivaccine, though; she is also anti-psychiatry and at least sometimes toying with mental illness denialism. In her post ‘Pharmagunddon: School Shooters and Psych Meds’, discussed here, she promptly blames the Sandy Hook shooting on Big Pharma, mostly backed up by selected examples of mass shooters who were on psychiatric drugs. Of course, as an antivaxxer, it is hardly surprising that Conrick struggles with the distinction between correlation and causation – it should be unnecessary to point out (though Conrick shows that it isn’t unnecessary) that a correlation between using psychiatric ills and mental illness and a correlation between mass shootings and mental illness doesn’t imply a causal relation between psychiatric drugs and mass shootings. The actual evidence for a connection is discussed here. Conrick’s evidence, however, is unsurprisingly little more than reports of adverse events in the FAERS database (yes: it’s roughly like VAERS, and antivaxxers do not understandVAERS).

Like many antivaxxers, Conrick is the parent of an autistic child whom she thinks – see the discussion of how to misunderstand the correlation/causation distinction above – is vaccine damaged. And Conrick knows that her daughter was damaged by heavy metal poisoning from looking into her daughter’s eyes – apparently the eyes changed color from “beautiful blue” to an apparently less attractive shade, and the cause, according to Conrick and no evidence whatsoever: mercury! Apparently mercury (thimerosal) in her daughter’s vaccines changed her eye color. How she tried to back up the hypothesis with evidence is telling (basically how chronic exposure to different chemicals than ethylmercury, such as elemental mercury vapor, could have discoloring effects under different circumstances). This one is also telling when it comes to the cognitive resources Conrick employs to orient herself in the world.

Diagnosis: Among the more wild-eyed gibbering idiots in the antivaccine clown movement, at least among the parts of that movement that are sufficiently cognitively functioning to organize themselves. A danger to herself and others.

Friday, November 10, 2023

#2702: Laura Condon

More antivaxxers. Laura Condon is an anti-vaccine activist affiliated with NVIC (National Vaccine Information Center), one of the oldest, most powerful and craziest antivaccine organizations in the US. Like many antivaxxers and antivaccine groups, the NVIC often claims – in the words of their leader Barbara Loe Fischer – to be “not ‘anti-vaccine’but “pro-safe vaccine, because that sounds more diplomatic. Of course, since vaccines are safe and effective, that claim raises an obvious question: What do NVIC activists think would make vaccines safe? Laura Condon’s answer is telling: “Nothing can make a vaccine safe.” So much for the “pro-safe vaccine” gambit.

Condon is otherwise affiliated with New Hampshire’s Voice for Vaccine Choice and is one of the most vocal anti-vaccine activists in New Hampshire, where she has written numerous op-eds falsely claiming that vaccines are inherently dangerous, ineffective and unnecessary, and should be scaled back or eliminated, based on standard antivaccine PRATTs. Like many antivaxxers, Condon is the parent of a “severely non-verbal autistic” child who isn’t vaccine injured but who Condon believes, against all evidence, is in fact vaccine-injured because her perception of the child’s disabilities correlated roughly with vaccination. Therefore, concludes Condon, against all evidence, vaccines have “disabled, sickened and killed many children.”

Diagnosis: Loud, crazy and dangerous denialist, and she seems to have some clout, at least in her home state. Keep your distance, and probably don’t do what these guys did.

Hat-tip: Karen Ernst @ The Vaccine Blog

Thursday, November 9, 2023

#2701: James Comer

James Comer is a US congressman representing Kentucky’s 1st congressional district in the US House of Representatives, and an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Kentucky in 2015. And though Comer is for the most part what you’d expect from a conservative representative from Kentucky (repeal Obamacare, opposition to gay marriage), we have to take a special look at Kentucky gubernatorial candidates given that Kentucky is also home to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum and Ark Park, and Kentucky gubernatorial candidates tend to have views on that. And Comer has views on that, for instance supporting tax rebates for the ‘museum’ despite the museum’s declared intention to use religious discrimination in their hiring processes.


To most people, however, Comer is probably best known for his explicitly partisan work as chair of the Oversight Committee from 2023, which has been controversial. He is also known for pushing various bogus accusations of voter fraud and election integrity violations in connection with the 2020 election, and for criticizing investigations into the January 6th insurrection as “illegitimate”, trying to suggest that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was really responsible. But Comer is also a climate change denialist of the densest kind; as he put it, “I do not believe in global warming. I'm the one person whose business and livelihood depends on Mother Nature, so I understand weather patterns. We've had a very severe winter this year with 12-inch snows, so there is no global warming.” Yeah, that weather-climate distinction: it’s not a particularly sophisticated distinction, but Comer is not a particularly sophisticated thinker; fortunately for him, neither are a large part of Kentucky voters.


Diagnosis: Conspiracy theorist and ardent science denialist. In the current political climate, there is perhaps nothing unusual or unexpected about Comer and his views, but you should really stop and think for a moment about how insane they are.