Rui Vale de Sousa - Adobe Stock

That’s Not Us, Bro.

May 13, 2020

We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at


Freethought philanthropist Todd Stiefel made his mark on the pro-infection “ReOpen” protests in North Carolina yesterday, sending a plane banner soaring over the crowd that said “FEWER GRAVES IF WE REOPEN IN WAVES.” The banner got a lot of TV coverage, aaaaand I may have helped a little with that. Who can say? But the best, best, bestest part is in the Raleigh News & Observer. Wait for it. First, they talk to Todd:

Stiefel had wanted to add his voice the debate because, as a teen, he developed common variable immune deficiency, or CVID. The idea of people calling the virus a hoax and flouting public health restrictions rankled him.

But his risk for coronavirus is so great that doctors have advised him not to go out and to avoid even takeout food.

“It makes me both angry and sad,” said Stiefel, 45. “You see people doing things that are proven to spread the disease. I’m not happy about people pushing to go back to this nonexistent reality.”

Okay, now you HAVE TO WATCH THE VIDEO at the News & Observer because of the chef’s-kiss moment when the protesters at first think the banner is for them (“Look at that!”) and then realize it is very much not, with the line that will live in my memory, “That ain’t us, bro.” Perfect.

We Don’t Like What We Don’t Understand

Derek Lowe at Science Translational Medicine disconnects opposition to “traditional Chinese medicine” from xenophobic anti-Chinese rage stoked by the right:

I’m not enjoying writing this blog post. There are a lot of useless and actively harmful things that can come from an overly nationalist approach, and that means not only the Chinese self-promotion, but also taking a public anti-Chinese stance in other countries just for the approval ratings. That is, in fact, one of the things that is worst about the current nationalist moment that we’re having in world politics; I strongly believe that there are far more wrong moves that can be made using that worldview than right ones. But facts remain facts. There is little or no reason to recommend traditional Chinese medicine against the coronavirus, and doing so just adds to the noise and confusion. We have way too much of both already.

Julia Duin at GetReligion says there needs to be more investigation into why the fervently religious are the ones latching onto coronavirus conspiracy theories:

I know that reporters have a lot on their plate these days reporting about the coronavirus crisis.

Nevertheless, please start tracking those who are spreading conspiracy theories, why they feel so moved to do so and why so many of them have religious connections of one sort of another. It’s part of this global story.

Here’s a scary example. Imams in Somalia telling their followers that Muslims are immune to COVID-19. Al Arabiya reports:

A medical worker in the country told Al Arabiya English the rumor is putting Somalis at risk and working against efforts to try to educate the population of 15 million about the threat of the outbreak.

“Some mosques spread this rumor that this disease is only for non-believers,” said the medical worker, who wished to remain anonymous in fear of societal backlash, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

“People are very religious in Somalia and we believe what our imams tell us more than any doctor or any government,” the medical source added.

The disgraced former scientist at the heart of the Plandemic conspiracy-propaganda video, Judy Mikovits, is making bank on her book Plague of Corruption, which EJ Dickson at Rolling Stone describes for us so we need never encounter it ourselves:

Plague of Corruption, co-authored by anti-vaccine blogger Kent Heckenlively (and featuring a forward by noted anti-vaccine huckster Robert F. Kennedy Jr.), is, at first glance, an unlikely candidate for bestsellerdom. It’s replete with scientific jargon largely impenetrable to the average reader, and with its countless references to internecine medical establishment grudges and squabbles, it reads more like an embittered relative’s 10,000-word Facebook post against his former employer than a full-length book. Yet Mikovits knows her audience, and she sets herself up as a courageous whistleblower raging against the machine rather than a disgraced scientist with a grudge against an establishment that rejected her.

Plague of Corruption is, essentially, an act of self-hagiography. Throughout the book, Mikovits is compared or compares herself to, among others, Galileo, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thomas Jefferson (in the latter instance, she quotes a lyric from Hamilton in the process). At one point, she quotes someone else describing her as “really brilliant.” Plague of Corruption is replete with villains, and one of Mikovits’ favorites (as also documented by Plandemic) is Dr. Anthony Fauci.

And if you’d like to know more about the backstory of the Bill Gates/virus conspiracy theory, Kathryn Joyce at HuffPost has you covered:

Accusations that he has sinister plans to control or experiment on the public under the guise of medical charity date back at least a decade, including to an obscure and different political fight in Ghana.

Protecting the Herd

Alex Brown at Religion & Politics looks at how Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky is trying to evoke a religious passion for civic unity during the crisis, no “blood of Jesus” necessary:

Each day, Beshear asks Kentuckians to recite, out loud, his mantra that has come to be like a prayer: “We will get through this, and we will get through this together.” In the face of a global crisis, Beshear’s unwavering faith in our state is a display of civil religion, of which he is asking Kentuckians to become faithful followers. …

… Beshear’s press conferences invoke a brand of Kentucky civil religion that seeks to inspire citizens to see themselves as potential heroes, to act for the common good rather than simply for themselves. Beshear’s pride in the sacrifices Kentuckians are making helps invoke that same sense of pride in the commonwealth’s citizens. On March 28, he said that “every single one of us has to live up to our duty, as a member of the commonwealth and a patriotic American, to protect those around us” by practicing aggressive social distancing. His strategy of unifying Kentuckians by inciting a common sense of purpose and patriotism, in the name of protecting our state and its institutions, is ultimately asking his constituents to dig deep to find their civil religious faith to reduce the harms of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amid all this LIBERATE WHATEVER nonsense, one must ask: Who is thinking about the impact of COVID-19 on Bigfoot? Mack Lamoureux at Vice tells us:

Sasquatches are apes, after all, the researchers say, and human viruses have in the past done great damage to our close relatives. …

… One sasquatch researcher, Thomas Sewid, searches for the creature on Canada’s West Coast. Sewid says he wears a mask when he’s going out to search for the creatures because he’s worried about spreading the virus to the sasquatch population.

“I’m getting word out to my fellow investigators: try to wear your mask when you’re out there in the bush. Don’t try to get a close interaction right now. Not until this pandemic runs its course,” Sewid told VICE. ”Because we know the populations are growing in North America. We don’t want to jeopardize that by bringing them…COVID-19.”

Kiera Butler at Mother Jones takes on the anti-vaxxer talking point about “natural immunity” to the coronavirus:

The idea—or the basic contours of it, at least—has some elements of truth. Immunologists have shown that, in general, we strengthen our immune systems by exposing them to pathogens. …

… But the coronavirus is not a chronic immune condition; it’s a novel virus that attacks the body’s systems in ways not yet completely understood. Experts roundly reject the idea that social distancing will dangerously weaken the immune system. …

… the experts I talked to weren’t at all surprised to see these discredited ideas making the rounds; they’ve seen them before in the anti-vaccination and extreme holistic medicine communities. This is the coronavirus edition of their pervasive belief in “natural immunity.”

FiveThirtyEight, being all about them numbers, makes an interactive web-dinglehopper that helps to explain how herd immunity actually works.

Hey, Steven Novella, remind us: Should we really be wearing masks?

Sure, wear face masks whenever you are out in public or have to be exposed to other people – but wear the mask properly, don’t touch or adjust it, don’t take it off or lower it even briefly. Further, understand this is only modest protection. It may statistically help reduce the spread of the pandemic, but it is not total protection. …

… So wear the mask properly, but act as if the mask does not work.


Rollin’ with the Normies

Chrissy Stroop at Religion Dispatches goes over the findings of American Atheists’ big Secular Survey:

While some respondents insisted that being nonreligious is a choice in a way that one’s experience of one’s gender and sexuality is not—and even some self-identified atheists replied to the effect that they don’t consider their atheism an identity—the fact remains that in many parts of the United States, being recognized as an unbeliever can come with severe social consequences. In addition, although one’s beliefs about the nature of reality should ideally be a matter of conscience, children have no control over the beliefs they’re raised with or the communal norms that surround them. …

… None of these facts make the experience of “coming out” as nonreligious the same as coming out as LGBTQ, but they do nonetheless show that disclosing one’s nonreligious identity can be fraught and risky depending on one’s social environment.

It’s good to remind folks now and again that atheists are not the same as Satanists. I know, I know, but what can you do? Jim Underdown, in his “Ask the Atheist” column, clarifies what we do believe in, which includes Al Pacino and Avogadro’s number.

I’ve Got My Philosophy

Liberty University scraps its entire philosophy department. When you remember that “philosophy” means, literally, “love of wisdom,” then you see how appropriate this actually is.

Speaking of not loving wisdom, the AP for whatever reason decided to do a puffy interview with far-right, anti-gay preach-daddy Franklin Graham. He says, hey, sure, COVID-19 is bad, but come on, so’s lots of stuff:

But heart disease is bad. Cancer is bad. I think heart disease is still the No. 1 (cause of death in the) country. But we have to realize that all of us are going to face death. Death is coming for all of us. And coronavirus or the flu or whatever can kill you. And we just have to realize that in life we’re going to have viruses, we’re going to have cancer, we’re going to have these things. Let’s take the best care of ourselves and we possibly can. But let’s live our life.

Ringing in My Ears

Let’s remember that “meme” does not actually mean “that GIF of Denzel Washington looking relieved when you thought someone famous was dead.” CNET reminds us that memes, as coined by our own Richard Dawkins, are “cultural elements or behaviors passed from one generation to the next.” To that end, it looks like memes about tools and ornaments were shared between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

I’m bookmarking this for later enjoyment: Jeff Jarvis interviews the guy behind the Steak-umm Twitter account, the mightily-bearded Nathan Allebach.

Bananapants QAnon YouTube preacher Dave Hayes claims he cured a woman’s tinnitus by praying at her, perceiving a cactus on her head, and yanking said cactus off, spiritually. Look, I have had bad tinnitus since I was like 16, but you know what, if it’s that or this guy grasping around my head looking for ghost-cacti, I think I’ll just keep putting up with the tinnitus.

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.