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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

COVID-19FeaturesHealthNews and informationPolitical AnalysisThe Economy

This Week in Corona Scams: Pay Dirt

COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care

This Week in Corona Scams, we reach for dirt. Yes really, we’re getting down and dirty with the latest “wellness trend” that became yet another fraudulent COVID-19 “cure” before federal health authorities finally stepped in to shut that 💩💩💩💩 down. 

Wait, are we really talking about dirt? Yes, and the filth doesn’t even stop there. 

No, “both sides” are not equally factual.
Donald Trump, COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine
Photo by Andrew Davey

When we examine the actual science on COVID-19, we notice some clear facts and reality. Yet when we venture out to the increasingly bizarre depths of the traditional mainstream media, that reality becomes very blurred. Case in point: This week’s episode of NBC’s Meet the Press. Though host Chuck Todd occasionally provided a bit of pushback when U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) deployed some very contradictory messaging against vaccine mandates, he nonetheless let it slide when Marshall tossed around his word salad on “natural immunity”.

As we’ve previously noted, post-infection antibodies don’t provide consistent protection across the board. Some COVID-19 survivors got more antibodies, but others were left with fewer. And now that newer variants like Omicron are here, those post-infection antibodies from older variants may already be outdated. In contrast the COVID-19 vaccines provide much greater protection against life-threatening disease against Omicron, especially when the third dose booster kicks in. 

It’s more than bad enough that “Corona Scammers” have built their own disinformation spewing internet empire that reaches so many of the largest “Big Tech” social media platforms. It only gets worse when traditional mainstream media outlets normalize this nonsense by extending their bad habit of false equivalence bothsidesism to medical science and anti-science propaganda. 

No, this is not about “honest differences of opinion” or “noble policy goals”.

As we see with Senator Roger Marshall’s appearance on Meet the Press, the anti-vaccine movement and their allied politicians have been working the media referees to rebrand anti-vaxx agitation as “anti-mandate libertarianism”, “free market, small government conservatism”, and/or “free speech activism”. They insist they’re just against “big government mandates” and “crony capitalism corruption”. However, their words hardly even try to match their deeds.

As we’ve previously explored and exposed, the “alternative wellness” supplement industry relies on the very “political influence” and lack of regulatory oversight that “alternative wellness” gurus accuse the federal government of doing for science-based medicine. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) even include a National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) that’s set to score just over $184 million in federal funding this fiscal year, yet anti-vaxxers never seem to complain about “big government” throwing money at “complementary and alternative medicine” that has yet to be scientifically proven to do much of anything besides separating consumers from their money.

When we take a closer look at who’s calling the shots in the contemporary Republican Party, we see a growing cohort of anti-vaxxers who determine science and health care policies for the GOP. Though anti-science bad faith actors have sought to weasel their way into positions of power in both major parties over the years, there’s a huge contrast between the growing internal pressure within the Democratic Party to shun anti-science quackery and the growing internal pressure within the Republican Party to embrace anti-science quackery. There’s no good reason whatsoever to misattribute any noble cause(s) to one major party’s pledge of allegiance to medical disinformation.

When we allow the truth to be buried, are we really surprised by the emergence of “magic dirt”?

#duet with @kyliejenner Dietitian reviews Kylie Jenner’s diet. #chlorophyll #detox #cleanse #dietitian #nutritionist #mythoughts #mythbusters

♬ need to know x goosebumps longer version DJ Lilli – Lilli

In the past 21 months, we’ve dug through some wildly fallacious “coronavirus cures”. We’ve seen rushes to embrace MMS bleach, anabolic steroids, hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, “BS Beads”, colloidal silver, essential oils, “saucy” supplements, and many more fraudulent “cures” thanks to the ongoing proliferation of “influencers” who profit off medical disinformation. On this note, should anyone be surprised that a new group of “Corona Scammers” emerged to peddle actual dirt?

Oh yes, that’s right: A company called BlackOxygen Organics (BOO) sold what they claimed was “the end product and smallest particle of the decomposition of ancient, organic matter.” Yet for all their touting of the alleged “healing properties” of their products, there is zero scientific evidence proving that fulvic acid enriched dirt cures COVID-19, “detoxes trauma”, removes parasites, “cures” autism, “improves gut health”, “improves brain function”, or “delivers useful oxygen to cells”. 

Yet when Kylie Jenner shared a TikTok video in August featuring her adding fulvic acid to drinking water, that sparked a lot of new interest in this pre-existing wellness fad. Another fulvic acid “magic dirt” peddler – blk – got national exposure a decade prior thanks to ample product placement on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey. And for years, some in the “alternative wellness” world touted fulvic acid’s (unproven) “healing powers”. In case you’re still wondering how and why dirt became “the hottest wellness trend”, look above and keep in mind how trendy celebrities, shady “entrepreneurs”, and quack-a-demiologist “wellness influencers” convinced a critical mass of consumers to try all those other fraudulent “cures”. 

Yes, “magic dirt” really went viral.

In case you’re still wondering why so many people were promoting BlackOxygen Organics all over social media, here’s where we return to the realm of inverted funnel-shaped companies. Throughout the world of multi-level marketing (MLM), companies operate closed markets where participants are compelled to buy products and services from other participants who rank above them (as in – their uplines), and participants are compelled to recruit new participants who will buy products and services from them (as in – their downlines). Sometimes participants can find additional customers, but they tend to learn early on that if they really want to succeed, they must recruit new downlines.

Just like the army of LuLaRoe salespeople who hyped up “unicorns” on their Facebook Lives and Instagram posts, and just like the army of LifeVantage salespeople who hyped up Protandim as a “cancer cure”, BlackOxygen Organics salespeople were encouraged to hype up the “detoxifying power” of their “magic dirt”. Just like LifeVantage, BOO took full advantage of lax federal laws that provide ample leeway for supplement companies to make unsubstantiated medical claims about their products. Just like LuLaRoe, BOO encouraged extreme devotion to their company and their products: There’s a very long virtual paper trail of BOO-linked social media promotions that promised better brain health, better heart health, and even protection from COVID-19.

And just like LuLaRoe and LifeVantage, BlackOxygen Organics went so far in misleading their consumers/salespeople about their products that regulators finally noticed and took action. And since BOO was based in Canada – where consumer safety laws tend to be stronger – Health Canada announced a recall of the company’s fulvic acid dirt based tablets and powders in September. In a disgustingly ironic twist, the very BOO “magic dirt” that was supposed to be “cleansing” and “detoxifying” actually tested for high levels of lead and arsenic that are unsafe for human consumption. 

After Health Canada cracked down, and even after a group of Georgia consumers filed a class action lawsuit in Atlanta federal court, BlackOxygen Organics continued to peddle misleading health claims… Until November 23, when the company suddenly shut down and left salespeople holding the bags of dirt. Just ten days later, the FDA issued an advisory warning consumers not to ingest BOO “magic dirt” products. 

Yes, this crisis goes far beyond “magic dirt”.

So what does “magic dirt” have to do with COVID-19 denial and major (traditional and social) media companies’ failure to do their homework on medical science? Joe Rogan featured BOO “magic dirt” on his podcast in August, fellow mixed martial arts (MMA) celebrities like UFC Hall of Famers Bas Rutten and Pat Miletich endorsed BOO on social media, and the BOO founders’ ties to the “alternative wellness” world helped them appeal to anti-vaxxers. “Big Tech” giants continue to lead from behind on the Influencer Infodemic that thrives on their social media platforms, and far too many traditional mainstream media outlets treat COVID-19 as just another culture war battle instead of the deadly pandemic it actually is.

How many headlines do we see on the 800,000+ Americans who have died of COVID-19? How many headlines do we see on how Joe Rogan and Aaron Rodgers are more trustworthy because they’re so much cooler than those “ivory tower eggheads in white coats”, even though those “ivory tower eggheads in white coats” have medical science credentials that Rogan and Rodgers don’t? How many stories about “long hauler” COVID-19 survivors go viral? How many stories featuring the same old “health versus the economy” false dichotomy go viral? Why are we so willing to conflate medical science with magical thinking?

Photo by Andrew Davey

Unless and until we’re ready, willing, and able to confront the actual truth, we will continue to be consumed by ridiculously dirty lies. BlackOxygen Organics may no longer be selling “magic dirt”, but there are many more “Corona Scammers” out there who continue to shill their heirloom organic snake oil. However you plan to celebrate the rest of the winter holiday season, please stay woke and please pass on those “amazing opportunities” to go broke.

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 was taken by me.

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