This Week in Corona Scams, we revisit the seemingly never-ending saga of “BS Beads”. Why, you ask? Though this may seem like a small-time rip-off, the “BS Beads” melodrama really illuminates the larger crises we’re confronting on public health, economic inequity, and societal distrust.
After all, look at how the seemingly simple task of vaccinating more Americans out of this pandemic has proven to be far more arduous than many public health authorities had originally expected.
WARNING: We briefly touch upon some difficult matters, such as suicide, sexual violence, and terrorism. Reader discretion is advised.
First, let’s jump right into the latest round of nauseating disinformation from “MB”, “KM”, and their “BS Beads” empire of deceit.
If it’s a day that ends in “-y”, we can rest assured that “BS Beads” owner “MB” and “star influencer KM” are lying about the “natural healing powers” of the beads. From COVID-19 to suicidal ideation, “KM” has made all sorts of outlandish and mendacious health claims about the beads. More recently “MB” has been making her own false health claims, including a series of Instagram stories where “MB” seemingly contradicted herself in marketing different beads for “water retention” and “weight balance”.
At the same time that “MB” was shilling the beads on Instagram, “KM” did a Facebook Live on Monday with an alarming amount of mendacious claims about the beads – claims that “KM” surprisingly debunked herself by complaining about “skin issues” and showing off her biker shorts in a way that makes clear that the beads do not “work” like she claims they do. Before we proceed, I want to make clear that I have no interest in body-shaming “KM” or anyone else involved in “BS Beads”. Rather, we need to recognize that the “BS Beads” promoters themselves debunk their own medical claims about the beads.
In past “This Week in Corona Scams” stories that cover “BS Beads“, I included multiple links to reputable sources that explain why the beads should not be used as medicine. I don’t want to rehash all this here, but I do feel the urge to note how the ongoing “BS Beads” saga explains the larger American crisis of the Influencer Infodemic that continues to harm efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite all the factual, scientific evidence proving that “natural healing stones” are not legitimate medicine, “KM” and “MB” may still have thousands of fans across the U.S. who believe their “healing” claims, even after they’re confronted with the factual and scientific evidence proving otherwise. Beyond “BS Beads”, “crystal healing” and “energy healing” pseudoscientific brands remain as popular as ever despite the lack of evidence showing that they work. Why is pseudoscience still so popular, and what will it take to convince more Americans to give science-based medicine a chance?
Why do “corona scams” still appeal to so many Americans?
At times, they can be incredibly sickly sweet. On her social media pages, “KM” calls her “tribe” of acolytes “honey bear” and “honey child”. On her Instagram, “MB” shares seemingly relatable anecdotes from her own life story as she shills her “BS Beads”. And just yesterday, “KM” did another Live where she wailed and whined about her own life experience while simultaneously recommending a problematic “holistic psychologist” and “just asking questions” about “vaccine detoxification”.
Looking beyond “BS Beads”, we see more startling examples of “corona scammers” building “brand loyalty” among their customers/victims. At Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow regularly contrasts Goop’s record of “trusting women” to the “medical establishment” who “don’t care about women’s health”. At InfoWars, Alex Jones hurls insults at the “Big Pharma ChiCom Libs!” who allegedly “turned the frogs gay“. At the MLM’s that sell various “wellness solutions”, the downlines are encouraged to “ignore the haters” who’ve allegedly been brainwashed by “the establishment” to “trade time for money”. And when it comes to anti-vaccine activists, they constantly claim they’re just “protecting the children” from “Big Pharma greed”.
What they all have in common is that they latch onto legitimate criticism of the 2021-era U.S. economy, yet they then twist and turn more legitimate criticism into false justification for their own scams. They will complain about how “the system is rigged”, but they won’t really explore how or why the system is rigged, and they never seem to be serious about potential solutions to un-rig the system for working people. Instead, they just funnel their customers/victims into their own rigged systems where customers/victims have little or no chance of succeeding.
Yet as we’ve previously warned, “corona scammers” will continue to smell blood in the water as long as we fail to address the systemic shortfalls and “rigged system” nature of our economy. As long as health care remains too expensive for too many Americans, people will continue to seek “alternative medicine”. As long as the likes of insurance conglomerates and multinational pharmaceutical powerhouses continue to bend and break the rules to their own liking, people will continue to hear out those who promise to “defeat the corrupt establishment”, regardless of how corrupt and nefarious the “anti-establishment” figures themselves may actually be.
“BS Beads” may inhabit a small corner of the “alt-med meets alt-right” conspiracy cyberspace, but it does illustrate the larger crisis of America’s Infodemic inhibiting our ability to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
Look at the anti-vaccine movement and their far-right allies: They continue to hype up the nonexistent “Fauci email scandal”, even though multiple news outlets have investigated and found no evidence of any “cover-up” on the part of NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci or any other career civil servant whom former President Donald Trump has labeled as “deep state”. Meanwhile, when it comes to Trump’s own efforts to cover up the reality of COVID-19, these same far-right forces make excuses for Trump and/or claim themselves that the pandemic “isn’t real”.
To this day, we see these same far-right forces promoting hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a “game changing miracle cure” despite the overwhelming evidence proving that HCQ does not work on COVID-19. They also promote newer “miracle cures” like ivermectin, “immunity boosting dietary supplements”, “BS Beads” and other forms of “crystal healing”, and additional “alternative medicine”, even though none of this “alternative medicine” has been scientifically proven to work on COVID-19. Meanwhile anti-vaxxers continue to rail against the alleged “dangers of the vaccines”, such as reports of blood clots in some younger women and the more recent concerns about myocarditis in some younger men, even though there’s clear evidence that COVID-19 itself poses a far more severe threat to young people’s health than the vaccines that have thus far resulted in a tiny amount of health complications that federal regulators are nonetheless taking very seriously into account.
But as we examined earlier this week, clear medical science is increasingly being muddled and muddied by some incredibly dirty “politics of personal destruction”. A new Politico/Morning Consult national poll and a new Economist/YouGov national poll show how Republican attacks on Dr. Fauci have resulted in a more polarized divide on Americans’ trust (or lack thereof) in Fauci, and the YouGov poll includes even more disturbing numbers on what appears to be hardening opposition to the COVID-19 vaccines among Americans who’ve been the most vaccine hesitant. Though 60% of Americans (according to YouGov) agree with medical scientists’ consensus that COVID-19 poses a more severe health risk than the vaccines, 40% disagree – and digging deeper, a majority of Trump voters, almost half of Millennial and Gen Z voters, and almost half of non-college whites agree with the false statement that the vaccines pose a greater health risk than COVID-19 itself.
As we’ve been noting for several weeks, we’re not reaching a high enough herd immunity threshold to effectively eradicate COVID-19 any time soon. As long as a high enough share of Americans – especially those who are most at risk for contracting and transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus – continue to refuse vaccination, we remain at risk of newer and more potent variants (such as B.1617.2, or “Delta”) causing new rounds of severe outbreaks.
Finally, here’s some TL/DR on the “BS Beads” saga: If we don’t act sooner, “corona scams” will continue to make us sick and broke.
Of all the stories I’ve covered during my life in digital journalism, this may be one of the most personally frustrating. While “KM”’s own empire of scams may be falling, the “BS Beads” company continues to shill across the social media landscape and sell people on the promise of “natural healing stones”. Though the FTC sent a warning letter last September, it remains to be seen what else federal regulatory authorities will do while real people continue to face real and harrowing consequences from these “natural healing stones”.
And really, this illuminates the larger lesson of what happens when we don’t confront “Big Lies” with the honest truth soon enough. We saw it with Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, and their long list of victims. We saw it with NXIVM and law enforcement’s multiple missed opportunities to shut down that dangerous cult before they finally got splashed onto The New York Times‘ front page in October 2017. We continue to see it with the ongoing allure of MLM’s and similarly scammy “business opportunities“. I fear we’re still seeing it with the confluence of Trumpism, QAnon, and the fascist militia movement.
When we allow problems to fester, they usually grow bigger and become more severe. We’ve already been experiencing this the hard way with COVID-19, and it’s increasingly looking like we’re seeing it all over again with the increasingly polarized political fights over the COVID-19 vaccines, and with federal, state, and local governments struggling to overcome the Infodemic. If we don’t take this Infodemic more seriously, not only will bad actors continue to profit off the pandemic, but we may also be in for an even more severe world of illness.
If you or someone you know is facing a major life crisis and struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always there at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). So is the Crisis Text Line, where you can start a conversation with a volunteer counselor by texting “START” to 741741. For LGBTQ+ youth in need of immediate help, the Trevor Project has a 24/7 hotline at 1-866-488-7386 and a text option (text “START” to 678678) available.
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.
The cover photo is a screenshot taken by me.