This post might look familiar to some of you who know me from what I like to call my not-so-secret other blog (NSSSOB). However, what happened last week was important enough that I wanted to make sure that it was covered on SBM, just as Steve Novella covered it on his own blog on Friday. (Fear not, there will be fresh material tomorrow, as always.) Another reason that I wanted to recycle and update this for SBM is because I believe the incident involving über-quack Mike Adams provides to me a “teachable moment” related to my talk at TAM two weeks ago, which was entitled “How ‘They’ View ‘Us’” and based on a post of mine here on SBM entitled, appropriately enough, How “they” view “us”.
A lot of you probably already know what I’m talking about, because this stuff developed over the last week, starting with a post by the One Crank To Rule Them All, Mike Adams. (You’ll see the appropriateness of The Lord of the Rings reference later in this post.) On Monday, there appeared on that font of all things quack and wingnut, NaturalNews.com, a spittle-flecked article by Mike Adams entitled “Biotech genocide, Monsanto collaborators and the Nazi legacy of ‘science’ as justification for murder“. To those of us who’ve followed Adams for a long time, it was a bit over-the-top, even for him, given that he has in essence blamed the Nazi genocide on science (labeling sciences as evil) and has a penchant to likening his enemies to Nazis. Not long after, David Ropelik and Keith Kloor expressed extreme alarm at Adams’s screed, particularly this passage, which was the key passage quoted in virtually every discussion of Adams’ rant:
Interestingly, just yesterday German President Joachim Gauck celebrated the lives of those brave Nazi officers who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. (1) Their attempted Wolf’s Lair bombing failed, but it was an honorable attempt to rid the world of tremendous evil by killing one of the people responsible for it.
This official ceremony sends a message to the world, and that official message from the nation of Germany to the rest of the world is that “it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.“
This fundamental philosophical truth is now enshrined in history by the highest office of the nation of Germany herself, the very nation where mass government propaganda spearheaded by a highly-charismatic political leader drove the population to commit genocide in the name of “peace.”
Not surprisingly, a lot of people were alarmed by Adams’ words, which seemed like a direct call to kill scientists involved in genetically modified organisms. In the context of the rest of Mike’s screed, which ranted against “Monsanto Collaborators,” likening them to, of course, “Nazi Collaborators,” it was indeed alarming:
“Nazi collaborators” were individuals and corporations that promoted the power and reach of the Nazi party, publishing pro-Nazi propaganda and attacking anyone who criticized Adolf Hitler or the Nazi regime. Collaborators included many scientists, academics, publishers and of course politicians, all of whom played key roles in furthering the genocide that saw over six million Jews heartlessly slaughtered by the Nazi regime.
Today, a number of once-independent media sites are selling out to corporate interests and quickly becoming Monsanto collaborators. This is readily apparent by noticing which media sites attack Dr. Mercola, the Food Babe, Jeffrey Smith, the Health Ranger or anyone else fighting against the scourge of GMO genocide against humanity. These attacks all have one thing in common: they are orchestrated by paid biotech muckrakers — people I call “Monsanto collaborators.”
Of course, Adams also likens glyphosate weed killer to—what else?—Zyklon B, pellets that released the cyanide used for the mass murder of Jews. In other words, it was standard Adams rhetoric, which is why my initial reaction tended more towards amusement than horror. Then I remembered. Adams himself is unlikely to get violent, but one can’t necessarily say the same thing about his followers. In any case, as I described before, I’ve seen that movie, too. This is not the first time he’s used Nazi analogies about his perceived enemies, gleefully mixing metaphors of Allied firebombing of German cities during World War II and Nazis running trains full of Jews to death camps:
What the United States Air Force did to Dresden in World War II via high-elevation bombing runs, the global chemical and food conglomerates are now doing to the world populations via the drive-thru window. But there are no bombs dropping out of the sky and there are no firestorms lighting up the cityscape at night. Instead, the silent, ignorant masses are simply marched to their deaths, one meal at a time, almost like a cargo train full of “useless eaters” clicking and clacking its way to Auschwitz.
On the way to their own deaths, of course, they pay the mandatory tolls to the pharmaceutical giants, hospitals, cancer clinics, doctors and health insurance mandates. Much like victims of Nazi genocide had their gold fillings pulled out of their mouths before they were gassed to death, today’s mainstream consumers are emptied of their bank accounts, assets and insurance policies before finally being discarded by the system.
I used an Archive.org link because the original link now just goes to Adams’ “science encyclopedia.” In any case, as it was put at the time, because food additives are exactly like the Dresden fire bombing and the Holocaust. And Auschwitz. Especially Auschwitz. I’m really surprised that Adams exercised a little restraint and didn’t list a number of other atrocities. He didn’t in this newest screed. He pulled out all the stops, “hoping someone will create a website listing all the publishers, scientists and journalists who are now Monsanto propaganda collaborators. I have no doubt such a website would be wildly popular and receive a huge influx of visitors, and it would help preserve the historical record of exactly which people contributed to the mass starvation and death which will inevitably be unleashed by GMO agriculture (which is already causing mass suicides in India and crop failures worldwide).”
This, of course, after quoting a postwar German leader about how just it is to assassinate evil leaders like Hitler. The implication seemed clear.
And, lo and behold! A couple of days later, there did appear a website called Monsanto Collaborators, complete with images of the train tracks heading to Auschwitz, swastikas, a Nazi rally, and piles of Holocaust victims. My first reaction was that I was disappointed that Steve Novella made the list of “journalist collaborators” and I didn’t. I mean, come on! Didn’t my epic criticism of the Seralini study and deconstruction mocking another study beloved of anti-GMO activists earn me any love? Well, a day later my name did pop up on the website, and I was satisfied.
Naturally, everyone thought at first that Adams was responsible for the Monsanto Collaborators website. A quick WHOIS search showed that the domain was registered under a proxy for privacy, no surprise there. However, since then, Adams has been implicated as the creator of the MonsantoCollaborators.org website. The evidence presented is circumstantial and not airtight, but it’s very suggestive. So, for the last few days, there have been a lot of posts about how Adams had “gone too far.” Initially, I wasn’t particularly worried. My reaction was more, “Meh.” Indeed, I tried assiduously for several days to ignore the whole thing. When the Monsanto Collaborators site went online and caused such an uproar, however, I couldn’t anymore, because several readers e-mailed me with concern when they saw my name on the site, as I assume they also e-mailed Steve Novella, something I truly appreciate. In retrospect, I wonder if I was too blasé
about Adams’ antics these days. Initially I didn’t think so. On the other hand, Adams is obviously full of bovine excrement when it comes to his threats with disclaimers designed to provide him with cover, plausible deniability, but he has a wide readership, many of whom might take his rants seriously.
In any case, Adams is a performance artist. He ramped up the hyperbole in his original post, and, right on schedule, namely when he was linked to what appears to be a hit list, started ratcheting it back and denying he ever meant to threaten anyone. He’s since added a long disclaimer to his original post, lamenting:
I have always stated in this story, as you can see below: “For the record, in no way do I condone vigilante violence against anyone, and I believe every condemned criminal deserves a fair trial and a punishment that fits the crime. Do not misinterpret this article as any sort of call for violence, as I wholly disavow any such actions. I am a person who demands due process under the law for all those accused of crimes.”
No, in context, Adams’ words were plenty bad, man. Typical of Adams and his conspiracy-mongering ways, he has now even gone so far as to disavow the Monsanto Collaborators site as a at least their favored woo) and that they are engaged in a war against evil. Indeed, just in time to reinforce this point, right as the criticism of Adams’ rant was approaching its zenith, there appeared a post at the antivaccine crank blog, Age of Autism by Kent Heckenlively entitled PLAGUE – An Alliance of the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. It’s basically the same belief system as Mike Adams, but using The Lord of the Rings as an analogy. In this case, Heckenlively views himself as Aragorn, one of the heroes of the story, the fulfillment of ancient prophecy, the King who returns to save Gondor and the free peoples of Middle Earth from the Dark Lord Sauron:
You should probably know I worship at the altar of The Lord of the Rings. As a cinematic evocation of loyalty, friendship, and courage I believe it has no equal. I tell my son that if someday in the distant future I am not around and he wants to explain to his children or grandchildren what his father hoped to be, he should pop in the DVD and let them view the trilogy.
When I watch I imagine myself as Aragorn, taking the Dimholt Road under the mountain, clutching the sword, Anduril, Flame of the West, offering a deal to the souls of the dishonored dead if they would join me in battle. I picture myself as Aragon, astride my horse in front of the Black Gate, telling my troops, I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! Then I jump off my horse, and with the setting sun behind me, a reckless, almost manic glint in my eye and a crooked grin, I am first to charge into the enemy army.
This is, of course, one of my favorite scenes from both the books and the movies. In it, Aragorn had brought his forces to the Black Gate of Mordor to challenge Sauron to battle, not with any hope of victory, but as a diversion to distract the Eye of Sauron long enough to allow the hobbits Frodo and Sam to cross Mordor and reach Mount Doom, there to destroy the One Ring, the source of Sauron’s evil power. Aragorn, Gandalf, and his companions fully expected to die in the effort, and it looked as though they would do just that after hordes of orcs issued forth from the Black Gate and the battle was joined. They were saved because Sam and Frodo did reach Mount Doom and the ring was destroyed, thus destroying Sauron’s power and causing his armies to flee, before the hordes of Sauron’s orc’s could destroy Aragorn and his vastly outnumbered force.
The point, of course, is that Heckenlively, like Adams, views himself (or fantasizes himself) as a heroic figure from the world of epic fantasy like Aragorn. Walter Mitty-like, Heckenlively fantasizes that it’s him leading a doomed mission to the very Black Gate of Mordor, knowing he’s unlikely to come out of it alive, in order to give others the chance to defeat the great evil against which he strives. He fantasizes that it’s him at the Council of Elrond helping to unite the fractious and squabbling races of Middle Earth to join in a heroic quest to defeat great evil. More importantly, he views the scientists, bloggers, and doctors who support vaccination as Sauron, who, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s world, was the nearly all-powerful embodiment of all that is evil, bent on subjugating all of Middle Earth and destroying any who stand in his way. Similarly, Adams takes a historical example, likening anyone who criticizes anti-GMO pseudoscience to the Nazis who systematically slaughtered millions for their ideology. Against such evil, almost any act is justified.
This is the worldview those of us defending science must face and must resist buying into. I used the example of my early activism against Holocaust denial, showing this photo to illustrate how I viewed myself at the time:
It was easy at the time, because, as I’ve said before, scratch a Holocaust “revisionist,” and you’ll always find a Nazi sympathizer or an anti-Semite. Always. So, in a way, combatting Holocaust denial was combatting bigotry and fascism. But, as I asked, what about when the “enemy” is not so obviously evil?
I have no idea how sincere Adams’ beliefs are, given his long history of dubious activities, going all the way back to Y2K scams. Regardless of whether they are sincere or not, Adams, whether you consider him evil or not, is an enemy who needs to be countered, because his promotion of pseudoscience and quackery is dangerous and cynical, much of it designed to fuel his business interests. He is not a victim.
Unfortunately, as skeptics we must contend with this sort of black/white thinking not just in Mike Adams, but in the victims of men like Mike Adams. It is critical for skeptics to remember that we are just as prone to this sort of Manichean world view, in which light battles dark and, oh, by the way, guess which side we’re on? It’s easy to dismiss cranks like Adams, because they’ve gone beyond the pale and might not even be sincere. However, many antivaccinationists, like Heckenlively, have severely disabled children for whom they have to care and have mistakenly blamed their children’s disabilities and autism on vaccines. Is it so surprising that they view our efforts as active attempts to impede their search for treatments to “recover” their autistic children? Similarly, many Burzynski supporters have family members who are dying and have mistakenly concluded that Burzynski can save them. If you truly believed that a single doctor was the only one who might be able to save your wife, your husband, your child, your brother, your sister, or any loved one from dying from a horrible cancer that conventional medicine tells you is incurable, wouldn’t you react violently to skeptics who tell you it’s not so and government regulatory bodies that try to shut him down?
It is people like Stanislaw Burzynski and Andrew Wakefield, who mislead people like this into pseudoscience and quackery, who are the enemy. Their victims are not. While it is necessary to counter their views, we should never forget the human shortcomings that we all possess that led them to their pseudoscience and quackery. We must be able to distinguish victims who, through these human shortcomings and cognitive biases, end up choosing to side with the perpetrators, from the perpetrators themselves, who are really the enemy.