This Week in Corona Scams, you can’t say we didn’t warn you about the ivermectin hype. You also can’t say we didn’t warn you about the convergence of anti-vaccine zealotry and far-right extremism that culminated in last weekend’s CPAC fiasco. Really, the theme for this week’s installment might as well be “stuff we warned everyone about months ago”.
First, another update on ivermectin: Surprise (but not really), it’s still not proven to work against COVID-19.
Definition: Unevidenced scientific or medical claims made by unqualified but charismatic male-identified influencers in support of marketing their alt-health products and/or pushing health-related conspiracy theories that denigrate public health.https://t.co/ApF9YBDDxy
— matthew remski (@matthewremski) July 7, 2021
Last month, we examined the burgeoning movement to declare the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as the new “game changing miracle cure” for COVID-19. Never mind that the “game changing” evidence in support of ivermectin as a COVID-19 “cure” was sparse and flimsy at best. Iconoclastic “influencers” like Dr. Pierre Kory, Joe Mercola, Bret Weinstein, Joe Rogan, and Bill Maher turned the lack of actual scientific evidence into yet another fight over “cancel culture”, so we once again fell into a cycle of “déjà news” over rumors of a “miracle cure”.
Though Oxford University has merely begun an official study on whether ivermectin works at all against COVID-19, social media timelines filled up once more with claims that, “Studies prove that ivermectin works!” But as Politifact most recently pointed out, those social media shitposts were based on “news reports” from known far-right and/or pseudoscience-friendly sources that referenced a “study” that’s connected to an advocacy group demanding use of ivermectin on COVID-19 patients.
When it comes to actual evidence on ivermectin as medicine for COVID-19 – again, it’s quite lacking. While we’re still awaiting results from the big Oxford Principle Trial, we do have three new trial results published: one published by Clinical Infectious Diseases featuring research from the U.S., Peru, and Brazil; another published by BMC Infectious Diseases chronicling the results of an Argentinian trial; and another from the University of Liverpool that was published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases. The Clinical Infectious Diseases report concluded, “In comparison to [standard of care] or placebo, [ivermectin] did not reduce all-cause mortality, length of stay, or viral clearance in [random clinical trials] in COVID-19 patients with mostly mild disease. […] IVM is not a viable option to treat COVID-19 patients.”
Though the University of Liverpool analysis produced more favorable results for ivermectin against COVID-19, researchers who were not involved in that study pointed out the lack of randomized controlled trials and peer review. Meanwhile the Argentinian study featured in BMC Infectious Diseases concluded, “Ivermectin had no significant effect on preventing hospitalization of patients with COVID-19.” As we continue to await the results of the Oxford Principle Trial and other properly scientific clinical trials, the evidence we do currently have is unconvincing at best on ivermectin “curing” COVID-19.
If ivermectin is not an effective medicine for COVID-19, why do these “trusted experts” continue to promote it?
As you can see above, the actual evidence we have so far does not prove ivermectin’s efficacy against COVID-19. Yet if we were to just rely on Fox News lead polemicist Tucker Carlson’s interview with Bret Weinstein, or even some mainstream media outlets’ “soft focus” flattering coverage of Pierre Kory, perhaps we’d even be more inclined to give Kory’s and Weinstein’s claims more credibility.
As Vice News’ Anna Merlan, Respectful Insolence’s Dr. David Gorski, the Houston Press’ Jef Werner, and the Conspirituality podcast crew have all pointed out in recent weeks, ivermectin evangelists like Kory and Weinstein have enjoyed a wave of publicity that’s resulted in national TV appearances, a date on Joe Rogan’s top-rated podcast, a burst of new subscriptions to Weinstein’s Patreon, and new converts joining Kory’s advocacy network.
Anti vaxx rhetoric & free speech martyrdom pays off… pic.twitter.com/Slc3WSVrBd
— Chris Kavanagh (@C_Kavanagh) June 29, 2021
Whatever the total, this guy is headed for a 6-figure year from an indulgence of fringe science, outside his scope of practice, as he milks the culture war cow he rode in on. It’s not just a lark or grift. If it raises vax hesitancy, it’s arguably a form of deadly malpractice. /3
— matthew remski (@matthewremski) June 30, 2021
Where have we seen this before? Ah, yes: Alex Jones, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brian Rose, Grant Cardone, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Mikki Willis, and other highly problematic “influencers” have already turned to Kardashian-esque outrage marketing to profit off problematic propaganda. We’re seeing it all over again with Pierre Kory, Bret Weinstein, and their fellow ivermectin-fueled “cancel culture warriors”.
Think about it: Is this any better than what “KM” and “MB” do with “BS Beads”? Just like “MB” and “KM” repeatedly make false health claims to sell overpriced beads, Kory and Weinstein whine about nonexistent “cancel culture censorship!” and promise “THE CURE ‘they’ don’t want you to know!” to sell Patreon memberships, solicit donations, and book more TV appearances where they can shill more of their products and services. And just like Facebook’s ongoing failure to address the “BS Beads” false health claims, the mainstream media outlets that continue to amplify Kory’s and Weinstein’s outrage marketing in the name of “free speech” are only worsening America’s Infodemic crisis.
Yes, CPAC really was that bad.
After Rep. Greg Steube attacks Dr. Fauci, CPAC Dallas attendees chant "lock him up!" pic.twitter.com/ImuPI9bOtk
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 10, 2021
Speaking of outrage marketing, I don’t want to hear anyone feign “shock!” over former President Donald Trump’s rhetorical tornado full of mendacity at CPAC in Dallas last weekend. I’m also not interested in hearing anyone feign “shock!” over the anti-vaccine paranoid pandemonium that also defined this year’s CPAC. We’ve been warning about the unholy matrimony of anti-vaccine zealots and far-right extremists for over a year, so there’s really no legitimate reason for any media pundit to feign “shock!” over the CPAC conspiracy circus that wreaked havoc in Dallas.
Actions have consequences – and yes, that includes inaction in the face of clear and present danger. While it’s laudable to see select Republicans like Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) condemn CPAC’s full embrace of the anti-vaccine movement’s many “Big Lies”, he remains one of the few exceptions amidst the Republican Party’s hardening rule and tradition of embracing anti-vaxx “influencers” out of craven political expediency.
CPAC is fully embracing the anti-vax movement by allowing Alex Berenson, who has been wrong at every step, a platform to spread misinformation.
And it's not just the CPAC organizers because the crowd is cheering on those who refuse to get vaccinated.pic.twitter.com/LryGw2ISpG
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) July 11, 2021
As we detailed yesterday, the vaccine outreach that President Joe Biden and Nevada public health officials are launching absolutely does not involve any kind of forcible entry, child abduction, forced injection, or seizure of guns and/or religious literature. Demagogues like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), Madison Cawthorn (R-North Carolina), and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have zero facts or evidence to back any of their outrageous claims, yet it’s quite clear why they’ve rushed to evoke imagery from Christian Dominionist eschatological (fictional) stories such as the Left Behind series. Just look at the thunderous applause that these anti-vaxx “influencers” enjoyed at CPAC.
One of these CPAC 2021 breakout stars was ex-New York Times reporter turned Fox News regular Alex Berenson, whom The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson presciently labeled as “The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man” back in April. Never mind that Berenson’s wildly fanciful claims on masks, on vaccines, and on COVID-19 itself have always been proven wrong. Berenson framed his anti-science ramblings as anti-Biden and “anti-establishment”, so the CPAC audience merrily ate it all up. As long as Republican Party and right-wing media kingmakers continue to support this kind of rhetoric, not only will more “corona scammers” pull this kind of stunt, but more people will continue to risk severe illness and possible death out of blind faith to these slimy scammers and craven “leaders”.
Since we’re talking about the COVID-19 vaccines again, what’s the truth to the news about J&J and Guillain-Barré syndrome?
Whenever anti-vaxxers like Bret Weinstein and Alex Berenson shill for their respective brands of “alternative medicine”, they rail against the “medical establishment” for “forcing Big Pharma bioweapons into our arms”. The anti-vaccine movement is at it again by trying to twist, turn, and ultimately distort the latest headlines surrounding the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine and a tiny percentage of patients who developed a rare disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), in which the immune system attacks one’s own nervous system.
According to the FDA, about 100 cases of J&J vaccine recipients developing GBS have been reported. Meanwhile, the U.S. has used about 12.8 million J&J doses so far. This indicates a rate of roughly one case of GBS per every 128,000 people who receive the J&J vaccine. Just like the reports of blood clots in a tiny percentage of patients who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and like the reports of myocarditis in a tiny percentage of patients who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, Guillain-Barré syndrome is a very rare neurological disorder that thus far has only been found in a miniscule percentage of J&J vaccine recipients.
This is no attempt to deny any potential link between the J&J vaccine and GBS. Rather, we just need to put all of this into proper perspective. There are side effects to these COVID-19 vaccines, and ever since their first clinical trials public health and pharmaceutical regulatory authorities have documented a very small percentage of patients who have experienced serious adverse reactions. Yet when we take into account the far more widespread risk of hospitalization, long-term health complications, and/or death that comes with COVID-19 itself, we can clearly see that COVID-19 itself is far more dangerous and life-threatening than any of the vaccines we have on hand to fight this disease.
You don’t have to just believe whatever they say. Go ahead. Look behind the curtain.
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) July 12, 2021
Whether it’s alleged “pioneers in wellness” who tell “truth ‘they’ don’t want you to know”, far-right “anti-establishment” media pundits who claim they’re “looking at this thing and trying to figure it out”, or “influencers” who sell “natural healing alternatives”, we’ve seen countless examples of “corona scammers” who claim they’re “looking out for you”. But when we take a closer look at their “business model”, we can see that they’re really just looking out for their own bottom lines.
I’m not even asking you to take my word for it. Do your own research. Check for the sources to their “miracle cure” claims. Read the fine print. “Corona scammers” count on us simply believing whatever they say. They don’t want us to look behind the curtain, because they don’t want us to see that when it comes to the truth behind their “healing” claims, there’s really no there there.
If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check Immunize Nevada for more information on vaccine availability in your area, check Nevada Health Response for testing in your area, and check Nevada 211 for more health care resources. If you’re in need of additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square. And for goodness sake, please maintain best practices to help stop the spread.