Adam Gold at Rolling Stone:
Late last month, proponents of alternative-health treatments descended upon the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville for a three-day event billed as “The Truth About Cancer.” At least it looked that way. While the symposium’s title suggested a gathering of health nuts, it was more so a convention for anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, and pseudo-scientists.
“Reclaiming America, Health Freedom & Personal Liberty” proclaimed a banner on the event’s website, where packages for the Oct. 22-24 weekend were on sale for $300 for three-day attendance to $1,000 for access to a VIP “mix and mingle” and a DVD recording of each presentation. “The Truth About Cancer Live” was presented by Ty and Charlene Bollinger, a Tennessee husband and wife who rail against chemotherapy, are fond of words like “plandemic,” and post conspiracy theories on their website with titles like “The Truth About the Assassination of MLK.” Not surprisingly, they don’t believe in Covid vaccines either.
But their keynote speaker — Eric Trump — did.
“I’m actually a guy who got the vaccine, right? There’s other people who I know who are very near and dear to me that hadn’t, and that’s their choice to make,” Trump told Charlene Bollinger during a red-carpet interview, before proclaiming to take a wait-and-see approach toward the vaccine vs. anti-vax argument. “You can make that choice. And we’ll see, ultimately, who is right.”
Right-wing figureheads like Trump and Stone aren’t chemo deniers, but they can’t resist a speaking fee, or an opportunity to rile up gullible conservatives already punch-drunk on grievance politics. As Oren Segal, Vice President of the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism and host of the podcast Extremely, tells Rolling Stone, gatherings like “The Truth About Cancer Live” are breeding grounds for bad ideas.
“This has been quote-unquote ‘mainstream’ now for a while,” Segal says. “These narratives [have brought] what some would consider legitimate voices together with more fringe [figures] throughout the country for some time, and so obviously the big concern is the more that you have people who have a significant reach or a voice, who are giving voice to conspiracies that seek to undermine democratic institutions, the more that disinformation gets normalized and the more potential for polarization there is.”
Matt Novak at Gizmodo:
Ben Garrison, a right-wing cartoonist known for his opposition to vaccines and his extremely flattering drawings of former President Donald Trump, told Gizmodo late Sunday that he contracted covid-19 and has been sick for about two weeks. But allegedly getting covid hasn’t changed Garrison’s mind about modern medical science.
Garrison, who lives in Montana, believes that he got covid-19 while dining out at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago. Montana has seen a disturbing rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with about 900 new cases each day.
“Yes, it’s definitely Covid and we’ve had all the symptoms. My wife and [I] went out with a couple to a restaurant and the next day all four of us were sick. One of us went to see a doctor and was told she had Covid, and that was the clincher,” Garrison told Gizmodo via email. (Garrison has been banned from Twitter for supporting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.)
“We’re taking Ivermectin and various vitamins including a lot of Zinc,” Garrison continued, explaining what he’s doing to treat the disease. The cartoonist also notes he’s taking beet root juice. None of this has been proven to treat or prevent covid-19, with monoclonal antibodies and vaccines being the only real ways to fight this pandemic, which is still raging in many parts of the world.