Hi and welcome back! Health scams get my gears well and truly ground. There’s just something about con artists preying on desperate, gullible people that gets me mad. And I’m not fond of the wingnutty, controlling flavors of Christianity in general. So when coronavirus reports began escalating, I knew that eventually those wingnuts would get their hands on it — and begin using it to their advantage. Here, then, is a brief report on two major Christian coronavirus scams, the truth of them, and finally some suggestions on what you might consider doing if you run across any conjobs trying to capitalize on fear and ignorance like these evangelicals are.
(Quick note: a “hun” is someone who participates in a multi-level marketing scheme (MLM). It applies to any gender, though sometimes you’ll see male huns referred to as “bro-huns.”)
(UPDATE: This post had to be updated — a video I’d linked was removed.)
Jim Bakker Smelled An Opportunity!
Very recently, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) warned seven companies against making false claims about their products helping cure or prevent coronavirus. Amazingly, none of the really big MLMs ended up on that list. But one name did that really surprised me:
Yes, it turns out that Jim Bakker grew bored of slobbering over Donald Trump and hyping toilet buckets and dehydrated Fundie Chow on his screechy fundagelical talk show. On a recent episode, he offered for sale a “colloidal silver” preparation called “Silver Sol Liquid” that he insisted would prevent and cure coronavirus!
Among other things, the FDA objected to Bakker and his guest blathering about this stuff. Here are quotes their letter to him cited:
“Silver Solution has been proven … to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on … and it can kill any of these known viruses …” [SURE-JAN.GIF]
“So the virus, like the coronavirus that we’re talking about … affects the lung tissue so what you can do … put it straight … in a nebulizer which then creates a steam and you breathe it in and it will go directly into your lungs where that virus is and any other infection” [OKAY-J-LAW.GIF]
UPDATE: The video I had linked here was removed from YouTube. I’m guessing Bakker’s people didn’t like being called out! So here is a good link describing what happened, along with a news update. It seems that the New York Attorney General also told him to quit hawking his snake oil. It also features a video.
As it turns out, Bakker’s claims about this supposed remedy aren’t true. At all.
Just Some BlahBlah from Jim Bakker’s BlahBlah Store.
The show’s website store offers a hand lotion called “Silver Gel.” Its product page says it contains “Original Silver Sol Technology.” And it costs $200 for a 12-pack of these lotions. They also sell “Silver Sol Liquid” as a 12-pack for $300. On that latter product page, someone asks them about Bakker’s claims regarding the product. Their reply is as unintentionally hilarious as it is vague.
I also found a page on their official show site regarding coronavirus. It features a lot of “blahblah from the blahblah store” (to quote Dr. Perry Cox). And it comes to us courtesy of a “naturopath,” which is alt-med-speak for filthy quack.
I’m not a trained medical person, but their various pull-quotes about this product sound like blithering nonsense. Very clearly, all that nonsense is meant to confuse fundagelicals into thinking that this product page offers real medicine that will help them.
Their TOTALLY “Peer Reviewed Paper.” TOTALLY.
Since this official Jim Bakker page is still up after the FDA’s warning letter, I’m assuming it skirts the letter of the law at least a little. Probably.
Between dark-thirty o’clock last night when I wrote that sentence and this afternoon when I rechecked the page, it vanished. Now there’s a 404 message there. But thankfully, the Wayback Machine rode to my rescue. Enjoy Jim Bakker’s snake-oily goodness! However, they still host a general support statement for colloidal silver products. I archived it myself, just in case.
It contains lies from start to finish.
As a start, no peer reviewed papers actually exist for this stuff. Bakker’s site offers up a PDF of what they claim is a “peer reviewed paper.” In truth, the company making the product sponsored/created it.
When Jim Bakker’s site says “peer,” it simply means peer in the sense of our fellow fundie nutjobs. And I know that because I discovered a slightly different form of the paper that makes crystal-clear its writer’s Creationist affiliations. Somewhere along the way, its more overt Christianist leanings got pared away. Weird, huh? (/s)
For that matter, Bakker’s page never cites just what journal published this “paper.” And that’d be because it didn’t come from one. Fundagelicals hear the phrase “peer-reviewed” and they know it’s good, but they don’t understand how peer review really works or why it’s good.
And their marks don’t know that stuff either.
But Why Silver Solution?
Silver solution is just tiny tiny bits of silver suspended in a colloidal base. A colloidal base is just a substance that’ll hold those bits without settling. Colloids are stuff like whipped cream, styrofoam, colored ink, blood, gelatin desserts, and cranberry glass (mah-favrit.gif). A vinaigrette settles, so it’s not a colloid. Milk holds butterfat suspended, so it’s a colloid. So people are ingesting actual silver suspended in something.
To make colloidal silver, quacks utilize electrolysis or protein-binding. Then, they claim that these solutions cure pretty much every illness. However, not one credible source supports the idea of using it for anything. Nobody’s ever published studies about it in any credible journals. That’s why Jim Bakker had to get a naturopath to shill his snake oil.
Silver is an antiseptic, not an antibiotic. It has the advantage of most antiseptics in that organisms do not easily become resistant. It does kill a large number of pathogens and is used clinically. Silver is impregnated into catheters to prevent infections. Silver nitrate has been put in the eyes of newborns to prevent gonorrhea.
That blogger also likes silver as a water purifier.
But ingested in a solution? No. No no no.
The Side Effects.
Quacks just love silver colloidal solution. It even got a recent writeup on the venerable site QuackWatch. There, we learn about various problems with this stuff. And we also learn about the one actual documented effect it has on the people taking it!
Dr. Barrett cites a 1995 study regarding analysis of various silver colloidal solution products. The analyst discovered contamination, misstated concentrations, and a general lack of antibacterial effectiveness (which was a problem because their makers and sellers claimed that they were very antibacterial).
Second, overuse can actually discolor people’s skin! Yes! People taking this stuff turn SILVERY BLUE!
And check this out: we have no idea how much it takes to get someone to Smurf Village!
Here’s a pic:
The 92-year-old white dude above habitually used nose drops containing silver. This preparation was very commonly used way back when — until this exact side effect became common knowledge in medical circles. Reputable pharmacy guidebooks stopped listing colloidal silver preparations in 1975. You can only find such stuff from alt-med shills and quacks nowadays.
So this guy used these nose drops for a while. The silver particles in them settled in his body tissues.
And once that happens, guess what?
There’s no way to reverse the effect. It’s permanent.
I reckon it’s just as Jesus said: we shall know his followers by their grayish-purple skins.
And Now: The Claims of Oily Huns.
First, some history. Doterra (officially: dōTERRA) and Young Living are essential-oils-based MLMs. In 2014, both received “cease and desist” letters from the FDA.
Doterra huns were telling customers that their oils cured these illnesses and more (emphasis mine):
. . . viral infections (including ebola), bacterial infections, cancer, brain injury, autism, endometriosis, Grave’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, tumor reduction, ADD/ADHD, and other conditions. . .
Meanwhile, Young Living huns claimed at that same time that their oils cured these and more (emphasis mine):
viral infections (including ebola), Parkinson’s disease, autism, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, insomnia, heart disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dementia, and multiple sclerosis. . .
Notice any trends here?
In 2014, obviously, people rightly considered Ebola a big huge screaming deal. A lot of folks worried that America would see an epidemic of it. So “oily mama” huns pushed the disease hard to frighten marks into buying essential oils from them.
Really, they’ll claim anything that they think will sell their overpriced products to anyone, even a kitten’s death! But typically, they draw on the concerns of the day — whatever everyone in their target market might be panicking about.
A Very Quick Sidebar About Essential Oils.
(I wrote a good several thousand words about essential oil quackery last night. Then, I remembered that wasn’t my actual topic today. Don’t worry. We’re coming back to it soon.)
Generally speaking, people distill essential oils from plants. The results smell very intense. (These aren’t extracts, which can generally be safely used in food and suchlike.) Aromatherapists attend school for years to learn how to safely use them to help ease anxiety and whatnot in clients.
Very limited and preliminary testing exists for these oils. Most of it’s useless or worse. The FDA doesn’t seem to recognize any medical uses for essential oils aside from aromatherapy. They forbid the use of medical marketing claims for essential oils. Most evidence-based medical experts strongly urge people not to ingest them in any amount or to put them on the skin without massive dilution in something neutral like almond oil.
Essential Oils and Alt-Med Nutjobs.
I’ve heard MLM quacks push essential oils for everything from acne to autism to cancer to feminine hygiene. YES. THAT TOO.
(My legs cross whenever I think about the stories I’ve read about huns using essential-oil-soaked tampons. These stories usually end with ER visits; one ended with possibly-permanent damage to a high schooler’s reproductive organs.)
Several big MLMs push essential oils as products. Almost all of these products get bought by their very own huns, who then misuse them. Some huns even push food recipes that use their products as ingredients.
This encouragement to misuse essential oils makes huns to go through their purchases very quickly, much faster than if they safely used them.
But oh, my heart hurts to think of the harm being done.
Speaking of Which.
The “oily” huns have latched onto coronavirus.
Hey, if they’re willing to push essential-oil-soaked tampons and murder their pets with this stuff, coronavirus ain’t anything close to a bridge too far for them.
Young Living markets an essential oil blend called “Thieves Oil.” That’s supposedly a blend that medieval grave robbers rubbed on their upper lips before getting to work so they wouldn’t get the Black Plague. Huns pushed this oil blend during the ebola scare back in 2014, just as they push it during flu season every year. Wikipedia’s writeup contains a recipe and it sounds like it smells quite sharp and distinctive; indeed, Italian shops apparently sell “seven thieves’ oil” as an actual smelling salt.
Well, Young Living huns like to claim that Thieves Oil can protect against absolutely everything.
And now that coronavirus has arrived, they’re claiming it protects against that too.
In this ad, the hun brandishes her bottle of spray-on Thieves’ Oil:
When another oily hun asked if people would go on a Young Living-sponsored cruise these days, what with coronavirus being a problem now and all, one “oily mama” replied with this:
One commenter’s “oily mama” told her, “Thieves’ works better than a flu shot.” Indeed, anecdotes abound over at Reddit’s r/antiMLM sub about essential oil fanatics pushing their snake-oil to keep coronavirus away.
(One wonders if the “oily” MLMs will still have their cruises this year. LuLaRoe just canceled theirs, after all. And there’s a near-total overlap between “LuLaRoe huns” and “women who misuse essential oils.” I don’t wish this disease on anybody, but what a load of karma that’d be if they ended up as another Coronavirus Cruise situation! Also, see endnotes for one LuLaHun’s reaction to the cruise cancellation.)
Other MLM Claims.
Huns from other MLMs also push hard on false claims about coronavirus.
A hun with LimeLife, a skincare/cosmetics MLM, claims her hand sanitizer keeps coronavirus at bay.
Another hun who slings Juice Plus (a supplements MLM) claimed that her supplement capsules would boost one’s immune system to keep coronavirus away. Yes, because her product was full of totally for sure dehydrated vegetables and absolutely NOT houseplants or grass clippings for SURE, like a famous analysis discovered about bunches of other supplements just a few years ago.
And one with LifeVantage, which also sells supplements, made similar claims. I loved one of the comments on that post: “She really thinks she has the coronavirus cheat code huh.”
Probably the least offensive of all of the coronavirus claims came from Mary Kay, weirdly enough. Their hun only offered moisturizers for all that hand-washing we’ve been told to do. And from the photo provided as PROOF YES PROOF of her product’s effectiveness, I also must say that it even totally changed the model’s skin color and visibly aged her hand! Wow! (Don’t ever trust a hun’s before/after photos. Ever.)
Gosh, errybody gettin’ in on this!
Reporting Scammy False Claims.
In the United States, the FDA has a page for reporting illegally-sold medical products online. It says to send them reports in these cases:
If your report DOES NOT involve a life-threatening or otherwise serious reaction and it involves a website that you think is illegally selling human drugs, animal drugs, medical devices, biological products, foods, dietary supplements or cosmetics use this form.
If you encounter a real emergency, there’s also a number to call on the page. In fact, here’s their master page of where to go and who to contact for violations.
Some huns’ marketing doesn’t actually make medical claims about coronavirus, but does falsely promise that people under quarantine can use their MLM to generate a living income. In reality, almost all huns fail to earn a living wage with these scams. Here’s an ad along those lines:
On Facebook, incidentally, if you spot any MLM ads on personal pages you can report the user to Facebook. They charge businesses money to advertise on their site, so they get tetchy if MLM huns use their personal pages to advertise their fakey-face “businesses.” Facebook also began recently to remove posts that make false science claims, so there’s that too.
Most MLMs have links for reporting false medical claims and income-earning claims, which huns are officially absolutely not allowed to make, but if the hun makes them money then they generally don’t care. So do as you think best there.
The Value of Critical Thinking.
Now more than ever, we need critical thinking skills. Separating true claims from false ones gets harder and harder these days, thanks to the number of scammers who seek to sell us stuff like essential oil cure-alls and colloidal silver solution preventives. It’s way cheaper for them to sell scams and snake oil than it is for them to go to medical school and really learn how to cure and prevent stuff. And oh boy, they hunt prey in a wide-open field these days.
It should shame fundagelicals that they’ve fallen for coronavirus snake oil like they have.
But then again, it should have shamed them that they did a total 180 on Donald Trump once he began making mouth-noises about supporting their culture wars. And it should have shamed them that they declared culture wars at all and began campaigning against human rights, when they decided that hate was love and cruelty was kindness, and when they began making children want to kill themselves.
I don’t think fervent fundagelicals possess a sense of shame anymore, at least not the kind that’d stop them from behaving like utter hypocrites. The ideology scorches it right out of them.
The Choices That Were Made.
And it was always the worst possible choice to make.
Now the coronavirus chickens have come home to roost (SWIDT?), and all fundagelicals have to protect themselves are oily huns with sick pets and sore throats — and a snake-oil scammer who did prison time for fraud. Fundagelicals have deliberately and literally positioned themselves as opponents of credible, evidence-based science and medicine. And the flocks bought these lies and these products without even questioning any of it.
I’d say what they potentially face here is a much-deserved fate, except I know they’re going to do an incredible amount of damage as they plummet toward the irrelevance they deserve. Some of them aren’t actually evil, just totally lacking in critical thinking skills and raised to believe lies told by fleecers. Good people will suffer for believing these lies — and good or bad, they’ll inflict suffering on children and animals and anybody else they can get their hands on.
Lies hurt people, even if they seem benign at first glance.
We need to base our beliefs on that which is factual and true, and to encourage that mindset wherever possible. And we need to hold liars and conjobs accountable. That is the only way we’re escaping this pickle that fundagelicals have inflicted upon us in their rush to grab dominance while they still can.
In summary, wash your hands, everyone. Don’t go out if you don’t need to. And listen to the advice of real doctors, not scammers who stand to profit from your monetary and ideological purchasing decisions.
NEXT UP: SUPER SPECIAL TIME! <3
Update from that one LuLaHun: “Ugh. What a great day that ended terribly. Apparently working your ass off isn’t always worth it. I missed so much with my family, my kids… just to get on that damn cruise ship for a desperately needed, week away with my husband. We earned the trip and worked so hard to be in the top 2% of the company to get this trip. Our customers rallied for us. Truly. They’re amazing. And now the cruise is canceled, with 5 days notice, with no other information given. I feel like I’m also disappointing our customers who wanted us on that ship so badly and got us on it. I just can’t even. I’m so upset. I feel numb. I’m just done today, friends. Thanks for listening.” (Source)
Y’all, I’m getting flashbacks from when I worked for a satellite-TV provider right after Hurricane Katrina. A huge number of customers lost their ever-lovin’ MINDS over service problems and had completely barren fields regarding their neighbors. It all just dragged me through an emotional cheese grater every single day. People are dying of coronavirus and LuLaRoe’s leaders had the good sense to cancel the trip. Yes, the nonrefundable part really sucks, I’m with her. I know I’d hate it! But dang, y’all, WTF? She’d rather risk death and misery than miss an MLM cruise that sounds like a Mean Girl Convention anyway?
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Final note: Can you tell I really, really, super-hate the whole term “oily whatever”? Cuz oh wow, I do hate it. Who decided this was a great way to confer credibility on MLM shills? Rhetorical question, yes, but seriously, WTF?