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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Quacks Clap for Trump

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss autism quackery.  One particularly dangerous "cure" involves bleach.  Lately, the quacks hawking a bleach solution have rebranded it as a cure for coronavirus.

Anna Merlan at Vice:
As you likely know by now, MMS and other fringe cures are experiencing a fairly stunning moment in the spotlight after President Trump pontificated on April 23 about the possibility that injecting disinfectants could cure COVID-19. After his comments, The Guardian reported that Genesis II's current leader, "Bishop" Mark Grenon, had previously written a letter to Trump promoting MMS as a potential coronavirus cure; Grenon claimed that 30 of his supporters had done the same, and that MMS had also been sent to the White House. A few days later, Trump made his comments promoting disinfectants as a potential cure.
Meanwhile, the promoters of those fake cures are, in a word, delighted. On the day Trump made his comments, Jordan Sather, a prominent QAnon fan and frequent promoter of chlorine dioxide, tweeted, "The day after YouTube cans two of my videos for talking about using a disinfectant to kill coronavirus (chlorine dioxide).... President Trump says they are looking at using disinfectants inside the body to kill coronavirus. That timing though. Can't make it up." Larry Cook, a major promoter of vaccine misinformation on Facebook and the operator of the biggest anti-vaccine group there, also promoted chlorine dioxide the day after Trump's comments, along with a laundry list of other specious cures...
Robin Abcarian at The Los Angeles Times:
About five years ago, Melissa Eaton, 40, a mom in Salisbury, N.C., whose 10-year-old son has autism, banded together with other mothers of autistic children to infiltrate pseudoscience groups on social media that were promoting questionable autism treatments, including chlorine dioxide, the industrial bleach sold by Genesis and others. In 2013, she said, a disciple of Grenon’s, Kerri Rivera, began promoting the bleach as a cure for autism. Rivera moved to Mexico after Illinois shut down her business. She is now believed to be living in Germany with the father of an autistic child who sought her services in Mexico.
“When I saw the abuse and harm, it wasn’t something I could let go of,” Eaton told me, adding that she sees her son as someone whose brain works differently, not someone who needs curing. “I saw photos of children’s bloody intestinal lining on their diapers. They had given their children this product and this is what came out. And the fact was they thought it was a parasite and autism was leaving.”

John J. Pitney, Jr. at  USA Today:
President Donald Trump is un-American in many ways. He disregards our Constitution and laws. He denies the central truth of our Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal. He defends Vladimir Putin’s attack on American exceptionalism. And he undercuts science.
For Trump, “science” is whatever makes him feel good or serves his short-term interests. Whereas real scientists devote their lives to rigorous testing, Trump thinks that it’s all in his gut: “I have a natural instinct for science.”

We have recently seen what his gut produces. In late February, he ignored scientific projections and said the number of COVID-19 cases “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” This false hope encouraged his supporters to delay taking protective action. Trump has mused aloud about the curative properties of disinfectant and an anti-malaria drug. The results were predictable and predicted. Supplies of the medication ran short, and disinfectant manufacturers had to warn customers not to drink their wares.
Trump claims to be pro-vaccine but he has pushed the thoroughly debunked notion that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism. “If I were President,” he tweeted in 2014, “I would push for proper vaccinations but would not allow one time massive shots that a small child cannot take - AUTISM.” Even worse, he added: “I am being proven right about massive vaccinations—the doctors lied. Save our children & their future.” So besides hawking misinformation, he was actively undermining confidence in medicine.