Conspiracies, frauds, scams, and much more…

FSM Friends’ News and Articles

What does “anti-vaccine” really mean since the pandemic hit? Dr Gorski writes on how the meaning of the term “anti-vaccine” has changed since the pandemic. (Spoiler, it hasn’t changed much).

Many people dismiss the term “anti-vaccine” as mere reflexive labelling. These days, people like Drs. Vinay Prasad, Joseph Ladapo, and other formerly “reputable” doctors howl indignantly when it’s even hinted that they are anti-vaccine … “Oh, no,” they will respond in essence, “we’re not ‘anti-vaccine.’ We’re just trying to argue that the COVID-19 vaccines aren’t safe enough for children.” Unfortunately, they do it using very similar tropes that “old school” anti-vaxxers used to use back in the day to argue against the whole vaccine schedule. There are patterns of belief, Ideology, science denialism and behaviour that are common to antivaccine movement. This both makes anti-vaxxers an unreliable source of information while also making the term “anti-vaccine” a valid criticism.

Often you can tell an anti-vaxxer by their reaction to two questions:
• What vaccines should (in general) be given to all children?
• Which vaccines do you believe are safe?

Gorski also makes a list of common anti-vaccine characteristics:
• Conspiracy mongering about vaccines.
• The “vaccines don’t work” gambit.
• The “vaccines are dangerous” gambit.
• Claiming to be “pro-safe vaccine” while being unrelentingly critical about vaccines.
• Preferring anecdotes over science and epidemiology.
• Cherry picking and misrepresenting the evidence, often using logical fallacies.
• Trying to silence criticism, rather than responding to it.
• Tendency to be right wing, politically.

Science and medicine has a strong need to be apolitical, so it can feel risky to mention a “right wing” characteristic. However it has been disturbing to see the way the anti-vaccine movement has been strongly reinforcing connections with the “post-truth” movement in the far right, and even making connections with fascist groups. “Finally, remember that, now as then, anti-vaccine movement is a denialist movement, very similar to deniers of anthropogenic climate change, science-based medicine, and evolution. As such, it uses the same fallacious strategies and distortions of science to promote its agenda and reacts the same way to criticism. Similarly, the anti-vaccine movement is also far more about ideology than it is about science, which is why it remains so stubbornly resistant to reason and science”

‘Verified’ anti-vax accounts proliferate as Twitter struggles to police content: Twitter’s paid-for blue ticks are giving the appearance of validity to accounts spreading vaccine misinformation. Anti-vax propaganda has been increasing during the pandemic and many of these posts are in violation of Twitter’s COVID-19 misleading information policy.

Facebook promoting dangerous and even banned supplements: “Consumer Reports examined dietary supplement advertisements appearing on the platform. Perhaps not surprisingly, it found advertisements for implausible, unproven, and even prohibited supplements.”

Medicare and Alternative Medicine: “Acupuncture is a myth that posits acupuncture points and meridians that have never been shown to exist… Medicare’s coverage is not based on rigorous science.”

Study – For lowering cholesterol, statins work, supplements don’t: There are two strategies proven to significantly improve cholesterol profile and cardiovascular health – lifestyle factors, and statin drugs. Supplements are basically drown in the noise of the evidence, and have either been shown to be useless or at best have a modest effect that is difficult to pin down. Supplements are not a substitute for the first two strategies.

Criticism and quality control ≠ “Censorship and defamation”: “You will see them misrepresenting accurate criticism as ‘defamation’ and attacking any attempts at quality control in journals and the media to correct misinformation as ‘censorship.’ Of course, one key component of defamation is that it is not truthful; so they’re misdirection fails right there for that word at least.”

The war on the science-based regulation of medicine accelerates: “The anti-vaccine movement appears to have been absorbed by a much larger enterprise, one that opposes public health interventions, including vaccines, but also wants to weaken or eliminate all the systems in place to regulate physicians and the practice of medicine.”

A popular home remedy causes severe burns in pediatric patients: Not good for vampires or as a topical remedy for children, where it is capable of causing burns. Stick to culinary use.

What makes a COVID-19 “contrarian” doctor—or any quack? In this article, Orac explores the history and patterns that lead to the forming of a contrarian doctor. Of course it is easy to argue that any particular doctor is NOT a crank, but is following a genuine belief. Yet there are common patterns and shortcomings that would appear to make a crank different from a genuine professional that may simply have a divergent opinion.

“The three main characteristics … key to understanding cranks were:
• A pre-existing belief in alternative medicine.
• Arrogance that the physician knows better than his medical profession and specialty.
• Ideology.
• Ego gratification (particularly from patients) that comes with being a “brave maverick doctor” practicing medicine outside the mainstream.”

It is interesting to watch the way the behaviour contrarian doctors often follows ego gratification, and a need to stoke support than any interest in the truth and ethics of a situation.

Audience capture – when COVID influencers follow their followers: “Be careful not to develop a brand and cultivate followers you must continually impress – instead of leading your followers, you might become their follower.”

Does the mass infection of unvaccinated young people follow the “basic principles of public health”? “I was unable to find any evidence from any prior epidemics where public health authorities purposefully exposed unvaccinated children and young people to a dangerous pathogen after a vaccine was available, using them as human shields to “protect the vulnerable”.”

A $2.6M insurance fraud by chiropractors and doctors? It is alleged that patients from 12 clinics were being falsely evaluated so that they could all be funnelled to the most profitable insurance claims. “The insurer alleges these providers used a “predetermined protocol” for all patients and a patient referral system for services that were either not performed or were not medically necessary for the individual patients. Instead, the services were carried out to enrich the defendants by exploiting the patients’ eligibility for PIP benefits, according to the complaint. These treatments were administered to almost every patient on almost every visit, regardless of each patient’s unique circumstances and needs.”

Now in this case the fraud complaint is related to the production of false documentation, and a systematic approach to extract insurance money under false pretenses. But one has to consider the ethical measures that were mentioned
• To fail to accurately determine the medical needs of the patient.
• To fail to provide care that was medically necessary.

How is that different from the provision of ANY pseudo-scientific health woo? That is just how alternative medicine works. Ignore the actual evidence to make up an alternative diagnosis, then provide care that is ineffective and not supported by scientific evidence. How is this process not considered a form of fraud? And Chiropractic has a very poor history of being able to provide evidence of benefit. So if we are actually enforcing standards, how much of the services provided by chiropractors could be called into question?

Impressive new data on the benefit of childhood vaccines: “While I don’t think that any new data is likely to convince large numbers of anti-vaccine holdouts, perhaps there are still a few vaccine hesitant parents out there whose minds can be changed. In that effort, it is always nice to have updated information on just how effective childhood immunizations are. Today I will discuss just that.” TLDR: The current childhood immunization schedule for kids 10 and younger prevented roughly 24 million cases of disease in 2019 and likely every other year as well.


Charlie Teo, the profit of hope. How neurosurgeon left families with a terrible price to pay:  “Controversial neurosurgeon Charlie Teo has charged families extraordinary amounts of money for ultimately futile operations that have catastrophically injured patients… There should be some regulation to stop this. If someone is giving false hope, then it’s like a scam,” said Prasanta Barman, who is plagued by guilt, following the horrific outcome of the futile surgery Teo performed on his only child who had an incurable inoperable brain tumour (DIPG). Paediatric oncologist Mark Kieran … said any attempt at resection or removal of a DIPG could only result in “neurologic devastation and eventual death either from the surgery or your tumour”. Yet Dr Teo was willing to operate anyway. Asked if there was any clinical or research data anywhere in the world that shows a benefit from resecting DIPGs, one of America’s pre-eminent paediatric neurosurgeons, Professor Mark Souweidane, said bluntly: “Absolutely not, doesn’t exist.” Dr Teo cast doubt on the diagnosis of his professional colleagues, labeling the field as ‘rife with misinformation’. But one must ask: What evidence is Dr Teo following?”

Science-based satire – Experts are warning parents about a new and highly potent synthetics sugar: Often there is a health issue that has genuine risk and requires a considered response. However, the discourse can become completely unbalanced with many sources competing with each other to say how terrible the risk is, often spreading myths rather than genuine news. In such cases the best response is satire.

Osteopathy needs science to lend a hand: “When we trim the obvious nonsense off the osteopathy tree, we are left with a plausible assumption: that moving limbs around and massaging certain spots of the body might alleviate musculoskeletal pain. Even there, however, osteopathy flounders.”

Drugstore chains could pay for homeopathy’s questionable claims: “Skeptic and debunker James Randi would frequently demonstrate the inefficacy of homeopathic remedies by downing an entire bottle of homeopathic sleep aids on-stage during speeches, as he discussed in a YouTube video embedded in a 2011 NPR article. The stunt inspired a yearly event by UK skeptic group 10:23 Campaign where members would megadose homeopathic sleep aids — sometimes at one million times the recommended dose — to demonstrate that they had no effect.”

Granola and Guns – The rise of conspirituality: “The most reproduced finding in the literature on conspiracy ideation is that the more someone believes in a conspiracy theory, the more likely they are to believe in other conspiracy theories. The true explanation for an event, like 9/11 or the Holocaust, are repudiated and a slew of alternative explanations, all contradicting each other, are embraced. Conspirituality takes this irrationality even further. It is an octopus with endless tentacles, grabbing hold of all sorts of pseudosciences, religious beliefs, conspiracy theories, and spiritual wishes. Supplements coexist with semi-automatic weapons. Organic food is served to flag-waving libertarians. Microbiome hype is sold to anti-vaxxers. It is a strange, alternate reality in which intuition, faith, and fierce individualism guide one’s thoughts.”

Today’s Abused Health Concept 

Misuse of vaccine reporting data. Anti-vax weaponization of v-safe – like VAERS on steroids: A favourite tactic of vaccine fear mongers is to look at the uncontrolled, non-causal data of reporting systems, and go fishing for anything that they can twist into a scary sounding message. The important thing to recognise is that the informal data from systems like VAERS or V-SAFE is that it CAN NOT prove a casual relationship. The purpose of these reporting systems is to generate questions, not to provide answers. The adverse events reported could be caused by anything in a persons life, or could even be misreported by members of the public. It’s only correlated by time, and as we all know, correlation is not causation.  These reporting system’s merely provide an opportunity to notice any worrying signals “just in case”. If a worrying signal happens to be found, nothing is proven at that point. The signal would need to be investigated to see if it is even real (or just a statistical fluke), and whether it even has anything to do with the vaccines. None of this can be established by just looking at the reporting data. 

“In other words, VAERS and v-safe are a hypothesis-generating, not hypothesis testing, systems. The hypotheses generated from the signals in both systems first must be compared to the base rate of conditions in the general population and then tested using better systems and datasets, such as the VSD.” And yet anti-vaxxers love to dig into reporting data to create fear and to claim proof of vaccine harm. This is either incompetent, dishonest or both. “As I like to point out, anti-vaxxers always cite VAERS (and now v-safe) and only rarely, if ever, cite other, much better and more reliable, vaccine safety monitoring databases. Now that anti-vaxxers like Del Bigtree have access to v-safe data through August 1, 2022, I fully expect them to go wild and try to present it in ways designed to deceptively make the COVID-19 vaccines look as bad as possible. It’s what they’ve done with VAERS for longer than I’ve been paying attention to the anti-vaccine movement. There’s no reason to expect that they won’t continue to do it with v-safe.”