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

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