Bondi View

Covid-19 cures: the new snake oil quackery

Preacher Kenneth Baker claimed Covid-19 infected people were healed if they touched the TV screen by his oil-anointed hand.

By ALEC SMART

To capitalise on the anxiety the worldwide coronavirus pandemic is engendering, several religious leaders have been spruiking ‘miraculous’ methods and potions with grandiose assertions of their effectiveness as a cure. Lockdown aside, even Australia is not immune from the quackery.

Meanwhile, high-profile evangelists, conspiracy websites, easily-influenced people and influential politicians float theories that Covid-19 is, assuredly: a Chinese-engineered virus to incapacitate the West; a ploy by Bill Gates to reduce the world’s population; a North Korean bioweapon; a global beat-up by big pharmaceutical firms to force people to accept vaccines; caused by microwave beams from new 5G mobile phone towers that weaken our immune systems; smuggled into China by an American double-agent to cull the Chinese population; Israel’s master plan to eradicate neighbouring gentiles.

Into that maelstrom of misinformation, it is perhaps inevitable that modern snake-oil salesmen have begun touting their miracle solutions to a surprisingly gullible populace.

Disappointingly, despite the desperate plight of the coronavirus-stricken, the usual faith healers – Sean Pinder, Rod Parsley, John Rea, Issam Nemeh, Beni Johnson, Paseka Motsoeneng, Todd Bentley, Alph Lukau, and their calculating cohorts of con-artists – are being deplorably selfish and withholding their restorative powers from Covid-19 treatment wards.

Just as they are conspicuously absent at the bedsides of terminally-ill children. But it can be guaranteed that when the pandemic has subsided, they’ll be back astride their familiar pulpits ‘curing’ gullible tithe-paying parishioners of incurable cancer and demon possession.

Despite Australia’s recent resurgence of superstitious Pentecostalism, thanks to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s love-in with Hillsong Church and their paedophile-hiding pastor Brian Houston, we’re a relatively secular country when it comes to seeking salvation from existential threats. At least compared to theocratic Middle-Eastern regimes and Conservative Christian forces currently steering the USA via the judiciary and Trump’s Republican Party stalwarts.

Miracle Mineral Supplement
A documentary video called Quantum Leap and posted to social media outlets like Facebook by a far-right group called QAnon, is promoting a substance that has for years been marketed as a wonder-cure. Called Miracle Mineral Supplement (MMS) and sold in small bottles by the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, latterly Covid-19 has been added to the list of maladies and cancers MMS purportedly reverses or resolves in record time, and is available to buy in Australia.

QAnon, whose logo is a black Q in a red circle (the name derived from ‘Q Clearance’, the authorisation required to access top-secret intelligence data in the USA) is a far-right group that believe Apocalyptic scenarios will purge the world of its opponents. QAnon agitate for The Great Awakening, a fundamentalist religious revival akin to historical shifts when societies degenerated from rational, secular thinking into superstitious conservatism.

Proponents, who circulate false rumours that high-ranking officials, liberal-minded Hollywood actors and Democratic Party politicians in the USA are actively engaged in child sex trafficking, are looking at the coronavirus pandemic to accelerate what they call The Storm – a conservative religious revival when thousands of opponents will be arrested, imprisoned and/or executed.

Believers commonly tag their social media posts with the hashtag #WWG1WGA, signifying the motto “where we go one, we go all.”

According to the Washington Post, whose investigative journalist, Travis View, a specialist in wild conspiracy theories, researched the secretive cult, QAnon’s core belief is “There is a worldwide cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who rule the world, essentially, and they control everything. They control politicians, and they control the media. They control Hollywood, and they cover up their existence, essentially. And they would have continued ruling the world, were it not for the election of President Donald Trump.”

It’s perhaps unsurprising that QAnon align themselves with Genesis II Church of Health and Healing. Despite the latter’s ambitious name, it is neither a church nor concerned with health or healing, just a scam operation to peddle MMS under the pretext that they’re benevolent outsiders bringing salvation by bypassing oppressive authorities and health officials.

In the Quantum Leap documentary, narrator Kacper Maciej Postawski declares “This movie is about a small band of individuals that have done something amazing. They’ve found a cure for cancer, AIDS, diabetes, malaria, the common cold, herpes, Parkinson’s, arthritis – pretty much every disease that exists on this planet today and effects humanity…

“What you’re about to see is so massively changing on a personal and a global level. And because it is so simple, it’ so easy and so cheap it’s available everywhere and it cures these diseases not in years or decades but in hours, days, weeks and in extreme cases months, but it’s true!”

Thereafter the film is dominated by a collection of apparently sincere testimonials from people who claim to have completely recovered from a range of conditions, including Lyme Disease, MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus: a flesh-eating bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body), sun burns, blocked sinuses, damaged rotator cuff, terminal cancer, acne, advanced arthritis – even a facial tumour on a cat.

A man in a white lab coat explains, “It’s safe because it’s an oxidiser, and because you handle oxidation otherwise you could not live on oxygen.. it breaks down into a simple natural compound.”

After about quarter an hour Potawski cuts to the chase: “So what is MMS? MMS is sodium chlorite. Not to be confused with sodium chloride, which is table salt. It sounds almost the same but it is very, very different!” Thereafter he reveals that sodium chlorite has been used “for over 100 years.. to kill pathogens, to sterilise things because it kills bacteria, germs, viruses, very, very effectively… it’s used to purify water..”

And that’s where the video reveals what this supposedly ‘miraculous’ substance really is.

“When you activate it with an acid like hydrochloric acid, the same acid that’s in your stomach.. it turns into something called chlorine dioxide. Chlorine dioxide is a very, very special molecule. It is an oxidant, just like oxygen. It kills pathogens, bacteria, viruses, very, very effectively… it’s like a torpedo with a selective warhead. It selectively targets all the bad guys in your body and leaves all the good guys alone…”

Bleach, yes bleach
And therein lies MMS’ questionable medical value; chlorine dioxide – known by the chemical formula ClO2 – is a bleach, commonly used as a floor cleaner or stain remover.

The description of MMS as a ‘miracle cure’ is extremely misleading, because the product is potentially lethal and it is not approved for human consumption in Australia nor the USA, where the church originates. However, that hasn’t stopped its popularity. It is available to purchase here in Australia via the Genesis website and distributed by self-proclaimed bishop Charles Barton from an address in Hervey Bay, Queensland.

Because the MMS is retailed as ‘water purification drops’, which contain 28 per cent sodium chlorite, along with the activator – bottles of hydrochloric acid – Genesis can circumvent Australia’s strict rules concerning therapeutic and medicinal products. The website also carries the useful disclaimer “We do not list or sell any therapeutic goods, as defined by legislation, and any apparent mention or reference to same is inadvertent and coincidental.

“Our products, their descriptions and other information posted here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease, and any apparent reference to same is inadvertent and purely coincidental. Anyone seeking medical products, should consult their physician.”

Except the website provides links to videos, like the Quantum Leap documentary shared on social media by QAnon, where exactly the opposite claims of its effectiveness as a miracle cure are made. This should give the Australian Govt’s health authorities the legality to suspend and prosecute Genesis and their local snake oil salesman, Charles Barton.

Meanwhile, Facebook refuse to remove the videos promoting bleach as a miracle cure because it “doesn’t go against our community standards.” Google, too, are still providing links to websites retailing MMS bottles and books promoting its supposed efficacy.

Dymocks Books are retailing Genesis II Church founder Jim Humble’s book MMS An Easy Cure, for $62.99, which features an African woman drinking a cup of yellow bleach.

Fishpond.com.au are retailing 50 MMS Healing Miracles by Joseph Marcello. The tagline reads: “This is a remarkable book-simple but utterly compelling. In it, 50 once-ill, desperate or dying people relate their grateful astonishment at recovering their health and their lives through the use of an inexpensive substance the world knows as MMS-the Master Mineral Solution (an activated form of sodium chlorite called chlorine dioxide) made famous by one Jim Humble. The following 50 first-person testimonies are all the proof anyone needs to be convinced that there is more to the health equation than mainstream medicine is willing to reveal..”

For anyone wondering why US President Donald Trump, on 23 April, suddenly made the ludicrous suggestion that medical specialists should practice injecting disinfectants and bleach into people to combat Covid-19, need look no further than Genesis II Church. The leader of Genesis, Archbishop Mark Grenon, claims he wrote to President Donald Trump just days before that infamous press conference to draw his attention to MMS, which he described as ‘sacramental cleansing water.’

“I see the disinfectant where it knocks it [coronavirus] out in a minute. One minute,” Trump ruminated aloud. “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? So it’d be interesting to check that.”

On 1 May 2020, the United States issued a Complaint for Injunction against Genesis II Church of Health and Healing (“Genesis”), and individual defendants Mark, Joseph, Jordan and Jonathan Grenon (Defendants) pursuant to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act alleging that they directly or indirectly violated several rules in their marketing and retail of MMS.

These included: “Claiming that MMS is intended for curing, mitigating, treating, or preventing COVID- 19, Alzheimer’s, autism, brain cancer, HIV / AIDS, and multiple sclerosis.”

As far back as Nov 2014 the Australian Govt was aware of its impotency as a cure of any sorts, let alone miraculous, when the Dept Health issued the warning: “MMS is marketed as water purification drops and may be offered under different names, including Miracle Mineral Supplement. It contains 28% sodium chlorite, which is a chemical used as a textile bleaching agent and disinfectant. Products containing this concentration of sodium chlorite pose a serious health risk if consumed by humans and should be labelled with warnings and the word ‘POISON’”

MMS: Australian update
On 13 May 2020 the Australian Govt’s Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) issued infringement notices and fines to the Australian chapter of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing.

In a statement, the TGA said: “The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued twelve infringement notices totalling $151,200 for the alleged unlawful advertising of Miracle Mineral Supplement (also referred to as Miracle Mineral Solution) (MMS) and other medicines by Southern Cross Directories Pty Ltd trading as MMS Australia.

“The TGA is concerned about the harmful effects that can be caused by the ingestion of MMS, and has published an updated safety alert to warn consumers about claims made online about Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) for the treatment, cure, prevention or alleviation of disease, including COVID-19.

“There is no clinical, scientifically-accepted evidence showing that MMS can cure or alleviate any disease. The use of MMS presents serious health risks, and can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe dehydration, which in some cases can result in hospitalisation.

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Some of the other more notable snake oil sellers include

Reverend Jim Bakker
Televangelist and embezzler Reverend Jim Bakker, who has undergone more resurrections than Jesus by bouncing back from fraud convictions (leading to a five-year jail term), sex scandals with prostitutes and a rape allegation (silenced with hush money), got in early on the elixir sales front.

Bakker repurposed his ‘Silver Sol’ (Ortivida Silver Solution) remedy, which he’d long been flogging on his website as a spiritual elixir, and, during what appeared to be a pre-scripted ‘interview’ with so-called ‘naturopathic doctor’ Sherill Sellma on his 12 Feb TV program, promoted it as a cure for Covid-19.

“Let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it has been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours,” Sellman asserted. “Totally eliminate it, kills it. Deactivates it… Silver Sol has been proven by the government that it has the ability to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on including SARS and HIV.

Bakker then offered Silver Sol products for viewers at $US80 a bottle or more, if they donated to his ministry. Silver Solution actually consists of colloidal silver products – tiny silver particles suspended in a liquid.

Although multiple ‘health’ outlets retail colloidal silver solutions in Australia, at prices considerably cheaper than Bakker’s ministry, claiming to be ‘anti-bacterial’ and ‘anti-inflammatory’, The Mayo Clinic warns: “Manufacturers of colloidal silver products often claim that they are cure-alls, boosting your immune system, fighting bacteria and viruses, and treating cancer, HIV/AIDS, shingles, herpes, eye ailments and prostatitis.

“However, no sound scientific studies to evaluate these health claims have been published in reputable medical journals. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has taken action against some manufacturers of colloidal silver products for making unproven health claims.

“It’s not clear how much colloidal silver may be harmful, but it can build up in your body’s tissues over months or years… This results in argyria, a blue-gray discoloration of your skin, eyes, internal organs, nails and gums.. Excessive doses of colloidal silver can cause possibly irreversible serious health problems, including kidney damage and neurological problems such as seizures.. [and] may also interact with medications..”

On 9 March the office of the New York State Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration sent jointly-signed letters warning Bakker and his associates that his products “pose significant risks to patient health and violate federal law.”

On March 10 an attorney representing the state of Missouri filed a lawsuit against Jim Bakker and Morningside Church Productions “For misrepresentations about the effectiveness of “Silver Solution” as a treatment for 2019 novel coronavirus.”

On 4 May Bakker responded by hiring lawyer Jay Nixon, the former Governor of Missouri and Democratic Party senator – to represent him and issued a counter-claim that the state’s law suit violated the Missouri Constitution and the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Prevented from receiving credit card payments for the Silver Solution, the wealthy Bakker also declared his ministry was facing bankruptcy and urged his supporters to send in financial donations.

On 5 May the U.S. Food and Drug Administration begun issuing warning letters to firms across North America for selling fraudulent products with claims to prevent, treat, mitigate, diagnose or cure COVID-19, including essential oils, herbal treatments, homeopathic immunity boosters and colloidal silver solutions.

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Kenneth Copeland
Whilst Bakker was receiving his first cease-and-desist letters for promoting his colloidal silver liquid as a Covid-19 cure, the wealthiest of America’s TV evangelists, billionaire Kenneth Copeland, was working his own magic.

On 12 March, Copeland claimed to heal coronavirus-infected watchers of his TV show when he raised a hand coated in anointing oil and asked viewers at home to touch the screen while he prayed for them. At the end of his prayer Copeland proclaimed they were “healed and well.”

On 30 March Copeland – with unnerving, cobra-like eyes that make him look more like a snake than a snake oil salesman – followed this restorative miracle with a dramatic puff of breath, claiming he had ‘blown the wind of God’ on the virus and ‘destroyed it forever.’

“It is finished! It is over, and the United States of America is healed and well,” he assured Americans in a recorded sermon. America’s coronavirus infection rate then soared, reaching a million in just a few weeks, with 60,000 fatalities within the month.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, all comments are now turned off on the YouTube video that Kenneth Copeland Ministries (210,000 subscribers) posted of him blowing away the virus.

Incidentally, Copeland, who owns around five private planes, including two passenger jets and his own airport, sat on the evangelical executive advisory board that Donald Trump assembled during his campaign for the presidency.

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Alex Jones
Even radio host and founder of Infowars’ conspiracy website Alex Jones, described by civil rights lawyers Southern Poverty Law Centre as “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America,” tried to cash in on Covid-19 elixirs with his anti-oxidant formula, DNA Force.

In spite of his postulation that coronavirus is insignificant and its threat exaggerated by unknown forces with their own hidden agenda, Jones claimed on his radio program that his vastly overpriced pills were essential and “literally a stopgap” against Covid-19 infection.

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Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi
In New York, the epicentre of the USA’s coronavirus contagion, Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, an influential, albeit controversial, leader in the state’s sizeable Jewish community, released a video on YouTube at the end of March proclaiming a “Spiritual and Physical cure for the virus.”

The Rabbi, infamous for assertions like “autism and Down’s Syndrome are punishments for sins committed in a past life,” and “Jews helped bring about the Holocaust by assimilating [with gentiles],” has garnered almost 1000 thumbs-up affirmations and 150 supportive comments for his recommended treatment, which he describes below.

“So what’s the solution? Listen carefully: You take a hair blower… you open up your mouth, you blow hot air into it until your throat for about half a minute, 20 seconds, until you really feel that your throat gets very, very hot inside..”

This action should be followed by a quick blast from a cold water spray bottle kept conveniently alongside. “The water will relax the skin.. You have to do it twice a day for five minutes. Five minutes… If you do what I tell you it will kill the virus before it goes into the throat. Immediately. If you’ve already got it and already have the fever and coughing, then you have to do it five times a day for two days maximum. Then it’s dead, guaranteed.. This way I told you is a guaranteed thing. You do it and it kills it… If you count on hospitals to take care of you, you’re dreaming…”

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Chef Pete Evans
On 24 April, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration also fined celebrity chef Pete Evans for false claims that his BioCharger ‘light machine’, which he was retailing for $15,000 each, could be used to treat the ‘Wuhan coronavirus.’

In a statement, TGA said “The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued two infringement notices to Peter Evans Chef Pty Ltd (the Company) totalling $25,200 for alleged breaches of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act).

“Mr Evans allegedly live streamed on his Facebook page, which has more than 1.4 million followers, claims that the device could be used in relation to “Wuhan Coronavirus” – a claim which has no apparent foundation, and which the TGA takes extremely seriously.

“A second infringement notice was issued for alleged advertising breaches on the website www.peteevans.com, which is maintained by the Company. The page for the BioCharger included claims such as: “proven to restore strength, stamina, co-ordination and mental clarity”; “sharpening your mental clarity”; “recovery….from an injury, stress”; “accelerating muscle recovery and reducing stiffness in joints”.

“As the BioCharger device has been represented by the Company as being for therapeutic uses, it is a therapeutic good within the meaning of the Act, and is subject to the regulatory framework established under the Act and administered by the TGA.”

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