Antivaccine nonsense Bad science Medicine Skepticism/critical thinking

“I know you are, but what am I?” John Leake and Peter McCullough vs. conspiracy theories

COVID-19 cranks and antivaxxers John Leake and Dr. Peter McCullough are unhappy at correctly being labeled conspiracy theorists. So what does Leake do? Engage in projection, of course!

I have argued that all antivaccine pseudoscience is based on variations of a conspiracy theory that I first dubbed in 2014 the “central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement.” Indeed, more than that, I’ve argued that all science denial is a form of conspiracy theory. Unsurprisingly, antivaxxers, quacks, and science deniers who rely on conspiracy theories to support their world view take umbrage at correctly being labeled as conspiracy theorists, to the point that I consider it almost a sine qua non of conspiracy theorists that they will defend their conspiracy theories as being about actual legitimate conspiracies and then engage in projection by accusing those pointing out their conspiracy theories of engaging in—you guessed it!—conspiratorial thinking and conspiracy theories. This brings us to an excellent example of just this phenomenon by John Leake and Dr. Peter McCullough in the form of a post on Dr. McCullough’s Substack by Leake entitled What Is A Conspiracy Theory? While this could be a fact-based description of how to differentiate a conspiracy theory from an actual conspiracy, the tagline (“Examining a pejorative label”) gives the game away. This is about portraying their conspiracy theories as actual conspiracies demonstrated by evidence. It’s all about projection.

Regular readers have likely heard of Dr. McCullough before. Most recently, I described his advocacy of yet more COVID-19 quackery, this time claiming that nattokinase can be used to “detox” yourself from spike protein from COVID-19 vaccines and thus treat “vaccine injury.” However, this was far from the first example of Dr. McCullough’s antivax stylings and quackery. Although Dr. McCullough had jumped on the antivax quack train far before, about two years ago I noted that he had been promoting the false claim based on the usual antivax misrepresentation of the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) database that COVID-19 vaccines were causing mass death and destruction—and dogs and cats living together—and that Mike Adams (yes, Mike Adams) and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (yes, RFK Jr.) were using his statements to support the conspiracy theory that these vaccines were part of a “depopulation agenda.” Since then, Dr. McCullough has been a regular fixture at conferences and rallies opposing vaccines, masks, “lockdowns,” and basically every other public health intervention against the pandemic, while promoting disinformation about vaccines by writing bad review articles (e.g., with longtime antivaxxer Stephanie Seneff), and promoting the false “died suddenly” conspiracy theory that vaccines are supposedly killing young peopleespecially young athletes—in huge numbers.

But who is John Leake? I hadn’t heard of him before, but apparently he is the co-author of a book with Dr. McCullough entitled The Courage to Face COVID-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex. Leake’s profile reveals that he’s studied history and philosophy and had been working as a freelance writer and investigative journalist before meeting up with Dr. McCullough, something that happened thusly:

In March 2020, when SARS-CoV-2 started to spread in the United States, he perceived that the pandemic response was illogical at best, and possibly criminal. He found it especially suspicious how quickly public health officials dismissed repurposed medications such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. In November of 2020, he watched a video of Dr. Peter McCullough’s U.S. Senate testimony about early treatment. He sensed from this performance that Dr. McCullough was likely to lead the way in developing a more rational, honest, and humane response to the crisis. He made contact with McCullough in Dallas, Texas, where both authors live, and together they wrote “The Courage to Face COVID-19.”

Leake “found it especially suspicious how quickly public health officials dismissed repurposed medications such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin”? On what basis? After all, Leake has no medical training that I have been able to find; so what made him qualified to “question” the public health establishment. As I have long said, anyone can “question” a scientific consensus, but if you don’t have the expertise and the data, there is no reason that scientists and physicians should take your “questioning” seriously. Also, as I’ve discussed, even though both hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin did demonstrate antiviral activity in vitro against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the concentration required was at least an order of magnitude higher than what could be safely achieved in the human bloodstream with oral (or even intravenous) dosing, meaning that the prior plausibility that the drugs would work was always very, very low. Surprise! When tested in randomized clinical trials, neither drug was effective at treating or preventing COVID-19.

Unsurprisingly, though, Leake was drawn to a convenient quack who echoed the sorts of bad science that he wanted to hear and, more importantly, put the seeming imprimatur of a “brave maverick doctor” on COVID-19 minimization and antivax conspiracy theories. So the two wrote a book and appear to share credit for what I had initially thought was just Dr. McCullough’s Substack, Courageous Discourse. Perusing the Substack, I now see that Leake writes a fair amount of its content.

Back to Leake’s projection about conspiracy theories. His Substack entry starts out:

In our book, The Courage to Face COVID-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical ComplexDr. McCullough and I give numerous examples of how anyone—even eminently qualified scientists and researchers—who questions the prevailing orthodoxy about a range of public policy issues will likely be labelled a “conspiracy theorist.”Since the JFK assassination, “conspiracy theorist” has become a pejorative, accusatory label like “racist” or “sexist.” Through common usage, the label has become charged with the power to smear and dismiss someone outright without supporting evidence. 

The greatest trick that powerful interest groups ever pulled was convincing the world that everyone who detects and reports their activities is a conspiracy theorist. Only the naivest consumer of mainstream news reporting would fail to recognize that powerful interest groups in the military, financial, and bio-pharmaceutical industries work in concert to further their interests. Their activities cross the line into conspiracy when they commit fraud or other crimes to advance their interests. The term “conspiracy theory” suggests the feverish imaginings of a crackpot mind. This ignores the fact that the United States government prosecutes the crime of conspiracy all the time.

There you have it, a succinct encapsulation of how conspiracy theorists push back against the accusation that they are conspiracy theorists by invoking real conspiracies throughout history, as Leake immediately pivots to do:

A person may be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime even if he doesn’t know all of the details of the crime. History is full of well-documented conspiracies. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, there were three major conspiracies to murder her and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots. All were detected and foiled. The final “Babington Plot” was discovered by Elizabeth’s secretary, Sir Francis Walsingham (an astute intelligence gatherer) and this led to Mary’s execution for treason.

Are we really to believe that there are no longer power-hungry men who conspire to acquire greater power and wealth?

That last rhetorical question is what we in the biz call a straw man argument. After all, no one calling out conspiracy theories claims that there are no real criminal conspiracies like the ones described by the history-trained Mr. Leake in his quote above or that there are “no longer power-hungry men [note to Mr. Leake: don’t forget power-hungry women, too, as anyone can be power-hungry!] who conspire to acquire greater power and wealth.” Of course there are and have been throughout history! The issue is to distinguish between a conspiracy theories and actual conspiracies. I will even concede that occasionally there might even be gray areas between the two—although I will also add that these borderline cases are apparently so rare that I have a hard time thinking of even just one right now as I write this.

Mr. Leake also invokes what is meant by the word “theory,” in which he comes so very, very close to the difference between a real criminal conspiracy and a conspiracy theory, while skating right past it:

As far as “theory” goes, every prosecutor develops a theory of a crime and presents it to the jury. If you are a concerned citizen and you perceive that your government officials and media are not telling the truth about a vitally important matter, you have no choice but to formulate a theory of what is going on. Developing a theory to explain a pattern of ascertainable facts is a rational attempt to detect and expose criminal conduct. To be sure, some theories are more plausible than others. Some are logical and coherent; others are wild and contradictory.

So very close, but yet so far! Predictably, Leake then pivots to try to give credence to his and McCullough’s conspiracy theories by appealing to a famous warning by President Eisenhower in his farewell speech as he was about to leave the Presidency:

When President Eisenhower left office in 1961, he expressly warned about what he called the Military-Industrial Complex acquiring “unwarranted influence” that could “endanger our liberties and democratic processes.” When COVID-19 arrived, the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex vigorously and exclusively pursued the vaccine solution instead of the early treatment solution. In order to realize their ambition, multiple actors simultaneously waged a propaganda campaign against hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and other repurposed drugs.

I note that President Eisenhower was not exactly suggesting a conspiracy by the military-industrial complex, but rather warning about how this complex could acquire too much power and influence in the context of the government partnering with industry to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Ironically, in making this comparison, Leake actually outright states a common conspiracy theory among antivaxxers, namely that “they” were only interested in a vaccine to combat the pandemic and ignored the supposedly “inexpensive” sorts of “early treatment” fake “cures” that quacks like McCullough were selling (e.g., ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, and various combinations of repurposed drugs, vitamins, and supplements like zinc). It also never occurs to Leake that the reason that public health officials dismissed these “early treatment” protocols was not due to nefarious intent, but because there was no evidence that they worked. Quite correctly, they viewed these treatments as dangerous because they didn’t work.

At this point, I also can’t help but note once again that in those early dark days of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, reputable hospitals (mine included, unfortunately) included hydroxychloroquine in their recommended treatments for COVID-19. As I’ve discussed before, these recommendations were based on dubious, confirmation bias-filled observations by physicians in Wuhan that 80 of their patients with the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosis who were taking hydroxychloroquine for their disease appeared to avoid infection with the novel coronavirus, as well as a small and hastily run clinical trial. These very weak lines of evidence led Chinese health authorities, probably out of desperation because there was nothing else, to recommend hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. These reports, plus some very bad science by a famous French scientist, Didier Raoult, inspired the FDA to make the horrible decision to issue an emergency use authorization for the drug in late March 2020. The EUA was eventually rescinded, as randomized controlled clinical trials increasingly showed that hydroxychloroquine was ineffective against COVID-19. This is hardly public health officials rejecting hydroxychloroquine out of hand.

Perhaps this is a good time to discuss briefly again the key characteristics of conspiracy theories versus actual conspiracies (which I’ve discussed before in much greater length), because conspiracy theorists like Leake and McCullough frequently conflate the two, to make it seem as though they conspiracy theories that they spin are in reality just actual criminal conspiracies, backed by evidence. To that end, I like to refer to Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook’s excellent e-book  The Conspiracy Theory Handbook. Again, as I do every time I discuss the general concept of conspiracy theories, I will reiterate that, of course, actual conspiracies do exist, but that such real conspiracies are not discovered by the methods of conspiracy theorists. Instead, they are uncovered by much more conventional methods of investigation, such as those used (for example) by investigative journalists, police, historians, forensic auditors, and, yes, scientists and physicians—in other words, the methods of skeptical inquiry and science. I also note that, predictably, COVID-19 very quickly became a magnet for conspiracy theories. (In fact, I noticed the first ones in January 2020, including the first version of the lab leak conspiracy theory) two months before the World Health Organization even declared COVID-19 a pandemic.)

This brings us to Lewandowsky and Cook’s useful mnemonic describing the key features of conspiracy theories, CONSPIR:

  • Contradictory.
  • Overriding suspicion.
  • Nefarious intent.
  • Something must be wrong.
  • Persecuted victim.
  • Immune to evidence.
  • Re-interpreting randomness.
Conspiracy theories
Once you understand these characteristics, you, too, will be able to differentiate conspiracy theories from possible actual conspiracies.

Personally, I tend to view many of these as different sides of a conspiracy die—yes, I used to play Dungeons & Dragons—for example, overriding suspicion plus “something must be wrong” combine to result in a belief that there must be nefarious intent, leading to the reinterpretation of randomness that rapidly becomes immune to evidence. If it weren’t for the “CONSPIR” acronym, there’s no way I would put the part about conspiracy theories being contradictory first, because, as Cook and Lewandowsky note, the contradictoriness of conspiracy theories is secondary to the overriding suspicion, which drowns out any obvious contradictions, which conspiracy theorists rarely care that much about anyway. The contradictoriness inherent within conspiracy theories is, however, a useful marker for skeptics that they are probably dealing with conspiracy theory not conspiracy.

Leake concludes by dividing “them” into the true conspirators and the useful idiots spreading the conspiracy theories:

It’s likely that only a relatively small number of these actors knew they were making fraudulent claims about the generic, repurposed drugs, and knew they were taking action to impede access to these drugs based on fraudulent claims. These actors were the conspirators. Countless others unwittingly played roles in the conspiracy because they themselves believed the propaganda.

Just like the FDA issued an EUA for hydroxychloroquine, whose use was, unwisely, actually encouraged based on very shaky evidence plus desperation by many doctors for a few months early in the pandemic! In fact, for a few months, hydroxychloroquine became a de facto standard of care for COVID-19, even at some very reputable hospitals; that is, until the evidence made it clear that it was not effective against COVID-19. Yes, that’s sarcasm. Leake apparently does not remember that history, although no doubt he will claim that the reason the FDA, government, doctors, and the public health establishment eventually turned against hydroxychloroquine was because big pharma wanted to profit from a vaccine and expensive monoclonal antibody cocktails, viewing a cheap drug like hydroxychloroquine as a threat.

Just like nearly all conspiracy theorists, in the end, even as he tries to blur the line between real conspiracies from history and the conspiracy theories that he believes and promotes in order to conflate the two, Locke can’t help promoting a conspiracy theory himself. In this case, it is the conspiracy theory that there exist inexpensive and highly effective treatments for COVID-19 (hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and various “early treatment protocols”) that “They” don’t want you to know about because “They” want to control you and profit. Same as it ever was for conspiracy theorists trying to convince you that their conspiracy theory is not a conspiracy theory at all, but a real conspiracy. They engage in projection—but will never admit that it is projection.

The only thing I can’t decide is whether Leake and McCullough are the conspirators or just true believers who serve as useful idiots to spread the conspiracy theories. Perhaps they’re both, depending on the specific claims.

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]

96 replies on ““I know you are, but what am I?” John Leake and Peter McCullough vs. conspiracy theories”

Michael Shermer has written an entire book about the difference between conspiracy theories and real conspiracies. It’s titled, appropriately, Conspiracy. I’ve read it, and it is highly recommended.

The depressing thing about this is how oblivious Shermer is to a certain class of conspiracy theories. Specifically, he doesn’t realize that a lot of the message he’s been spreading about gender affirming care of trans adolescents is rooted in conspiracy theories. After all, someone who shows no skepticism towards the conspiracy theory at the heart of Abigail Shrier’s book on trans children is not the greatest messenger to be teaching anyone about conspiracy theories.

It is really weird that the trans issue is the #1 political litmus test among those who dare to call themselves skeptics in public. (At least it’s not covid.) I wonder why that rift happened, apart from general creeping political polarization. I’ve read some of the debate points on both sides, and you’re right, the right side does tend to sound conspiratorial about it. (Mass cheating in sports! Social contagion! They – transgirls and Big Pharma and Big Surgery – are coming for your daughters! Reminds me a tad of HPV vax hysteria, the “coming for your daughters” bit, and the concerns about medical treatments remind me of mental health denialism more generally.) But they accuse the left of being improperly skeptical by accepting the notion that gender identity can be legitimately distinct from sex, and thus the fact that we’re not clownfish is almost socially irrelevant. So in the name of rejecting postmodernism, I suppose, (but you don’t even have to be a full-on postmodernist to accept flexibility in the relation between sex and social roles given the historical background for this), the right wing of the skeptic movement, or what’s left of it, is accepting some twinges of conspiracy theory? Any other takes on this? I was only an A-/B+ student in social sciences, so I don’t have high confidence in my takes on these things.

The transobsession on the right appears mostly rooted in culture war issues, trans are about the last group they can openly express their hatred towards, and the rush of anti-trans bills you are seeing in your red states are couched often times in similar language they used to use towards gays, people of colour and so on. And like the AV cult, the trasnosessives use fear, lies and hysteria to target trans people. There is quite an overlap these days in the transobsessives and AVers

Not that its purely a right wing issue, its not unusual on the left to pile a lot of hate on women they tar as TERF’s as a way to silence those women.

That sounds about right for transphobes in general, but I’m particularly curious about the peculiar phenomenon of some Skeptics, Shermer being the most prominent, becoming transphobes. These people believe the science on vaccines, global warming, and the invalidity of alt-med, but they cannot bring themselves to give credibility the emerging science of the safety of judiciuosly used gender-affirming care as a way to prevent or treat ill mental health in some young people. Instead, they seek to invalidate the very concept of transgender identity by pointing out that over 99% of us have a well-defined biological sex at birth which cannot be changed down to the gonads. I see the way out of this as being that gender is psychosocial while sex is biological (and on top of that, phenotype within biological sex varies a bit), but right-leaning Skeptics apparently do not accept the notion of a separation of gender from sex on political grounds. And from there they often become credulous of “they’re coming for your daughters to turn them into eunuch sons and/or eternal losers at sports” conspiracy theorists. So what disabled their BS detectors? My guess is that it’s their strong conviction that postmodernism is BS and that therefore defining gender as distinct from sex is BS that convinces them that anyone who agrees on those two points is a critical thinker, and so their conspiracy theories deserve a platform.

They’ll come back to hating atheists more directly than just calling them “secularists” next. It allows them to continue the grift.

Some 40 years ago it seemed to be mostly a radical feminist issue. Not that transgenders were very visible in those days, so the man in de street probably hardly knew anything about it. At least in my experience.
Radical feminists considered transwomen as some nasty plot to get females back under patriarchy, as was described in ‘The transsexual empire’ by Janice Raymond. Other feminists, like Germaine Greer, considered transwomen as somehow mislead men, who considered themselves femine, because they didn’t fit the traditional idea of what men should be and who were probably gay.
At this moment I often get the impression that it somehow is getting more mainstream. I often read pieces by women, who I wouldn’t consider radical feminists, or extremely rightwing, who consider transwomen as a treat tho women, because by pretending to be a woman, a man would gain access to places ment for women. Especially since one wants to make it easier to change gender in official papers, there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding, or false ideas about it being spread.

@Renate: it seems somewhat strange that transphobic conspiracy theories and tropes from the 1970s would suddenly be big. But yet, it seems consistent with historical trends regarding conservatism and gender roles. There’s obviously the reactionary trend seeking to reverse reproductive rights and marriage equality (with some success in the former), but there’s also a thread of society that does not want to reverse any progress but wants no further progress in the area of flexibility in sexuality and gender roles. I think the anti-ERA movement in the US was an early stage of this, followed by the “gays are recruiting” hysteria of the 90s, which then passed through the Evopsych, Elevatorgate (in the Skeptic community) and Gamergate dismissals of Western 21st Century feminism as so much whining over “nothing” and/or being “unnatural,” which has since morphed into the “transpeople are recruiting” repurposing of 90s anti-gay conspiracy theory and the mainstreaming of the 70s “men in dresses are going after women.” So one span of 10-15 years it’s mainly about women, and the next it’s mainly about LBGTQs. But I see these prejudices as closely linked, as they both have to do with sex and gender roles.

I guess Skeptic transphobes, then, are the logical continuation (and flipping from sexism to anti-Queer prejudice) of Skeptics who agreed with Skepchick’s propositioner in Elevatorgate. If they wanted no further progress, and bought into evo-psych just-so stories and thought sexual harassment in the West was no big deal (pre-MeToo, which showed otherwise at high levels of society, and pre big wins for anti-reproductive-rights movements), they would be predisposed to jump onto the anti-trans bandwagon. Or perhaps they just naturally drifted conservative with age, or were fed up with far left PC policing.

Eisenhower’s farewell speech on January 17, 1961 was motivated in large part by two actual conspiracies, neither of which have anything to do with in vitro drugs being promoted by quacks to justify their nonsense. Saying one true thing does not make a false thing real by association. Saying 99 true things does not automatically make a hundredth correct.

A digression from usual considerations below, but debunking BS claims of conspiracy are stronger when actual conspiracies are better acknowledged:

First, Eisenhower realized the President was not really in sole control of the nuclear arsenal. He had sent his science advisor, George Kistiakowsky, to Strategic Air Command near Omaha to learn the details of the nuclear war plan. General LeMay refused to show him despite his representing the President. They compromised and LeMay showed him the plan for Moscow which was dozens of H-bombs. Ike realized this level of overkill was not under his power. He had helped orchestrate this mad buildup but it had escaped his authority. Kistiakowsky had been in charge of the non-nuclear section of the Manhattan Project – he had been developing the “implosion” device that triggered the plutonium bomb (“Fat Man”). Kistiakowsky, after leaving government in 1961, worked for nuclear disarmament for the rest of his life. The wikipedia entry on Kistiakowsky covers some of this.

Daniel Ellsberg’s book “The Doomsday Machine” recounts seeing the movie Doctor Strangelove in the theater when it was released (1964) and remarking that it was a “documentary” for accurately noting that the potential to start a nuclear war was not limited solely to the President. At that time, Ellsberg was employed as a nuclear war planner. He, of course, later became infamous as the Pentagon Papers leaker. Now, he is entering hospice, recently diagnosed with cancer.

Second, Eisenhower was working for detente with Krushchev at the end of his administration. They had stopped nuclear testing, setting up reciprocal trust building efforts. Part of the de-escalation was Eisenhower’s order to keep the U-2 grounded to stop further flights over the Soviet Union (plus, space based satellites were almost ready and they seemed less provocative in their spying). The intel agencies already realized the US was far ahead of Soviet missile capability, so the threat wasn’t as big as sometimes exaggerated in public (still real but more a problem for western Europe, then, than the US mainland). Nevertheless, the U-2 was sent over the USSR on May Day, and its crash helped scuttle a planned “Crusade for Peace” event in Moscow between Ike and Krushchev. The President was angry that it was sent up despite his orders to not allow that.

McCullough is essentially promoting a John Birch Society view of politics. The JBS considered Eisenhower to be a communist, one indicator of how ridiculous they were (or are, since they still sort of exist).

Because conspiracy theories oppose consensus / state of the art knowledge are they necessarily always produced by contrarians?

Following consensus – and understanding exactly what it means- makes a good instructor/ reporter but being a contrarian allows less expert voices to posture as rebels/ paradigm shifters/ and all around Galilei who garner a crowd of the likeminded who benefit emotionally and socially by the leaders’ wins. Those I survey have followers who thank them for ” all they do”- their “instruction” and ” how they fight for us”. They mimic their leaders’ language and concerns as well as their stated values: both groups may share personality qualities/ deficits.

I looked over the substack article. This one is rather short, but also devoid of any significant content. As you know, it’s basically denial by projection. With regard to medicines to treat Covid-19, which seems to be McCoullough’s big interest, Leake claims that

When COVID-19 arrived, the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex vigorously and exclusively pursued the vaccine solution instead of the early treatment solution.

But a quick Google search showed that

On April 17, 2020 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) public-private partnership to develop a coordinated research strategy for prioritizing and speeding development of the most promising treatments and vaccines.

That work eventually validated remdesivir under the right conditions, but also led to the licensing of paxlovid and molnupiravir. But the research also showed that hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin don’t work.

You can see a longer example of his “rhetorical technique” in his December 30 article on Peter Hotez.

As an aside, I think this one might be a good topic for some insolence because it ties into the debate theme and gives more “defense” of McCoullough.

Leake states
Everything is … turned back to front and upside down. This, it seems to me, is a perfect description of Dr. Hotez’s many assertions on the Joe Rogan Experience.
But he had to go back to an edited clip from Hotez’ pre-Covid-19 interview (episode 1261) about his book on vaccines and autism.
The clip was from “Defeat The Mandates” and added disparaging comments like

These groups formed in response to the mandates that were pushed across the USA in 2015

How much do you think was spent on marketing the Covid-19 vaccines? HInt: a lot!…

By lobbying for views he disagrees with, Peter is responsible for the deaths and injuries that resulted from that censorship

Peter endorses censoring ideas he disagrees with rather than debating them

Peter’s career started in 1989 with a $100,000 grant from Pfizer for his fellowship

Since that time he has received over 100 million dollars in grants, most of which he was the P.I. for

People like Peter get immensely frustrated when people disagree with him. . .

I guess Peter’s appearance on episode 1451 after Covid-19 broke out didn’t give him the right target to attack.

And Leake asserts

Ultimately Dr. Hotez invokes something akin to Papal Infallibility by stating that Amazon and social media companies should censor anyone who questions his view of vaccines.

when in fact Dr Hotez pointed out that his book was the highest ranked pro-vaccine book on Amazon at # 20 behind the “phoney balogny anti-vaccine books”. Although later in the podcase he notes the First Amendment issues but does advocate for Amazon and Facebook hiring some scientific advisors to screen books and content and put some stops in.

I thought one quote from the podcast was particularly a propos.

if you try to talk them out of it, they think you are part of the conspiracy, so it’s a no-win approach

and Hotez points out that debating gives false legitimacy to the anti-vaccine side.

But Leake’s real reason for talking about Dr Hotez was to contrast him with the decision against Dr McCoullough by the ABIM

“I will reiterate that, of course, actual conspiracies do exist, but that such real conspiracies are not discovered by the methods of conspiracy theorists. Instead, they are uncovered by much more conventional methods of investigation, such as those used (for example) by investigative journalists, police, historians, forensic auditors, and, yes, scientists and physicians—in other words, the methods of skeptical inquiry and science.”

This is a key point.

Conspiracy-shouters like to bring up actual incidents to show that we should take them seriously – criminal conspiracies, such things as MK-Ultra, the Tuskeegee experiment* (which wasn’t a conspiracy as there was no attempt to hide it and results were published) etc.

However, none of the events they cite were exposed by curious amateurs and their Internet followers. As a rule it’s professionals, especially journalists and prosecutors who unravel them. The Dreyfus Affair is the only exception I know of.

You want respect for your conspiracy theories, bring compelling evidence. Don’t expect us to play your connect-the-dots game.

*one time someone on a message board got it wrong and referred darkly to a Tuskeegee Airmen conspiracy. Hilarity ensued.

You get injured from the vax and you’re stuck with the bill.

I’m impressed that you can’t even correctly parse the prose stylings of Jenna “I’m no anti-vaxxer” Greene.

Yeah because emergency room visits for myocarditis only cost $1500 🤡

But what, only if you’ve been vaccinated? Is it free if you haven’t, or have you and other concerned individuals started a charity to pay for unvaccinated individuals who have to go to the hospital for complications relating to Covid?

Because the way you’re talking here makes it sound like you only have to pay if you’ve been vaccinated.

Yeah because emergency room visits for myocarditis only cost $1500

How very Bruce Lee of you. 🙄

Are you uninsured, LaBilge?

Sounds like an argument for universal, free at the point of use, health care, paid through some kind of national insurance or taxation.

From your article:
The no-fault tribunal run by the Health Resources and Services Administration is stymied by statute in the relief it can offer, with compensation limited to unreimbursed medical expenses and up to $50,000 a year in lost wages. A death benefit of up to $422,035 may also be available.
Unreimbursed medical expenses is the key here. Perhaps patients had health insurance ?

Many of us look forward to the Covid-19 vaccines switching over to the VICP instead of the CICP, which is much less generous and difficult to navigate.
Here’s what Orac said about it two years ago.

While it is true that the liability is less for vaccines issued in an emergency under an EUA, with claims of liability going to a different program than the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), namely the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP). As Dorit Reiss described, this program is much less generous than NVICP. However, this is just in the US, which is why I describe this conspiracy theory as very US-centric. It ignores the rest of the world, particularly the European Union and elsewhere, which is rolling out these vaccines under their own laws. And, yes, I agree with Dorit that it would be better if the new vaccines were covered under the NVICP, as that would encourage more confidence in them. Also, once the vaccines gain full FDA approval, they should be covered under the NVICP. However, none of this conspiracy theory is why these vaccines were called “vaccines.” They are called vaccines because they are vaccines, the regulatory complexities of their rollout notwithstanding.

And Dorit Reiss, who comments here and at SBM, has made a similar observation.

First, to be compensated, a serious injury or death needs to be shown to have been caused by the vaccine (or other covered product) by “compelling, reliable, valid, medical and scientific evidence.” That is a very, very high bar, too, and for a new product, simply won’t always be achievable.

Second, the request needs to be filed within a year from the administration of the product – not a year from symptoms. This is a shorter statute of limitations and does not cover delayed injuries at all. I will add that to my knowledge, we have never had an injury from a vaccine that occurred a long time after the vaccine – issues usually arise within a few weeks at most – but the theoretical possibility exists.

The program does not cover legal fees. It also serves as the payer of last resort – so if you have another source of funding, like health insurance, workers compensation, etc., the program may not cover your cost even if you are eligible.

Reflecting these harsh terms, only a few claims were ever compensated by CICP.

But as long as the vaccines are under an EUA, we are stuck with the CICP.

Based on their overall excellent safety record and the fact that they are mainly licensed already, I advocate for completing full licensure (barring a major safety issue), adding them to the schedule for childhood vaccinations (which I think is a requirement for the VICP), ending the emergency declaration which will happen very soon now, and then people will have a much better system for getting compensated.

We could make improvement in both systems, but with Republican intransigence in the House and the filibuster in the Senate real legislative work is stuck with whatever can be crammed into the omnibus spending bill and any reconciliation(s).

Numerous criminal statutes outline various “conspiracy” crimes. People are regularly prosecuted in criminal courts for participating in criminal conspiracies.

Conspiracies are, broadly, a standard way of conducting shady business.

The above should suggest to an open minded reader that conspiracies exist as a matter of course.

A term “conspiracy theory” is often applied, by those seeking to shape discourse, to undesirable explanations of current events, so as to nudge weak minded people away from giving such explanations a fair consideration.

Consider, for example, a theory that Sars-Cov-2 came out of a laboratory. (I do not like the name “lab leak” and prefer a more semantically neutral term “lab origin”).

Such a theory of lab origin, obviously plausible even in Jan 2020, to any critical thinker and attentive reader of news such as myself, was falsely declared a “right wing conspiracy theory”. When it was so declared, the weak minded left wingers could not even bring themselves to consider such a possibility, because admitting such a possibility would imply cavorting with “right wingers”.

Numerous social networks and news organizations conspired to stamp out the “lab origin theory”, and, for a while, they were successful in convincing the majority of people to “not look there”.

It worked, and “lab leak” was successfully suppressed for the duration of the Covid force-vaccination campaign. Convincing people to take a mystery vaccine, insta- made against a mystery lab made virus, when the development of the virus and vaccine was financed by related organizations, would very hard, after all!

Finally the facts became undeniable and now the “lab origin of Sars-Cov-2” became the default explanation of events. Unfortunately, incessant use of the term “lab leak” continues to blind people to the fact that Sars-Cov-2 was developed intentionally and was not a random artifact of aimless lab or field work – it was designed to be a successful worldwide pandemic pathogen. Millions were spent developing it (read the DEFUSE proposal describing Sars-Cov-2 as a virus to be developed).

The questions of “who, why, when and where” as to the development and release of Sars-Cov-2 still need to be answered, of course. Very many unknowns are out there.

So, the story of a lab origin of Sars-Cov-2 is a perfect story of a perfectly plausible explanation of events being labeled as “conspiracy theory”, with most active participation of people who actually created or financed Sars-Cov-2 development (Daszak and Fauci are good examples).

So people, please, develop and hone critical thinking skills, Also, please, REMEMBER THE NEWS YOU READ. When reading strange news, always ask yourself “how is this plausible”, “how does this agree with what I read 6 week ago” etc.

Worshipping your favorite propagandists, shelding yourself from disconfirming evidence, and “believing science” without questioning scientists, is NOT critical thinking.

Asking questions and seeking disconfirming evidence are a must!

Lastly, while conspiracies exist and are a standard way of conducting shady business, not every conspiracy theory is true. So consider any conspiracy theory with a great amount of skepticism, but with an open mind.

Which version of the lab origin do you espouse?
Can you provide published links to the facts that support it?
If the virus originated at the WIV, why do all the earliest cases center around a market several kilometers away across the river?
And how did two distinct lineages that never mutated back into each other get leaked to the same location?

China took pains to hide the origins of the pandemic, which is understandable. So the cases it provided to the “researchers” centered around the wet market. But that is meaningless.

I do not know the answers to who, why, where, and when.

But I am sure that the origin of Sars-Cov-2 is the NIH funded research in the USA and China. (there were other funders besides the NIH and China did its own stuff also)

There is a new 534-page information release (Judicial Watch) based on FOIA’d documents related to NIH grant 1R01AI110964.

It describes joint EcoHealth/Baric/WIV research, recombinations of SARS and HIV (page 127), creating coronaviruses binding to human ACE2 receptors etc. Very interesting stuff.

You know things without evidence,rather cultish thing.
NIH funding research is public. Gain of function research resulted with mouse coronavirus with 80% sequence similarity of SARS CoV 2.

That’s what Igor calls ‘evidence-based’. A critical thinker like Igor doesn’t let the fact that he does ‘not know the answers to who, why, where, and when’ keep him from being ‘sure that the origin of Sars-Cov-2 is the NIH funded research in the USA and China’…

And the conspiracy expands!!!

According to Igor, the Chinese were already editing and censoring locations and numbers of cases as early as May 2020 when those data were being made available to international researchers to study the outbreak!

Does he think the shutdown and sample gathering at the Huanan Seafood Market was a false flag operation? /s

ACE2 was the binding site for SARS-CoV-1.
Over and over an over you prove you are too damned stupid or (that’s an inclusive OR) too damned determined to spread falsehoods to actually learn anything relevant.

Igor Chudov knows no biology. Igor Chudov writes nonsense. Igor Chudov is stupid. Igor Chudov spreads lies.

Doubting scientists without eidence is even less science. Lab leak an lab origin are very different things, did you not notice that?

I think lab origin is meant to imply the Plandemic/V for Vendetta scenario that They ™ deliberately bred the virus and deliberately released it in order to do no less than Take Over the World right now. That’s consistent with the rest of what Igor wrote. Lab leak implies an accident, either that They ™ weren’t planning to take over the world quite yet and the virus escaped early, or it was intended for benevolent use and by accident escaped and proved harmful, more a Planet of the Apes reboot kind of scenario.
That these ideas come from popukar movies already activates my BS detector.

Development of Sars-Cov-2 was funded by multimillion-dollar grants, including but not limited to, NIH grant 1R01AI110964. The grants described the kind of viral development that led to Sars-Cov-2.

So yes, it was “bred” deliberately. Beyond that, things are fuzzy and we do not know the answers to questions who, where, when and why.

But it was not a random outcome of a particularly unlucky animal brought into a lab or an unexpected recombination.

Igor, you haven’t given any support for your conspiracy about Covid 19 being deliberately developed and released. It’s been explained to you multiple times why your assertion is pure crap, and you keep asserting it with the same lack of proof. I know you are nothing but a conspiracy monger, but for once try to find some data to support your stuff or, lacking that, just STFU.

“In March 2020, when SARS-CoV-2 started to spread in the United States, he perceived that the pandemic response was illogical at best, and possibly criminal.” I have just three questions: 1) based on what? 2) based on what? and 3) based on what?

“I have just three questions: 1) based on what? 2) based on what? and 3) based on what?”

1) The voices in his head
2) The money to be made from scamming the gullible and deluded
3) The desire to seem smart to himself

If you have some spare time…. has an excerpt of RFK jr’s speech announcing his candidacy this week ( to read or hear/ link to whole speech). It’s amazing. He’s even worse than I thought he was.

Could you define what you mean by ‘conspiracy theory’ such that the proven conspiracy regarding the Sackler family (Purdue pharmacy) contribution to the opioid epidemic doesn’t qualify? I am assuming you are using conspiracy theory as a way to dismiss concerns regarding vaccines, so I think you need to distinguish between impossible conspiracy theories (the entire medical profession knows about but is deliberately concealing the true harmful effects of some medication) versus the very real possibility that a few people in the right position are able to deliberately conceal certain true information and/or promote false information such that medical providers are acting on false assumptions they believe to be true.

“I am assuming you are using conspiracy theory as a way to dismiss concerns regarding vaccines”

No. Genuine questions about vaccines are routinely addressed with evidence in a civil manner. Those who indulge in Just Asking Questions to promote an antivax agenda based on the idea that there’s a conspiracy among public health experts, immunologists, infectious disease specialists, researchers, pharma, government etc. etc. to push vaccines for profit, depopulation and other Evil Agendas are rightly termed conspiracy theorists and appropriately derided.

“…the very real possibility that a few people in the right position are able to deliberately conceal certain true information and/or promote false information”

It’s only a “very real possibility” in the heads of conspiracy-addled antivaxers. The mythical fixers at the very top have family, relatives and others (including themselves) who they care deeply about and want to protect from dangerous infectious diseases. And even if they were willing to sacrifice their lives and health to disease (because the money is just too good?), there’s plenty of others in the know who’d spill the beans.

Belief in a grand Vaccination Conspiracy is deeply irrational.

@ Beth

Despite what you choose to believe, the science underlying vaccines is extremely valid. I would be willing to bet you don’t understand even the most basics of the immune system and I would be willing to bet you have NEVER read up on the history of vaccine-preventable diseases; e.g., smallpox, polio, measles, etc. And I would be willing to bet that you see the world in extremes of black and white; that is, ignoring that almost all medical and public health actions have a benefit to cost ratio, simply benefits enormously outweigh costs; e.g., lives saved, hospitalizations prevented, disabilities prevented vs minuscule number who experience severe adverse reactions from a vaccine.

An extreme example is smallpox vaccine. Prior to vaccine, 25% or more of population died from smallpox epidemics. Vaccines literally saved ALL who were vaccinated; but 1 to 2 per million actually died from the vaccine, so if smallpox raged today, the vaccine would save at least 82 million; but cause up to 550 deaths.

Prior to the measles vaccine in 1950s when US had less than half current population, over one million kids suffered annually from measles, up to 50,000 hospitalized, up to 500 deaths, and 1,000 with permanent disabilities.

Problem with antivaxxer is out-of-sight, out-of-mind. In elementary school I personally knew kids with steel braces, in wheel chairs, and met someone in an iron lung years later, so the polio vaccine was a miracle. And since smallpox still raging in world when I began traveling abroad, the smallpox vaccine was both required and welcome.

If we stopped vaccinating today, within a few years, since most of the vaccine-preventable diseases still are around, though smallpox isn’t, we would again experience mass suffering, hospitalizations, disabilities, and deaths.

So, overwhelming science together with history isn’t a conspiracy, its real and valid.

And I have NEVER worked for a pharmaceutical company nor own stocks and I was volunteer in Moderna COVID vaccine clinical trials and have gotten booster and later bivalent, Omicron, and since FDA approved second bivalent booster, will go get next week.

I think it’s safe to say that most anti-covid-vax conspiracy theories are impossible at this point because if the shots were causing mass destruction, it would require nearly the whole medical profession and every rank-and-file provaxxer in the world (including me) to hide the evidence. Hospitals would be flooded with vaccine side effect cases the way they were with covid cases in the first year and a half. (And why did they start to drop off after a year and a half? Might the vaccines had something to do with it? I think so, given that locally, when the elderly had all been offered the vaccine, young and early middle aged adults who hadn’t gotten their shots yet outnumbered the 60-somethings in the hospitals.) Someone outside certain echo chambers would take notice.
I personally get the sense that something is a conspiracy theory if it appears to be irrefutable in the eyes of the defenders – they always come up with an excuse for why neither a smoking gun nor compelling circumstantial evidence never shows up, and any evidence contradicting what they say, however well-documented, just has to be part of the conspiracy.

Alties I survey get around this is by saying that millions will die from vaccines ( or the currency will collapse TOTALLY or there will be mass starvation/ civil war/ a cancer plague) is that it will take 18-24 months to happen. NN, prn.
Oddly, followers don’t keep up or call them on it despite the fact that they often keep their old material available.

Firstly logic is not their strong point, and secondly they are blaming every death, disease and hospitalisation now on the vaccine. They swam all over cases reported where family members have died telling them its the vaccine (its always the vaccine) ‘wot dun it’.

Then ultimately they either fall back on the old ‘well its being covered up’ or telling anyone who’ll listen its ticking time bomb, the vaccinated with be dropping like flies in (fill in a number greater than the last one they used that didn’t come to pass). No amount of evidence is ever enough, and really its impossible to use evidence and logic to disabuse opinions arrived at using neither.

Reminds me of the string of end-of-the-world predictions between 1990 and 2012. (And there were some before that, too.) And blaming everything on the vaccines, well, that’s the old health pseudoscience tack of blaming (ailment of the month) on (usually high-tech food, medicine, and/or telecommunications of the month). Same story, different villain. When conspiracy theories are refuted, they mutate just enough to keep fooling. Kind of like covid and the flu. And skeptical literature/prebunk uptake remains low, which doesn’t help.

I think its exactly like that, its a form of apocalyptic thinking that runs through an awful lot of these conspiracy theories, de-population, sudden/mass deaths, tyrannical governments with gulags for those who don’t conform and so on and so forth.

And when you look at how they describe themselves, its very revelatory, they are ones who will be saved, they are the pure bloods, they know the truth and how to save themselves and you if you buy their grift.

Its why debunking this stuff is a waste of time in many ways as the hard core conspiracists believe with a faith so strong and fervent they are unreachable. The main reason debunking is worthwhile is its really not for them, but those who might be learning towards but still open to reason.

Not all vaccine conspiracy theories are false. Take this headline from Natural News:

“Everyone vaccinated for covid will DIE, warns French virologist”

Can’t deny that.

Well, actually the virologist (Luc Montagnier, surprise!) was saying there’s no hope for long-term survival for any vaccinated person. And if you follow the first link in the NN story, it takes you to a website declaring that all those vaccinated against Covid-19 will be dead within two years. The article is dated May 22, 2021, so I’m afraid time is about to run out for most of us. In about a month, there will be no commenters left on RI but antivax stalwarts, and they’ll have no new articles to comment on.

So sad.

*We should be partying like it’s 2019.

“Everyone vaccinated for covid will DIE, warns French virologist”

Can’t deny that.

Shades of a biostat student a few years ago who answered a [poorly formed] test question about mortality rate with 100%.

… it takes you to a website declaring that all those vaccinated against Covid-19 will be dead within two years. The article is dated May 22, 2021

Disconcerting. My birthday is May 7 — looks like I’ll need to finish my usual birthday cheesecake fairly rapidly — not that that’s ever been a problem.

If we’re all going to be dead shortly, then, given the number of vaccinated people in the world, we’ll shortly be followed by the unvaccinated. Unless they think that chia seeds, kale and petrol spontaneously refill the appropriate receptacles.

I’m planning to live on for some time.If I get as old as my mom, I have something like 14 years ahead of me. But if I get as old as my dad it will be 29 years. I’m not dead yet.

Well, my dad was hardly into healthy living. Salads are for rabbits”, or “I’m not a rabbit” if I tried to push him intö eating more vegetables.
My mom had some health problems, long before she died. I’m still doing without major problems. Last time I’ve been in hospital was for my vocal chords, which had suffered from stomach acid.

My parents both lived into their mid 90s, and all of my aunts/uncles on my father’s side lived well into their 90s, with one aunt and one uncle reaching 100 and 102, respectively. Both lived on their own until a year or so before they died. All were born from early 1900s to about 1912. Highly unusual I realize, and I don’t expect to live that long.

Two of my favorite “quotes” about living:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Hunter S. Thompson, “The Proud Highway: Saga of a Sad Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967”

From the rocking of the cradle to the rolling of the hearse, the going up was worth the coming down.

Kris Kristofferson, “The Pilgrim Chapter 33”

Dang, I have quite a few photography assignments in June, July and August I am really looking forward to, shall have to bring them forward before mid May. Dang, Dang and triple Dang, just as I spent 12K on some new, high end equipment. Maybe I should sell them on so I can go out with a bang with loose women, cigars and vintage whisky by the cart load.

Maybe I should sell them on so I can go out with a bang with loose women, cigars and vintage whisky by the cart load.

Cue the old “A guy could have a pretty good weekend that way” and “Whatever you don’t spend that way just go ahead and waste” jokes.

Montagnier didn’t even last a year after that article was published. He expired in February of 2022.

Not saying it’s a conspiracy. I’m saying that arrogance and confirmation bias of the medical establishment and authoritarian cancel culture of folks raising questions is slowing getting to the bottom of the severe adverse events. Example: if it’s potentially safer not to push lnp wrapped mRNA into a blood vessel so it immediately gets the heart muscle cells to express spike, why not aspirate as a precautionary measure? It costs very little. Then we could look at data from those areas aspirating and those not and see if there is a difference in the rate of myocarditis.

“a few people in the right position are able to deliberately conceal certain true information and/or promote false information”

A few people all over the world, in every country, with every political system, who never, ever, break silence, even at the end of their lives or in a crisis of conscience? Those few people?


I think it’s safe to say that most anti-covid-vax conspiracy theories are impossible at this point because if the shots were causing mass destruction, it would require nearly the whole medical profession and every rank-and-file provaxxer in the world (including me) to hide the evidence.


Alties I survey get around this is by saying that millions will die from vaccines


“a few people in the right position are able to deliberately conceal certain true information and/or promote false information”
A few people all over the world, in every country, with every political system, who never, ever, break silence, even at the end of their lives or in a crisis of conscience? Those few people?

all get to the same thing: the people pushing these conspiracies completely ignore scale — the number of people on the ground that would need to remain quiet about what they’re seeing. Of course the answer is that there is a layer above controlling them — but requires another, higher layer, etc., until you get to a few ultra-powerful people running the whole show: Soros, Gates, to steal some of Igor’s bullshit ideas. 

Apparently it’s turtles all the way down and conspiracies all the way up.

You’re right that scale matters, but let’s go back to Beth’s question about Purdue pharma. She didn’t mention (perhaps having not yet read) the revelation that the Sacklers appear to have “bought” favorable takes on opioids from National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Which is to say that group was advising on opioid policy while hiding the receipt of $19 million in donations from the Sacklers. So this adds to her chosen exemplar of “a few people in the right position are able to deliberately conceal certain true information and/or promote false information.” Which they managed to do long enough for a hell of a lot of people to die and many more to have their lives ruined.

What I’m saying is that real conspiracies can indeed achieve a scale of deception large enough to worry about. But, of course, space_upstairs_cluttered is pointing out that the COVID-antivax CT would have to have a scale so much larger than that it’s just nuts.

The problem here is over-generalizing back from the nature of a known falsehood (anti-vax conspiracy theory) to a too broad general principle without fully testing the principle against known evidence. As a reply to the broad principle Beth stated, which amounts to “conspiracies can indeed conceal the truth” Number Wang’s rhetorical question overstates a valid point to a degree that makes it incredibly naive:

“A few people all over the world, in every country, with every political system, who never, ever, break silence, even at the end of their lives or in a crisis of conscience? Those few people?”

Actually, the rhetoric here flags it’s own flaw by adding “even at the end of their lives”. That’s the question of time. How much comfort should we find comfort in the fact many real conspiracies have finally been exposed decades after their implementation? It’s simply not true that the maintenance of a real conspiracy requires everyone to keep completely silent. Toppling a conspiracy requires a certain critical mass.

The mere word “conspiracy” provokes a certain skepticism, to the point I feel by writing “real conspiracies” I’m coming off a bit nutty. Is there another, better word? I’m reminded of S. G. Collins’ observation that conspiracy theory poisons the well for our understanding of actual secret plots. These aren’t the fantastic intricate totalizing webs of Hollywood paranoid thrillers. They’re more mundane, bureaucratic. And they leak. But they do damage anyway.

The obvious science-related example is the campaign by the fossil fuel industry to repress information about climate change. Sure, we know now that they knew then what the accumulation of atmospheric carbon would wreak. Not much solace as we have already passed some pretty serious tipping points, with more very likely tom pass soon.

Another obvious non-science example of a real conspiracy (for which the word does seems apt) is the plot to overturn the result of the 2020 election. Consider what we know now about how incredibly detailed this was, how many coordinated actors and actions were involved – compared to the case brought against Trump in the second impeachment, which amounted to ‘the irresponsible rhetoric in Trump’s Tweets and speech on 1/6 sparked the crazies beyond protest into riot.’ In some ways, that plot leaked like a sieve, as some actors balked, others bungled, some gave off signs that more was amiss. But there was a broad level of ‘keeping a lid on it’ that was effective for enough people for long enough, and there’s no doubt still any number of details yet to be revealed.

Since I mentioned 1/6, in light of the disclosures from the Fox/Dominion discovery, I suppose I should come up with some clever line about how actual conspiracies employ the spread of fabuiist conspiracy theories to advance their plots and cover their tracks. Ironic, eh? I got nothing, though.

FWIW, I thought Beth’s ‘question’ was trolling since Orac’s post and the CONSPIR pamphlet make the definition of “conspiracy theory” in their uasage as differing from “proven conspiracies” quite clear…

Campaigns to counter climate change science and overturn the 2020 presidential election have been carried out openly. Use of misleading and false info doesn’t equate to a conspiracy; otherwise we’d be referring to an antivax conspiracy (those folks have also been guilty of publishing “science” without revealing gross conflicts of interest. Still doesn’t make their sleazy activities into a conspiracy.).

“FWIW, I thought Beth’s ‘question’ was trolling”

It’s better characterized as Just Asking Questions. JAQing off has long been Beth’s preferred M.O. here.

I love it when you ding-dongs conflate these two issues. As a reminder, I’m a doctor who is still dealing with the mess Purdue made on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

There are many reasons why is comparison is invalid. The most obvious to me based on substantial, relevant experience is that Purdue had a very clear incentive to get people to KEEP taking their product.

With vaccines, we hope, you get it and move on. Maybe you need another one in a year maybe not.

I know, I know…JLB/Igor will shriek “you want a bazillion boosters. Think of the children!”

I don’t care if patients in my practice get the booster unless they’re high risk. Even then, it’s their choice. I’m hoping we will soon have a dual flu/covid yearly. Better yet? Maybe the virus will drop so far into the background we don’t event vaccinate for it anymore (Think other coronaviruses.)

@ John LaBarge

As I’ve written and you ignore, the risk of myocarditis is significantly greater from the actual virus and also usually more severe. So, who pays the emergency room visit if one infected with the virus? Also, the vast majority of Americans have some type of health insurance. Mine, for emergency room visits, is $100.

You just continue with your all or none, antivax biased unscientific ignorance.

Remember.antivaxxers don’t care about deaths that can’t be blamed on vaccines. That’s why they celebrated when Japan briefly stopped one vaccine due to a bogus belief that that vaccine caused SIDS. In fact, during the period that the vaccine was not used, SIDS deaths increased sharply. The antivaxxers were completely silent about this, because dead children don’t concern them at all, unless they can blame the death on vaccines.

Remember.antivaxxers don’t care about deaths that can’t be blamed on vaccines.

It’s worth pointing out that they don’t care about deaths that could be blamed on vaccines in any way other to be able to say “See, we told you”.

They’re like the “right to life” groups that way: they really don’t care about people, only control.

I work ER and have NEVER seen a single myocarditis case associated with either the vaccine or even really terrible cases of covid. Never seen one in clinic, either (I have seen new onset reactive airway disease after a covid infection-many times.) Neither has any one of my many colleagues across four states.

And, yes JLB/Igor: We WERE looking.

I know two people that got myocarditis from the vax. About 80% of the people I know got the first series with the percentage dwindling for boosters. Admittedly both cases I know about were in boosters not original series.

97% or so of the people I know have had Covid. Outside those who got myocarditis from the vaccine. One of them (vaccinated or not) got myocarditis. Anecdotal sure. But again relying on hospital data to say that myocarditis is more prevalent from Covid is vary misleading. Most who get Covid never go to a hospital or urgent care -most like 98-99%.

If you take only severe COVID cases, bias is for severe COVID. Myocarditis cases are generally milder than reported.

@ Igor Chudov

The overwhelming evidence is that the SARS-CoV-2 was NOT a lab leak; but even if it was, it was our poor public health response to it that resulted in far more per capita deaths than nations that reacted appropriately. Actually, if one looks at US data, higher COVID deaths per capita can be found in areas with lowest vaccination and/or mask usage.

And even more importantly, numerous genome sequencing of corona viruses in bats have found a significant number that required only a very few additional mutations or crossing between strains in same bat and/or mutations in various animals; e.g., civets, so, as with previous SARS and MERS, even if it was an accidental lab leak, though unlikely, odds are there will be another pandemic and it will come from nature and thanks to idiots like you, we will again have more deaths per capita that were avoidable.

And a while back, a University of North Carolina lab had an accidental release of a gain-of-function corona virus. Fortunately, it did not break out into the public as it would have been far deadlier than the current one.


p.s. I am currently re-reading a book I read almost three decades ago, still worth reading. Laurie Garrett’s (1994). The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in the World. However, it also includes existent diseases that became pandemics for various reasons and clearly shows how the risks from pandemics has been increasing over the past decades.

Dude it came from the lab. Jon Stewart gives a good comedy but on how absurd the other position is.

His explanation is a good illustration of how absurd your argument is.

What Joel, PhD, MPH said.
The risk of myocarditis is much, much larger from infection rather than from vaccination. Exact figures- see Orac’s Lying with Statistics in Florida post.
AND it is much more likely that Covid has a natural origin rather than a lab one. see Orac’s post of 8/8/ 2020.

Contrarians enjoy being beyond the ‘common herd’. Anti-vaxxers/ CT believers are more likely to identify with this outsider/ rebel stance ( K. Douglas; M. Hornsey) as well as having narcissistic and paranoid tendencies and rejecting standard expertise.

Substack is a ready-made stage for opinionated writers and it’s interesting how these maverick-y, free-thinkers cluster together so tightly. If anyone sounds amenable to anti-vax/ anti PH, you can be sure advocates will link their websites/ Substacks/ podcasts/ videos quickly. So I am not very impressed by large numbers of followers- some advocates do this to show how popular their positions are. Amongst the loons I survey, there is cross- fertislisation of altie BS because they reinforce each others’ material by citing and linking to each other. So if Del features one, so will Mike, Gary, Joe and Robert. Needless to say, their venues accumulate likes, links and comments by the faithful.

Altie sites/ Substacks attract their own variety of naysayers: SBM advocates who monitor and read – for material and as a hate-watch hobby**.
It was estimated that 30% or more of conservative news/ talk shows was by liberals. I do this myself with woo- I regularly observe a set of the worst of the worst. I even read Naomi Wolf on Substack for free and Elon on Twitter.

** similar to how sports’ teams followers watch their nemeses

@ John LaBarge

You write: “This doesn’t seem great. You get injured from the vax and you’re stuck with the bill. It was indeed convergent interests that put this system in place.

The article you linked to, Jenna Greene (2023 Apr 18). COVID-19 vaccine claims yield small payouts from U.S. government. REUTERS, includes the following:

“There’s no allowance for pain and suffering, no punitive damages, no attorney’s fees, no public hearings or opinions, no right to judicial appeal. But it’s the only legal recourse available for the unlucky few who have experienced serious adverse effects from the vaccines.”

Not entirely true. Plaintiff attorneys as well as witnesses are paid by the Court. And since lawyers are paid by the Court, they are more willing to take cases. In fact, the Vaccine Court’s website has a list of lawyers, though one is free to use and attorney and there is a right to judicial appeal; but only after going through the Vaccine Court. However, judicial appeals takes years, normal for our legal system, and the attorneys take a huge chunk of any reward.

Reiss DR (2015 Aug 7). Expert Commentary: “A Dose of Reality” Does Not Support Abolishing VICP. Every Child By Two.

Reiss DR (2017 Mar 22). National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program facts. Skeptical Raptor

“Individuals in the United States can directly sue pharmaceutical companies for vaccine injuries. but there are caveats. If a person believes that their claim is valid and litigable, they still have to go through the process of filing a petition with the VICP first. It is only after their petition is dismissed or they reject the compensation that they can go through the civil courts to sue the vaccine manufacturer directly.” What is the vaccine court and how does it work

And while there are no public hearings, there is public opinion, which can be submitted to Vaccine Court website.

So, as usual, you ilk find one article that supports your ignorant unscientific bias and assume it is accurate/totally valid.


@ John LaBarge

If it is found that a vaccine manufacturer did NOT adhere to the agreed upon FDA guidelines; e.g., actual creation of vaccine; e.g., how killed, attenuated, etc. or mass production; e.g., contaminants, sold after expiration date, etc. then one can directly sue them, bypassing the Vaccine Court. Reason is simple. Based on extensive science, including immunology, and history of vaccine-preventable diseases, the SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS finds that vaccines provide a protection for the vast majority of people, not always complete protection; but significantly reduced symptoms, significantly reduced hospitalizations, significantly reduced long-term effects, and significantly reduced deaths; but science doesn’t subscribe to an all or none approach so a minuscule minority can experience severe adverse events, which is reason for establishment of Vaccine Court. Otherwise, even if vaccine saved 10s of thousands of lives, if only a couple died from the vaccine and directly sued the manufacturer, it would put them out of business and we would be back to 10s of thousands dying. So, the manufacturers put into Vaccine Court fund an amount per dose; but, as I explained above, only if manufacturer’s vaccine followed agreed upon standards.

I’m sure you will, as usual, ignore the above and continue with your stupidly ignorant unscientific antivax comments.

The term “SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS” is defined circularly because those who don’t agree 1) don’t get funding for their research 2) don’t pass peer review for negative studies or 3) get their licenses is revoked if they don’t fall in line. The FDA is a revolving door for the vaccine makers. Hence the consensus and the vaccine regulators are corrupted.

“The term “SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS” is defined circularly because those who don’t agree 1) don’t get funding for their research”

Nonsense. Antivaxers (groups and foundations) have paid for “research” on multiple occasions. Other published research questioning some aspects of vaccine safety or effectiveness has been funded through more usual channels. Sometimes, antivax group funding of research projects has backfired spectacularly. Example (quoting Newsweek):

“Between 2003 and 2013, SafeMinds provided scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern School of Medicine, the University of Washington, the Johnson Center for Child Health & Development and other research institutions with approximately $250,000 to conduct a long-term investigation evaluating behavioral and brain changes of baby rhesus macaques that were administered a standard course of childhood vaccines. (The National Autism Association, another organization that has questioned vaccine safety, also provided financial support for this research.) The latest paper in the multiyear project was published…in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In it, the researchers concluded that vaccines did not cause any brain or behavioral changes in the primates.”


“2) don’t pass peer review for negative studies”

Then why do antivaxers trumpet studies by their peers that claim vaccine harms (true, some of those wind up being retracted for bad science and undisclosed conflicts of interest)?

“or 3) get their licenses is revoked if they don’t fall in line.”

License revocation rarely happens to such people. I know of no antivax doc who’s lost his/her license who wasn’t alsp found to have endangered patients.

“The FDA is a revolving door for the vaccine makers.”

By this confused metaphor it’s evident that you’re upset that the FDA approves vaccines that have been demonstrated to be safe and effective. Too bad about that.

or 3) get their licenses is revoked if they don’t fall in line

It’s terrible when one loses one’s license to science.

What is licence to do science.? I have never heard one, expect if you mean PhD.
Many antivaxxers have published a lot and still hold tenure. Their only problem is that only antivaxxers believe them

“1) don’t get funding for their research ”

Surely that can’t be true? There are so many big names in the anti-vax world, RFK jr, Mercola etc. Surely they are funding cutting edge research to bring light to the darkness? Finally trying to get those hobbits to Orodruin.

@ johnlabarge

You write: “The term “SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS” is defined circularly because those who don’t agree 1) don’t get funding for their research 2) don’t pass peer review for negative studies. . .”

You give NO backing/support, just your own ignorant stupidly biased opinion. Well, go to PubMed and, for example, type in search bar: mRNA covid vaccine side effects

I did and result was 2,293

Wow! Several were extremely critical of vaccine; yet, got published in peer-reviewed journals. Just one example of how incredibly dishonest and stupid you are. And you ignore my comments and others that clearly, often with references, refute your position. Oh well. JUST KEEP MAKING A FOOL OF YOURSELF

@ johnlabarge

And you also ignore that I have written several times in comments that independent government health authorities, medical schools, etc. in multiple nations; e.g., Canada, Sweden, Germany, Japan, and on and on have evaluated vaccines and approved them. Do you really believe that all of them were willing to endanger their own nations children? My guess is that it is you who could care less about people and in a classical psychodynamic defense mechanism, deny it in you and project it onto others.

Having lived in several other nations and known medical and public health people, they cared deeply about people. And their approvals are often documented with multiple references to research.

They are largely depending on the representations made by folks that are working for Pharmaceutical companies. I’m sure the folks approving Oxy thought they were doing the right thing.

@ johnlabarge

If you at all consider yourself open-minded, which I doubt, I suggest you read a well-written easy-to-understand short inexpensive book on the immune system: Lauren Sompayrac’s “How the Immune System Works”. Then you will understand how vaccines are simply creating memory immune cells that protect us against microbes. Normally when microbes enter the body we get sick, suffer, etc. and after 5 – 10 days are immune system clears them, that is if we don’t die; but also creates memory cells that patrol and if same microbe enters again, stops it cold. All that vaccines do is create the EXACT SAME MEMORY CELLS without us suffering from actual disease. How? Our immune cells don’t recognize live intact microbes; but only small features. Imagine a video scanner that doesn’t recognize people; but only bridge of nose, shape of earlobe, finger print. So, a vaccine presents a killed, extremely weakened, or just the part(s) that our immune systems recognized. And exact same memory cells are created.

I realize, as with other antivaxxers, you won’t get the book because you don’t want anything that counters your stupidly ignorant antivax bias.

I appreciate the way vaccines work to create immune cell memory. The problem with the mRNA as I see it is it takes the antigen and causes it to be expressed by cells throughout the body relatively randomly. There isn’t any quantification of the amount of mRNA there isn’t much of a chance for the outer defenses of the immune system to get to know/stop the antigen before it reaches vital organs. And there is no effort really to contain its distribution throughout the body. I’m vaccinated with the 1980s series of vaccines and a few from a trip to Africa years ago. My problem is not with the science of vaccines. My problem is with it’s corruption by the skewed system we have in place.

“mRNA as I see it”

There’s your first problem and it’s all downhill afterwards.

In a recent comment I talked about flat Earthers and how Chudov and his ilk resemble them.

One of the people who sometimes appears in YouTube “debates” with flerfs is known as “PhD Tony.” Tony is indeed a PhD scientist with genuine expertise in some of the areas which flerfs dismiss. Tony, whom I would estimate to be in his sixties, is known for exploding at flerfs and ripping them up one side and down the other for dismissing actual science and in effect disrespecting real scientists and calling them incompetent and/or liars. His outrage is warranted. We need to see that kind of outrage aimed at antivaxxers.

Chudov needs to encounter a Tony analog who will leave him figuratively laying on the floor, twitching and with blood trickling from his ear.

The studies so claiming are not credible. For the bias reasons I’ve explained. They bias for people that already have severe covid.

Anyone else reminded of Lowell Hubbs’ attempts at English?

@ John LaBarge

You write: “The problem with the mRNA as I see it is it takes the antigen and causes it to be expressed by cells throughout the body relatively randomly. There isn’t any quantification of the amount of mRNA there isn’t much of a chance for the outer defenses of the immune system to get to know/stop the antigen before it reaches vital organs. And there is no effort really to contain its distribution throughout the body.”

As usual, you haven’t done your homework. First, the mRNA in the vaccine is designed to produce a slightly modified S-Spike Protein, basically, the real S-Spike protein has two parts, one that attaches to certain cell receptors and then one that changes conformation in order to release the COVID virus RNA into the cell. Well, the modification stops the second part, though there isn’t even a COVID RNA. Second, the mRNA in the vaccines breaks down rather quickly, so it can only produce a limited number of S-Spike Proteins. And most of the S-Spike Protein project from the cells that received the vaccine mRNA. However, some do get into the blood system; but almost all stopped cold by our immune systems; but if they reach vital organs, so what? They can’t enter the organ, they don’t have RNA to release into the organ and as the immune system revs up after recognizing the vaccine-created S-Spike Protein, it attacks any attached to organs.

And we now have tons of research papers that support what I wrote, so we know just how the mRNA covid vaccine works.

And you write: “My problem is not with the science of vaccines. My problem is with it’s corruption by the skewed system we have in place.”

“Skewed system?” Over 30 years of research on mRNA vaccines, Large clinical trials with 30 – 40,000 subjects and long-term follow-up. Clinical trials in many other nations and their respective reporting systems for adverse events and numerous research papers showing clearly that vaccinated suffered significantly fewer hospitalizations and deaths. I guess in your sick mind that doctors, public health researchers, etc all over the world are dishonest, corrupt, and don’t care about their respective nations children and adults. YIKES! You are one SICKO!

So, once again, even if in the past you got vaccinated, you display your stupidly ignorant unscientific bias against the current vaccines.


And, given your many antivax posts, I don’t really believe you got all the vaccines available.

@ John La Barge

I forgot to mention, today I got the booster for the Moderna bivalent (regular COVID & Omicron) COVID vaccine. And I’m looking forward in September to getting both the flu vaccine and the Respiratory Syncytial Virus vaccine..

And this coming Sunday I will be making my regular visit to Count Dracula, the blood center, every 2 – 4 weeks, somethings I have been doing for years.

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