The Pandemic's Biggest Scammer Is A Monster Of The Media's Own Creation

Snake Oil And General Woo
The Pandemic's Biggest Scammer Is A Monster Of The Media's Own Creation

Today, The New York Times ran a less-than-glowing profile on Dr. Joseph Mercola, the man a recent study says has been the biggest spreader of coronavirus misinformation since the beginning of the pandemic. The man has made millions off of selling fake cures and otherwise scaring your relatives into not getting the vaccine, putting us all in danger. This is not the first critical article they've written on him during the pandemic and it probably will not be the last.

Via The New York Times:

An internet-savvy entrepreneur who employs dozens, Dr. Mercola has published over 600 articles on Facebook that cast doubt on Covid-19 vaccines since the pandemic began, reaching a far larger audience than other vaccine skeptics, an analysis by The New York Times found. His claims have been widely echoed on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

The activity has earned Dr. Mercola, a natural health proponent with an Everyman demeanor, the dubious distinction of the top spot in the "Disinformation Dozen," a list of 12 people responsible for sharing 65 percent of all anti-vaccine messaging on social media, said the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate. Others on the list include Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a longtime anti-vaccine activist, and Erin Elizabeth, the founder of the website Health Nut News, who is also Dr. Mercola's girlfriend.

"Mercola is the pioneer of the anti-vaccine movement," said Kolina Koltai, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies online conspiracy theories. "He's a master of capitalizing on periods of uncertainty, like the pandemic, to grow his movement."

2015, however, was a different story. In 2015, the Times ran an article claiming that wearable devices could give you cancer. The "expert" they cited on this? One Dr. Joseph Mercola, who had previously claimed that basically everything else in the universe, from tap water to bras to Pringles could also give you cancer, along with many other outlandish claims on other health topics.

Dr. Mercola has also been a guest on the Dr. Oz show on multiple occasions, literally telling viewers why they should not trust their doctors. His top three reasons? Doctors will tell you tanning beds are bad for you (which they are!), that you should get a flu shot and that coconut oil is probably not a magic substance that can cure all of the diseases. While no one should just blindly trust their doctor, these would be some very stupid and incorrect reasons not to do so.

While Mercola's page on Quackwatch is approximately the length of Moby Dick, he's been legitimized for years by sources people consider reputable. His ideas have been repeated because frankly, people love a good "Here's a surprising thing that could kill you and/or cure all of what ails you" article or television show segment. He has made his fortune out of dispensing terrible medical advice and he has, in turn, made money for those willing to profit off of his terrible medical advice.

Dr. Oz, by the way, has lied to people so many times that he was once dragged before congress to explain himself — and he is still on the air.

In fact, I'm going to drop that right in here. I may not agree with Claire McCaskill on everything, but this? This I will treasure forever. She did real good here.

CNN: Senator McCaskill Grills Dr. Oz Over Diet Scams

We've also got the Dr. Oz-adjacent show "The Doctors," discussing important and totally real health issues like the scourge of "menopause face."

Studies have shown that more than half of the information on these shows is bullshit, and yet they are on every day. As of right now, Dr. Oz is renewed up until 2023.

How are we actually sitting around going "Oh boy, I just don't know how all of these people don't want to take vaccines and why they believe all of these very stupid things about them?" when people just like Dr. Mercola are regularly legitimized in our media?

If we want a society in which creeps like Dr. Mercola cannot take advantage of people this way, cannot put all of us in danger by pushing medical disinformation, this shit has got to stop.

[The New York Times]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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