Republicans in Missouri just passed legislation outlawing an employer’s ability to fire workers who refuse to take vaccines.
Republicans in a dozen state legislatures (so far) have put forward legislation preventing medical licensing boards from punishing doctors or nurses who prescribe hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. It’s the law now in North Dakota and Tennessee.
In Florida, Ron DeSantis hired a medical school graduate who needed certification and had aligned himself with the anti-vax group America’s Frontline Doctors, standing side-by-side with such notables as Dr. Stella Immanuel, who says vaginal/endometrial bleeding is caused by women having sex with demons in their dreams.
DeSantis got Joseph Ladapo his certification in 2 days (a process normally requiring up to six months) and then made him Florida’s Surgeon General, where he now opines about the “dangers” of vaccines and harasses the FDA.
Given all this bizarre behavior, why are so many Republicans into junk science? Why are they killing themselves with ivermectin? Why did they die from Covid in an almost 2-to-1 ratio to Democrats over the past three years?
I mean these as serious questions, and believe I have a serious answer informed, in part, from my own life experience.
For about six months when I was 19, I was doing radio news in the mornings on a Lansing Country station and got an afternoon/evening gig as the manager of the Okemos Mall GNC store. This was back when GNC was all about vitamins and herbs, long before they discovered and came to dominate the weightlifting and weight-loss markets.
I became fascinated by the idea that any ordinary person — like myself — could take control of his own health, could prevent disease, and could even deal with diseases doctors found problematic. I was primed for it in a way, having been a vegetarian since I was 15, although that was mostly the outcome of my opposition to the Vietnam War and my initiation into the Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation program (among others) and experiences with LSD.
That led to serious studying of herbs and herbology, and over the following year I joined up with a friend who owned a small advertising agency and we started an herbal tea company that made us both a good living for a few years.
At that time, I shared a part of the worldview of many of today’s anti-establishment Republicans: the Vietnam War was raging on and I’d watched our SDS group at MSU get infiltrated by both the Michigan State Police and the FBI (at least as far as we could tell). I didn’t trust my own government and many of my friends were convinced — with good reason, given over 50,000 American deaths in Vietnam — that Nixon wanted us dead.
Taking control of my own health through a daily regimen of vitamins and herbal teas seemed empowering. It was a way of striking out against “the man,” including the “healthcare industry” that seemed mostly bent on making money. And I found a ready community of people similarly interested in “alternative medicine” who all thought they had “secret knowledge” the “powers that be” were suppressing or minimizing in their rush to profits.
While I still drink herbal tea and take supplements every day, I long ago left behind homeopathy and the idea that I could do a better job than my doctor.
But I totally understand where Daniel Lemoi was coming from when he, frustrated by a failed “normal” medical treatment for Lyme disease in 2012, turned to ivermectin and ultimately became one of its most well-known promoters in the US.
Back in the day, I’d read Arnold Ehret’s book from the 1920s, The Mucusless Diet Healing System, which posits that all diseases are caused by dietary mucus from eating dairy products and grains. Louise and I were experimenting with vegetarianism (and still are) and back then thought Ehret’s hypothesis might have merit.
Daniel Lemoi had a similar perspective around disease, although his was colored by his Lyme diagnosis. Lyme is caused by a parasite that we typically contract from a tick bite and can be wicked hard to kill off.
By the time the Covid pandemic hit America, Lemoi had concluded that all disease was caused by parasites within the body.
Ivermectin is, essentially, a pesticide. It kills tiny animals, mostly parasitic worms, be they living in a horse’s gut or — as with Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) — a worm that travels through the human body and sets up shop in enough organs to eventually blind and then often kill its hosts.
If you assume mucus causes all disease, you quit eating mucus. If you believe parasites cause all disease, you take ivermectin.
But the pandemic plucked Lemoi from the relative obscurity of the Lyme survivors’ community and dropped him right into the middle of rightwing politics, as Kaitlyn Tiffany documented this week for The Atlantic.
Hundreds of thousands of people followed him on his Telegram channel, where twice a week he’d post about his ongoing use of veterinary-grade and -dosage ivermectin. As David Gilbert wrote for Vice, the morning Lemoi died — apparently from one of ivermectin’s known side effects (drug-induced heart disease) — he posted to his followers:
“HAPPY FRIDAY ALL YOU POISONOUS HORSE PASTE EATING SURVIVORS !!!”
Lemoi’s death an hour after that post doesn’t appear to have discouraged most of his followers, although they’re getting a bit more nervous about the side-effects they’re experiencing.
Having been initiated into the world of secret knowledge, having been handed the magic substance that could “cure all disease,” they are understandably reluctant to let go of either.
To amplify the tragedy, media anxious to make money off clicks and eyeballs, and politicians willing to see people get sick if it means getting more votes, continue to promote quack cures like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
No matter how “normal” things may seem these days, the reality is that lies about these quack cures for Covid and other disease are actually growing and spreading, mostly via social media.
The study of political and medical lies, mythology, and disinformation has become its own unique area of academic inquiry. Major universities and serious studies have pursued disinformation, both chronicling its spread through our society and trying to understand the forces behind that spread.
So, of course, Republican bully and head of the House committee trying to weaponize government, Jim Jordan, last week sent threatening letters to multiple universities demanding they send him the work they’re doing in this area and subpoenaing their most high-profile researchers.
Republicans aren’t just spreading intentional lies and disinformation: they’re now trying to bully and intimidate academics to prevent them from publicly documenting their efforts.
Meanwhile, Fox “News” and hustlers like Rand Paul (who created his own phony medical board to certify himself to practice medicine) continue to wonder out loud if the “deep state” is trying to dissuade people from using ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine so it can push vaccines on them.
The hundreds of thousands of Daniel Lemoi’s followers can be forgiven their enthusiasm for “forbidden knowledge” and their hope and belief that they have stumbled on the key to curing diseases from Lyme to Covid to cancer. They, like Lemoi (who was a heavy equipment operator), have no medical training and are often desperate.
But the Republican politicians and GOP-aligned media that continue to push these baseless and dangerous quack cures deserve no forgiveness whatsoever: they fully know what they’re doing and its consequences.
Instead of being in Congress or on TV, they should be in a court of law answering for the deaths and destroyed families they’ve caused in their quest for political power and advertising dollars.