Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Fighting the Danger Ranger
The Health Danger
I first became interested in investigating pseudoscientific health claims years ago after seeing my first episode of Penn and Teller’s “Bullshit”. At that time I was in my late teens and hadn’t quite dipped my toe fully into the Skeptical pool yet. However, my skeptical energy was renewed a few months ago by a statement my mother made. She told me, very matter of factly, that her friend had that lemon water is more powerful than chemotherapy. Naturally I was alarmed that people believed something so obviously false, especially my own mother. I wondered who could possibly be saying these things, since as far as I was aware no doctor with a conscience would ever make such outrageous claims. Then I remembered pseudoscience exists.
So from there I began asking Dr. Google what diseases I could cure with lemon water, and as it turns out it’s just about everything. Also unsurprisingly, I quickly realized a striking similarity that the vast majority of these dangerous and unscientific claims shared. A very significant portion of them can be traced back to my own personal Darth Vader, Mike Adams A.K.A the Health Ranger. It was on Adams’ site Naturalnews.com that I first encountered the lemon (and baking soda of course) water fallacy portrayed as fact. Adams, who has been quite deservingly derided by the skeptical community and individuals like Dr. David Gorski, is one of the world’s preeminent peddlers of pseudoscience, naturopathy, anti-vax rhetoric, conspiracy theories, Anti-GMO bullshit, and just about any other area of stupidity you can imagine. Adams owns several web sites, most of which can be found by clicking the embedded links in any of his sites various articles, giving them the feel of a choose your own wacky conspiracy theory adventure story. The chain of web sites forms a sort of self-referencing echo chamber, in which just about anything can sourced from another article on another one of his sites. External sources are rare, and when used usually dubious, misinterpreted, or taken out of context. In a recent article from July 20, 2016 Adams quotes a statement from Project TENDR that was published in Environmental Health Perspectives, which holds an impact factor of 8.44 for 2015. Not a bad score compared to many of his usual sources, however rather than reporting on the statement’s call to restructure the system for evaluating health based risks of environmental chemicals, Adams’ article claims that the environmental chemicals warned about in the study have caused brain damage to millennials (of course in Adam’s view the brain damage really is the cause of liberalism). My favorite quote from that article is of course the giant subtitle that reads “They used to be designated as mentally retarded... now they're called "millennials”. I attempted to contact one of Project TENDR's listed co-authors of the statement, but received no reply
While childish insults and stupidity from Adams are to be expected, the disturbing fact is that so many people actually follow and believe him. On YouTube Adams has over 104,000 followers. On Twitter he has again over 100,000. Many of these are almost certainly following Adams’ advice, which includes not seeking chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery for cancer, he claims that cancer treatments kill more people than cancer does (his story tends to change but often he cites the big pharma and the cancer conspiracy). In an article from March 2015 that Adams reposted on twitter just a day ago, one of his writers claims that Vitamin C is a “silver bullet” that can cure all variety of diseases from polio to diphtheria, and insinuates that Vitamin C can cure cancer. Rather unsurprisingly, Adams sells his very own Health Ranger’s Nutrition Rescue™ Vitamin C for a mere $19.95. While it is not very strange for a health web site to sell vitamins, when reading through his articles one can see that Adams seems to sell the vast majority of solutions for various ailments in his very own store, and conveniently most of them are bear the quality seal of the Health Ranger himself a.k.a. the Health Ranger Select brand. A question that crossed my mind while looking through both the store and the thousands of articles and YouTube videos Adams has posted was, where does this cross the line from the FDA’s allowed structure function claims and allowable vagueness into the realm of outright illegality. While the products themselves may not bear any medical claims on them, taken as a whole, the claims made on his sites about items sold in Adams’ store could constitute an infraction of FDA and FTC guidelines.
While Adams masquerades as a pioneering Health guru focused on saving the human race, what his articles all seem aimed to do is guide the reader towards purchasing any of the innumerous products available in the Naturalnews.com Store and reap advertising income. Indeed my biggest regret in investigating the “Health Ranger” is that I have to visit his sites and bring him ad revenue. Adams hypocritically admonishes pharmaceutical companies, GMO developers, the medical community, and any other group he feels like attacking for greed, while simultaneously reaping massive amounts of money from the boom in pseudo medicine that he has helped to create. In fact it seems that Adams is very keen to brag on the wealth he has accumulated, as seen in the threats he sent to Jon Entine for an expose Entine wrote about Adams in Forbes. Adams stated “You are also aware that I am in command of the financial resources to see these efforts through, regardless of their cost or duration”. In fact Adams is notoriously fond of sending threatening letters claiming the lawsuit is on the way, writing threatening articles that Libel and Defame skeptics (most notably in recent months Dr. David Gorski). In a long winded rambling letter to the FBI and other authorities posted on his site, and in numerous other articles written both by mike Adams and his proxy writers at Natural News, News Target, and the web of other Adams owned sites. While the threats have been reported, I can find no information online that Adams has ever actually filed suit. My personal belief is that this is because he knows that filing a lawsuit could lead to him being called to the stand, where all of his dirty laundry and utterly false statements could be questioned on record. It is a case I actually hope to see someday actually, Mike Adams destroyed by his own words.