Does anyone remember the H1N1 influenza pandemic? As hard as it is to believe, that was five years ago. One thing I remember about the whole thing is just how crazy both the antivaccine movement and conspiracy theorists (but I repeat myself) went attacking reasonable public health campaigns to vaccinate people against H1N1. It was truly an eye-opener, surpassing even what I expected based on my then-five-year experience dealing with the antivaccine movement and quacks. Besides the usual antivaccine paranoia that misrepresented and demonized the vaccine as, alternately, ineffective, full of “toxins,” a mass depopulation plot, and many other equally ridiculous fever dream nonsense, there was the quackery. One I remember quite well was the one where it was claimed that baking soda would cure H1N1. Then there was one of the usual suspects, colloidal silver, being sold as a treatment for H1N1. Then who could forget the story of Desiree Jennings, the young woman who claimed to have developed dystonia from the H1N1 vaccine but was a fraud? Truly, pandemics bring out the crazy, particularly the conspiracy theories, such as the one claiming that the H1N1 pandemic was a socialist plot by President Obama to poison Wall Street executives, which was truly weapons-grade conspiracy mongering stupidity. Oh, wait. That last one was a joke. It’s so hard to tell sometimes with these things.
Yes, pandemics and epidemics do bring out the worst in people in many ways, but particularly in terms of losing critical-thinking abilities. This time around, five years later, it’s Ebola virus disease. To the average person, Ebola is way more scary than H1N1, even though H1N1, given its mode of transmission, had the potential to potentially kill far more people. Now that cases of Ebola virus disease have been reported in the US, the panic has been cranked up to 10 in certain quarters, even though the risk of an outbreak in the US comparable to what is happening in West Africa is minimal. We’ve seen quackery, too, such as homeopaths seriously claiming that they can treat it and quacks advocating high-dose vitamin C to “cure” Ebola. The über-quack Mike Adams is selling a “natural biopreparedness” kit to combat Ebola and pandemics, while the FDA is hard-pressed to track down all the quacks, such as hawkers of “essential oils,” who—of course!—also think that their wares can cure Ebola.
Now, given how afraid everyone is of Ebola, not entirely without some justification (it is a horrible disease, after all, and it is spread by contact with blood and bodily fluids; taking reasonable precautions is prudent), you’d think that everyone could and would get behind the fast-track development of vaccines against the disease. Given that Ebola is a virus and a successful antiviral treatment tends to be considerably more difficult to develop than a successful antibiotic, a vaccine likely represents the best hope for rapidly bringing the current epidemic under control with as little loss of life as possible. Certainly if such a vaccine were to be developed, as it likely will be relatively soon (at least in terms of drug or vaccine development time, given the urgency now that wasn’t there before), you’d think that a vaccine would be welcomed with open arms. And when it comes to most people, at least not antivaccine activists, you’d be right. However…take a look at this video by Barbara Loe Fisher, Grande Dame of the antivaccine movement and founder of the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC):
First, we have a highly cherry-picked timeline designed to make the US and CDC look as incompetent as possible, as Fisher asks a series of “Why?” questions, some semi-reasonable, some pure fear mongering. Then comes the kicker. Near the end of the video, Fisher asks (at the 9:00 mark or so):
And why are experimental Ebola vaccines being fast tracked into human trials and promoted as the final solution rather than ramping up testing and production of the experimental ZPapp drug that has already saved the lives of several Ebola-infected Americans?
I wonder what this “ZPapp” drug is. I’ve never heard of it before. I’m guessing that Fisher means ZMapp. Barbara, Barbara, Barbara. How are we supposed take you the least bit seriously if you can’t even get the name of the main experimental drug currently being tested against Ebola right? Then there’s Fisher’s choice of words to describe experimental vaccines: Final solution. Freudian slip much, Barbara? One wonders if she could be more obvious in her biases against vaccines. In any case, contrary to what Fisher claims it isn’t clear whether ZMapp actually did save the lives of those Americans who survived Ebola. It might have. It might not have. It might have been that those patients would have recovered anyway with supportive care alone. Indeed, at least one patient that I’ve read about received the drug but died anyway. That’s why we need more data and a clinical trial to tell if ZMapp is as effective as we all hope it is, based on preclinical studies in primates. As for “ramping up production,” it’s not as though ramping up production of an experimental drug is as easy as just turning a switch, as I discussed in the context of discussing misguided “right to try” laws. This drug is a humanized monoclonal antibody (like Avastin and Herceptin, for instance). Making such drugs is difficult, expensive, and can’t easily just be “ramped up” instantly.
Of course, to Fisher, this emphasis by public health officials on fast tracking an Ebola vaccine can’t be because it would be a powerful tool in our arsenal to halt the spread of Ebola. Oh, no. it can only mean one thing:
A logical conclusion is that some people in industry, the government, and the World Health Organization did not want the Ebola outbreak to be confined to several nations in Africa because that would fail to create a lucrative global market for mandated use of fast tracked Ebola vaccines by every one of the seven billion human beings living on this planet. Will there be an Ebola outbreak in America? Ask the CDC, WHO, DOD, NIH, and Congress. Learn more about Ebola and Ebola vaccines at NVIC.org. It’s your health, your family, your choice.
Notice how it never occurs to Fisher that the best way to stop an outbreak of an infectious disease is through prevention (i.e., a vaccine, in addition to other public health measures designed to slow the spread of the disease). This is particularly true when the disease in question is a viral disease for which an effective drug is difficult to make. In any case, this is a common theme through the latest crop of Ebola conspiracy theories coming from antivaccine loons like Fisher: The claim, implication, or insinuation that the government either created or at least sustained (and took advantage of) the current Ebola outbreak in order to create a market for vaccines for its pharma overlords, although some variants, as we will see, postulate that the reason for starting and sustaining the epidemic is to create a lucrative market for ZMapp, whose early development was—of course!—funded in part by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Fisher is not alone in promoting paranoid conspiracy theories. All over Twitter and other social media, there are exchanges like this:
@KaiHolloway I cant see any other agenda for the Ebola Feargasm on M$M…fuck I hope im wrong..
— Paul Schmidt (@psc96180_pablo) October 15, 2014
The replies were equally unhinged:
@psc96180_pablo me too brother, but we have seen it coming… as a human being we are entitled to defend our selves. this is fkn bollox!
— no one special (@KaiHolloway) October 15, 2014
That’s right. According to antivaccinationists, the real reason for the Ebola “feargasm” is to promote a toxic mass vaccination program because…well, just because apparently the government wants to poison us in order to…well, I must confess that I really can’t follow the “logic” of this particular conspiracy theory, such as it is. Such is the nature of the conspiracy theories springing up among antivaccinationists about the latest Ebola outbreak. Why would the government want to kill thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands if the epidemic gets out of control in Africa? Antivaccine conspiracy theorists honestly seem to think that the Ebola outbreak is being used as a pretext for mass vaccination programs, rather than proposals for vaccines flowing from the understandable desire of public health officials in the US, Africa, and the rest of the world to stop mass suffering and death as rapidly as possible. Not surprisingly, the paranoia and conspiracy theories are eerily similar to the ones that sprang up five years ago in response to the H1N1 pandemic and the mass vaccination programs instituted by the US and other nations to try to forestall its worst effects.
In fact, the conspiracy theories get even loonier than that. For one thing, there are idiots like Larry Klayman claiming that President Obama actually wants Ebola to become established in the US because he wants to infect white people and make the US more like his “home” in Africa. I kid you not.
However, it is the antivaccine movement that’s really jumped into the Ebola conspiracy-theory pond feet first. Remember the whole “CDC whistleblower” conspiracy theory? It broke on a waiting online world like a massive fart only less than two months ago, back in August. It began when biochemical engineer turned “vaccine expert,” epidemiologist, and, of course, mercury militia member published a truly awful “re-analysis” of a decade-old study (DeStefano et al) that failed to find a correlation between age at MMR vaccination and risk of autism in a case control study. Basically, his “re-analysis” proved Andrew Wakefield wrong in that it found no increased risk of autism attributable to MMR vaccination in all but a very small subgroup in the study, African-American boys, and the numbers for that group were so suspect that virtually everyone with any knowledge of statistics, epidemiology, or experimental design highly doubted they were anything other than an anomaly. Unfortunately, it did spark a ridiculous campaign on the part of the antivaccine fringe, who saw this as “smoking gun proof” of their central conspiracy theory that the CDC covered up The Truth that vaccines cause autism, because, it turns out, a CDC psychologist named William Thompson, who was a co-author on DeStefano et al, had been feeding Brian Hooker information out of some sort of misguided “guilt” over a decade-old scientific disagreement he lost over how to analyze the data. Naturally, there was no evidence presented that the CDC did anything wrong other than the cherry-picked and highly edited quotes and snippets of text from Thompson provided by Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker, the latter of whom had recorded Thompson without his knowledge for months, but that didn’t stop the antivaccine movement from going full mental jacket over this affair.
So, now that they’ve failed to get any traction on the “CDC whistleblower” issue in the mainstream press other than a smackdown by MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow, who made one of the “thinking moms” named Lisa Goes look even more ignorant than usual, angering the “media editor” of the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, how do antivaccinationists explain their failure to get any significant attention despite a whole lot of trying? My explanation is that most reporters know cranks as cranky as this when they see them and, probably more importantly, that Andrew Wakefield is so disgraced and so toxic that his involvement in the story basically killed any opportunity antivaccinationists might have had to get even a bottom feeding “mainstream media” outlet interested in the story. One antivaccinationist’s explanation is that, obviously, Ebola’s the result of a plot to keep the mainstream media from reporting on the “CDC whistleblower” affair:
How is it we suddenly have an Ebola “outbreak” and it is coming to the USA too?
The Ebola outbreak is quite a coincidence – senior CDC scientist Dr Thompson has been talking with Dr Hooker for 10 months about the CDC knowing the MMR vaccine causes autism. The Ebola “problem” was introduced gently to the US public earlier in the year.
Now we have an Ebola “outbreak” in the west just when Hooker’s paper has been published and the admissions about the CDC knowing the MMR vaccine causes Autism issue are breaking news which the mainstream media refuse to report.
And today’s news of a “vaccine” will of course be certain to ensure editors will publish nothing about MMR vaccine causing autism.
Of course to test a new vaccine and a new drug one needs a clinical trial. But people tend not to get Ebola – it has been pretty quiet for a very long time – until now.
And suddenly they ship the sick people off to the USA with all the attendant risks of spreading the disease instead of treating them where they got sick.
Seems a gift for WHO and the CDC but who wrapped it and how long ago?
Because, obviously, the CDC and US government are so nefarious and clever that they foresaw many months ago that in August the whole “CDC whistleblower” thing would blow up, which is why they got an Ebola epidemic in Africa going with enough lead time so that the number of fatalities would be percolating along at the same time, timing it even more ingeniously so that the fear of the disease would be reaching a fever pitch right around the same time those poor, intrepid antivaccinationists were trying to get the attention of the media. Damn, I wish our government functioned so efficiently and with such purpose! Obviously, it doesn’t. But it’s still a hell of a conspiracy theory. Well, not really.
That doesn’t stop the “Vaccine Information Network” from asking Ebola: yet another fake pandemic set up to poison us with drugs and vaccines? The cranks at the VIN do realize that usually when the title of an article is in the form of a question, the answer to that question is, “No,” don’t they? Apparently not, because clearly Jon Rappaport (remember him?) believes that it is. And guess what? He even likens it to H1N1 in this interview:
Q: What is the major psychological factor at work here?
A: Above all else, it is people making an automatic connection between their own frightening image of Ebola and the statement, “So-and-so is sick.”
Q: “Sick” doesn’t automatically = Ebola?
A: That’s right, even when an authority says some person is sick and in the hospital and has Ebola.
Q: Is the Ebola epidemic a fraud, in the same way that Swine Flu was a fraud?
A: In the summer of 2009, the CDC stopped counting cases of Swine Flu in the US.
A: Because lab tests on samples taken from likely and diagnosed Swine Flu cases showed no presence of the Swine Flu virus or any other kind of flu virus.
Q: So the CDC was caught with its pants down.
A: Around its ankles. It was claiming tens of thousands of Americans had Swine Flu, when that wasn’t the case at all. So why should we believe them now, when they say, “The patient was tested and he has Ebola.” The CDC is Fraud Central.
Q: Where is the fraud now, when it comes to counting Ebola cases and labeling people with the Ebola diagnosis?
A: The diagnostic tests being run on patients—the antibody and PCR tests are most frequently used—are utterly unreliable and useless.
Q: Therefore, many, many people could be labeled “Ebola,” when that is not the case at all?
Q: But people are sick and dying.
A: People are always sick and dying. You can find them anywhere you look. That doesn’t mean they’re Ebola cases.
Q: In other words, medical authorities can place a kind of theoretical grid over sick and dying people and reinterpret them as “Ebola.”
A: Exactly. The map can be drawn in any number of ways.
Got that? Back in 2009, apparently (if you believe Rappaport), it wasn’t H1N1 that was sickening people, and now in 2014 it’s not Ebola that is killing people in West Africa and has infected a handful of people in the US. What is the cause? According to Rappaport, it’s not the virus. Basically, it’s protein-calorie malnutrition, hunger, starvation, extreme poverty, contaminated water supplies, overall lack of basic sanitation, a decade of horrific war, toxic medical drugs, prior toxic vaccine campaigns, and the like that cause destruction of immune systems, leading to:
Then, any germ that sweeps through the population, a germ that would ordinarily be defeated, instead kills many people. Why? Because the immune system is too weak to respond. With healthy and strong immune systems, the germs would have no significant effect.
This is, of course, utter BS. Rappaport, as usual, argues by assertion and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s amazing how constant the forms of infectious disease denialism are. Just like HIV/AIDS denialism blamed “lifestyle” and immune compromise due to drugs, anal sex, and “lifestyle,” claiming that AIDS is not caused by HIV, Ebola virus denialism claims that what is being diagnosed as Ebola is in fact not due to Ebola but to “toxins,” malnutrition, and, of course, vaccines. Notice the striking similarity to HIV/AIDS denialism claims. One wonders why, if these conspiracy theorists truly believe that a normal healthy immune system in a person living a healthy lifestyle and eating the “right” foods can ward off Ebola, they don’t immediately head over to West Africa to help out in the relief efforts! (Actually, I ask the same question about Homeopaths Without Borders. Why don’t they head over to Africa and help out?)
Delusions upon delusions, to Rappaport, the whole thing is a plot to drive demand for products made by big pharma, such as vaccines. Naturally, as with all good disease conspiracies, Rappaport drives it with claims that the case numbers are being “manipulated,” labeling the Ebola outbreak as a “hoax,” claims that the tests are “unreliable” (they’re not; while it’s true that early in the course of symptomatic Ebola infection the disease resembles a lot of other viral diseases, there are a number of sensitive and accurate diagnostic tests, including PCR, ELISA, and, ultimately, virus isolation); and claims from the inventor of PCR, Kary Mullis, from whom Rappaport cites a 1996 quote claiming that “quantitative PCR is an oxymoron.” It’s not; I’ve been doing highly accurate quantitative real time PCR in my lab for 14 years now, and it’s a routine technique in molecular biology labs. In 1996, reliable quantitative PCR hadn’t been perfected yet, but today it’s a routine, every-day test.
Of course, it’s not just the CDC, at least not according to Yoichi Shimatsu, but it’s apparently the UN, too. According to the Shimatsu, Ebola outbreaks coincided with vaccination campaigns by World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN children’s agency UNICEF. To others, however, the Ebola outbreak is not so much a plot to enrich big pharma but rather US-sponsored bioterror. At least, so sayeth someone calling himself Prof. Jason Kissner. Kissner, it turns out, is a criminologist and a birther, but with a twist. While he accepts that President Obama was born in Hawaii, but claims that he holds dual citizenship as an Indonesian. In fact, Kissner is all over the conspiracy sites, and his arguments about Ebola are no more coherent than his arguments about the President’s birth certificate. He also thinks that the “the racial “dialogue we’ve been hectored about for several decades is in reality no ‘dialogue’ at all; it is a monologue imposed by the powerful in order to decimate the values and individuality of the powerless.” After worrying about whether the virus responsible for the current outbreak might have gone airborne, he goes on to invent a conspiracy theory in which the current outbreak is due to a bioengineered variant of Ebola that’s more contagious than previous strains. He bases this almost entirely on an article in the New England Journal of Medicine from April about the emergence of the Zaire strain of Ebola in Guinea, which notes that the Guinea strain in West Africa is distinct:
According to the initial epidemiologic investigation, the suspected first case of the outbreak was a 2-year-old child who died in Meliandou in Guéckédou prefecture on December 6, 2013 (Figure 2). A second investigation confirmed the origin of the outbreak in Meliandou but revealed a somewhat different timing of the early events (including the death of Patient S1 at the end of December and the deaths of Patients S2, S3, and S4 in January). Patient S14, a health care worker from Guéckédou with suspected disease, seems to have triggered the spread of the virus to Macenta, Nzérékoré, and Kissidougou in February 2014. As the virus spread, 13 of the confirmed cases could be linked to four clusters: the Baladou district of Guéckédou, the Farako district of Guéckédou, Macenta, and Kissidougou. Eventually, all clusters were linked with several deaths in the villages of Meliandou and Dawa between December 2013 and March 2014.
In a nutshell, both the Shimatsu conspiracy theory and Kissner’s conspiracy theory rely on an appeal to incredulity. Just because Kissner and Shiamatsu can’t believe that Ebola could remain dormant for years and then reemerge to cause this outbreak, to them something else must be going on. For instance, Shimatsu writes:
The mystery at the heart of the ebola outbreak is how the 1995 Zaire (ZEBOV) strain, which originated in Central Africa some 4,000 km to the east in Congolese (Zairean) provinces of Central Africa, managed to suddenly resurface now a decade later in Guinea, West Africa.
Kissner’s contribution to this argument from incredulity is that he can’t believe that the distinct strain of Ebola could have arisen naturally and then found its way from Zaire all the way to West Africa without human intervention. I bet you can guess what that intervention is:
And, we seem to have a single introduction of the Guinea (West African) Ebola variant into the human population. Thus, we seem not to have, for example, something along the lines of multiple bites of humans by supposedly Guinea variant Ebola infected fruit bats.
Finally, the Western Africa Ebola outbreak does not appear to be traceable to Central Africa or anywhere else, and so we still do not know how Ebola got to West Africa.
To Kissner, this of course means that it must have been US bioterrorism that introduced this “new” Ebola strain into the human population in Guinea in order to…what? Why? To Kissner, it’s all about the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp, which was only identified as a potential Ebola drug candidate in January 2014:
Does “ZMapp was first identified as a drug candidate in January 2014” mean that ZMappwas [sic] designed from the ground up, pretty much when the outbreak began, with the specific purpose of treating the Guinea Ebola variant (see above for timing of the outbreak)? Or, does it mean that ZMapp was repurposed in some way to grapple with the Guinea variant? Or does it perhaps mean something else entirely?
That “something else entirely” to Kissner is that the makers of ZMapp knew about the new Guinea variant and designed ZMapp to combat it. Apparently Kissner has never heard of crossreactivity of antibodies. Or perhaps he has but just doesn’t believe it:
Perhaps Mapp had been in the process of designing ZMapp so that it could successfully attack already extant Ebola variants, and whatever properties made it effective against those already extant variants also transferred to the novel Guinea variant?
But if that is so, ZMapp should prove successful against variants of Ebola other than the Guinea variant. Will it?
If it doesn’t prove successful against variants of Ebola other than the Guinea variant, I do not see how one can logically avoid the conclusion that the West African rooted, Guinea variant of Ebola amounts to U.S. government linked bioterror.
Unless, of course, one is willing to invoke what amounts to a miraculous stroke of luck consisting in the design of a solution that successfully attacks something that’s never been seen before and was not anticipated—even though the solution fails against related versions of the same problem.
In closing, please note that the U.S. act of bioterror explanation economically accounts for all three U.S. lies discussed in the article. It explains why the U.S. government is lying about the airborne status of Ebola, why the U.S. government/MSM hybrid is in no hurry to disclose the geographical and virological novelties of the Guinea variant, and, finally, why the U.S. government, out of one side of its mouth, wants to act like its “miracle experimental drug” had to be pried out of its greedy and comprehensive regulatory hands.
“Economically accounts for”? You keep using that phrase, Mr. Kissner. I do not think it means what you think it means.
That’s one hell of a plot, isn’t it? Of course, ZMapp has been under development at least since 2012 and the antibody cocktail against Ebola virus used went through at least three distinct iterations, its latest composition having been arrived at in early 2014 based on testing in rhesus macaque primates. I suppose that means that those nefarious Department of Defense funders who helped fund the drug and Leaf Biopharmaceutical Inc., the company currently developing ZMapp, must have planned even further ahead than even Kissner could know. Or maybe there’s just good crossreactivity of this antibody cocktail to multiple strains of Ebola.
Shimatsu disagrees. Although his logical fallacy is also an appeal to personal incredulity, unlike Kissner, he thinks it’s all due to the UN vaccine programs:
The reason for suspecting a vaccine campaign rather than an individual carrier is due to the fact that the ebola contagion did not start at a single geographic center and then spread outward along the roads. Instead. Simultaneous [sic] outbreaks of multiple cases occurred in widely separated parts of rural Guinea, indicating a highly organized effort to infect residents in different locations in the same time-frame.
But how and why? Shimatsu has a ready answer:
Repeated dosages of potent toxins on populations with poor health, which no public-health agency in the Western world dares attempt inside its own borders, can have harmful side effects, especially on children. The casualties of vaccination have gone unreported by the media and buried under official cover-ups. Even worse, vaccine programs could well have been used to conceal human testing of antibodies that originated in biological warfare labs for the purpose of mass murder of entire nations.
Yes, according to Shimatsu, the MSF, UNICEF, WHO, CDC, NIH, USAMRIID and, as Shimatsu puts it, the “rest of the alphabet soup of the hypocritical oafs of pharmaco-witchcraft” are all just that evil.
Throughout history, infectious disease has brought out the best and worst in humanity. The best, like Doctors Without Borders, go selflessly straight into the hearts of epidemics in order to treat the ill, try to prevent further spread of the disease, and alleviate suffering wherever they can. The worst, like antivaccinationists and conspiracy theorists like Kissner and Shimatsu, try to deny the cause of the disease in favor of conspiracy theories that demonize the very organizations trying to help its victims and companies trying to make vaccines to prevent it and drugs to treat it. Every misstep of the CDC and other health authorities is magnified and taken advantage of by antivaccinationists to make the non sequitur claim that, if the CDC makes mistakes handing the Ebola outbreak it must be wrong when, based on existing science, it correctly states that vaccines do not cause autism.
What’s really depressing is that, at the heart of these conspiracy theories is a belief that public health officials, doctors, governments, the UN and WHO, and pharmaceutical companies are so irredeemably evil that they would willingly start an outbreak of a deadly disease like Ebola in impoverished African nations, but, realizing that no one cares about Africans that much, make sure it spreads to the US to cause a panic, and then let the disease kill many thousands, all in order to create a market for drugs and vaccines. Oh, and those drugs and vaccines are toxic. Truly, the delusional nature of such conspiracy theories is depressing to behold.