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The Hydropathic Doctor, Honoré Daumier
‘The Hydropathic Doctor’ by Honoré Daumier, as published in “La Caricature” in 1842. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Honoré Daumier / Wikimedia

Are you buying what the team's selling? You could pay for it in more ways than one.

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Last week, I told you about a smear campaign against a doctor writing for WhoWhatWhy who debunks misleading vaccine information being disseminated by various forces, including those aligned with the RFK Jr. campaign. The attack went after our news organization itself for refusing to stand by while this country is flooded with harmful nonsense.

Since last week’s missive, we’ve discovered the extent to which others share our outrage. Plenty of people are up in arms about this dishonest assault on honest and qualified people trying to protect the public’s health, a component of the aggressive anti-science trollery flooding our communication channels and our brains. 

Before I get into that, though, a reminder about our writer, Dr. Allison Neitzel. 

A Dangerous Thing to Do

Neitzel has consistently laid bare the deception at the root of anti-vaxxer propaganda — both here on our site and in appearances in the legacy media, including NBC and CNN. This made her a target. As I previously noted, an anti-vax advocate, Paul D. Thacker, has now come after her big time.

Because the facts were not on his side, he could not attack the substance of her analysis — so he attacked her credibility, claiming to have “caught” her lying about her medical credentials, and mocked her as if she were not a real doctor. 

Thacker exploited the fact that Neitzel refers to herself as a “physician-researcher” and that, in some states, a “physician” is defined as someone who is licensed to treat patients. Neitzel — who graduated from an accredited medical school — is deeply involved in research, not patient care, so, of course she would not apply for a license. But this does not mean she is not a doctor. (On the other hand, she lives in Wisconsin, one of the states that restricts the use of the word “Physician.”)

The issue is, many people use “doctor” and “physician” interchangeably. So, they may think, if Neitzel is not a physician — then she must not be a doctor at all — and it appears that Thacker was counting on this misdirection to deliver a knockout blow. 

His faux “exposé” was immediately spread, “liked” and “shared” by agenda-driven promoters of disinformation, and echoed by the cult of the ignorant, who blindly  trust the promoters

After last week’s column, readers applauded  our vigorous defense of Neitzel, and our exposure of the campaign to destroy her reputation and distract from the facts she was trying to report.

Disinformation wildfires spread fast in the educationally arid landscapes of the digital age and they are always harder to put out than ignite, especially when fire pays so well. But through collaborating with qualified figures we are trying to mitigate the damage and maybe even replant some fact-based knowledge.

Lithograph by Honoré Daumier, about 1930.

Lithograph by Honoré Daumier, about 1930.
Photo credit: National Library of Poland / Wikimedia

More and more doctors are recognizing and sharing our work. And a certain breed of doctors are outspoken themselves. 

One, David H. Gorski, M.D., Ph.D. — a cancer specialist who also fights anti-vaxxer disinformation and has himself been targeted by Thacker and his cohorts —  opined that he views the rapid spread of this type of inaccurate hit piece as agenda-driven distortion:

First, one outlet publishes an attack, and then, almost before you know it, the whole quack crankosphere is singing the same tune and attacking the same target at the same time with variations of the same message.

One such example is from a former CBS journalist, Sharyl Attkisson, who now works with the RFK Jr. campaign, and writes for The Epoch Times, a far-right publication that promotes anti-vaxxer views, Trump’s lies about the election, and other dangerous agenda-driven nonsense. (Attkisson also appeared open to the possibility that QAnon is legitimate.)  After amplifying the original erroneous charge against Neitzel, she then hawks her book: 

It should be noted that the woman admitting to disinformation, Dr. Allison Neitzel, MD, is founder of the independent research group MisinformationKills. This adds to the lesson that those claiming to fact-check, or accusing others of misinformation, are often the guilty parties themselves. Sometimes they are propagandists shilling for the pharmaceutical industry. I hope you’re [sic] preorder my new book Follow the $cience, available everywhere.

Note her remark, “shilling for the pharmaceutical industry.” This is the ultimate panacea, and the only explanation for any and all criticism they get: Big Pharma money. They expect it to completely neutralize — that is, stop in its tracks — all well-documented proof of false claims. Using it requires no originality or intellect. Just spray it on any critic! All anti-vaxxers seem to come equipped with it, from the least educated to the most heavily credentialed. Some may recall this tactic —  using an unsupported and baseless allegation —  from the days of Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn. 

And then, of course, there is religion. Always use religion when arguing over science! Magical Thinking syllogisms built on circular rhetoric don’t require any factual foundations. 

One post (from a substack called FirstFactCheck) praises Neitzel for “repenting,” twists things so that it is the anti-vaxxers’ bogus protocols that are saving lives (rather than costing them), and reminds us that “Jesus died for sinners.” 

These crusaders for the nonexistent anti-vax holy grail rigorously avoid critical thinking — instead absurdly branding any science-based facts that oppose their version of reality as establishment doctrine. Many are just followers of our latter-day Elmer Gantrys.

Which is not surprising when you consider that the king of awful lies, Alex Jones — he of “nobody died at Sandy Hook” infamy — also dismisses vaccines as a giant “globalist”conspiracy, and makes much of his money selling “health” supplements and everything you need to live comfortably in a bomb shelter. 

I couldn’t help noticing how many people in the anti-vax movement also are involved in the sale of supplements, and some of them are among RFK Jr.’s closest advisers. Like Dr. Joseph Mercola, osteopath, and  No. 1 on the list of the “Disinformation Dozen” on vaccines. He sells natural health cures and, in 2017, filed an affidavit claiming his net worth was in excess of $100 million.  

And Patrick Gentempo, chiropractor, entrepreneur, host of Christ Revealed, and creator of Wisdom, “the world’s first Christian daily supplement.” Wisdom is an herbal potion that Gentempo claims reduces wrinkles, lines, and age spots, relieves joint pain, regulates blood sugar levels, fortifies your immune system, and more. (One month’s supply costs $59.) 

See where this is going? Some of the world’s most venal people are taking advantage of easily manipulated, poorly informed, angry folks whose abiding sense is that something is very wrong, and that a cabal of the powerful elite and their “systems of control” must be solely to blame for it. 

From supplements we go to all the money being made off the COVID-era elixirs. A network of right-wing health care companies has been collecting millions from people around the US by promoting, prescribing, and selling unproven and ineffective medications for COVID-19 — primarily ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.  

One study of insurance claims and reimbursements data found that payments towards ivermectin for COVID-19, plugged by right-wing media despite its unproven efficacy, may have topped $130 million in 2021. (It bears repeating that ineffective “supplements” can do grievous harm by diverting gullible buyers from actual remedies and leaving potentially life-threatening illnesses untreated.)

This is how cults function — and it reminds me of my days writing about outfits like Scientology. As its founder, L. Ron Hubbard — who attacked psychiatry and other credentialed forms of medical care; offered his own, vastly more expensive, alternatives; and, surprise!, promoted his own supplements — used to instruct those whose minds he took and pockets he picked as they served him and his empire: 

MAKE MONEY. MAKE MORE MONEY. 

MAKE OTHER PEOPLE PRODUCE SO AS TO MAKE MONEY. 

If you want to know more, well, BUY MY BOOK!  Lol. 

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Author

  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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