“Paper-thin claim” (FDA FOIA request)

Alarmist claims to the contrary, the FDA’s response to a massively-broad FOIA request is not evidence of a conspiracy or cover-up. Rather, it is a statement on how much information was asked for, how those claims are handled, and how many personnel are dedicated to the task.

The requested documents center on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trial, information about which runs a whopping 329,000 pages. FDA officials said they could start releasing documents at a rate of 500 pages a month, in decreasing order of plaintiff priorities. These pages must be perused to determine which names need to be redacted and to identify trade secrets that need protected. Additionally, there are what the FDA calls “records that cannot be meaningfully paginated, such as data captured in spreadsheets that contain thousands of rows of data.”

A rate of 500 pages per month is consistent with processing schedules in previous FOIA requests. While all of these documents, at this rate, would take decades to provide, the plaintiffs would start getting the most documents immediately. Also of note, agencies have limited resources, and there are other requests to satisfy.

The FDA has been transparent on this topic and large amounts of vaccine data are available online. Regarding safety and effectiveness, there is likewise much published data publicly available. But expecting the agency drop everything to immediately release 329,000 redacted pages is unreasonable and, when considering the names and trade secrets that need to be removed, impossible to do in the time demanded.

“Scary Blossom” (Collapsing athletes/Neuriva)

Continuing their run of delivering a fresh piece of misinformation at least weekly, anti-vax activists are pushing a trope that athletes are collapsing on the field after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. They share context-less videos of players, usually of the European soccer persuasion, fainting during a match. A non sequitur insinuation that this is the result of vaccination follows. But there is no reason to think that the collapsing took place since the advent of the vaccine, or that the collapsing players were vaccinated, or that the vaccine was responsible.

Reuters and Snopes contacted FIFA, whose officials told them they had seen no increase in cardiac events among their players, and certainly none related to vaccinations.

While myocarditis and pericarditis may occur after an infinitesimal percentage of shots, none of the athletes in these videos were diagnosed with these conditions. Snopes reviewed a video that included several images of soccer athletes passing out and then looked into the cause. It turned out that most suffered from heat exhaustion or dehydration and none were the result of vaccine-linked cardiovascular misfortunes.

In short, this is all another anti-vax lie and nothing suggests a connection between the coronavirus vaccine and collapsing soccer players. Indeed, it would seem very strange that this only impacted one sport on one continent. For all the NFL that I watch, I have yet to see these types of collapses, vaccination-related or otherwise. Additionally, Snopes noted some of the soccer players were revealed to have NOT been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, not precisely making it up but not doing a whole lot better is what actress Mayim Bialik does when she touts brain supplements along with her supposed standing as a neuroscientist. The products in question are Neuriva and Neuriva Plus, the latter which combines the original ingredients with vitamins B6, B12, and folate.

However, Dr. Harriet Hall notes there is no evidence these additional ingredients increase the product’s efficiency. Since the product has yet to be subject to double blind testing, we are unsure if it works. There are studies which show the added ingredients may have impact by themselves, though that’s far from certain since they were tested on aging mice. And even if true, it would not necessarily follow that Neuriva Plus is effective for human brain power or memory.

As to the person making such claims, while Bialik did earn a doctorate in neuroscience, she doesn’t seem to have ever worked in the field. University of Chicago professor emeritus Jerry Coyne searched for her name in the Web of Science and found zero publications to her credit. Nor is she employed as a professor, doing laboratory work, or submitting findings for peer review.

While she can’t be compared to anti-vax misinformation agents in terms of damage done or lies being told, she is not doing any more science than they are.

“Grate Scott” (AstroWorld tragedy)

Ten persons, including a grade-schooler, being crushed to death, is horrific enough that it should stand on its own as a tragic event. But for those insistent on finding an even darker meaning, we venture to the online conspiracy theorist.

Rolling Stone cited TikTok users who opined that Travis Scott’s Astroworld stage was shaped like an inverted cross, thus interpreting it as a portal to Hell. They also suggest that the shirt Scott wore that night – depicting persons walking through a door and emerging with horns – as evidence that Scott was luring fans to a sacrificial rite.

It’s hard to miss the irony of the Internet – a capability those in the Dark Ages would have been unable to comprehend – being used to offer an explication consistent with those times.

And of course, no corroborating evidence for any of these extreme claims exist, which means precisely zero in conspiracy land. Consider this affirming of the consequent /appeal to incredulity from a zealous Internet sleuth: “If you don’t believe that there was nothing demonic about that whole concert, you are spiritually blind and I pray that God opens your eyes.” Hmm, looks like he got in an unintentional double negative to go with his double logical fallacy.

Other TikTok users crowed about the set featuring eight pyrotechnic flames lining the stage, with the fires said to represent the victims who died that night. That the death toll later expanded to 10 did little to disabuse believers of this notion. Rather than admitting to having arrived at an erroneous conclusion, they moved the morbid goalposts and said the extra victims were offed so as to detract from the numerical connection.

Another dude wondered if the COVID vaccine combined with Scott’s music to send off 5G vibrations that made for a lethal combination. It would seem strange that only 10 persons were impacted if this were a fatal concoction. Then again, those who are “just asking questions” are seeking agreement, not answers.

Insider cited a clip in which an anonymous TikTok poster lambasted Scott for performing some unspecified “demonic shit” and accusing him of keeping the concert going while knowing that asphyxiation deaths were occurring. Another accused the rapper of being a demonic lackey.

Yet another concluded the deaths were sacrifices to Kris Jenner since the tragedy took place on her birthday. The Law of Truly Large Numbers would apply here, as would a Law of Truly Large Stretches.

Another user Tweeted that Scott’s recent music cover art, which depicted him as somewhat akin to a goblin, proves that the concert was a “sacrifice ritual and no one will change my mind about that.”

Today’s Critical Thinking 101 lesson: First, the certainty of one’s conviction is unrelated to its soundness. Second, the burden of proof lies on the one making this diabolical claim; it is not on the skeptic do disprove it, though that it an imprecise term since it implies something has already been proven.

The Guardian noted that all this viral misinformation shows how young social media users are increasingly susceptible to conspiracy theories, despite seeing themselves as savvy navigators of the online world. But spending copious amounts on the Internet increases the risk of being misled by it, and exacerbating this are algorithms which track usage and beliers and lure users to those sites which affirm the consumer’s bias.

“Intentional confounding” (Galileo Gambit)

I watch copious amounts of professional football, regularly soaking in five games a week. The NFL is the only interest that has consistently been near the top of my list of passive hobbies from grade school through the upper reaches of middle age. And in those 46 years, I have never seen anyone who can consistently make an absurdly long, logic-defying, into-a-no-visible-window throw like Aaron Rodgers.

As such, it seems fitting that his biggest failing would come off the field. He declined a CDC-recommended vaccine, publicly lied about having received it, and failed to follow league COVID protocols. He then quadrupled down while appearing on Pat McAfee’s podcast.


There, Rodgers declared himself the victim and offered self-congratulation for his critical thinking skills while committing a logical fallacy trifecta of appealing to incredulity, tradition, and consequences. He also made a series of claims that might charitably be called dubious (utter balderdash lacking any scientific or medical grounding would be a more accurate descriptor).

For all this, he received high praise in right-wing circles. He was touted as brave, an adjective that once applied to those who “courageously face danger,” but when used by the likes of Clay Travis, Jason Whitlock, and Candace Owens, means “agrees with me.”

Rodgers was also lauded by some in the Twitterverse for rebelling against authorities, specifically the CDC. While government agents should be held accountable when they shirk their duties or use them for personal gain, it does not follow that all actions taken by every government worker or agency is nefarious. The CDC has a multi-billion dollar budget, which enables the world’s foremost epidemiologists to research and combat disease. To think that someone with no training in scientific disciplines will spend two hours on Google and YouTube and uncover the REAL truth is the height of folly and ego. It also leads frequently to the Galileo Gambit.

This logical fallacy holds that if most people, especially those in authority, dismiss or mock an idea, this means the idea is correct. The thinking goes, “Galileo was mocked, his ideas threatened established thinking, and he was proven right. Therefore, the mocking of my iconoclastic position means I am also correct.”

But having one thing in common does not mean two persons have everything in common, or even one more thing in common.

Galileo was vindicated when further science confirmed his heliocentric theory. But for Rodgers or any other alternative medicine proponent to be likewise vindicated, their favored treatments would need to be consistently shown to be effective in double blind studies. To be kind, that has yet to happen.

The Food Babe, lacking any science for her claims, frequently employs the Gambit and is fond of saying, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” There is nothing here that validates any of her assertions or points, and the same is true for Rodgers and others who endorse natural immunity, invermectin, or hydroxycholoroquine as superior to vaccination.

As a Reddit user retorted, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule yet, then they fight you, then it turns out you were wrong all along.” Being in a class with Galileo requires more than being dismissed. It requires being at the forefront of discovering evidence that proves your hypothesis. There is no automatic connection between being scorned and being right.

On a linguistic note, those employing the Gambit don’t even get the comparison right. It wasn’t the scientific establishment that went after Galileo, it was the anti-scientific establishment Catholic Church.

Writing for Psychology Today, Dr. David Johnson noted there are rare instances of a lone genius being proven correct after challenging the prevailing scientific notion. He cited the example of Einstein upending some Newtonian ideas. “Einstein built a new consensus among the experts by presenting arguments and evidence that was, ultimately, undeniable,” Johnson wrote. “When people resisted his ideas, he never once said, ‘Hey, they laughed at Galileo too.’ He kept trying to convince them with reason and evidence.”

And for every Einstein, Galileo, Wegner, or Wright Brother, there are untold masses who fought against “the system” and lost because they were wrong. As Carl Sagan said, some initially-vilified scientists were laughed at, but so too was Bozo the Clown.

As to Rodgers, his medical regimen is more in line with Bozo than Pasteur, and it forced him to sit out Green Bay’s game with Kansas City. As someone who champions scientific advances and critical thinking, I was sad to see it. As a Chiefs fan, my thoughts were more positive.

“Suicide by crop”’(Organic farming)

Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped nation in the Indian Ocean, and tears are what many of the country’s farmers shed once President Gotabaya Rajapaksa mandated organic farming in the country. After five disastrous months, the experiment was mercifully terminated.

The results had upended Sri Lanka’s crop production and had a calamitous effect on agricultural exports like tea, rubber, and spices. All this for food that is no healthier than traditional fare, marketing claims to the contrary.


Organic farming proponents fall for the appeal to nature fallacy, which holds that something which occurs naturally is preferable to anything synthetic. For example, Dennis Prager foolishly exposed himself to the coronavirus in the mistaken belief that he would be better off doing that than being vaccinated. Besides putting himself – an older man – at risk of death and long-lasting complications, he will suffer through weeks of misery rather than having two unpleasant hours the next day. Even if he pulls through, he will not enjoy the long-term benefits about which he gloats. For antibodies that the vaccine creates are no different than the ones he will acquire through exposure from another carrier.


Organic farming proponents commit a similar error when they consider their favored crop production to be superior since it eschews the use of synthetic chemicals. They are mistaken, and not just because there are dozens of exceptions to the so-called ban. In a second appeal to nature fallacy, organic farming proponents think the natural herbicides are safer than synthetic ones but the origin of a product is unrelated to its danger level. Moreover, organic farming is unsustainable on a large scale because of the calamitous combination of needing more land to yield fewer crops.

Additionally, it requires greater labor since more weeds are likely to grow since there are fewer herbicide options. Consequently, Sri Lanka farmers experienced nearly a quarter-decrease in productivity. Some crops suffered a 50 to 100 percent drop. These numbers are depressingly similar to other locales that have relied heavily on organic farming.

Besides gutting a farmer’s livelihood, there are resultant food shortages and price increases. Additionally, the drag on exports harms the gross national product.


Organic farming shortcomings are aggravated when trying to massively increase the scale. Organic farming accounts for about 1.5 percent of food production worldwide. Trying to ramp up those numbers (especially to 100 percent) will create obstacles, some predictable, some surprising.

Writing for the New England Skeptical Society, Dr. Steven Novella noted it is possible for about five percent of farming to be organic. Trying to go beyond that will encounter organic fertilizer availability. Novella explained that composting and cattle manure are the primary organic fertilizers and both ways recycle nitrogen, though at a compromised rate.

He wrote, “Some plants can fix nitrogen from the air through soil bacteria, and these can be used as crops to put nitrogen into the soil. All this works if the percentage of crops grown without external inputs of nitrogen is kept relatively small.”

But his system falters as one attempts to scale up, and will be an unmitigated failure if trying to go from five percent to 100.

Fortunately for Sri Lankan farmers, the forced experiment is over. Here’s hoping the rest of the world learns from their misfortune.

“Mach behavior” (Sound barrier)

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The sound barrier refers to the sharp increase in aerodynamic drag which aircraft experience when approaching the speed of sound. Chuck Yeager was the first to conquer this barrier, which requires more than just great flying skill. It also requires rigorous aircraft design.

For as aircraft approaches Mach speed, airflow over some plane parts exceeds the speed of sound, creating shockwaves which force the craft to nose down. Only planes designed to overcome this will be capable of making it to 767 miles per hour.

While Yeager is credited with being the first to do this, a few alternate histories hold that others accomplished it before he did.


Some think German World War II pilots managed this, but captured intelligence documents make no mention of this having happened.

Still, tales persist that Messerschmit Komet pilots were the first to break the sound barrier. Heini Dittmar is one name associated with this supposed accomplishment. However, this was never referenced until a 1990 book, the contents of which contain no documentation from the 1940s, when these flights are said to have taken place.

Besides, as Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted, the Komet’s design would have made reaching such a speed impossible. He wrote, “The Komet had fabric-covered elevons on the trailing edge of the delta wing, which would always be shock stalled.”

Another key item is the imprecise nature of airspeed indicators of the time. Aircraft designed for below-sonic speed will in all likelihood yield unreliable readings because of the shockwaves. By contrast, aircraft designed to be supersonic employ a Mach indicator, which Dunning explains corrects for static air pressure.

There are two other supposed pre-Yeager Mach speed flights cited by alternate historians, both taken by civilian test pilot George Welch. He putatively took an XP-86 fighter prototype and, in a powered dive from 35,000 feet, broke the sound barrier. Anecdotal stories say that a sonic boom was heard on the ground.

But author Robert Kempel contends that for Welch’s aircraft to break the sound barrier with an J35-C-3 engine would be impossible, and Welch never himself claimed to have made it to Mach speed.

“Research caper” (DIY research)

When a scientist speaks of research, he or she is referring to a years-long systematic process of collecting data, testing hypotheses, and going where the evidence leads. This is done objectively via methods that are explained to fellow scientists, who then attempt to replicate or contradict the findings. When submitting for peer review, those conducting the research will outline their findings, data sets, and statistical analyses, then submit it all for peer review.

By contrast, the guy who exhorted us to “Wake Up Sheeple” in a message I saw plastered to his vehicle has a different take on the matter. When he claims to have done his research, he means he has utilized a search engine, then clicked on the first link which confirmed his bias. For him, peer review is having his likeminded friends take a look at the YouTube link he messaged them.

This difference was starkly illustrated by Flux writer Melanie Trecek-King, who explained, “Real research is about trying to prove yourself wrong, not right.”

Hellaciously complex topics such as vaccines, climate science, and evolution require years of specialized learning and gaining an understanding broad terminology. There is also corroboration and debate with those in the field, while conducting genuine research as outlined above.

Because of this complexity, high-quality studies conducted by experts can arrive at different conclusions. Critics of science, such as the one with the rolling sheeple billboard, highlight these contradictions to insist that the field is unreliable.


This is to misunderstand what science is, that is to say a messy, self-criticizing, self-examining process aimed at finding the truth. While science has arrived at conclusions later shown to be wrong, it was further and better science that uncovered the error.

Similarly, when there are accusations that scientists are involved in a massive cover-up, this ignores that healthy conflict exists among scientists, and also glosses over the fact that the most revered scientists are those who upended conventional thinking.

The Scientific Method is crucial to all this, but perhaps no step in the process is as paramount as peer review. It would be one thing to convince two dozen sympathetic lay people that polio vaccines cause kidney failure. It would be quite another to successfully make such a case to hundreds of experts who will peruse your methods and findings.


Further, no single study will be the end-all. Conclusions must be repeatedly replicated before becoming a consensus.

As to this consensus, it does not refer to an agreeing of opinion based on confirmation bias or groupthink. As Trecek-King explained, scientific consensus is “the result of highly specialized experts independently evaluating the body of evidence and arriving at a similar conclusion.”

Any consensus remains open to challenge but a complete novice will not upend it by spending the afternoon on Google. Major changes to scientific thinking are announced by the Noble Prize Committee, they are not posted to a right-wing conspiracy theory site. Such sites insist that 10,000 scientists are eschewing fame, fortune, and career satisfaction in order to further enrich a shadowy cabal by staying silent.

Almost universally, experts are trusted. If persons are not trained in the field, they do not attempt to fix a malfunctioning intake manifold, they do not replace their home’s faulty wiring, and they do not perform their own gall bladder surgery. That some folks make an exception for vaccines, masking, and distancing would be comical were it not for the deadly results.

China, where the coronavirus originated and with four times the U.S. population, has yet to record its 5,000th COVID death. The U.S., meanwhile, just passed the grim 700,000 milestone. Put another way, the pandemic has shown Americans to be incapable of dealing with a national emergency requiring mild inconvenience.

“Right is wrong” (Pandemic partisanship)

The most perplexing aspect of the pandemic is its partisan nature. The shutdown should have been a time when we bonded over our collective misery and came together for the common good. That was, in fact, the case for about six weeks before some right-wingers became enraged at their inability to go to Arby’s and began plotting gubernatorial assassinations and the storming of capitols as a result.

Again, this left me baffled. Since a virus has no concern with its host’s political leanings, the pandemic should have been the ultimate nonpartisan issue. Instead, a nation already divided by a petulant child masquerading as a head of state become even more fractured. It has gotten so wacky lately that talk show host Dennis Prager insisted that anyone who wears a mask outdoors would have been a willing Nazi accomplice. Vaccination clinics today, Auschwitz tomorrow. Logical leap.

In a parallel development, the anti-vax movement that was once part of the burned-out hippie fringe has now completed a bewildering transformation to mainstream conservative thought. While the great majority of Republican federal lawmakers, governors, and Fox News blathering heads have received the COVID vaccine, they caution their followers against doing the same.

To be sure, describing the anti-vax movement as having shifted from Jenny McCarthy’s terrain to Tucker Carlson’s is a bit simplistic. There here have always been anti-vaxxers of varying political stripes. This included libertarians whose belief in limited government was so extreme they felt it should take no action to prevent the spread of disease, no matter how deadly. And there were Republicans who, having bought into the rugged individual American myth, preferred to go it on their own, or at least thought that’s what they were doing. A motorcycling free rider who eschews helmet usage boasts he’s doing it all on his own, without thinking about how the highway got there or how his bike got manufactured. Similarly, some feel they are going their own way on vaccines without realizing that others getting immunized brought anti-vaxxers the herd immunity they are enjoying. Now let’s look at how much worse it has gotten.

A huge factor was a 2015 California law passed in the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak. This eliminated nonmedical school vaccination requirements. During the bill’s debate, right-wing lawmakers, while having gotten jabbed themselves, learned the political gain of employing buzzwords like freedom, choice, religious liberty, and parental rights.

From that groundswell, we now have objection from nearly all elected Republicans to any COVID control measures. For these politicians, mounting deaths and the overwhelming of the medical system pale in importance to getting reelected. China, where the virus originated and with four times the U.S. population, has yet to hit 5,000 coronavirus-related deaths. Meanwhile, the “pro-life” party leads resistance to vaccines, masks, testing, tracing, and distancing, as the number of U.S. COVID deaths approaches 700,000.

This wasn’t always the case. Mississippi has long required schoolchildren to be vaccinated against nine diseases and allowed no religious exceptions.

Today, that mindset has been brushed aside in favor of gaining political capital and getting one over on those silly pro-science liberals and skeptics. Many elected Republicans such as Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, Marjorie Taylor Green, Mo Brookes, and Josh Hawley have dispensed with the pro-freedom façade and now openly embrace opposition to vaccine science.

Still, there are still some who may frame their opposition as one of choice. Two years ago, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey fought an attempt to broaden school vaccination exemptions. But this year he forbid local governments from requiring COVID vaccines for employees, calling the type of initiative he had championed in 2019 to now be “dictatorial.”

It’s reminiscent of Gov. Orval Faubus fighting to keep Little Rock Central segregated. His motivations were based more on political expediency than a personal bigotry. But history rightly reviles Faubus for his stance, regardless of why he took it. The same fate awaits those who today are embracing the more repugnant options available during the pandemic.

“Disease, please” (Germ Theory denial)

Why did people get all worked up over 9/11? Americans had a 99.99999 percent survival rate that day. And some of those killed were obese, diabetic, or had high blood pressure, and so were on limited time anyway.


While this take would be rightly reviled if a speaker seriously suggested it, there is little difference between this position and those of the anti-vax, pro-COVID crowd. Arguing that terrorism victims deserved their fate would be an incredibly offensive position, but so too is the notion that COVID-related deaths are meaningless since such patients represent a small minority or they had a medical condition.

This stance also dismisses the science behind vaccines and masks, and overlooks that the unvaccinated are 29 times more likely than the vaccinated to be hospitalized for the coronavirus.


Among this group, there is an even more extreme subset which holds that the COVID and other viruses don’t exist, and therefore cannot be transmitted, cause disease or be fatal. In this alternate reality, illnesses are the result of lifestyle choices and environmental factors. These Germ Theory deniers are more dangerous than their flat Earth brethren, who are merely wrong and impossibly stubborn. Those who deny Germ Theory harm not only themselves, but others as well by not taking preventive measures like hand-washing, vaccination, and anti-biotic treatments.


Germ Theory came from the brilliant mind of Louis Pasteur, though there were competing hypothesis at the time from his contemporaries, Claude Bernard and Antoine Béchamp.


The former proposed the concept of milieu intérieur. In an online piece, journalist Beth Mole wrote this idea suggested that disturbances to the body’s internal equilibrium caused disease and pathogens were a nonfactor. Meanwhile, Béchamp proposed a similar idea, thinking the body manifested pathogens in response to an internal change.

Subsequent scientific findings by the likes of Robert Koch and Joseph Lister validated Pasteur’s idea that invading organisms led to disease. However, the postulations by Bernard and Béchamp still find favor in the conspiracy theory and alt-med crowds. While still on the fringe, Germ Theory deniers have experienced an uptick in their numbers during the COVID-19 era.

They believe that bacteria is a symptom of a disease, not a cause. They also assert that viruses are incapable of passing from person to person. They, just barely, believe in disease, but feel that a condition called toxemia is its lone manifestation. And this, the deniers say, is the fault of the afflicted for having made poor nutritional and lifestyle choices. In their universe, disease symptoms are merely a ravaged body’s attempt to detoxify itself.

Their solution is to overload on fruit and avoid just about anything else, to include meat, dairy, eggs, breads, pasta, soy, nuts, oils, potatoes, garlic, onions, cereals, salt, coffee, and drugs, be they recreational or medicinal. Vaccines, antibodies, and doctor visits are also verboten.

To a denier, the promotion of vaccines and medicine is part of a cover-up. This is another reminder that the defining point of most conspiracy theories is that any contrary evidence is part of the conspiracy. The SkepDoc, Harriett Hall, tells of a raw food enthusiast she encountered who declared that vaccines were unable to prevent disease and existed only to enrich pharmaceutical companies. Any statistics showing a decrease in disease when vaccines are administered were fabrications aimed to hide the truth.

Hall also related that she knew a chiropractor who felt disease was caused by spine misalignment. He refused immunizations and felt keeping his spine in check made him immune from all disease and sickness.

Many such theorists subscribe to a litany of alt-med practices that supposedly relieve the body of toxins. Which toxins are being removed and the method by which this happens are unexplained. They also commit a correlation-causation error by arguing that those who see the doctors the most often are the sickest. This is usually true, but only because people by and large go to the doctor when they are sick. They don’t go when healthy, only to be made ill by the appointment.

Meanwhile, it’s a matter of reasoned debate as to whether the deniers’ stupidity is the cause or a symptom of their condition.


“Stock footage” (COVID claims)


There is more information available today, and accessible in more formats, than ever before. While this proves desirable in some instances, it also creates an opportunity for a person to select which of these pieces of information he or she chooses to believe and use it to seemingly confirm preexisting opinions.


With regard to the pandemic, this can mean that medical expertise, professional advice, and years of high-quality research are brushed aside for an uncle’s anecdote, right-wing Twitter outrage, and YouTube rants. In an example of the latter, Dr. Dan Stock assails an Indiana school board about the putative danger and shortcomings of masks and COVID-19 vaccines.


Writing on the Deplatform Disease blog, Edward Nirenberg describes the Stock’s speech as a Gish Gallup. This refers to a proponent rattling off a bunch of points in quick succession. Most or all of the points may be wrong, but the content is so voluminous that few persons will commit the hours needed to research and refute each argument. For the speaker, a Gish Gallop confers the additional advantage of a listener thinking that if only 10 percent of the points raised are sound, that’s sufficient reason to doom the issue being attacked, be it evolution, GMOs, or pandemic control.


Stock claims COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are small enough to go through your mask. Like many anti-vax arguments, this represents a grain of truth in a bushel of bunk. While a single particle is small enough to make it through a mask, that is not how viruses travel. They do so inside aerosols and droplets, which masks do stop.


Stock further states that all respiratory viruses wait for the “immune system to get sick in the winter,” an assertion which lacks even the aforementioned single grain. But the people who seek out this information, such as the half dozen who littered my Facebook feed with it, are never going to look into this. They are content to consider watching this video “their research,” which is a corruption of the concept of research.


Nirenberg conducted genuine research on the matter and he explains that, “The seasonality of respiratory viruses is a complex matter dependent on many factors, many of which have nothing to do directly with immunity. For instance, when it’s cold, people gather indoors for prolonged periods close together in poorly ventilated spaces. Humidity is lower which also affects virus transmission, as it allows aerosols to remain suspended for longer and mucociliary clearance may be impaired.”


Stock throws out another mistaken notion, alleging that vaccines serve to derange the immune system. He offers no proof to support this extreme claim, and fails to even explain what would constitute deranged immunity.


The Gish Gallop kicks into top speed as Stock rattles of a laundry list of viruses that have no vaccine. While this is true, his non sequitur conclusion is that virologists will therefore be unable to control COVID. What is hampering the arrest of COVID are the likes of Stock, who put of public disinformation, and the minions who swallow it all without question, while ironically labeling those with the opposite opinion to be the sheep.


Stock then declares that breakthrough infections prove the vaccine is ineffective. But Nirenberg notes that many respiratory viruses are enjoying a seasonal resurgence, likely because or relaxed mitigation measures. Further, CDC data shows the vaccine has been nearly 90 percent effective against symptomatic outbreaks and there have been virtually no hospitalizations or deaths from COVID among the vaccinated population.


Stock discusses antibody-dependent enhancement, which he mislabels “antibody-mediated viral enhancement.” Nirenberg counters that Stock defines ADE incorrectly by suggesting it is exclusive to vaccines. Moreover, he mixes up ADE and VAERD, which are distinct entities and ADE does not have to be caused by a respiratory infection. It is also unrelated to how pathogenic a virus is. If ADE were happening, reinfections would be both common and more severe with COVID-19.


On a related note, Stock references the Barnstable County outbreak and, in a post hoc reasoning error, says this proves the vaccine to be ineffective. But Nirenberg wrote that if 100 vaccinated persons are in a room where an aerosolized virus is introduced, a few may get sick, but however many people fall ill, 100 percent the stricken will have been vaccinated. The way to gauge the vaccine’s efficiency is by comparing the percentage of vaccinated persons who get seriously ill from the virus with those who are sickened while being unvaccinated. Right now half of the country is vaccinated against COVID and hospitalized coronavirus patients are more than 95 percent unvaccinated.


Stock further claims no vaccine ever stops infection, which is untrue, and besides, a vaccine need not prevent infection for it to halt transmission and provide robust public health benefits.


Stock then references a mumps outbreak and claims the outbreak was caused by vaccinated persons shedding the virus onto the unvaccinated. Besides being mistaken, this crosses into dangerous territory since an unhinged believer may act on this falsehood and attack medical workers and mask-wearers.


In yet another erroneous claim, Stock states that the combination of vitamin D, ivermectin, and zinc has successfully treated 15 COIVD patients. This is unbacked by any data, and as Nirenberg points out, with a sample size this minuscule, a proponent could find any activity and falsely label it a cure. For example, those 15 could watch Mr. Beast three hours a day, with none of the group developing serious coronavirus complications, and we could then conclude that bingeing on quirky philanthropist videos will end the pandemic.