Who is the greatest proponent of Disinformation today? It can be seriously argued that the crown currently belongs to Joseph Mercola. What is truly clear is that if disinformation was an olympic sport, then he does indeed qualify for gold.
“Ah, but that just your biased opinion”, some might quip. If so, then I’m not alone. Here are other highly reputable sources taking this same stance as recently as one week ago:
- Irish Times: Is this doctor the most influential spreader of Covid-19 misinformation online?
- Chicago Tribune: Who is Joseph Mercola? 5 things about the doctor called a COVID-19 misinformation ‘superspreader’ — from Chicago roots to bizarre battles with government regulators
Criticism of what he does is not simply opinion based. His constant stream of demonstrably false disinformation is by itself solid and rather robust evidence.
Who is Joseph Mercola?
He is basically a guy who uses fear to sell quackery so that he can reap $$$. He merits flagging up because he is very dangerous due to his opposition to the use of vaccines and promotion of alternative treatments that don’t work for COVID. Because of him, people have died, and many more will die.
There is a lot of history behind the above. He has been doing stuff like this for decades, and so has a lot of experience on how to make money via the promotion of quackery. Highlights from his past include …
- Claims that microwaving food alters its chemistry
- Opposition to homogenization, claiming that homogenized milk has little nutritional value and contributes to a variety of negative health effects
- AIDS denialism
- Mobile phones supposedly causes cancer
- Sunscreen supposedly causes cancer
All of the above is utter bullshit and has no scientific merit. He promotes stuff like this to instil a sense of fear so that people then turn to him for solutions … at a price.
He knows how to play the game.
He does not directly oppose the COVID vaccine but instead plays the old trope, “I’m just asking questions”. What is produced is not designed to educate or inform , but instead is crafted to go viral and generate fear. The goal is to motivate people into buying from him. His marketing will even practise A/B. This is where he releases alternative competing versions and then measures to see which is the most viral and effective. After many decades he has learned how to play human emotions for the sole purpose of sucking in business.
Does it really work?
As reported in the Irish Times, the answer to that is clearly yes …
Over the past decade Mercola has built a vast operation to push natural-health cures, disseminate anti-vaccination content and profit from all of it, say researchers who have studied his network. In 2017 he filed an affidavit claiming his net worth was “in excess of $100 million”,
In other words, this is not a guy who champions stuff like this because he sincerely believes. Instead, he is in it for the money. The driving force is pure greed.
Does the FDA and FTC go after him?
They do indeed, but he simply bounces back like a rubber duck.
Much of the problem here is that after many decades of experience he knows how to swim just under the trip-wire and so has adopted a strategy that generates doubt and fear without directly saying things. For example …
…rather than directly stating online that vaccines do not work, Mercola’s posts often ask pointed questions about their safety and discuss studies that other doctors have refuted. Facebook and Twitter have allowed some of his posts to remain up with caution labels, and the companies have struggled to create rules to pull down posts that have nuance.
“He has been given new life by social media, which he exploits skillfully and ruthlessly to bring people into his thrall,” says Imran Ahmed, director of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which studies misinformation and hate speech. Its “Disinformation Dozen” report has been cited in US congressional hearings and by the White House.
He also tries to play the scientific card …
“I am the lead author of a peer reviewed publication regarding vitamin D and the risk of Covid-19 and I have every right to inform the public by sharing my medical research,”Mercola
…except for the observation that his claim is BS. He uses low quality highly dubious scientific “studies” like this to simply flog lots of supplements.
The CCDH report
I’ve written about this before. Last march CCDH published a report that flagged who the 12 biggest sources of disinformation on social media.
No.1 on that list?
Oh come now, you don’t need to ask. It is indeed Mercola.
Red Flag Alert – Mercola
The bottom line is this. If you see anything, literally anything at all, associated with the name “Mercola”, then your very best play is to immediately consider it to be a red flag that announces “Here be Bullshit”. There is a rock solid guarantee that if you do that, then you will be right about many many things.
Your responsibility is not to debunk his BS, but instead to simply reject it. This guy is not focused on your health, but instead your $$, and he wants to motivate you to buy what he is selling.
Today we have a pandemic. What some might not truly grasp is that associated with it is an infodemic – a torrent of misinformation that both prolongs the pandemic and makes it far worse by inspiring people to reject sensible health guidance and avoid vaccines. One of the primary alpha sources for this is Joseph Mercola.
The CCDH report that identifies Joseph Mercola as the number 1 source of disinformation is available here.
- The terms “Misinformation” and “Disinformation” are distinctly different.
- “Misinformation” is where people, who sincerely believe it to be true pass it on.
- “Disinformation” is the creation or propagation of information that is known to be false. It is deliberate deception. This is what the report focuses upon, the primary “Disinformation” alpha sources.
- While Joseph Mercola is Number 1 on the list, Erin Elizabeth is Number 7. She is married to Joseph Mercola, that’s his wife, and so she is doing exactly the same.
Another source well worth checking out is the recent article within the New York Times. They ran their own investigation and even spoke to people who used to work for Mercola – “The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation”