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COVID-19: A magnet for medical conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories are at the heart of nearly all medical pseudoscience, be it antivaccine beliefs or quackery. COVID-19 has been a magnet for conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories having to do with medicine are quite common, and we’ve written about them here before, particularly among the antivaccine movement. I even coined a term, the “central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement” and argued that the entire antivaccine belief system, as disparate as the individual beliefs and subsidiary conspiracy theories that make it up can be, can basically be boiled down to the contention that vaccines are dangerous but “they” are hiding it from you. Who are “they”? They’re the CDC, medical profession, big pharma, and the rest of government who, in the central conspiracy theory, “know” that vaccines cause autism and all manner of harm but are covering up the evidence. That’s why the antivaccine propaganda and conspiracy movie disguised as a documentary VAXXED resonated so much, telling, as it did, the story of the “CDC whistleblower“, who supposedly revealed that the CDC “knew” that the MMR vaccine greatly increased the risk of autism in African-American boys but “covered it up” in the study in which that result was supposedly found. That this “evidence” came in the form of an incompetent reanalysis of a CDC-published paper by a biochemical engineer turned clueless epidemiologist named Brian Hooker mattered not at all. In this, the “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory very much resembled the Simpsonwood conspiracy theory from the early 2000s, in which Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. pushed a claim that the CDC “knew” that thimerosal in vaccines was causing autism but covered it up at a conference at the Simpsonwood conference center near Atlanta in 2000.

I started thinking about conspiracy theories in medicine again because the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a massive proliferation of conspiracy theories about coronavirus, its origin, its spread, potential treatments, a possible vaccine, and more spreading at a magnitude that I’ve never seen conspiracy theories reach before. I just spent my last two posts discussing the conspiracy theories of Judy Mikovits, a disgraced virologist who is claiming that she was unjustly targeted for her work claiming that a retrovirus was associated with chronic fatigue syndrome and might be the cause, when in fact her results were spurious and likely fraudulent. She even managed to bring Anthony Fauci into her conspiracy theories not just once, but twice. Her Plandemic video went viral in a huge way, to the point where people whom I had thought reasonable were sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media. Then there are the conspiracy theories that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, originated in a virology laboratory in Wuhan, China, and don’t even get me started on the conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, 5G, and the pandemic, hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, or the flu vaccine as a predisposing factor for the disease. Then I saw a project at The Atlantic that is almost enough for me to consider subscribing again after a lapse of over a decade after The Atlantic’s miserable reporting on the H1N1 pandemic. It’s called Shadowland, and it gave me an excuse to discuss conspiracy theories as a topic in general and then relate them to medicine. Just as antivaccine pseudoscience is rooted in conspiracy theories, I contend that medical pseudoscience in general can be understood much better if you realize that, like antivaccine beliefs, damned near all quackery is also rooted in conspiracy theory.

It’s also important to recognize that there are, in fact, real conspiracies. They exist. For example, Big Tobacco did conspire to deceive the public about the adverse health effects of smoking. That is indisputable. The 9/11 terrorists did conspire to destroy the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Volkswagen did conspire to cheat emissions tests. The big differences tend to be that real conspiracies have evidence demonstrating them and tend to be a lot more limited, while conspiracy theories persist and, seemingly, mutate despite there being no clear evidence to support them. More on that later.

Q and antivaccine conspiracy theories

At this point, after over three years of its existence, nearly everyone has heard of QAnon, but I bet a lot of people don’t really know what the Q conspiracy theory is. Oddly enough, I was blissfully unaware until Shadowland introduces its subject matter thusly:

America owes its existence, at least in part, to conspiracy thinking. In the colonies, a theory was born that King George III was plotting the enslavement of all Americans. Even without evidence, this theory helped tip the scales toward revolution.

Yet conspiracism here and around the world has destroyed great institutions, eradicated knowledge, endangered democracy, and ended lives. Now—fueled by the internet, partisan media, and the 45th president of the United States—paranoid thinking is more powerful, and more dangerous, than ever, threatening not just individual facts, but the idea that empirical truth exists at all.

The rise of mainstream conspiracism is the result not just of bad information or bad politics or bad thinking, but of systems built to stoke paranoia and to profit from mistrust. This project is an attempt to illuminate the forces that have created this unreality—and chart a course for how we might feel our way out.

It’s important to realize this last fact here. To those not familiar with antivaccine conspiracy theories, it might seem odd that antivaccine activists have so easily made common cause with COVID-19 conspiracy theorists on the surface, until you realize that antivaxxers have always made common cause with epidemic and pandemic conspiracy theorists. They did it in 2009 with the H1N1 pandemic. They did it during the Ebola outbreaks in 2014. They did it when Zika virus was spreading and leading to microcephaly in the babies of pregnant women infected with the virus. One conspiracy theory that antivaxxers always embrace whenever there are outbreaks of a new disease with the threat of a pandemic is the claim that the disease will be used as a pretext to impose “forced vaccination” on everyone (for example, as stated here nearly two months ago by antivaccine activist Lyn Redwood on RFK Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense website).

To illustrate what I mean about conspiracy theories, I consider it important to look at a conspiracy theory that isn’t related to medicine, and Adrienne LaFrance’s article on the QAnon conspiracy theory, “The Prophecies of Q“, is as good a place to start as any, if only for my education as well. I’ve been paying attention to these matters long enough to have watched the birth of multiple conspiracy theories in real time, including “9/11 Truthers,” the Simpsonwood conspiracy theory, H1N1 conspiracy theories, and the “CDC whistleblower conspiracy theory.” Oddly enough, though, I didn’t pay much attention to the Q conspiracy theory as it arose in 2016 and 2017. The introduction, however, should sound familiar:

If you were an adherent, no one would be able to tell. You would look like any other American. You could be a mother, picking leftovers off your toddler’s plate. You could be the young man in headphones across the street. You could be a bookkeeper, a dentist, a grandmother icing cupcakes in her kitchen. You may well have an affiliation with an evangelical church. But you are hard to identify just from the way you look—which is good, because someday soon dark forces may try to track you down. You understand this sounds crazy, but you don’t care. You know that a small group of manipulators, operating in the shadows, pull the planet’s strings. You know that they are powerful enough to abuse children without fear of retribution. You know that the mainstream media are their handmaidens, in partnership with Hillary Clinton and the secretive denizens of the deep state. You know that only Donald Trump stands between you and a damned and ravaged world. You see plague and pestilence sweeping the planet, and understand that they are part of the plan. You know that a clash between good and evil cannot be avoided, and you yearn for the Great Awakening that is coming. And so you must be on guard at all times. You must shield your ears from the scorn of the ignorant. You must find those who are like you. And you must be prepared to fight.

You know all this because you believe in Q.

Don’t see it? Let me make a few minor changes:

If you were an adherent, no one would be able to tell. You would look like any other American. You could be a mother, picking leftovers off your toddler’s plate. You could be the young man in headphones across the street. You could be a bookkeeper, a dentist, a grandmother icing cupcakes in her kitchen. You may well have an affiliation with an evangelical church. But you are hard to identify just from the way you look—which is good, because someday soon dark forces may try to track you down. You understand this sounds crazy, but you don’t care. You know that a small group of manipulators, operating in the shadows, pull the planet’s strings. You know that they are powerful enough to abuse children by forcing them to take toxic vaccines without fear of retribution. You know that the mainstream media are their handmaidens, in partnership with the government, big pharma, and the medical-industrial complex. You know that only Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, RFK Jr., Stanislaw Burzynski, Joe Mercola, and a band of resisters stand between you and a damned and ravaged world in which most of our children are autistic because of vaccines and adults are dependent on big pharma. You see plague and pestilence of vaccine-, GMO-, 5G-, and pharma-caused chronic diseases sweeping the planet, and understand that they are part of the plan. You know that a clash between good and evil cannot be avoided, and you yearn for the Great Awakening that is coming. And so you must be on guard at all times. You must shield your ears from the scorn of the ignorant. You must find those who are like you. And you must be prepared to fight.

If you think I exaggerate, please feel free to read the apocalyptic imagery of a segment of the hardcore antivaccine movement that openly fantasizes about leaders of the conspiracy surrendering and being forced to publicly confess their “crimes.” When you understand this aspect of these conspiracy theories, the comparison frequently made between those promoting science-based medicine, including vaccines, and Nazis becomes a bit easier to understand. Obviously, the ones whose belief in the conspiracy theories behind medical pseudoscience are a small minority, but it’s a small minority that feeds the conspiracy machine, so that the conspiracy theory can infect, in a weaker form, those who are merely vaccine-hesitant or have legitimate reasons to distrust the medical profession, such as African-Americans and other marginalized people.

QAnon first burst into the national consciousness as a result of “Pizzagate,” the conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and other “deep state” operatives were running a child sex ring out of a Washington pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong. The conspiracy theory led a man named Edgar Maddison Welch to walk into the pizzeria with three loaded guns on December 4, 2016 to rescue the children who were the victims of this alleged sex ring, firing several rounds into a locked door to open it, there (or so he thought) to find the children being held prisoner. When he didn’t find them, he put his guns down and surrendered, but you can see how the incident could have gone very differently. Now look at what happened next:

While Welch may have expressed regret, he gave no indication that he had stopped believing the underlying Pizzagate message: that a cabal of powerful elites was abusing children and getting away with it. Judging from a surge of activity on the internet, many others had found ways to move beyond the Comet Ping Pong episode and remain focused on what they saw as the larger truth. If you paid attention to the right voices on the right websites, you could see in real time how the core premises of Pizzagate were being recycled, revised, and reinterpreted. The millions of people paying attention to sites like 4chan and Reddit could continue to learn about that secretive and untouchable cabal; about its malign actions and intentions; about its ties to the left wing and specifically to Democrats and especially to Clinton; about its bloodlust and its moral degeneracy. You could also—and this would prove essential—read about a small but swelling band of underground American patriots fighting back.

All of this, taken together, defined a worldview that would soon have a name: QAnon, derived from a mysterious figure, “Q,” posting anonymously on 4chan. QAnon does not possess a physical location, but it has an infrastructure, a literature, a growing body of adherents, and a great deal of merchandising. It also displays other key qualities that Pizzagate lacked. In the face of inconvenient facts, it has the ambiguity and adaptability to sustain a movement of this kind over time. For QAnon, every contradiction can be explained away; no form of argument can prevail against it.

And that’s a key aspect to conspiracy theories, medical or otherwise. The ones that survive and thrive are the ones that are the most adaptable, the ones that are hardest to falsify. They’re the ones that tolerate internal contradictions. QAnon has become incredibly complex, to the point where, no matter how many predictions or claims by Q (whoever Q is) are falsified, the overall conspiracy theory can’t be falsified. In this, antivaccine conspiracy theories are far less complex than Q, although extreme versions of them are almost as apocalyptic, which might limit their appeal compared to more general-purpose conspiracy theories like Q. However, given the paranoid elements, the extreme distrust of the “elites,” and the extreme belief that “something” is very wrong, it should perhaps not be surprising that, not only are antivaxxers making common cause with COVID-19 science deniers, but they are increasingly merging with QAnon conspiracy theorists. For example, Plandemic went viral largely as the result of the efforts of Zach Vorhies, an ex-Google employee and QAnon believer.

Grift forever

Another characteristic of a good conspiracy theory is that there are always grifters, who might or might not be true believers, to monetize the conspiracy theory. In the case of antivaccine movement, their names are too numerous for me to list here, but foremost among antivaccine grifters are people like Andrew Wakefield, Joe Mercola, Del Bigtree, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Just because these people are grifters, though, doesn’t mean that they aren’t also true believers to one degree or another. Certainly, for instance, Del Bigtree is very much a true believer, his speeches to antivaccine groups sounding very much like the sermon of a fundamentalist preacher in cadence, appeal to emotion, and style.

In the case of Q, there are also many such grifters. One featured in LaFrance’s article is David Hayes (online handle: PrayingMedic), who dons the mantle of a skeptic while cleaning up. with 300,000 YouTube followers letting him make a career of promoting Q:

Hayes has developed a following in part because of his sheer ubiquity but also because he skillfully wears the mantle of a skepticI’m not one of those crazies. Hayes is not a QAnon hobbyist, though. He’s a professional. There are income streams to be tapped, modest but expanding. On Amazon, Hayes’s book Calm Before the Storm, the first in what he says could easily be a 10-book series of “Q Chronicles,” sells for $15.29. Hayes writes in the introduction that he and Denise have devoted their attention full-time to QAnon since 2017. “Denise and I have been blessed by those who have helped support us while we set aside our usual work to research Q’s messages,” he wrote. He has published several other books, which offer a glimpse into an earlier life. The titles include Hearing God’s Voice Made Simple, Defeating Your Adversary in the Court of Heaven, and American Sniper: Lessons in Spiritual Warfare. Hayes registered Praying Medic as a religious nonprofit in Washington State in 2018.

Hayes tells his followers that he thinks Q is an open-source intelligence operation, made possible by the internet and designed by patriots fighting corruption inside the intelligence community. His interpretation of Q is ultimately religious in nature, and centers on the idea of a Great Awakening.

Of course, the antivaccine equivalent to the Great Awakening is the realization among the public that antivaxxers were “right,” that vaccines cause autism, sudden infant death syndrome, autoimmune diseases, and all the various ills that antivaxxers blame on vaccines, and that there was indeed a conspiracy to suppress the evidence implicating vaccines in all these ills. It’s a powerful cult-like belief system that is basically an invitation to opportunists looking to make a buck.

Conspiratorial thinking and elements of a conspiracy theory

I’ve alluded to the elements of a good conspiracy theory before in discussing why COVID-19 conspiracy theories are so attractive. First and foremost, conspiracy theories are about secret or hidden knowledge, knowledge that only the believers in the conspiracy theory possess, knowledge to which the average person not accepting the conspiracy theory is not privy. Holding such knowledge makes the believer feel special, superior, greater than all the “sheeple” out there who do not hold the conspiracy theory. Whether the conspiracy theory is Q, antivaccine pseudoscience, belief that there is a cure for cancer but “they” are keeping it from the people, the believer is special.

The believer is also simultaneously a victim of persecution and a hero. One element common to the most attractive conspiracy theories is that something is very, very wrong with the world and that it is not an accident that this something is so wrong. Rather, it’s wrong intentionally, usually as the result of a dark conspiracy of powerful forces that is doing causing the wrong and hiding its involvement. Naturally, the believer perceives himself to be a victim of this “wrongness,” and his waking up to his victimhood and deciding to fight against it lets him claim the mantle of hero. These elements of the conspiracy theory also make the believer feel special and heroic, because not only is he privy to secret knowledge, but he is now a warrior fighting against these dark forces to reverse his victimization by trying to make the knowledge more public and persuading others of its correctness. Conspiracy theories are thus attractive because they are an antidote to a feeling of powerlessness, explain unlikely events (such as 9/11) and even some not-so-unlikely events (e.g., the coronavirus pandemic, some variant of which has been predicted for nearly two decades since the SARS epidemic in 2002), and coping with threats.

It’s thus no wonder that many, if not most, conspiracy theories are ultimately hopeful. They almost always come to the present with “the people” finally “waking up” to the danger and, with the help of the conspiracy theorists spreading the “true” information about the conspiracy, “rising up” to throw off the shackles of their oppressors. We see this in antivaccine conspiracy theories, in which “They” (the CDC, Big Pharma, the medical profession) are finally taken to account for the “misdeeds” of which they’re accused. We see it in Q, bigtime, with Q’s “prophecies” leading patriots to rise up against the deep state or whatever else is the threat at the time. We see it in cancer conspiracy theories in which the “people” are waking up to, for example, “natural cures” for cancer (which are, of course, suppressed by the “cancer industry”) that don’t involve the toxicity of conventional therapies, such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.

Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook have published an excellent short e-book on recognizing conspiracy theories and countering conspiratorial thinking, The Conspiracy Theory Handbook. They identify seven characteristics of conspiratorial thinking, after first pointing out the key differences between conventional and conspiratorial thinking:

Conspiracy theories

They note:

Actual conspiracies do exist but they are rarely discovered through the methods of conspiracy theorists. Rather, real conspiracies get discovered through conventional thinking—healthy skepticism of official accounts while carefully considering available evidence and being committed to internal consistency. In contrast, conspiratorial thinking is characterized by being hyperskeptical of all information that does not fit the theory, over-interpreting evidence that supports a preferred theory, and inconsistency.

This is the key difference, and these are the characteristics of conspiratorial thinking, under the mnemonic CONSPIR:

  • Contradictory: Conspiracy theorists can simultaneously believe in ideas that are mutually contradictory. For example, believing the theory that Princess Diana was murdered but also believing that she faked her own death. This is because the theorists’ commitment to disbelieving the “official” account is so absolute, it doesn’t matter if their belief system is incoherent.
  • Overriding suspicion: Conspiratorial thinking involves a nihilistic degree of skepticism towards the official account. This extreme degree of suspicion prevents belief in anything that doesn’t fit into the conspiracy theory.
  • Nefarious intent: The motivations behind any presumed conspiracy are invariably assumed to be nefarious. Conspiracy theories never propose that the presumed conspirators have benign motivations.
  • Something must be wrong: Although conspiracy theorists may occasionally abandon specific ideas when they become untenable, those revisions don’t change their overall conclusion that “something must be wrong” and the official account is based on deception.
  • Persecuted victim: Conspiracy theorists perceive and present themselves as the victim of organized persecution. At the same time, they see themselves as brave antagonists taking on the villainous conspirators. Conspiratorial thinking involves a self-perception of simultaneously being a victim and a hero.
  • Immune to evidence: Conspiracy theories are inherently self-sealing—evidence that counters a theory is re-interpreted as originating from the conspiracy. This reflects the belief that the stronger the evidence against a conspiracy (e.g., the FBI exonerating a politician from allegations of misusing a personal email server), the more the conspirators must want people to believe their version of events (e.g., the FBI was part of the conspiracy to protect that politician).
  • Re-interpreting randomness: The overriding suspicion found in conspiratorial thinking frequently results in the belief that nothing occurs by accident. Small random events, such as intact windows in the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks, are re-interpreted as being caused by the conspiracy (because if an airliner had hit the Pentagon, then all windows would have shattered) and are woven into a broader, interconnected pattern.

Regular readers will recognize most, if not all, of these elements in antivaccine conspiracy theories, as well as various conspiracy theories spread in the service of promoting quackery, such as the conspiracy theory spread by Erin Elizabeth (Joe Mercola’s partner) that nefarious forces are out there killing “natural health” providers, starting with Jeff Bradstreet.

How to respond to conspiracy theories

Lewandowski and Cook conclude with a number of strategies to respond to conspiratorial thinking. Regular readers are likely familiar with debunking, which can be fact-based, logic-based, source-based, or based on fact checking. Obviously, we here at SBM do a combination of some or all of these, although I like to note that my writing is not aimed at the hard-core conspiracy theorists themselves. The likelihood of changing their minds significantly is low to non-existent. If you’re lucky you might plant a seed or two that might germinate later, but only at the cost of a lot of effort. Rather, it is likely better to inoculate those susceptible to conspiracy theories with the knowledge about the nature of conspiracy theories and other information that will make them less susceptible to a conspiracy theory. It is in this vein that I really like Lewandowski and Cook’s concept of “pre-bunking” in addition to debunking:

If people are preemptively made aware that they might be misled, they can develop resilience to conspiratorial messages. This process is known as inoculation or prebunking. There are two elements to an inoculation: an explicit warning of an impending threat of being misled, and refutation of the misinformation’s arguments. Prebunkings of anti-vaccination conspiracy theories have been found to be more effective than debunking.

Fact-based and logic-based inoculations have both been successful in prebunking a 9/11 conspiracy. This indicates some promise in logic- based prebunking, given the seven tell-tale traits of conspiratorial thinking (remember CONSPIR?). If people are made aware of the flawed reasoning found in conspiracy theories, they may become less vulnerable to such theories.

Most importantly, people need to be empowered against misinformation and disinformation:

Conspiracy thinking is associated with feelings of reduced control and perceived threat. When people feel like they have lost control of a situation, their conspiracist tendencies increase. But the opposite also applies. When people feel empowered, they are more resilient to conspiracy theories.

There are several ways to “cognitively empower” people, such as encouraging them to think analytically rather than relying on intuition. If people’s sense of control is primed (e.g., by recalling an event from their lives that they had control over), then they are less likely to endorse conspiracy theories. Citizens’ general feeling of empowerment can be instilled by ensuring that societal decisions, for example by government, are perceived to follow procedural justice principles. Procedural justice is perceived when authorities are believed to use fair decision-making procedures. People accept unfavourable outcomes from a decision if they believe that procedural fairness has been followed.

Finally, it’s also very important to recognize that many conspiracy theories are tactical. In other words, the origin of some conspiracy theories is not genuinely held erroneous beliefs, but rather they are the result of an intentional campaign of disinformation designed to produce a political end. Climate science denial is likely the most important example of a tactical conspiracy theory designed to promote a political viewpoint by casting doubt on a strong scientific consensus. As Lewandowski and Cook emphasize, while logical incoherence is one attribute of conspiratorial thinking, that doesn’t mean that all conspiracy theories are irrational. Denialist rhetoric is very effective at casting doubt on specific science that conflicts with one’s ideology, which is one reason why it can be so difficult to combat these conspiracy theories.

Getting back to Shadowland, I recommend reading the entire series. It’s a long read, with several of the articles weighing in at several thousand words (longer, even, than one of my SBM posts). As I read these articles, I kept thinking: Dealing with this sort of misinformation is exactly what skeptics have been doing for a long time, and yet, in medicine at least, such efforts are often dismissed as beneath physicians, as if countering the claims of alternative medicine, for example, are too easy to be worthwhile, as if nonsense like homeopathy were self-evidently bunk. It turns out that countering conspiracy theories is among the most difficult science communication tasks there is. (Just look at the article on 5G conspiracy theories for an example.)

In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become so much more important than it might have seemed in the past, as well. Particularly depressing to me was the first article in the Shadowland series, an article by Jeffrey Goldberg entitled “The Conspiracy Theorists Are Winning“, mainly because it’s hard for me to argue with this conclusion given the proliferation of misinformation weaponized by political actors and amplified by social media. Goldberg paints conspiratorial thinking as an existential threat, and, in the age of COVID-19, it’s a threat to us all in a way that we never recognized before. Even if such conspiracy theories are not an existential threat, at the very least they demoralize frontline health care workers, confuse the public, and lead to behaviors detrimental to public health.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

106 replies on “COVID-19: A magnet for medical conspiracy theories”

nup this has all got too muchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….now..nup…sorry happy bob from oz…….edibles may save me hhhhmmmm?.

It is a fact that conspiracies exist. We have laws against them. They are hard if not impossible to prove. We have a legal theory poorly named as ‘alternative facts”. This is legal shorthand for a different conclusion drawn from the same facts and is better named “alternative conclusion”. Sadly, today’s conspiracy all too often become tomorrow’s facts.
If they do exist, those outside of the conspiracy circle are powerless to prevent them and most of them don’t matter in a meaningful sense to an individual. Obsession with them by the disenfranchised speaks as much to a sense of powerlessness of anything else. I’ll add one additional observation: often conspiracy theory buffs conflate resultant action with intention and this is a major branch point that the conspiracy theorists makes a wrong turn.

COVID-19 is an excellent example.

The origin of the virus: Experts disagree on whether the virus is natural or man-made. It has to be one or the other. If it is natural, there needs to be a animal vector. Virulent human viruses often arise in areas where dense human populations live in close proximity with animals. As a fact, the virus binds human AEC2 better than it binds animal AEC2. In most animal model vector transmissions, the virus will bind the host animal better than the human host. To date, all candidates, including the pangolin are less than sub-optimal. The possibility remains of a form of “forced natural selection” due to the close proximity of human/animal habitation. The Hubei bats were considered a strong contender due to genetic similarity but lack the essential property of better binding to human AEC2. If it is man-made, it either has to be bio-engineered (genetic splicing) or forced natural selection (forced growth in human cells). There is the confounding factor that two closely genetically related virus grown together can spontaneously give rise to a third virus. This happens with the flu. At this point the preponderance of evidence indicates that it is not the result of genetic splicing. The jury is still out on man-made forced natural selection or man-assisted natural selection due to the close human/animal habitation in some areas of China.

Fact: Wuhan Virology Institute does/did extensive research on corona viruses. A lot of evidence has been destroyed by order of the CCP. The Institute was under the authority of the PLA. This raises a reasonable question: Why did WVI investigate corona viruses? Putatively as a research mechanisms to study virulent pathogens.

Fact: investigation of virulent pathogens is a dual use technology: it can be used for civilian purposes and it can be used for military purposes. It can be both. It does not have to be one or the other. This speaks to motivation and motivation is very difficult to discern.

Fact: The virus was thought to have been contacted as a wet market near Wuhan Virology Institute. Further understanding of the virus’s natural history indicated that patient zero could not have been at the wet market but must have contacted the disease prior to the appearance of patient zero. The source could be WVI or it could have been imported from another region (such as Hubei bats). As far as I know the Hubei bats were considered to be a source but further investigation should genetic similarity but lack of the human AEC2 affinity.
Speculation: the Hubei bats may have been the original animal vector and the viruses grown in human cells via forced natural selection.

FACT: WVI is in close physical proximity to the appearance of the disease. The physical proximity is strong circumstantial evidence, but it is not conclusive.
FACT: Pathogenic viruses have escaped BSL4 level Chinese facilities in the past.

Reasonable speculations (all unproven): Most likely origin: natural selection of a genetically similar virus grown in human cells.
Two possibilities:
The virus arose a form of natural selection due to close habitation of animals infected with a genetically similar virus.
The virus arose from forced natural selection in a laboratory.

IF the virus originated from the WVI, then it must have got out of the WVI. This could be accidental or intentional. It has to be one or the other. The evidence is against intentional as there was/is no existing vaccine. Who in their right mind would unleash a pathogen without vaccine or therapy? This suggests accidental. Was it a conspiracy, in the sense of “intentional activity” probably not.

But to exclude the WVI as a source of the virus based on the public available evidence suggests a degree of a naivete to the extent it is the symmetrical response to the conspiracy theorist.

Corona Viruses have been infecting humans for quite some time. The original SARS should have been a wake-up call that spillover was beginning to occur among the animal strains to better infect humans.

This is what viruses do – they evolve. And given the prevalence of Corona viruses in China (and the past history with SARS), of course the Chinese would be studying them to better understand the viral family.

The origin of the virus: Experts disagree on whether the virus is natural or man-made.

No. They don’t. There is no scientific controversy here. Virologists and geneticists agree that the virus is natural and that its nucleotide sequence shows no signs of having been genetically manipulated. This was established back in March in a publication in Nature Medicine:

I explained more here:

Again, there is no controversy in the scientific community over whether SARS-COV-19 was genetically engineered. This is a manufactroversy ginned up by conspiracy theorists, particularly right wing and Trump-supporting conspiracy theorists looking for a reason to blame China for the pandemic.

So, you’re saying that there are two possibilities here:
1) The Chinese government directed this lab to make a virus that is a pretty crap bioweapon, and the lab that made it is good enough to make a virus that infects humans, but can’t maintain really basic biocontainment?

2) Bats are full of viruses.

Occam’s razor (and historical precedent) says the latter.

Never trust bats.

OTOH, the pronunciation of the Chinese character for “bat” is very similar to the one for “joy” (1)
So more bats, please. As long as they stay 6 feet away.

(1) according to the late Barry Hughart, anyway.

Orac: ”It’s also important to recognize that there are, in fact, real conspiracies. They exist. For example, Big Tobacco did conspire to deceive the public about the adverse health effects of smoking. That is indisputable. The 9/11 terrorists did conspire to destroy the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Volkswagen did conspire to cheat emissions tests. The big differences tend to be that real conspiracies have evidence demonstrating them and tend to be a lot more limited, while conspiracy theories persist and, seemingly, mutate despite there being no clear evidence to support them.”
Lewandowsky & Cook: “real conspiracies get discovered through conventional thinking”

I would add that genuine conspiracies are typically discovered through governmental/police investigations and good investigative reporting, sometimes facilitated by informants and whistleblowers. In my experience, they are never unearthed by amateur sleuths posting on Internet message boards.*

*one sort-of exception being the conspiracy to steal French military secrets around the turn of the 20th century, and to falsely accuse Alfred Dreyfus. That one was uncovered by a small band of Dreyfus supporters, eventually aided by a crusading journalist and a mid-level Army figure. None of them had Facebook pages, however.
**it’s unfortunate that “inoculation” was recommended to short-circuit conspiracy theories before they can get a foothold. Any conspiracy theorist worth his salt would jump all over that. “That’s right, they’re going to inoculate us with tracking chips!”
***climate change “skeptics” are heavily influenced by the same factors that derange other conspiracy theorists.


The best summary article is Anderson (2020). Basically, first, a 2015 study found literally 1,000s of variants of coronaviruses in bats (Manachery, 2015). It was found that 2.7% of population had antibodies to some of these strains (Wang, 2018). There is indications now that some of these viruses had been in people for more than a decade, ample time to mutate to easier transmission between people. The fact that the first case probably didn’t get it at the market means nothing. The market could have been an amplification place; that is, people could have been, as the 2.7%, randomly exposed to virus; but the market place represented a concentrated exposure. The Taiwanese study took the protein S-spike from bat coronoviruses, attached it to a harmless virus and found it capable of attaching to, among others, human cells (Chen, 2019). Finally, sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 genome has found it close to several bat coronaviruses and even closer to one in pangolins (Anderson, 2020). Nature is quite good at mutations, so, either a few mutations enabled it to directly attack humans or, already in humans, it mutated to become more easily transmissible. This could also explain why the Chinese at first didn’t document human to human transmission; namely, those first getting it directly from bats and/or pangolins did transmit it easily; but further mutations and pandemic.

I would suggest anyone interested to get hold of each and every one of the following articles and read them CAREFULLY. Is it still possible it escaped from the Wuhan Lab. Anything is possible; but the odds against are extremely high. Anyone still pushing this has an agenda and it isn’t based on science.

[Note. Go to PubMed at: Type in complete title. Most have free pdf downloads; but a few just ABSTRACTS]

Anderson et al. (2020 Apr). The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. Nature Medicine; 26(4): 450-452.

Chen et al. (2019 Nov 22). Entry of Scotophilus Bat Coronavirus-512 and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus in Human and Multiple Animal Cells. Pathogens; 8(4).

Ge et al. (2013 Nov 28). Isolation and characterization of a bat SARS-like coronavirus that uses the ACE2 receptor. Nature; 503(7477): 535-538.

Guo et al (2020 Mar 13). The origin, transmission and clinical therapies on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak – an update on the status. Military Medical Research; 7(1).

Hu et al.(2018 Sep 12). Genomic characterization and infectivity of a novel SARS-like coronavirus in Chinese bats. Emerging Microbes & Infections; 7(1).

Liu et al. (2020 Feb 26). No credible evidence supporting claims of the laboratory engineering of SARS-CoV-2. Emerging Microbes & Infections: 9(1): 505-507.

Menachery et al. (2015 Dec). A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence. Nature Medicine; 21(12): 1508-1513.

Menachery et al. (2016 Mar 15). SARS-like WIV1-CoV poised for human emergence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; 13(11): 3048-3053.

Qiu (2020 Mar 11). How China’s “Bat Woman” Hunted Down Viruses from SARS to the New Coronavirus. Scientific American

Wang et al. (2018). Serological Evidence of Bat SARS-Related Coronavirus Infection in Humans, China. Virologica Sinica; 33(1):104–107.

Zhou et al. (2020 Mar 12). A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin. Nature; 579(7798): 270-273.

Thanks for the list of studies and articles, I should think of making a copy.

That got me in the comment upthread is “FACT: WVI is in close physical proximity to the appearance of the disease.”
If the virus indeed escaped from the lab, well, OK, the outbreak would start close to it.
If the virus is from the wild, what are the chances of the lab being “in close physical proximity”?
As it was set with the specific purpose of studying local coronaviruses, AND was set in one big urban center (9 millions people just in the city proper), pretty high chances, actually.

See, this is one of the things that really bugs me about “they have a corona virus lab in Wuhan!”. Like, if I want to study volcanoes, I don’t go to Florida, I go to Hawaii. If I want to study glaciers, I go to Mt Hood, not Death Valley.

It’s quite frustrating when people think they’ve got a smoking gun when really it’s a “duh”.

And even if the Wuhan Institute of Virology screwed up and let out by accident what we now call SARS-COV-2, what of it? It wouldn’t have been the first time that a dangerous pathogen was released by accident. In 2007, leaky pipes at labs near Surrey caused a massive outbreak of foot and mouth disease that decimated livestock in the UK. The US Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah for over a decade in the early 2010s had been shipping live anthrax to unsuspecting research laboratories who were expecting to get killed anthrax specimens and did not have the facilities to deal with live anthrax safely. The Dugway Proving Grounds, despite working with some of the most deadly chemical and biological warfare agents known to humans, had for a long time a very lax attitude when it came to safety. Luckily, that was dealt with before an even more serious mishap occurred.

Then again, perhaps only a few dozen scientists work at the WIV, and they take a lot of precautions to keep from getting infected. In contrast, there are perhaps millions of people in the Wuhan area alone who have some type of contact with bats, and they’ve been breeding deadly viruses from time immemorial. My money’s on the latter.

Orac describes how believers come to feel “special and heroic”, awakened from impotence, privy to arcane information and primed to fight the power, …
as an observer of quite a few purveyors of “secret knowledge” ( aka BS) I must consider the role of the conspiracy monger:
they seek to enlighten the masses challenging the corrupt system and will surf the tsunami of paradigm shift, ushering in a new era of Truth, Health and Whatever.

Who goes for this crap anyway?
I venture that the purveyors of conspiracies fulfill a profile that shares many characteristics with their audiences :
— they attempt to overcome their feelings of insufficiency with grandiose dreams
— they seek followers to cement their fame as a leader and source of revelation to underlings
— they try to compensate for their ( perhaps) lack of credentials, formal education and recognition by authorities by becoming a challenger to that authority
— they will be compensated somehow- hopefully monetarily

They label standard sources as corrupt- governmental agencies, academia, corporations and the media- in other words, Don’t trust THEM, trust ME! by citing examples of how the aforesaid have been engaged in suspicious activities in the past whilst embellishing their own accomplishments.

So they are brave maverick heroes: Kent even reveals his own wishes to be Aragorn or a Marvel superhero- “Time to Surrender”, he wrote. What he couldn’t achieve in reality, he triumphs over in fantasy.

I think some people want a reason why things don’t go their way. It’s not enough to say that sometimes bad things happen to people. There has to be something behind it, something they can fight against, so they don’t feel helpless.

They label standard sources as corrupt- governmental agencies, academia, corporations and the media

Indeed. Reminds me of a time I was talking about how genetic engineering worked at a public forum to have someone interrupt with the claim “Don’t trust any science from companies, governments or universities because they are paid to do research”.

It drew blank looks from the audience, but was an eye-opener for different ways of knowing for me.

Am I right to assume that you are ok with vaccines components being poorly or un-tested, and with the companies who make them profiting greatly, but having no consequences if these vaccines end up causing damage?
If so, I can see why people who aren’t ok with that would be polarised and not be inclined to listen to you (or others who think the same) about the safety or any other virtues of vaccinations, and certainly would not want to be forced into accepting any such “medical” intervention against their will.
If not, then how do you think this will ever be resolved unless we stop the division and all work together to find a way to fix this so we can all benefit?

I saw this a while ago: it seems that groups well vaccinated with MMR fare better with Covid- Navy personnel, Samoans after the recent vaccination effort, young adults and children. They compared the Covid virus to the Rubella part of the vaccine- 30% IIRC. Could it be prophylactic for vulnerable elderly?
Who knows? Maybe further study will tell.
I’d get the MMR.
( I doubt I had one because I got measles when I was scheduled to get the “new vaccine” and later had a slew of vaccines for university and travel- no records )
If it saved lives, anti-vaxxers would shriek because it is their bete noire– well, they’re always shrieking anyway.

I think I’ve mentioned that I had my M, M, and R titers checked before my working stint in Switzerland, and they showed positive after all these years. Also, I had the infection swab test done as part of Project Baseline last week, and threw on the serum exposure test just for completeness, and both were Negative. So, since correlation = causation for anti-vaxxers, they’re all running out to get MMR boosters for them and their kids… right?


Tomorrow at 3:33 cdt, weather permitting, Nasa and SpaceX are going to launch American astronauts from American soil on American rockets and, if all goes well, land the booster on American ships.

Everyday astronaut:

SpaceX live stream:

There is an anomaly. I’m not seeing that. Maybe the deep state got Elon?

This the closest thing I’m ever going to get to a ‘tailgate party’ people. So don’t fuck it up for me.


Touch screens. Ugg. I hope they don’t forget to disable automatic updates.

Dang weather. I guess that’s what you get for picking Florida (or Texas).
Next attempt is Saturday?


They fucked it up for me. Well, I guess the optics would have been terrible for all involved if something went wrong after launching with a bad parameter — it is black and white, now. There is either a ‘go’ or ‘no go’ based on rigid values that may be relaxed as ‘out of band’ (meaning they had not flown under those conditions before) data still leads to a successful mission (such as upper level winds being higher than expected, or higher seas at recovery.) There is, at least on the surface, no subjectivity. Again, it is a manned mission. So, there is that.

IMHO, the weather was perfect for a launch. Not so much visually because of the clouds, but there was nearly zero chance of triggered lightning under those conditions — IMHO they were more at risk unloading the fuel and toggling switches to command hypergolic abort/escape status.

What scrubbed it was a couple ‘field mill’* values not blowing out “yippy!” out of 50 of the damn things — weather guy even joked if they could delay for 5 or 10 because the values were headed in the right direction and ‘rapidly’.

Florida is the lightning research capitol of the world. They have a lot of those things lying around. Florida does lots of triggered lightning research where they used to trail a thin wire behind a small rocket, but discovered that the plasma and particles of the exaust was enough to do it without the wire. Shit, one can do it with a bottle rocket (don’t launch from hand). Thus, it is something they worry about. And it has happened, but no rocket has ever been lost because of it (that I know of):

But this was a case of a ‘snowed out’ anvil leaving behind nimbostratus that, even though lightning was observed far away 25 minutes before the scrub, were in no way in connection with active anvils.

It was still ‘snowing’ and that drizzle carries charge which screws with the mills; they were never going to get down to norminal 100 v/m (or whatever their cutoff is) any time soon. They are notorious for going wonky in precipitation or outflow with dust or mist depending on which way the wind blows.

Yes, next launch opportunity is Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. EDT, 2:22 CDT, or 19:22 UTC.

Honestly, when there are people on top of a bomb that big, I’m 100% OK with them being very, very picky about the weather. Especially for a test flight.

When I was about 6 my family flew down to Florida, got up at you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me o’clock, sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours, for a shuttle launch that didn’t happen. Oh well, these things happen.

Side note: crewed, not manned. It’s a crewed flight.

I guess that’s what you get for picking Florida

Well, duhh. If it wasn’t for all those lightning reaserch labs letting it escape all the time then it might have been a different story. They are unsafe, I tells ya.

Lllllike a glove. Whew!

Here is a spectacular example of an offloading fuel mishap. (120 fps analysis starts at about 7:15 in):

Conclusion? Likely proceedural error and too quick a correction leading to best guess of ‘fluid hammer’ and catastrophic valve/pipe failure from shutting it too fast.

oops. Apollo 12 triggered lightning:

000:00:37 Gordon (onboard): What the hell was that?
000:00:38 Conrad (onboard): Huh?
000:00:39 Gordon (onboard): I lost a whole bunch of stuff; I don’t know…
000:00:40 Conrad (onboard): Turn off the buses.
GRIFFIN (FLIGHT) – How’s it looking, EECOM? (…) EECOM, what do you see?
AARON (EECOM) – Flight, EECOM. Try SCE to AUX.
GRIFFIN (FLIGHT) – Say again? SCE to AUX?
000:01:43 Carr: SCE, SCE to auxiliary. [Long pause.]
000:01:45 Conrad (onboard): Try the buses. Get the buses back on the line.
000:01:48 Bean (onboard): It looks – Everything looks good.
000:01:50 Conrad (onboard): SCE to Aux.
AARON (EECOM) – We got it back, Flight. Looks good.


with thick clouds and heavy precipitation. Although engineers objected to launching, the NASA program directors gave the go-ahead anyway. The Atlas disappeared into the cloud cover shortly after liftoff and was struck by lightning around 38 seconds into launch. Control of the booster started to fail and it broke apart from structural loads at T+50 seconds… A section of the payload fairing was found to have multiple small holes burned in it due to repeated lightning strikes. The key piece of evidence was Atlas’s flight computer, which was recovered intact and examined. It was discovered that the last command issued was a signal to gimbal the booster engines hard to right, caused apparently by a lightning bolt altering a single word in the guidance *program*.[citation needed]

Hmm. Word, stack, code… Never mind, it sounds like they flew that pig into the throat of cumulonimbus where it likely would have encountered differential shear >>100 mph along the length of the rocket anyways. ? ? ?


The flight path of the vehicle should not be through mid level clouds 6,000 feet or greater in depth, when the freezing level is in the clouds.

… both launch and weather team personnel appeared to believe that the constraint…was an icing rather than an electrical concern. This particular constraint was discounted after hearing that two aircraft in the area had flown through the clouds and reported no visible icing

That is pretty striking to me for nasa scientists to just not get the import of that criteria. Any atmospheric physisist worth his… Ohh. The scientists didn’t have the ‘ear’ of the military launchists? Color me surprised.

Even then, it was charge separation in the transition zone between water, water-coated ice, and ice due to vertical velocity of an air parcel transiting them that was the predominant theory of charge separation and lightning.

Yesterday’s ‘snowed out’, thin remnant was well above the freezing line and there was no ‘bright banding’ of water-coated ice on radar.

One of the hallmarks of a conspiracy theory is that it doesn’t actually make economic sense. Climate scientists aren’t exactly rolling in cash. Vaccines are not particularly profitable products. A miracle cure for a common disease would be immensely more profitable than labor-intensive interventions; it would make no sense to keep it off the market. The Jews and the lizard people don’t have that much to show for their centuries of insidious manipulation.

Real conspiracies are pretty common. It’s part of the job description for intelligence agencies, criminal organizations and corrupt governments. Industry associations work behind the scenes to influence the regulatory environment and to divide up markets. Individual companies hide the defects and inflate the benefits of their products. This is widely accepted and the motivation involved is well understood. We expect journalists and researchers to disclose conflicts of interest for this very reason.

So I’d append an “E” to “CONSPIR” for “Economic incoherence”. Show me the money!

Except … Qanon and various Satanic Panic fantasies involve infant sacrifice or pedophilia, Evil incarnate. So, maybe either: “E-i, E-i” .

@ Jim Sweeney

“One of the hallmarks of a conspiracy theory is that it doesn’t actually make economic sense.”

Except that the Famous International Jewish Conspiracy was indeed based on allegations that it did make economic sense. And a little historical context might be in order: whereas, in the current social environment, it is considered Good Taste to consider that Antisemites are merely a bunch of uneducated conspiracy theorist rednecks (which is by the way not precisely correct…) who embody what is now known as “Populism”, one should keep in mind that the Famous International Jewish Conspiracy was mainstream among political elites, and not only in the 1930s but also well before. If I remember correctly, Kaiser Wilhelm indeed was a True Believer.

So it’s a bit easy to scapegoat ignorant people for being conspiracy theorists as political and intellectual elites have a track record of being quite guilty of that themselves…

And it was, partly, based on the belief that this conspiracy did make “economic sense”.

The only question I’ve never seen asked black on white is the following: “Even if the International Jewish Conspiracy had been true, was what happened in the 1940s justified in any way because of that?”

In my very humble and personal opinion, the answer is a clear and resounding No. If ever someone’s answer is Yes, then it is my humble and very personal opinion that that person’s psychological makeup has underpinnings that cannot appropriately be summed up merely by the terminology “conspiracy theorist”. The problem is likely a tad deeper…

But “economic sense”? Conspiracy theories do make “economic sense”. Big Pharma’s in for the money. NASA’s covering the truth about the flat earth to secure funding. Et cetera desunt…

For a rundown of the most popular Covid19-related, ehm, questionable rumors, Doc bastard over at Stories from the Trauma Bay just posted an article about them.

Apparently, germ denialism is still a Thing.

Make that two articles. The safe version posted above, and then there is the expletive-heavy version.
Just realized he did the same thing for his article on antivaxers’ favorite CTs and other misleading claims.

I don’t much care for Dean Koontz’s writing, but he came up with this gem: “The sane understand that human beings are incapable of sustaining conspiracies on a grand scale, because some of our most defining qualities as a species are inattention to detail, a tendency to panic, and an inability to keep our mouths shut”.

I’ve always found a lot of truth in the statement on Twitter “My gut is that most conspiracy theorists have never been project managers. Their optimism is adorable.”

Regarding the ‘inability to keep our mouths shut’…

I think it was over at the old Skeptic’s Dictionary where I first read that one of the reasons we know the original Bavarian Illuminati existed, and also one of the things that led to their downfall at the time, was that younger members were bragging about their membership in a secret organization to overthrow the royalty; specifically, they were bragging in the neighbourhood beerhalls, while at least somewhat drunk, in order to impress and pick up girls with their ‘importance’.

Anybody who has ever been or worked with University students is probably just nodding their head right now.

Much of the material I survey involves getting the audience to first doubt standard sources as unreliable and corrupt: basically they HAVE to do this because legitimate sources scowl upon their credentials, ideas and MO. So a diatribe against vaccines might be preceded by a long recitative about how drug companies sold faulty products, how governments lied to citizens and how the media are complicit in all the crimes of the aforesaid: sometimes this involves going back a century or two ( re Dr Benjamin Rush) or invoking Nazism ( Bayer)

One of the reasons that this is effective with particular audiences is because studies have shown that anti-vaxxers are more likely to reject expertise and view themselves as bold rebels rather than obedient sheep( le). They value “freedom” and purity.
Thus, if you reject academic expertise and governmental surveillance, you might accept anyone’s “science” which scoffs at precisely those avenues, perhaps in solidarity with other under educated revolutionaries.

It should be noted that although the internet was formerly the prime method for spreading their bilge, it may now be viewed as an instrument of the elite-
— Facebook and Twitter drop pages or include warnings
— Wikipedia is the Devil’s own handmaid and will be appropriately sued
— even totally self-managed outlets like Adams’ Brighteon are subject to outside interference.( recently)
Orac, sceptics and SBM are their worst nightmares.

“The 9/11 terrorists did conspire to destroy the World Trade Center and Pentagon.”

Good. Glad that Orac acknowledged that 9/11 was a conspiracy…

Nonetheless, I remember the day I saw 9/11 on TV. Very vividly: it interrupted a movie where I was starting having that crush on that redhead actress… It’s hard not to remember people messing up one’s cinematic paraphilia so badly.

I’m still having having trouble, though, swallowing the mere idea of Mohammed Atta’s passport being found unscathed in the debris, but if one needs to swallow in order not be labelled a conspiracy theorist, here’s news: I swallow.

“The big differences tend to be that real conspiracies have evidence demonstrating them and tend to be a lot more limited.”

What worries me a bit more is the ability of professionals that have the legally sanctioned authority to officially Say The Truth on who is a conspiracy theorist and a loon and who is not to effectively get things right. Doesn’t matter that you have evidence when no one wants to look at it because of a few professionally preconceived ideas… I wonder whether Gustl Mollath ever received apologies. I’m not talking about flat and honest apologies. Contrieved and one-third sincere / two-third insincere apologies from the people who wrote down his medical records would meet my criteria. But I guess that’s not the case…

Now, when it comes to Covid-19, yes, people have been going bonkers. But what I hear around me is mostly that people are starting to be fed up of being force-fed Covid-19 7/7 24/24 on TV. The fact that “experts” seem to contradict themselves in the media on almost everything also has not been going unnoticed by the lay public. A good aspect of things is that they are now starting to wonder what are the criteria they should use to lend credibility to experts. They have no other choice but to start thinking.


Which is a good thing.

OT. Well, it veers OT.

swallowing the mere idea of Mohammed Atta’s passport being found unscathed in the debris

Why not? Paper, especially the quality used for most passports, is quite a resilient material. You have to mechanically shred it, put it on top of a funeral pyre, or soak it in oil and then light it up to destroy it. And sometimes, even that doesn’t work.
Being caught in an explosion doesn’t count. The air blast is displacing small, light items without much chance of shredding before the heat wave and any remaining ignited fuel would reach them. And you need a nuclear-grade blast to have the type of heat wave able to ignite paper.
You can try to throw a passport, or a stapled stack of post-it, from some high building. I doubt you will manage to do much damage to it. Finding it on the ground by yourself may be difficult, but if you have a few hundred volunteers to give you a hand…
A passport inside some carry-on luggage would also be protected from both the heat and fire. The luggage would also prevent it from being thrown too far away from the crash site, and the big pieces of the broken-on-impacting-the-ground luggage will helpfully point out that there may be smaller stuff to pick-up nearby.

If I was any interested in digging this, I would look up if that passport was the ONLY passport ever to survive a plane crash, but I’m not that morbid right now.

OK, I was morbid enough for a quick search. This article about a man/company whose job is cleaning up after plane crashes is quite heart-wrenching.
And they do find passports. And numerous other small jet-fuel-smelling items.

@ Athaic

In the end, I do not care too much about Atta’s passport, and I’m not saying it’s impossible that his passport was found unscathed. Simply that it shouldn’t come as a schok that people may have trouble accepting everything they are told when it flies in the face of common sense like this. I mean, the blast wasn’t a mere firecracker, and Atta likely had his passport on him, and would have been at the center of the blast. Not saying it’s impossible that his passport was solid enough; simply that quite some things that happened that day and shortly afterwards were rather mind-boggling. In a nutshell, I do not feel compelled to believe everything I’ve been told on these days, nor do I feel compelled, on the basis of everything that was mind-boggling, to claim that it was an “inside job”. Which also doesn’t mean I should feel obliged to claim that there was no war-mongering in the US against Irak prior to the attack just to stay clear of imputations of imputations of “inside job”, as that precise claim would indeed be counterfactual. Needless to say, I also remember Colin Powell’s speech at the UN, and I do not feel obliged to believe everything officials say…

The problem is mostly that in emotional contexts such as these attacks, every word one might say in one way or another gets interpreted in ways people want to interpret them. Not on the basis of what these words might actually say. And the emotional blackmail in these situations is simply not acceptable.

First instance, the decision to wage a war may of course depend on whether or not the 9/11 assholes were indeed the culprits. But it does not depend only on that. Therefore, if one opposes a war, it would be courteous not to instrumentalise conspiracy theories to discredit on cheap ground, by psychological projections, the people with whom you disagree. Independently of 9/11 and Powell’s theatrical performance, there were already enough elements warranting a military intervention and also enough premonitory signs that insinuated that that specific enterprise would not have been a cakewalk. Muddying the waters with 9/11 Truthers does no one any service. Ideally, the decision of waging such wars should have been taking independently of 9/11. That would have been a cool-headed assessment of a geopolitical situation.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve been so mightily annoyed by the kind of mental straight-jacket such accusations of conspiracy theorising shove onto public debate.

And in your and my country, there’s also the case of Bigard. One may not find his sense of humour very tasteful and I’ve never made any claim that his aptitude for intelligence and good manners should award him both a Fields Medal and the endorsements of Nadine de Rothschild. Nonetheless, the guy blurts out candidly his doubts on 9/11 on TV, and suddenly, he’s a leper in the media. And 15 years later, he starts behaving very grumpy because of the way he’s been treated for speaking out his mind.

This manhunt for conspiracy theorists has been overall rather immature: if the best society could imagine doing to wean out conspiracy theorists is to push Bigard into mediatic oblivion, I believe society should reassess its priorities… There’s a difference between a campaigner like RFK Jr. and and someone like Bigard who simply speaks out his mind. He may not have the best impact on young minds when it comes to interpreting the world, but we should also learn where to draw the line when it comes to castigating people for the nonsense they might blurt out.

It’s common sense that it’s not common sense to use common sense in an area you have no experience off. ?

@ NumberWang

“It’s common sense that it’s not common sense to use common sense in an area you have no experience off.”

So when you go on vacation abroad, you lock yourself in your room because you do not speak the language of locals?

Gimme a break.

We all have to make judgements in situations where our knowledge is limited. Me, you, anyone.

The point is that, if we go back to the passport issue, it indeed seems evidence provided by government officials was popping up very fast at the time of 9/11. Very very fast. Very very very fast. Approximately as fast as evidence pops up when antivaxxers read scientific articles.

In the end, we have no way of knowing what happens either way except relying on officials whose scrotum do not seem as clean as they’d want us to believe it is.

But on a more light-hearted note (in the sense of less victims), we also recently had this police officer in Paris who committed a few murders in Paris’ central police headquarters. Same kind of nonsense as 9/11 on a much lower scale. Man is an islamic terrorist, but outwardly seems quite keen on a carefree lifestyle. Allegedly murders colleagues with a knife. People on social media point out that there are metal detectors at the central police station… Official version changes to a ceramic knife to account for metal detectors. Social media then makes huge fun pointing out incoherence of official version on many aspects. In the end, I have no doubt that there is an islamic threat that has to be taken care of. But should I feel obliged to nod at everything I hear officials blurt out? No. For all I care, there may have been many issues that we are not aware of and that may explain multiple homicides by this man. I’m simply not willing to bet my hands on the official version, nor am I willing to claim that it is an “inside job”.

If I do not have enough information not to be ignorant, then I am ignorant. But I am not willing to be blackmailed into accepting official versions just because I allegedly am ignorant of what happened whereas “they” “know”. And moreover they never lie, because they are Good People and not acknowledging that makes you a conspiracy theorist.


I won’t let my stance on homeland security be hostage to either conspiracy theories nor official truth. The same goes for war in Irak w/r to 9/11. The same goes for the Famous International Jewish Conspiracy: no need to have sophisticated epistemological discussion on wealth accumulation in the late middle ages by Joos to open one’s eyes and understand that mass genocide is NOT a smart idea. Even if antisemite conspiracy theorists were right all along. That latter point is simply irrelevant to the matter at hand.

Common sense is the assertion that Mohammed Atta’s passport is an irrelevant issue when it comes to what was at stake with 9/11. And yes, officials really do seem to have been making up some stuff with 9/11 at quite some number of occasions. Doesn’t change the fact that 9/11 wasn’t a peace operation by these muslim nutjobs. Which doesn’t change the fact that making geopolitical choices based on an emotional response is simply whacky and irresponsible. And again: please tell your officials to avoid reproducing the Powell fiasco at the UN if they want to be taken seriously. Luckily, Trump’s in charge nowadays, so we now know we can trust authorities blindly without needing to double check anything…

Common sense is simply not to believe what you do not know to be true. And that includes statements by officials.

As much as I am a supporter of our current president in France, when I hear him blurting out that “there is a hierarchy of the validity of public speech”, meaning by that that officials speak the truth more than others, sorry, that’s in my view not acceptable. No reason his claims or assertions should be given a criticism-free pass. None at all. Sick and tired of seeing officials conflate criticism of their actions with conspiracy theories: if they’re so damn sure that everyone is a QAnon whacko, then let them state things clearly and establish a benevolent dictatorship. At least we’ll be over with the “you’re a conspiracist” nonsense.

“I’m not saying it’s impossible that his passport was found unscathed. ”
There are, of course, other ways than a passport to track people.

@ Aarno Syvänen

“There are, of course, other ways than a passport to track people.”

Having been branded black on white as a terrorist in my medical records, I tend to be quite aware of various grotesque ways of being tracked down.

But thank you for explaining.

Not sure what your ‘not going out because you don’t speak the language’ example was supposed to mean or what it has to do with common sense. I’ve been to countries where I can’t even read the signposts. Common sense meant grabbing a local, ringing a friend who was also a local, getting one to talk to the other in order to find out where I was and where to find a taxi. Nowadays, common sense would mean Google maps, GPS and a translate app to ask a local where the nearest taxi rank is.

Trusting experts blindly is something different. Better to rely on something more concrete than common sense when making that decision though.

@F68.10 My point was that conspiracy theorists concentrate their critique to minor details, and forget more salient ones, like that terrorist do kill lots of random people, quite stupidly, actually. First reasonable subject is in this case is indeed fervently antiamerican terrorist, who actually did similar things before.

I don’t think anyone here would equate someone with a delusional belief in a 9/11 conspiracy theory with RFK Jr.’s continued assaults on immunization.

It is true however that people who believe in 9/11 conspiracies also are highly likely to engage in other kinds of conspiracy-mongering. This is not a harmless activity. It engenders distrust of useful and vital organizations and governmental entities, promotes bigotry (for example – sooner or later, those who wallow in conspiracy theories generally find a way to blame Jews) and wastes the time and resources of people who must refute such nonsense.

In a nutshell, I do not feel compelled to believe everything I’ve been told on these days”


Contradictory, Nefarious intent, “something must be wrong” , Persecuted victim, Re-interpreting randomness

Omg you are overthinking this. I know you have been indoctrinated on vaccines as safe & I know this has been positively reinforced because no research will be published showing that vaccines are not safe. You are not “in on it”. In fact, of all people; YOU are the MVP who is the most important person to NOT know that vaccines are not safe.

I firmly believe that if any one of you here actually thought for a minute that vaccines were unsafe; that you would do the right thing. No doubt in my mind about that. You are good, ethical people with a sense of responsibility. There IS a conspiracy regarding vaccines as unsafe & you have been targeted more than I; just a mom in Colorado, has been. JHC man. Don’t you understand that if there was a conspiracy & a vaccine agenda, that you are the last people on earth who would know because once you did; it would be all over?

Isn’t it kind of presumptive to think that you would be included in a vaccine conspiracy, just because you are an influential person in medicine? You wouldn’t be. An actual conspiracy could go on auto pilot as long as ya’ll think vaccines are safe. Conspiracies can’t be sustained with hundreds of thousands of people keeping a secret. I mean, that’s what happened. Most of you were probably in college when the actual conspiracy took place, that ship has sailed.

There is no real strategy to the antivax. We watched our children react severely, sometimes fatally to a vaccine & you can’t see it so you deny it. That makes people think you are in on it but you are not. You actually believe it didn’t happen but it did. That’s literally all there is to it for the majority of us. Yes I know marginalized people are more susceptible to CT & I am seeing it around me too. YOU unintentionally primed them for this preposterous Q shit. Meh, whatever, it is not even really your fault. Nothing I say will pop the bubble. It feels hopeless, even though I know it can’t be sustained forever.

” We watched our children react severely, sometimes fatally to a vaccine”
Alarmed, you immediately
a)took your child to a pediatrician
b) took your child to the emergency room
c) called 911
d) did none of the above but expect people to believe you

Most of the people who claim their child had a terrible reaction and had permanent injury fall under d). One parent claimed that their child had a seizure and stopped breathing. When asked if they sought immediate medical care, they said that they did not.

@ Anj,

You left out an important one: *Started CPR

As you will observe MANY here tell me; I am a slow learner & I will “continue to ignore everything and continue with my fantasy irrational world”; which is exactly what I did when I was pro-vax.

I was one of you & I couldn’t entertain for a second that vaccines had caused what I had just seen them cause so I can give a first response & second response:

The first time, I:
*Started CPR and:
c) called 911.

The second time, I:
b) took my child to the emergency room and a few days after that I:
a)took my child to a pediatrician.

What I have NEVER done; is:
d) did none of the above but expect people to believe me.

Instead, I do not EXPECT them to believe me; I EXPECT a fight & that is exactly what I get here … ALL the time.

@ Christine Kincaid

You write: “I know this has been positively reinforced because no research will be published showing that vaccines are not safe.”

I guess you NEVER came across the studies of narcolepsy and the 2009 H1N1 vaccine. However, looking at the data, the number of kids whose lives were saved by the vaccine far exceeded the cases of narcolepsy; but the point is there have been over a dozen peer-reviewed medical journal articles on the vaccine and narcolepsy. And I could go down the list of published articles on serious adverse events following vaccines, which is why they are listed on the CDC website, on every Vaccine Information Statement, etc. However, as I’ve pointed out numerous times, if you were to actually take the time to study the history of the vaccine-prevented diseases, you would find, well, a rational person would find that the number of kids suffering, being hospitalized, developing disabilities, and dying was exponentially greater than the rare serious adverse reactions. There is NOTHING in this world that is absolutely safe.

So, as usual, you continue to ignore everything others write and continue with your fantasy irrational world. So, for the umpteenth time, learn about Post Hoc Ergo Prompter Hoc and read book that shows what people believe to be rare events occurring together are NOT rare: David Hand. “The Improbability Principle” and learn the basics of immunology, again: Lauren Sompayrac’s “How the Immune System Works (6th Ed). And understand, I realize you can’t understand, that correlation doesn’t mean causation, e.g., correlation found between increase in cell phone use and ASD, correlation found between increase in eating organic foods and ASD, etc. And one can’t “prove” a negative, simply no matter how many studies find NO association, can’t prove there isn’t one.

You are despicable, as you wrote, a broken record, oblivious to anything and everything others write.

Just read a good book on history of smallpox. Without the vaccine, good chance neither you nor I would be here. In fact, world’s population would probably be 1/3 what it is today with many blind people and most disfigured. I’m sure if you were alive in a world without vaccines that if someone wrote about trying to develop them, you, well probably not you; but almost all rational people would hope they succeeded.

I guess you NEVER came across the studies of narcolepsy and the 2009 H1N1 vaccine.

IIRC, the rate of narcolepsy was found to be 17 times higher in those who were infected with H1N1 than those who got the vaccine. If just 6% of people were infected, the odds still favour the vaccine.

I’ve pointed this out numerous times before here and elsewhere, as a former UK-ian CAMHS senior nurse, that if there was the remotest shred of credible evidence of any link between vaccines and autism CAMHS clinicians and paediatricians here would’ve been all over it, as autism was such a large part of our work that if we could prevent it we sodding well would!

However, rthere isn’t, so we haven’t.

One of the weirdest reasons why Covid-19 is some kind of conspiracy, was someone who said that because every country reacted in the same way (did they?) it had to be planned in advance, which was the proof it was a conspiracy.

That’s gotta be it – we’re just miffed because hundreds of thousands of other people successfully engineered an airtight Vaccine Conspiracy, but we weren’t in on it.

Same thing with the faked moon landing and 9/11. 🙁

Well alright, if it’s gotta be that way. Just keep the $hillbucks coming.

@ DB,

Hundreds of thousands of other people did NOT successfully engineer an airtight Vaccine Conspiracy. That’s not how successful conspiracy works. There have been handfuls of people, starting around 1959, with handfuls more here & there, leading up to now.

Here is what handfuls of people can do; to create a conspiracy:

“1. funding and publishing research that supports
its position;
2. suppressing and criticising research that does
not support its position;
3. changing the standards for scientific research;
4. disseminating interest group data or
interpretation of risks via the lay (non-academic)
press and directly to policymakers.”

Those handfuls of people understand this:

“Communicating accurate information on risk is
essential to risk perception and risk management.

Research findings, often from basic science,
epidemiology and exposure or engineering research,
provide the basis for information on risk.

These research findings or ‘facts’ are, however, subject
to interpretation and the social construction of
the evidence (Krimsky, 1992). Research evidence
has a context. The roles of framing, problem
definition and choice of language influence risk
communication (Nelkin, 1985).

Furthermore,scientific uncertainties allow for a wide range of
interpretation of the same data. Since data do not
‘speak for themselves’ interest groups can play a
critical role in generating and communicating the
research evidence on risk.”

Those handfuls of people also knew this:

“Factors other than study design can affect the
outcome of research, including:
• the framing or social construction of the research
• the conduct of the study;
• the publication (or not) of the study findings.”

Nobody needed you to be ‘in on’ anything. You are MUCH more valuable as you are.

First, if you’re going to link to a PDF, please note it as such. Second, if you’re going to copy and paste from one, at least make some effort to clean up the breaks.

I could ask a serious question about how “those people” are supposed to control vaccine development in places like India, which is reasonably resistant to control by English-speaking nations, but honestly I’ll just leave this quote from Ben Franklin “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead”.

@ christine kincaid

As usual, you ignore what others write. As I’ve written before, vaccine studies, including safety studies, have been carried out in numerous different nations with different histories, cultures, economic, political and educational systems. And the funding for these various studies have come from governments, non-profits, and, yes, sometimes pharmaceutical corporations. In addition, the results are published in numerous different journals, both run by various medical groups and for-profit corporations that will publish just about anything for a fee and in government reports and reviews. And as I and others have pointed out and you dishonestly, I repeat dishonestly, ignore is there have been numerous studies about vaccine-related injuries, e.g., the Cutter Incident for the first Salk polio vaccine, oral polio vaccine caused paralysis, first rotavirus vaccine and intussusception and on and on it goes. So suppressed that the CDC includes in its Vaccine Information Statements minor adverse events and rare serious adverse events. Available at: and free book available for download, “Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: The Pink Book”. Available at: One can go to numerous other websites, e.g., Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, etc.

Your list for funding, suppressing, changing standards ignores ALL of the above. Do you really believe that medical researchers, public health researchers, epidemiologists, and politicians from so many different nations are ALL so stupid and/or callous towards their own nation’s children?

As for Krimsky’s “interpretation and social construction of the evidence” and “Nelkin’s “roles of framing, problem definition and choose of language influencing risk communication”, Krimsky’s book deals with social sciences and Nelkin’s: Risk in the workplace — occupational health — is an increasingly visible and complex issue. Evaluating and managing workplace risks involves not only labour and management but also scientists, physicians, journalists, administrators, and policy analysts. The authors approach these diverse perspectives and political strategies by examining the ′discourse′ of risk disputes. The result is a conflict model of risk that takes into account the many participants and issues that inform the risk assessment process.

I really doubt you have read either of the books and you didn’t even give good references; but I was able to find them. In medical and epidemiological research the choice of variables one looks at and interpretation represent an extremely narrow range, simply one looks at vaccinated kids, some time frame for follow-up, and compares them for clearly defined adverse events with non-vaccinated kids. One can’t ignore encephalitis, intussusception, etc. Social and occupational deals with social variables, a different ballgame. And as I’ve written before, do a search of PubMed using “Vaccines AND safety” and you will find over 38,000 studies. Narrow the review by adding “AND placebo” and you will still get over 2,500.

I doubt you have ever taken a single research course, either social sciences or epidemiological. Well, I’ve taken both, MA in social psychology, PhD in social and educational psychology and 3-years Post-Doctoral studies in epidemiology.

And the paper you actually link to is about tobacco and how the industry tried to hide the data. As I’ve written before you evil moron, it was epidemiology that found significant associations between smoking and lung cancer, other cancers, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease. And during a lawsuit, it was then found that the tobacco industry had internally conducted similar studies with the same findings, so, yep, they suppressed their findings; but couldn’t suppress the findings of other epidemiologists.

As for: “research findings, often from basic science, epidemiology and exposure or engineering research, provide the basis for information on risk.”

No, they don’t “provide the basis for information on risk” but do contribute additional information. The research on vaccines include animal lab studies, phases 1 – 3 clinical trials (FDA requirements much more stringent than for any other drug or medical device), post-marketing surveillance (not just VAERS; but Vaccine Safety Datalink and several others) AND the WHO collects similar pre and post marketing studies from numerous nations., plus numerous additional studies, again over 38,000 papers, some reviews and editorials; but most independent studies.

I don’t think you even wrote your response to DB; but copied it from somewhere else as I doubt you have read or even seen Nelkin’s or Krimsky’s books. No references and your usual moronic claims, ignoring what I and others have written. You are despicable, someone who NEVER admits even they may be wrong. You are absolutely certain vaccines killed one of your kids and harmed another, not even considering Post Hoc Ergo Prompter Hoc. Again look at David Hand’s “The Improbability Principle” and Lauren Sompayrac’s “How the Immune System Works (6th Ed)”. I can supply more suggestions; but realize since you assume you have god-like certainty that you won’t bother to even investigate other possibilities.


Lisa A. Bero (2005). Tobacco Industry Manipulation of Research. In European European Environment Agency’s “Part A – Lessons from health hazards”. Available at:

Sheldon Krimsky and Dominic Golding (Editors) (1992). Social Theories of Risk. Praeger.

Dorothy Nelkin (1985). The Language of Risk: Conflicting Perspectives on Occupational Health. SAGE Focus Editions (Book 71)

Oh Dangerous One!

It’s always a conspiracy! Supporters were “indoctrinated” about the safety of vaccines and never questioned the authorities. Really?

–First of all, vaccines have been subject to scrutiny and have been opposed since their inception : throughout their history, problems have been noted ( the Cutter Incident), weaknesses have been investigated ( the need for boosters for certain vaccines),controversy about polio vaccines’ efficacy, the many problems creating effective, safe vaccines for serious illnesses like Malaria, hiv/ aids as well as for colds, flu, concerns about vaccines leading to changes in schedules ( e.g. Japan’s decision to drop recommendations), differences amongst countries, worries that enabled anti-vax activists like Wakefield, narcolepsy in Finland, H1N1, Guillain-Barre Syndrome etc.; in addition, spurious concerns have been addressed through large scale studies- claims about autism, chronic illness, SIDS and the usual anti-vax concerns WORLDWIDE.
So, it’s a pretty bad conspiracy for converting people to unquestioning belief if so many problems are obvious and publicly addressed. Couldn’t the powers-that-be have covered up those problems as well as the other flaws anti-vaxxers claim?

— about “indoctrination”: why is it that so many supporters of vaccines are not former medical students? They may be well-educated adults who have never studied vaccines formally: just here at RI, many of them are trained in physics, chemistry, computers, engineering, law etc. How did the propagandists get to them? You could get advanced degrees in those areas without ever taking a life science course.

If Mr Gates “dropped out” of college, who “educated” him? Wouldn’t his money and power enable him to ferret out bad information for his own usage and insulate him from mis-informers? Why would be he willing to bet his fortune on vaccines? If organic farming were the answer to the world’s problems, why wouldn’t he just invest in that ( or birth control or peace talks or free education for girls?) He could do anything.

All-powerful conspirators should be able to dream up a less messy scenario.

“Couldn’t the powers-that-be have covered up those problems as well as the other flaws anti-vaxxers claim?”

It’s explained by what a poster on a message board once referred to as the Genius Fool Theory.

A vast network of conspirators with overwhelming power, influence and money concoct a massive, ingenious scheme, but wind up making sloppy mistakes, enabling their plot to be uncovered by a handful of curious amateurs on the Internet.*

They tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the sheeple about fluoride, vaccines, chemtrails, the Moon landing, a spherical earth, the JFK assassination, 5G, Covid-19 and many more, but the people are Waking UP!

*sometimes all it takes is a single Brave Maverick medical student, standing up in a lecture hall to protest when a professor orders the whole class to ignore vaccine complications.

But there won’t be any proof of that student’s work, because they’re “too modest” to let themself be mentioned by name in anything they worked on.

@DB. Again.

"A vast network of conspirators with overwhelming power influence and money ..."

No, again; a handful of authorities at the NIH in 1959 with a bunch of hamsters dead from tumors …

" ... concoct a massive, ingenious scheme, but wind up making sloppy mistakes,"

Actually they reassigned the soon to be whistle-blower, literally to a broom closet & told half-truths at the press conferences that they called.

"enabling their plot to be uncovered by a handful of curious amateurs on the

They plead; “We can’t find the documents & everybody else has died”, during the congressional hearings that were held during the early 2000’s.

"sometimes all it takes is a single Brave Maverick medical student, standing up in a
lecture hall to protest when a professor orders the whole class to ignore vaccine

That only had to happen once, in the late 1980’s after the Act left teaching institutions in a grey area as far as liability, before that was changed to “unnecessary curriculum”.

So unless you are over 60 & graduated from med school in Colorado; you likely missed your chance. To be brave, that is.

So you’re saying that a group of Americans in the 1950’s started a cover up of vaccine risks?

How did these American researchers control vaccine development and distribution in places under Soviet control? How did American government employees control vaccine research and development and distribution on the other side of the Iron Curtain?

I don’t understand.

Hamsters are not humans, you know.
There were a congressional hearing, how this is possible, if there are great conspiracy. Actually congressmen just love make noise and sometimes go after nonexistent conspiracies.
Problem with SV40 and polio vaccine was not that everybody was died, but that vaccine lots could not be tracked in US. It was possible in other countries, though and results were no connection (international conspiracy rears its ugly head ?)
There were lots of papers claiming that there are connection between SV40 and various tumors. How this .possible, if great conspiracy prevents anything that claims that vaccines are unsafe ? Geiers published lots of papers, too, to promote their child castration, great conspiracy could not prevent that.

And yet again anti-vax types forget that the world outside of USA! USA! USA! exists.

Pray tell me how this little Merkinanian cabal managed to muzzle all the Brits and Australians and French (et-bleedin’-cetera) and those other nations renowned for a stroppy “Don’t tell us what to do!” attitude, who have their own, different, health and education systems, research labs, pharmaceutical industries, governments and the rest?

Go on…

“no research will be published showing that vaccines are not safe.”

Right. Which is why there’s no epidemiology showing that RotaShield increased the risk of intussusception in 1 in 12,000 in infants over the course of 2 weeks post vaccination, a number so small that a pediatrician would have to see four infants every day, never seeing the same child twice, to see one case in 10 years. That’s why no one knows that 3 in 1 million people who received OPV develop paralytic polio, and no country has ever reassessed and switched to IPV once the risk from wild polio was smaller than that thanks to vaccination. No way for anyone to ever know these things, since no research is ever published.

@ Terrie,

So your brand of honest research means to let us know that: “3 in 1 million people who received OPV develop paralytic polio, so all countries have switched to the switched to IPV “?

I thought the “acceptable amount” was actually a rate of around two per 100,000. That’s 20 in 1 million acceptable losses. How generous to concede to a lie & decide to nobly change the vaccine, lol.

What about the 30 cases per 100,000 in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who have been developing paralytic polio since 2012? They don’t count? That’s 300 per 1 million, btw; honesty doesn’t mean erasing zeros.

Christine, once again, you prove yourself a liar. The article states “While no case of AFP has tested positive for polio since 2012, the rate of non-polio paralysis has continued to be unusually high, especially in the northern states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which together have a population of 300 million people.” So it’s not 3, it’s 0.

A bit of advice, if you really think that you’re right, stop lying. It makes you much more believable.

How generous to concede to a lie & decide to nobly change the vaccine, lol.

You know, I’m sometimes thinking Joel shows a bit too much irritation in his answers to CK.
And then she would blithely publish something like this. I feel your pain, dude.

Christine (who I am kidding, you won’t listen), when catching a disease is a quasi-certitude, being proposed an imperfect solution is not a lie.

To unpack: with the oral polio vaccine, you have some risk of harm, but far less than with the disease itself, and you are going to catch this disease anyway.
The inactivated vaccine has far less risk of harm, but it is also less efficient. Good enough to maintain herd immunity in a protected population (as a French, I’m advised to get one IPV every 10 years – yeah, because encountering some wild polio virus is a possibility in my part of the world – lucky you).
Less good for building the immunity of a whole country worth of susceptible people.
Even less good if you don’t have the luxury of coming back every couple of years to provide boosters, because resources are limited and some places are slightly volatiles, politically-wise. By example, local religious nutjobs (you know, like the ones you are fan-going over) may shoot the healthcare people providing the vaccines, because heathen foreign devils.
You can go the slow way and only use the IPV. But while you are painstakingly building herd immunity, outbreaks are still happening and people get sick with polio. And transmit it.

Figuring out at which point the OPV is doing more harm than preventing harm from polio and it’s time to ‘nobly’ switch to a less protective vaccine is an interesting problem involving plenty of epidemiology and maths.
Since you are adverse to both, I understand you are not interested in understanding it.

Frankly, the risk assessment of OPV is no different than the one which lead to pox parties.
That the logic of this escapes you is… illogical.
I am currently reading a book on sanitation. It’s a fun read, and it made me re-calibrate my definition of ‘luxury”. You have no idea how privileged you are, Christine. Yes, even accounting for whatever happened to you.

@ DB
@ Terrie:

You’re both wicked! ” Brave Maverick Medical student!” INDEED.

Perhaps those ingenious Pharma plotters knew that having too perfect results*** ALONE would be suspicious, so they re-engineered faults into their System of Deceit ™ so that people like us could say, ” See? It isn’t perfect, so it CAN’T be fixed!”

About events that occur rarely ( 1/ 10,000 or less) that is also a fix to make people believe that there is effective monitoring of AE- rotavirus vax, Guillain-Barre and more intriguingly, the rare
injection based sarcome in cats- that last one is real because perhaps CATS are implicated at the top of the conspiracy pyramid and wanted to save their own!
It’s all run by cats.

** a la Cyril Burt – correlations equal to the third decimal place!

You know why it’s called feline injection site sarcoma and not feline vaccine induced sarcoma? Because it’s also associated with non-vaccine injections, sutures and general skin trauma. That’s how you know cats are deep in the conspiracy. They’re covering up the vaccine injuries.

Cats are deep in every conspiracy.
The hitman the MIB called for to terminally suppress any dissenting voice about what truly happened on 9/11 is actually a pistol-wielding black cat. Answers (sometimes) to the codename ‘kitty’.
It’s true, I saw it in a webcomic.


This is a coded message. Translated, it reads:


@ DB,

it came up that way when I pasted the link. Who is Paul?

Go to a certain zebra crossing in North London and walk back and forth across it while barefoot and I’m sure it will come to you…

Just one more for the conspiracy watchers.

By now you are aware of the highly alarming series of Holistic Doctor Murders, in which over 90 alternative practitioners have been wiped out to serve the interests of They Who Will Not Be Named, though we all know who They are.

HNN* is reporting Breaking News, in that the relatives of a man murdered last Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) are offering a reward for information in his death.

“It has been six months since Dr. David Bailey was found dead inside his North Huntingdon chiropractic office 30 minutes before opening. There have been no arrests in the case and investigators quickly suspected foul play.** The case is considered a homicide and now Bailey’s family is offering a reward for some answers.”

“An employee discovered Bailey’s body at 8:30 a.m. Friday in his Parkway Drive office. That was eight days after he apparently did not show up at a federal court hearing seeking the payment of back employment taxes.”…

“Police would not say how Bailey died. According to Rizzo and Mike Brajdich, chief Westmoreland County detective, no one was ever in danger. Both declined to discuss suspects, and no charges have been filed…”

“In July, a lien filed by the IRS in county court showed that Bailey owed $19,910 in income taxes.”

“Federal court records show Bailey’s business was in jeopardy of being shut down because he owed $325,000 in employment taxes as of August 10, 2018. The IRS had been trying since 2008 to bring the business into compliance. Still, court filings said the “pattern of behavior” continued into recent years, leading the agency to seek a permanent injunction in April 2018.”

“Bailey neglected to show up for a federal hearing in Pittsburgh on November 21.”

Well! This is all very hush-hush. No details released about the death, toxicology and DNA results unmentioned – even the HNN story fails to mention exactly where the crime happened (I was able to deduce it was Pennsylvania thanks to alertly noting in the background of a photo a highway sign for I-76).

Could this be: a Pharma conspiracy? (too easy). Part of a plot by the Skeptics to eliminate a highly effective practitioner of neck torque? Do we know Dr. Fauci’s whereabouts on the day in question? Just asking questions.

*Health Nut News
**How quickly?

@ DB:

“Paul…. is…. dead”

Again, brilliant, deep diving investigative researchers DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE THE INTERNET!!!

( how often do I use Wikip—, Urban Dictionary, G–gle Translate, acronyms et al to decipher what Narad and others quip?. But then, that’s me)

What do you expect from people who can’t tell the difference between the phrases “non-polio paralysis” and “paralytic polio”?

@ Just A tech,

“How did these American researchers control vaccine development and distribution in places under Soviet control?”

Russia had already purchased mass quantities of the Sabin vaccine. Salk’s vaccine was the one initially contaminated with SV40, until Sabin used some of Salk’s seed lots in the early 1960s. The fact that Russia was ahead of the US for mass Polio vaccine campaigns was one reason the contaminated vaccine wasn’t pulled in 1959 when the SV40 was discovered. It was administered until 1963 due to cold war era competition.

And Soviets did not start a propaganda campaign against terrible American vaccine ? Plot to kill their would be quite obvious.

@Christine, what to explain why you lied and claimed the article about non-polio paralysis in India posted was about paralytic polio?

@ Terrie:

From surveying woo-meisters and anti-vaxxers for a LONG TIME, I’ve learned that their conception of reality or truth is rather fluid and mutable: it’s as though they forget that there are records of what they say or write. The internet is FOREVER and sceptics’ memories can be supplemented by accessing comments, posts, videos or books. easily
Here are a few blatant examples:
— a well-known woo-meister denies his history as an hiv/aids denialist despite the fact that he published books, gave speeches, made films and broadcasted radio shows on the issue. for decades. Wikipedia s ALL RONG he claims- he never denied hiv’aids although anyone who looks him up can find evidence of his pseudoscience**.
— an ASD mother used to claim that her youngest unvaccinated – but most affected- child was damaged by her own childhood vaccines After much ridicule by sceptics, she changed her tune saying that this was a difficult birth and it was much like CP. Interestingly, she never said that she had had a hard time before- it was all vaccines.**
— another ASD mother claims that vaccines caused her son to have a stroke despite the fact that this was never documented and it took doctors “10 years” to figure it out.. No CAT scans, no medical tests etc .but she knew the answer**.

They imagine that others’ efforts at researching material are as shoddy as their own.
OBVIOUSLY there are many examples here at RI
The internet never forgets.

** Null, Rossi, Wright .

Polio Vaccine and SV 40

Actually ORAC’s alter ego wrote an article on SV40:

David Gorski (2013 Sep 9). Another antivaccine zombie meme: polio vaccine and SV40 and cancer, oh, my! Available at:

You do understand that he is an oncologist?

I did another search and found a couple of articles where they hypothesized that SV 40 may be involved in mesothelioma. I emphasize “may.” You do know what mesothelioma is? Cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. They found a higher level of SV 40 in those with mesothelioma; but other articles didn’t, so, it could be an artifact of their methodology. I’ll let ORAC address this. In addition, SV 40 has been found to be ubiquitous in the environment.

I have currently 106 journal articles on SV 40 in a file on my desktop.

Bottom line, research has NOT found SV 40 causes cancer, except, maybe, in some synergistic fashion with asbestos. And, let’s, for sake of argument, assume that a few rare cancers were partially caused by SV 40, cancers that develop 40 or more years later. Studies on decision making have overwhelmingly found that people look at current problems much more than long term future problems. So, if asked would you risk your child getting polio today or, a rare cancer 40 years later, when research may have by then found a cure, most people would opt for the vaccine. But, again, the weight of evidence has NOT found SV 40 implicated in cancer.

Finally, if we look at errors in medicine, any type, surgery, drugs, etc. no matter how long ago and no matter that they have been corrected, we would basically end modern medicine that, despite problems, overwhelmingly saves lives and reduces pain and suffering. Typical hypocritical antivaccinationists approach, find problems with vaccines 70 years ago; but not using same approach on anything else.

@ Christine Kincaid

The CDC Whistleblower, William Thompson

Your post, May 28, 2020 at 6:13 pm, makes a number of claims with NO references, typical of you.

I and others have already written about him (Harrison, 2015); but just a brief summary:

The alleged cover-up of Black boys was based on a post-hoc analysis of a very small subgroup within the study, so small in fact, that they changed the age range for just this group. Post-hoc subgroup analysis are used to create hypotheses for possible future research, not to draw conclusions from.
The dataset was not destroyed, actually made available to researchers. Brian Hooker obtained it and did an analysis using the wrong statistic, thus a bogus conclusion.
If you and other antivaxxers believe what the whisteblower claimed, then he made it clear that the other analyses were valid, so, why do you and others play up the analysis of one subgroup? You should be stating that the vaccine was safe for all but one subgroup, black boys under age 36 months, so one should delay vaccinating just this subgroup. But you and others don’t, so the whistleblower is credible when he confirms your rigid beliefs; but not credible when he doesn’t. One more example of your dishonesty.


Harrison JA (2015 Dec 5). Expert Commentary Series – Debunking Antivaccinationist John Stone and the CDC “Whistleblower”. Every Child By Two (now Vaccinate Your Families). Available at:

Carey M (??? Mar 22). Andrew Wakefield releases the trailer for his William Thompson video. Slick production and dishonesty. Left Brain Right Brain. Available at:

Carey M (??? Jan 4). The William Thompson Documents. There’s no whistle to blow. Left Brain Right Brain. Available at:

Carey M (??? Jan 6). If you want to read the William Thompson documents, here’s the link. Left Brain Right Brain. Available at:

Gorski D (2015 Aug 24). Vaccine Whistleblower: An antivaccine “exposé” full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Science-Based Medicine. Available at:

Najera R (2015 Aug 23). Vaccine Whistleblower: BS Hooker and William Thompson try to talk about epidemiology. Science-Based Medicine. Available at:

Orac (2016 Apr 29). The hilarity continues: Jake Crosby echoes Brian Hooker’s claims that “The Man” has gotten to the “CDC whistleblower”. Respectful Insolence. Available at:

Orac (2018 Dec 12). Brian Hooker’s antivaccine pseudoscience has risen from the dead to threaten children again. Respectful Insolence. Available at:

Reiss DR (2016 Oct 21). CDC refuses to allow William Thompson to testify – business as usual. Skeptical Raptor. Available at:

Skeptical Raptor (2019 Dec 12). CDC whistleblower – zombie anti-vaccine trope still lives. Available at: CDC whistleblower – zombie anti-vaccine trope still lives

And well did Hooker botched statistics work in the Vaccine Court? Not very well. Final Hooker ruling (on page 13 is says that the child was noted to miss several developmental milestones in is first year):

And this is a fun read, it is the Hooker Vaccine Court lawyer fee ruling, with special words for Shoemaker:

@ Christine Kincaid


You write: “@ Terrie, So your brand of honest research means to let us know that: “3 in 1 million people who received OPV develop paralytic polio, so all countries have switched to the switched to IPV “? I thought the “acceptable amount” was actually a rate of around two per 100,000. That’s 20 in 1 million acceptable losses. How generous to concede to a lie & decide to nobly change the vaccine, lol.

First, they didn’t just switch to the IPV. The original Salk Vaccine was effective for two polio serotypes 90% and one serotype only 70%. The Sabin Oral Vaccine was effective for all three at 99%. If you look at my article, you will see that Salk Vaccine reduced the number of cases from 18,000 in 1954 to 8,000 (8,000 probably combination of still non-vaccinated and need for a booster shot) and less until the introduction of Oral vaccine in 1961 where as its use spread the number of cases plummeted to around 10 per year, most probably caused by the vaccine. In other word, the oral vaccine caused at most 10 cases and prevented up to 8,000 (CDC, 1997 see FIGURE 1 and Table 1). Keep in mind that our population was growing, so one can extrapolate without the vaccine there would have been ever more cases. And it is also quite possible that at least some of the cases caused by the attenuated oral vaccine would have developed polio from exposure to the wild-type virus. The switch was made to an IPV when a new version IPV was found to be as effective as the Oral with NO risk, as it was a killed virus, of causing polio. However, it required three shots. In Third World nations getting three shots is quite difficult and also sterile needles, so they continued with the Oral.

Thus, since adoption of the new inactivated (killed) polio vaccine, there have been NO cases of polio in the U.S. However, there have been cases of acute flaccid myelitis (paralysis). A noticeable increase in cases has occurred starting around 2012 (Messacar, 2016).

“Among 106 patients with acute flaccid limb weakness classified during January 1–November 2, 2018, 80 cases of AFM were classified as confirmed (from 25 states) (Figure), 6 as probable, and 20 as noncases. This represents a threefold increase in confirmed cases compared with the same period in 2017” (McKay, 2018). A diversity of viruses were found from labs with EV-A71 and EV-D68 found in 36 of the 80. Also, interesting is the seasonality, most cases in August, September, and October.. If one assumes no vaccine and the population of the U.S. has more than doubled since 1955, the number of cases of polio could easily have exceeded 30,000 or more. So, even if one assumes that not all cases of acute flaccid myelitis were reported to the CDC, 80 or 100 far less than extrapolated polio cases, and polio virus not found in any of them.

So the oral polio vaccine caused around 10 cases a year, some who might have been paralyzed by the wild-type virus (since only 1/200 actually were paralyzed, indicates a genetic vulnerability) and prevented, given increase in population, at least 10,000 cases. And what Christine Kincaid and others fail to understand is that acute flaccid myelitis can have more than one cause. In the current situation, other viruses.

As a poor analogy: Not all broken bones from sports occur in football. Bones get broken in ice hockey, basketball, and soccer; but football is responsible for the largest percentage. So, if ended all football broken bones, there would still be broken bones caused by other sports, just far fewer.

In any case, Christine Kincaid’s: “How generous to concede to a lie & decide to nobly change the vaccine, lol,” just one more example of her ignorance and viciousness. Not having actually investigated, understanding why a switch was allowed, and then accusing others of lying. Without the new improved IPV, the oral vaccine would still have prevented exponentially more cases than the small number it may have caused.


CDC (1997 Jan 31). Paralytic Poliomyelitis—United States, 1980-1994. MMWR.

Harrison JA (2018 Nov 9). Wrong About Polio. Science-Based Medicine. Available at:“Dissolving-Illusions”-long-version.pdf

McKay SL et al. (2018 Nov 16). Increase in Acute Flaccid Myelitis — United States, 2018. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Available at:

Messacar K et al. (2016 Sep). Acute Flaccid Myelitis: A Clinical Review of US Cases 2012–2015. Annals f Neurology; 80: 326-338.

Personally, I’m less interested in the science and more in the basic question of why Christine claimed it was “paralytic polio” when the article explicitly stated “non polio paralysis.” She either lacks basic reading comprehension or she’s a liar. In the first case, there’s not much point in trying to do anything more than tell her she is not correct, because she won’t understand a more complex explanation. In the second case, it raises the question of the reliability of any statement she has made about her her experiences.

@ Christine Kincaid


Christine writes: “What about the 30 cases per 100,000 in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who have been developing paralytic polio since 2012? They don’t count? That’s 300 per 1 million, btw; honesty doesn’t mean erasing zeros.”. And she links to a newspaper article, not the actual research which is available online. Again accusing people of dishonesty.

The actual article (Dhiman, 2018). includes Jacob Puliyel, a long-time Indian antivaxxer. I have around 20 of his articles and I found flaws in all of them. Before going into the article, a little background on Puliyel. I monitor BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) blog called Rapid Responses. The following is my Rapid Response to Puliyel’s:

“Puliyel (2019) writes: “In the new causality assessment, only reactions that have previously been acknowledged in epidemiological studies to be caused by the vaccine, are classified as a vaccine-product–related-reactions. Reactions observed for the first time during post-marketing surveillance (Phase 4 clinical trial) are not considered
as consistent with causal association with vaccine’. All new serious adverse reactions are labelled as coincidental events inconsistent with causal association,’ or ‘unclassifiable’ and the association with vaccine is not acknowledged.” I then explain in detail with references that he is DEAD WRONG. Read my Rapid Response (Harrison, 2019). And another critique of Puliyel’s bogus claims, this time related to the Infanrix Hexa vaccine and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, read it (England, 2019).

So, let’s look at the article that the newspaper article that Kincaid referred to refers to. Keep in mind that I and others have repeatedly explained that correlation doesn’t equal causation. In addition, Pearson’s product-moment correlation has a number of assumptions that the article’s data don’t meet, e.g., not continuous, they use at most 20 discrete points, so, would probably call for a correlation based on ordinal/rank data, Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient (Pal, 2017).

In their discussion, the authors write: “This increase in NPAFP [non polio acute flaccid paralysis] was noticed only because of excellent surveillance methods, the meticulous recording of data, accurate pooling of the figures nationally and making it available in the public domain—the 491,000 additional cases of paralysis would not have been noticed otherwise.”(Dhiman, 2018).

Let’s first look polio at India prior to vaccinations. “Even after introduction of OPV in EPI, the number of polio cases did not fall for about 10 years, as shown in Fig. 1 . In those years there was no surveillance for polio; a sentinel surveillance system was operating
but the numbers of cases reported were estimated to be about 10 per cent of the total cases. . . During this decade, after introduction of OPV in EPI, the estimated annual numbers of cases were 200,000 to 400,000; translated to daily averages, some 500 to 1000 children were developing polio paralysis each day.” (John, 2013). More doses of oral polio vaccine, called pulse polio immunization program, were given than elsewhere as infants in India suffered often from diarrhea, thus, eliminating some of the oral vaccine too fast from the body.” (John, 2013).

According to the article, over a 18 year period a total of 640,000 cases of non-polio acute flaccid paralysis occurred, thus, on average, 35,000 per year. So, even if we assume the article is correct, 200,000 to 400,000 cases prevented compared to 35,000 per year. But, is the article correct? First, it mentions “This increase in NPAFP was noticed only because of excellent surveillance methods (Dhimmi, 2018).

According to Mohammed (2014):

“A case in point is India, which was declared polio-free in February, 2012. Here, media reports abound of an “alarming rise” in the number of nonpolio AFP cases, which has dovetailed the decreasing number of polio cases in the past 10 years. In 2003, the country reported 8000 cases of non-polio AFP. In 2011, the year in which the country’s
last recorded case of polio occurred, that number had reached 60 000. More than
50 000 cases were reported last year, and so far this year India has recorded nearly 15 000 cases—more than any other country.

India is a large country, so a large number of AFP cases is not surprising, but it’s the case per 100 000 children ratio that has piqued people’s interests. WHO has set a minimum expected reporting rate of about two cases per 100 000 children in polio-endemic countries; in India this number is around 12. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar alone,
where most of the AFP cases have been recorded, it is higher still, nudging 30.

these large numbers of non-polio AFP are a product of the intensified surveillance for polio in the country. WHO broadened the AFP case definition to include very mild
cases of even transient weakness or facial paralysis. They do this to increase
the number of stool samples taken and thereby increase the chance of detecting circulating virus.”

So Dhimmi is right and wrong. With an increasing surveillance system one would expect picking up more cases of acute flaccid myelitis, especially mild/temporary ones. What about the correlation showing more cases with higher pulse and fewer with less pulse vaccinations? If one notices, the cases peak around September which could also mean an increase in one or more other viruses that cause acute flaccid myelitis. But, as explained above, they probably used an incorrect correlation statistics.

AND according to Mohammed (ibid): “Among the other causes of possible paralysis—including bacterial meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, mumps, even diarrhoea and dehydration with hypokalaemia—that are not being diagnosed, John suspects that a major cause of paralysis is post-traumatic neuropathy after injections. Despite a nationwide ban on intramuscular injections in children’s buttocks, many unregulated and poorly trained doctors still do them. If they hit the sciatic nerve, the child has a transient paralysis; in some cases .”paralysis is permanent.”

And Mann (2019) found similar patterns of Echoviruses and Coxsackieviruses as found in McKay (see above).

A critique of Dhimmi’s paper included the following:

The Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance data that the authors have used include reported cases of the 0–15 year age group and the rates are calculated forthwith. However, the use of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) in Intensified Pulse Polio Immunization (IPPI) or Pulse Polio campaigns is targeted toward children in the age range of 0–5 years. Hence, correlating the two does not actually answer the hypothesis unless some analytical evidence is provided to show that the AFP.rate in the 5–15 year age group is not influencing the results.
There is the possibility that the sensitivity of surveillance and, therefore, the number of AFP cases reported depended not only on the broadened case definition, to include even atypical or non-classical AFP cases, but also on the focus and efforts in terms of active case search (ACS) visits by the surveillance officers. It is a reality that due to the transitioning plans, a shifting of focus from polio, and the reduced presence of specialized surveillance system workforce from partner agencies such as WHO, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the number of ACS visits to the reporting and informer units of the AFP reporting network have decreased considerably.
This might also be correlated with the non-polio AFP rates in recent years.
When comparing the data from states such as Delhi, Karnataka and Kerala, as per the data sheet provided by the authors, one fails to see the correlation observed by the authors for these states. Even the southern and northern parts of states such as Karnataka, with the same frequency of pulse polio campaigns, have widely variable non-polio AFP rates.
The frequency of administration of OPV has increased due to routine immunization strengthening efforts, especially in northern states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, stemming from campaigns such as special immunization weeks, Mission Indradhanush, and Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, which have been active from 2013/2014 onwards. The routine immunization OPV doses (5) are reaching a greater percentage of each birth cohort (about 30-40% more in northern states since 2013/2014), which is not accounted for by the authors.
There was a change in OPV type during the global switch from tOPV to bOPV in 2016. IPV was introduced prior to the switch to avoid the risk of VDPV emergence. In addition, the complex effects of IPV generated immunity against polio paralysis of any type (WPV, VDPV, or VAPP), when administered simultaneously with bOPV, due to variation in the speed and magnitude of serosal immunity generation by IPV vis-à-vis that by bOPV, and the subsequent reduction in the risk of generation of paralytic illness is also not discussed or accounted for. Moreover, the low coverage of IPV, due to global shortages in supply chains, is not accounted for.
The possibility of post vaccination paralysis, though described in the literature to be about one in two to three million doses, might apply only to those children who take vaccines for the first time, those who are totally naïve with no pre-existing immunity. This might be much more uncommon in already vaccinated children. As the naïve cohort will remain similar (or with only a slight change caused by the birth rate) irrespective of the number of polio campaign rounds or the routine immunization schedule, the possibility of the OPV induced paralysis rate changing much
each year is questionable. Hence, there appears to be no biological plausibility for the conclusions in correlation described by the authors, which should be regarded as spurious unless proved otherwise by further studies.
Another important factor, i.e., non-polio enteroviruses (NPEV) causing polio like paralysis, and variations in the temporal and spatial distribution of NPEVs across Indian states are unaccounted for.
The authors do not describe how the proportions of actual diagnoses of AFP cases have varied over time, nor what percentage fit into the classical AFP criteria as practiced in the western countries to which the authors have drawn the non-polio AFP rate comparisons of India.

With all of these questions at bay, the findings and inferences described in the article are questionable and should be considered spurious unless proved otherwise by further study and analysis using more rigorous methods.” (SIddalingaiah, 2019)

In all fairness, Dhimmi responded. I won’t bother to copy and paste their response (Dhimmi, 2019). The reader can go to it; however, I can, if necessary, refute most of their points.

In any case, at worst, the pulse oral immunization program may have caused about 30,000 cases, many mild given the heightened surveillance, compared with between 200,000 and 400,000 severe cases. Keep in mind that the Indian population had increased significantly, so the 200,000 to 400,000 would also have increased. So the benefit/cost ratio is still quite high. On the other hand, as discussed above, eliminating polio doesn’t eliminate all cases of acute flaccid myelitis and other causes, new microbes could enter the area or just be more prevalent. These kids, as mentioned, often suffer severe and recurring diarrhea, obviously weakening them in many ways.


Dhiman R, Prakash SC, Sreenivas V, Puliyel J (2018 Aug 15). Correlation between Non-Polio Acute Flaccid Paralysis Rates with Pulse Polio Frequency in India. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; 15(1755). Available at:

Dhiman R, Prakash SC, Sreenivas V, Puliyel J (2019). Reply to Comment on Dhiman, R. et al. Correlation of Non-Polio Acute Flaccid Paralysis Rate with Pulse Polio Frequency in India. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 1755. Available at:

England C (2019 Jan 1). The Latest Anti-Vaccine Bombshell on Infanrix Hexa is Just Another Dud. VAXOPEDIA. Available at:

Harrison JA (2019 Jul 1). Wrong About Post-Marketing Surveillance of Vaccine Adverse Events. Response to Jacob Puliyel, John Stone, Allan Cunningham, etc. BMJ Rapid Responses. Available at:

John TJ, Vashishtha VM (2013 May). Eradicating poliomyelitis: India’s journey from hyperendemic to polio-free status. Indian Journal of Medical Research; 137(5): 881-894. Available at:

Maan S, Dhole TN, Chowdhary R (2019 Jan 30). Identification and characterization of nonpolio enterovirus associated with nonpolio-acute flaccid paralysis in polio endemic state of Uttar Pradesh, Northern India. PLOS One. Available at:

Mohammed D (2014 Jul). Polio-like disease in the news: much ado about nothing? The Lancet Neurology; 13: 650-651. Available at:

Pal S (2017 Mar 2). Assumptions in linear correlations. Helpful Stats. Available at:

Siddalingaiah HS (2019). Comment on Dhiman, R. et al. Correlation of
Non-Polio Acute Flaccid Paralysis Rate with Pulse Polio Frequency in India. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 1755. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; 16(13). Available at:


Above are four examples of claims made by Christine Kincaid that I refuted based on science, extensive reading, understanding of how vaccines work, etc, and including references. I and others have refuted claims by Kincaid, Natalie White and others.

Why do I call her horrible names? I could care less about Kincaid as an individual; but what she represents. People who see the world in black and white, people who are absolutely certain they are right and thus attack others, people who ignore anything that contradicts their position, which is based on confirmation bias, cherry picking one or a few papers that confirm their rigid beliefs or just fantasizing.

Over the years I have seen rising anti-semitism, rising racism, and those who deny global warming. Racists believe, for instance, that Blacks have lesser intelligence. I could give dozens of quality research articles and over a half dozen books that dispel this notion. Genetics, SES, Education, pre-natal and post-natal care, and a host of other factors explain any “IQ” differences.

In 1994 Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray published “The Bell Curve”, allegedly documenting racial differences. The book and its methodology were systematically refuted (Fischer, 1996; Fraser, 1995; Jacoby, 1995). I should mention that Murray also has called for the elimination of ALL welfare programs (Wikipedia. Charles Murray). I own and have read all of the mentioned books and many more, including: Black, 2003; Gould, 1996; Mukherjee, 2016; Tucker, 1995). For those interested, I’d start with Gould, 1996 and Mukherjee, 2016).

So, why bring this up in relationship to Christine Kincaid’s continuing absolute certainty about vaccines. Because Kincaid represents the mentality of a significant proportion of the American public. People who don’t really investigate, people who are certain they are right, people who ignore anything that contradicts their position and often demonize those presenting the contradictions/refutations, people who see the world in black and white, who practice cherry-picking confirmation bias. I promise you that even today I can find doctors and scientists who support racial differences in intelligence. I’m sure a few may even be members of the KKK or other far right groups. Growing up Jewish, I’ve known many Concentration Camp survivors, and followed Neo-Nazis who reject overwhelming evidence of the horrors of the Nazis. Not being an expert on climate; but having read about every article in Scientific American since late 1980s, half dozen books, and watched most documentaries, it appalls me that so many climate change deniers exist, including often scientists mainly associated with the fossil fuel industry. So, my anger at Kincaid is not her as an individual; but her as representing one of the reasons for many of the problems facing our nation. People whose positions, despite their “certainty” actually hurts themselves and others. People incapable of entering into a rational open-minded dialogue.

Christine Kincaid and those with similar mentalities represent despicable intellectually dishonest people. And I can almost guarantee she will ignore what I wrote above and/or just find something else to include in a comment, something representing her lack of understanding of science, her cherry picking, her use of ad hominem attacks, her black and white world, her certainty that she is right which, of course, means anyone opposing her is either stupid and/or dishonest. In other words, Christine Kincaid is basically no different than racists, neo-Nazis, and climate change deniers. So, yes, she makes me extremely angry!


Black E (2003). War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race. Four Walls Eight Windows.

Fischer CS et al. (1996). Inequality By Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth. Princeton University Press.

Fraser S (Ed) (1995). The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America. Basic Books.

Gould SJ (1996). The MIsmeasure of Man. W.W. Norton,

Herrnstein RJ, Murray C (1994). The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. Free Press.

Jacoby R, Glauberman N (Eds) (1995). The Bell Curve Debate: History, Documents, Opinions. Times Books.

Mukherjee S (2016). The Gene: An Intimate History. Scribner.

Tucker WH (1995). The Science and Politics of Racial Research. University of Illinois Press.

Wikipedia. Charles Murray. Available at:'s_Law

As for “Fox News medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier”, I probably wouldn’t kick her out of bed unless she wanted to fuck up a formerly functional interface on the floor.

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