A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting on the phone with Ms. Fiona O’Leary of County Cork, Ireland.
Fiona is a force of nature – she’s a mother of five children, two of whom are autistic and she herself sits on the autism spectrum.
However, what makes Fiona more special than she already is, is her stalwart defence of the interests of autistic children and her intimately connected battle with the forces of quackery – in other words, don’t get in Fiona’s way!
Quackery has always been with us – from the snake-oil salesman selling bottles of mystery elixir from the back of a buckboard, to the modern anti-vaxxer soliciting contributions from blogs and Go Fund Me pages – they fulfill the maxim often attributed to P.T. Barnam: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” (Barnum was an American businessman who promoted several celebrated hoaxes and founded the Barnum & Bailey Circus – Ed.)
While that might seem little more than a slightly humorous example of caveat emptor (buyer beware), it isn’t all that simple, not by a long, long shot (pun intended).
Dr. Andrew Wakefield began the whole anti-vaccination mess with a short paper he wrote some 20 years ago and managed to publish in The Lancet, a most prestigious publication. The Lancet eventually withdrew the paper and Wakefield was struck off the U.K. medical register for “unethical behaviour, misconduct and dishonesty for authoring a fraudulent research paper that claimed a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism and bowel disease.”
You would think that would be the end of that, wouldn’t you?
Well, you would be wrong – that was simply the beginning. Today, Wakefield (no longer Dr. Wakefield) is still flogging the whole MMR-vaccine-causes-autism message and there is no shortage of celebrities and opportunists who back the criminal quackery that surrounds the movement.
Remember Fiona? She has been sued, she has suffered endless personal attacks and had her life and family threatened.
The bottom line regarding autism is that it is not caused by vaccinations – period! That has been determined by valid science, ad infinitum.
What is equally evident is that the anti-vaxx movement constitutes a potential public health risk – vaccines, on the other hand, save millions of lives, and that is certain.
If that weren’t lunacy enough, into our story walks Jim Humble. Humble, according to the CBC, proclaims himself to be, “a billion-year-old god from the Andromeda Galaxy who has come with others to save Earth,” – he established the Genesis II Church that he uses to flog Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS).
Humble touts MMS as a cure for most everything from autism to cancer.
The trouble is that MMS – also known as Chlorine Dioxide Solution (CDS) – is actually just industrial bleach. It will clean your toilet and bleach cloth, but it most surely isn’t intended for consumption.
Despite this, countless desperate parents have resorted to having their children drink industrial bleach, washing their children with industrial bleach and administering industrial bleach enemas to those same children.
These aren’t evil parents intent on harming their children – they are desperate and vulnerable people who are looking for a miracle cure when there is none, people who have been gathered into what cannot be described as anything other than a cult.
Before my contact with Fiona I had never heard of MMS – most of us probably have not, but Humble and his crowd have made the Genesis II Church quite a success through social media.
They sell memberships, books and online courses to turn you into a ‘health minister’ or even a ‘bishop’ qualified they say to administer the MMS “sacraments” in their “non-religious” church. They even have a ‘genuine’ membership card’ (what else would it be?) which they advise all children carry to “prevent vaccination.”
The Canadian government is trying to fight this chicanery and indeed it is illegal to distribute MMS in Canada, a fact made clear to Stanley Nowak, a B.C. resident who in 2018 became the first person in Canada to be convicted for his packaging and sale of the product.
But while it slowed Nowak, it hasn’t slowed Genesis II – they continue to spread the MMS message around the world in countries with lax or non-existent protections against their particular brand of lies.
The cynical disclaimer on their website pretty much sums up who they are: “The reader accepts 100% responsibility for any and all use made of any information herein.”
What is that “responsibility”? Health Canada says: “Ingesting sodium chlorite in the concentrations contained in MMS products can cause poisoning, kidney failure, harm to red blood cells, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, among other harms.”
So while taking the “non-religious sacraments” of “a billion-year-old god” from Andromeda may result in profound physical harm or even death to children who have no voice in what is inflicted on their persons, we are told that the responsibility for that harm does not sit at the feet of the hawkers and their shills.
Well, if that is true we need to make some serious changes in our country, indeed.
Our legal and social tolerance for these dangerous scams should be exactly zero.
Snake oil is a traditional Chinese medicament utilizing fat extracted from the Chinese water snake, an ointment applied topically to relieve minor physical pain. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many centuries, and is a relatively common medication prescribed by doctors ascribing the practice of traditional Chinese medicine. In Western culture, snake oil is most commonly associated with a placebo, panacea and/or deceptive marketing. Its association in Western culture lies in the fact that many 19th-century U.S. and 18th-century European entrepreneurs advertised and sold mineral oil (often mixed with various active and inactive household herbs, spices, and compounds, but containing no properties of snakes,) as “snake oil liniment”, making frivolous claims about its efficacy as a panacea. Patent medicines that claimed to be a cure-all panacea were extremely common from the 18th until the 20th century, particularly among vendors masking addictive drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine, alcohol and opium-based concoctions and/or elixirs, to be sold as medication and/or products promoting health at medicine shows.