How “they” view “us,” Mike Adams and Kent Heckenlively edition


I came so close.

Yes, when I read the latest target subject of this piece of Insolence to be bestowed upon you today, I came so close to resurrecting a certain undead Fuhrer who used to roam this blog on a regular basis chomping brains and inspiring horrible Nazi analogies. Indeed, it’s been at least four years since the Hitler Zombie made an appearance on this blog; so the temptation was there, although there was trepidation too because four years is a long time. There are, of course, hard core long time Orac readers who no doubt would have cheered the Rotting Seig Heil’s return, but I’m guessing that a lot more would have the reaction of shaking their heads and going, “WTF?”

In the end, I didn’t resurrect that old staple of the blog for a simple reason. This time around, I had a hard time coming up with something funny because death lists are not funny. However, the hijinks around this particular purported “death list,” believe it or not, are. It’s just that I couldn’t pidgeonhole that funniness into Hitler Zombie schtick. So instead I’ll use my own schtick, as inadequate as it is to the task. Moreover, it all provides to me a “teachable moment” related to my talk at TAM two weeks ago, which was entitled “How ‘They’ View ‘Us’” and based on some posts that I did over the last year and a half entitled, appropriately enough, How “they” view “us”; How “they” view “us” (briefly revisited); and How “they” view “us” (2014 edition). I guess this one is “How ‘They’ View ‘Us,’ uh, 2014.1 edition, or maybe “How ‘They’ View ‘Us,’ Mike Adams edition.

A lot of you probably already know what I’m talking about, because this stuff developed over the last few days, starting with a post by the One Crank To Rule Them All, Mike Adams. (You’ll see the appropriateness of The Lord of the Rings reference later in this post.) Earlier this week, there appeared on that font of all things quack and wingnut a spittle-flecked article by Mike Adams entitled Biotech genocide, Monsanto collaborators and the Nazi legacy of ‘science’ as justification for murder. To those of us who’ve followed Mikey for a long time, it was a bit over-the-top, even for him, given that he has in essence blamed the Nazi genocide on science (labeling sciences as evil) and has a penchant to likening his enemies to fascists. Not long after, David Ropelik and Keith Kloor expressed extreme alarm at Adams’s screed, particularly this passage:

Interestingly, just yesterday German President Joachim Gauck celebrated the lives of those brave Nazi officers who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. (1) Their attempted Wolf’s Lair bombing failed, but it was an honorable attempt to rid the world of tremendous evil by killing one of the people responsible for it.

This official ceremony sends a message to the world, and that official message from the nation of Germany to the rest of the world is that “it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.

This fundamental philosophical truth is now enshrined in history by the highest office of the nation of Germany herself, the very nation where mass government propaganda spearheaded by a highly-charismatic political leader drove the population to commit genocide in the name of “peace.”

Not surprisingly, a lot of people were alarmed by Mike’s words, which seemed like a direct call to kill scientists involved in genetically modified organisms. In the context of the rest of Mike’s screed, which ranted against “Monsanto Collaborators,” likening them to, of course, Nazi Collaborators”:

“Nazi collaborators” were individuals and corporations that promoted the power and reach of the Nazi party, publishing pro-Nazi propaganda and attacking anyone who criticized Adolf Hitler or the Nazi regime. Collaborators included many scientists, academics, publishers and of course politicians, all of whom played key roles in furthering the genocide that saw over six million Jews heartlessly slaughtered by the Nazi regime.

Today, a number of once-independent media sites are selling out to corporate interests and quickly becoming Monsanto collaborators. This is readily apparent by noticing which media sites attack Dr. Mercola, the Food Babe, Jeffrey Smith, the Health Ranger or anyone else fighting against the scourge of GMO genocide against humanity. These attacks all have one thing in common: they are orchestrated by paid biotech muckrakers — people I call “Monsanto collaborators.”

And, of course, Mikey likens glyphosate pesticide to—what else?—Zyklon B, pellets that released the cyanide used for the mass murder of Jews. In other words, it was standard Mikey rhetoric, which is why my reaction tended more towards amusement than horror. As I described before, I’ve seen that movie, too. This is not the first time he’s used Nazi analogies about his perceived enemies:

What the United States Air Force did to Dresden in World War II via high-elevation bombing runs, the global chemical and food conglomerates are now doing to the world populations via the drive-thru window. But there are no bombs dropping out of the sky and there are no firestorms lighting up the cityscape at night. Instead, the silent, ignorant masses are simply marched to their deaths, one meal at a time, almost like a cargo train full of “useless eaters” clicking and clacking its way to Auschwitz.

On the way to their own deaths, of course, they pay the mandatory tolls to the pharmaceutical giants, hospitals, cancer clinics, doctors and health insurance mandates. Much like victims of Nazi genocide had their gold fillings pulled out of their mouths before they were gassed to death, today’s mainstream consumers are emptied of their bank accounts, assets and insurance policies before finally being discarded by the system.

I used an link because the original link now just goes to Mike’s “science encyclopedia.” In any case, as I put it at the time, because food additives are exactly like the Dresden fire bombing and the Holocaust. And Auschwitz. Especially Auschwitz. I’m really surprised that Adams axercised a little restraint and didn’t list a number of other atrocities. He didn’t in this newest screed. He pulled out all the stops, “hoping someone will create a website listing all the publishers, scientists and journalists who are now Monsanto propaganda collaborators. I have no doubt such a website would be wildly popular and receive a huge influx of visitors, and it would help preserve the historical record of exactly which people contributed to the mass starvation and death which will inevitably be unleashed by GMO agriculture (which is already causing mass suicides in India and crop failures worldwide).”

This, of course, after quoting a postwar German leader about how just it is to assassinate evil leaders like Hitler. The implication seemed clear.

And, lo and behold! A couple of days later, there did appear a website called Monsanto Collaborators, complete with images of the train tracks heading to Auschwitz, swastikas, a Nazi rally, and piles of Holocaust victims. My first reaction was that I was disappointed that Steve Novella made the list of “journalist collaborators” and I didn’t. I mean, come on! Didn’t my epic criticism of the Seralini study and rejoicing over its retraction, mocking another study beloved of anti-GMO activists, and likening the anti-GMO movement to the antivaccine movement earn me any love? Well, a day later my name did pop up on the website, and I was satisfied.

Naturally, everyone thought at first that Adams was responsible for the Monsanto Collaborators website. A quick WHOIS search showed that the domain was registered under a proxy for privacy, no surprise there. So, for a few days, there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about how Adams had “gone too far.” I wasn’t particularly worried. My reaction was more, “Meh.” Indeed, I tried assiduously for three days to ignore the whole thing. When the Monsanto Collaborators site went online, however, I couldn’t any more, because several readers e-mailed me with concern, something I truly appreciate. Fortunately, in this case, the concern, I believe, was unnecessary. It’s possible that I’m too blase about Mikey’s antics these days, of course, but I don’t think so. On the other hand, Adams might be full of crap when it comes to his threats with disclaimers designed to provide him with cover, plausible deniability, but he has a wide readership.

In any case, Adams is a performance artist. He ramped up the hyperbole in his original post, and, right on schedule, is now ratcheting it back and denying he ever meant to threaten anyone. He’s added a long disclaimer to his original post, lamenting:

I have always stated in this story, as you can see below: “For the record, in no way do I condone vigilante violence against anyone, and I believe every condemned criminal deserves a fair trial and a punishment that fits the crime. Do not misinterpret this article as any sort of call for violence, as I wholly disavow any such actions. I am a person who demands due process under the law for all those accused of crimes.”

No, in context, Adams’ words were plenty bad, man. I just didn’t take them that seriously because, well, it’s Mike Adams. And my skepticism was rewarded richly, as Adams has now even gone so far as to disavow the Monsanto Collaborators site is a false flag operation planned in advance. (I’m telling ya, ya can’t make stuff like this up!) So evil are the Monsanto shills that, well, I’ll let Adams say it:

All this is just too carefully orchestrated. Whoever issued the press releases characterizing GMO skeptics as murderers clearly has been running this social engineering operation from the start. All they have to do now is wait for the entire community of GMO skeptics to be baited into endorsing this mysterious website, and then the GMO shills running it will post some sort of call to action that demands the murder of everyone listed there, perhaps venturing into militant threats of extreme violence.

In one fell swoop, they can paint the entire GMO skeptics movement as violent murderers when, in reality, GMO skeptics are people who love and honor life and who wish to protect the environment, protect seeds and plants, and protect their own health from the devastating effects of GMOs.

Adams even claims that his pointing out this false flag operation now places his life at risk! Of course, one wonders whether Adams is indeed responsible for the Monsanto Collaborators website, knowing the outrage it would cause in the context of his article quoting German President Joachim Gauck praising the Wolf’s Lair assassins who tried and failed to kill Adolf Hitler in 1944. Adams is disingenuous as hell, of course, but he also realizes that the outrage will allow him to dial back and then accuse his enemies (Monsanto and its “shills”) of trying to make him look bad.

So, how does this all relate to “How ‘They’ View ‘Us’”? Simple. Adams might be an alt med and New World Order conspiracy theorist with a flair for Internet performance art, but he really does seem to believe much of what he writes. More importantly, as I pointed out in my TAM talk and in my various “How ‘They’ View ‘Us’” posts, antiscience cranks, be they antivaccinationists, Mike Adams, anti-GMO cranks, or whatever really do believe that there is a conspiracy against them (or at least their favored woo) and that they are engaged in a war against evil. Indeed, just in time to reinforce this point, there appeared a post at the antivaccine crank blog, Age of Autism by Kent Heckenlively entitled PLAGUE – An Alliance of the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. It’s basically the same belief system as Mike Adams, but using The Lord of the Rings as an analogy. In this case, Heckenlively views himself as Aragorn, one of the heros of the story, the fulfillment of ancient prophecy, the King who returns to save Gondor and the free peoples of Middle Earth from the Dark Lord Sauron:

You should probably know I worship at the altar of The Lord of the Rings. As a cinematic evocation of loyalty, friendship, and courage I believe it has no equal. I tell my son that if someday in the distant future I am not around and he wants to explain to his children or grandchildren what his father hoped to be, he should pop in the DVD and let them view the trilogy.

When I watch I imagine myself as Aragorn, taking the Dimholt Road under the mountain, clutching the sword, Anduril, Flame of the West, offering a deal to the souls of the dishonored dead if they would join me in battle. I picture myself as Aragon, astride my horse in front of the Black Gate, telling my troops, I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! Then I jump off my horse, and with the setting sun behind me, a reckless, almost manic glint in my eye and a crooked grin, I am first to charge into the enemy army.

This is, of course, one of my favorite scenes from both the books and the movies. In it, Aragorn had brought his forces to the Black Gate of Mordor to challenge Sauron to battle, not with any hope of victory, but as a diversion to distract the Eye of Sauron and to allow the hobbits Frodo and Sam to cross Mordor and reach Mount Doom, there to destroy the ring. Aragorn, Gandalf, and his companions fully expected to die in the effort, and it looked as though they would when the battle was joined. They were saved because Sam and Frodo did reach Mount Doom and the ring was destroyed, thus destroying Sauron’s power and causing his armies to flee. (Of course, one of my favorite scenes from LoTR is King Theoden’s stirring speech to the Rohirrim (the horsemen of Rohan) before charging into battle against heavy odds to break the siege of Gondor. Peter Jackson captured that scene from the book almost exactly as I pictured it, but that’s just me.)

The point, of course, is that Heckenlively, like Adams, views himself (or fantasizes himself) as a heroic figure from the world of epic fantasy like Aragorn. Walter Mitty-like, Heckenlively fantasizes that it’s him leading a doomed mission to the very Black Gate of Mordor, knowing he’s unlikely to come out of it alive, in order to give others the chance to defeat the great evil against which he strives. He fantasizes that it’s him at the Council of Elrond helping to unite the fractious and squabbling races of Middle Earth to join in a heroic quest to defeat great evil. More importantly, he views the scientists, bloggers, and doctors who support vaccination as Sauron, who, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s world, was the nearly all-powerful embodiment of all that is evil, bent on subjugating all of Middle Earth and destroying any who stand in his way. Similarly, Adams takes a historical example, likening anyone who criticizes anti-GMO pseudoscience to the Nazis who systematically slaughtered millions for their ideology. Against such evil, almost any act is justified.

This is the world view those of us defending science must face. We see it in the antivaccine movement, who really truly believe that vaccines made their children autistic. We see it in Stanislaw Burzynski patients and families, who really and truly believe that Burzynski is the only person who can save them and view those of us trying to shut him down as people trying actively to kill them or their loved ones. We see it in Mike Adams, who believes that Monsanto and GMOs are destroying humanity. We will not change these people’s minds. We can only hope to counter their influence and change the minds of those who sit on the fence.

Finally, it is critical for skeptics to remember that we are just as prone to this sorts of Manichean world view, in which light battles dark and, oh, by the way, guess which side we’re on? It’s easy to dismiss cranks like Adams, because they’ve gone beyond the pale and might not even be sincere. However, many antivaccinationists, like Heckenlively, have severely disabled children for whom they have to care and have mistakenly blamed their children’s disabilities and autism on vaccines. Similarly, many Burzynski supporters have family members who are dying and have mistakenly concluded that Burzynski can save them. While we might reasonably conclude that a man like Mike Adams is an enemy, the Kent Heckenlively’s and Burzynski patient families of the world are not. While it is necessary to counter their views, we should never forget the human shortcomings that we all possess that led them to their pseudoscience and quackery.