Joseph Mercola, DO has been a frequent topic of discussion on this blog over the last 15 years. The reason is simple. He runs one of the largest repositories of misinformation about health on the entire Internet, including social media. He promotes antivaccine pseudoscience, the rankest of cancer quackery (e.g., the idea that cancer is a fungus and that baking soda can cure it), and pseudoscience and quackery of every imaginable variety, all while presenting himself as “moderate” and “reasonable” compared to those “real crazies,” like Mike Adams. It’s not just his website and social media activity, though. Selling supplements and all manner of woo, Mercola has become fabulously wealthy and has been using that wealth to support antivaccine groups, such as Barbara Loe Fisher’s National Vaccine Information Center to run antivaccine ads in various outlets , promoting a fake holiday known as Vaccine Injury Awareness Week over the last decade, and in general try to spread disease by discouraging vaccination. How wealthy has Joe Mercola become with his online quackery empire? His net worth is now over $100 million!
So it’s not surprising that Mercola is very happy to be celebrating his 23rd year of spreading health misinformation disguised as “natural health” hither, thither, and yon throughout the web and social media:
It’s been 23 years since I launched Mercola.com, and I am tremendously excited and grateful to be celebrating this momentous milestone with you! When I started this website in 1997, my goal was to teach people simple, inexpensive natural alternatives to drugs and surgery.
Thankfully, we’ve been able to reach hundreds of millions of people throughout the years. And although we’ve made improvements to the functionality and design of the site, its goal remains the same: to offer practical health solutions and tools that will help people take control of their health.
I never imagined that we would be able to achieve all the milestones that we’ve accomplished so far — and yet now I’m confident that there’s still more we can do. With that said, here are the key initiatives that I’m proud to highlight this year.
At this point, I’d like to go back to the story of how Mercola started his website in the late 1990s, a tale he’s told many times. Basically, Mercola says he started his website to spread “natural health” information to his patients and others. Back then, bandwidth wasn’t dirt cheap, the way it is now, although I can’t help but note that back then most websites were not particularly graphics-intensive, mainly because bandwidth could get expensive fast. Be that as it may, Mercola decided to start selling supplements and other “natural health” products in order to fund his website. Long ago, though, sales of those “natural health” products took off, and, whether Mercola will admit it or not, it wasn’t long before his website became, in essence, the primary marketing arm of his supplement business, particularly as most of his business was online. As I mentioned just above, that business ended up making Mercola very, very wealthy. Truly, quackery pays!
As lucrative as Mercola’s business has been over the years, it hasn’t all been coming up roses, at least not lately. Last year, for instance, in response to growing criticism that their algorithms and business models facilitated the spread of dangerous antivaccine misinformation, various social media platforms started experimenting with ways to deprioritize and deemphasize health misinformation, mainly antivaccine misinformation. Google did it too, adjusting its YouTube search algorithms and its web search engine to deprioritize quackery. The result was that a number of prominent websites started to find their content not showing up any more on Google, Facebook, YouTube, and other searches nearly as high on the list of results as they had before. Indeed, in June 2019, Mercola wrote a long complaint about how search traffic to his website from Google had plummeted 99%. (You and I, of course, consider this a good thing, but obviously this is the sort of decline that seriously affects a quack’s bottom line, and a number of other promoters of health misinformation, such as Kelly Brogan, complained about similarly jaw-dropping declines in Google search traffic to their websites.) Around the same time, Facebook started removing a number of antivaccine websites, such as Larry Cook’s “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” page.
This year, in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pressure to combat misinformation about coronavirus, masks, hydroxychloroquine, and the numerous conspiracy theories about the pandemic has placed even more pressure on social media platforms and Google to do more, leading to even more crackdowns. For instance, I recently noticed that Twitter will not allow users to share any links from Mercola.com, although, oddly enough, Mercola still has a Twitter account, where he’s complaining about the Twitter ban and continuing to promote misinformation about health:
Well, I guess it’s a start that Twitter won’t let you post a link to Mercola.com, but it’s rather silly to allow him to continue to have a Twitter account.
In any event, like all good grifters, Mercola has taken a situation he can’t control and spun it as a decision on his part to do something noble. It’s worth quoting liberally from this part of his “celebration” because I couldn’t stop laughing as I read it:
Last year, I made the decision to leave Facebook, because it had grown into a censoring surveillance platform that incessantly preys on people’s personal data and violates their rights to privacy. This year, I am taking another giant leap by blocking Google from indexing Mercola.com.
Google is the largest monopoly the world has ever seen, and it’s absurd just how it has deeply infiltrated our everyday lives. It collects data on every move you make and eavesdrops on each conversation you have, whether you’re online or out in the real world.
This power poses threats to our society, such as being able to manipulate the information that the public sees through their ability to restrict or block access to websites, and manipulating public opinion through search rankings and other means.
And did you know that Google can track your movements even if you’re offline? Android cellphones, which are a Google-owned operating system, can track you even when you’re not connected to the internet, whether you have geo tracking enabled or not. And as soon as you go online, Google gets access to all the information stored in your phone.
But Google’s monopoly now goes beyond web search, as it now has a potentially dangerous monopoly on online advertising, which it has acquired by buying DoubleClick, an internet ad serving company that has already dominated the digital advertising market.
And with its recent acquisition of Fitbit, it’s clear that Google is also after your health data. Through Fitbit, Google will have access to all your physiological information and activity levels. In fact, Google, Amazon and Microsoft also collect data entered into health and diagnostic sites, which is then shared with hundreds of third parties, without your knowledge or consent.
I strongly suggest simply avoiding Google products, as they account for the greatest personal data leaks in your life. I am proud to say that Mercola.com is now Google-free — we no longer use Google Analytics, or Google search for internal searches and have never used Google ads.
See what I mean? After all, given that Mercola’s Google search traffic had already declined by 99% over a year ago, Google in essence has delisted his website anyway. Mercola could use Google or not use Google. It wouldn’t make any difference. Now, don’t get me wrong. It is true that Google does have an incredible amount of power over what we see on the web, and it does track far too much of what we do online. It is also true that Google is expanding its reach disturbingly into other areas. That being said, Mercola was perfectly happy to use Google search before the company tweaked its algorithms and search ranking system to deprioritize antivaccine disinformation and quackery, leading to a precipitous decline in search traffic to Mercola.com. If Google hadn’t changed its algorithms, leaving Mercola.com at the top of the heap as one of “natural health” websites with the most traffic of any, you can bet that Mercola would not be complaining. Basically, it would have been a lot more impressive if Mercola had blocked Google’s webcrawlers from indexing his site a year and a half ago, before Google adjusted its search algorithms. Now, Mercola’s braggadocio about “taking a stand” against Google just looks obviously cynical (because it is) and pathetic (because it is that, too).
Much of the rest of Mercola’s post is recitation of his “accomplishments.” Of course, anyone who promotes science-based medicine would consider these all to be negative accomplishments. For instance, he brags about writing an “Herbal Immunity Recipe” book, which if the video interview included with the article is any indication, looks to be rife with nutritional pseudoscience. He recounts “continuing the fight against water fluoridation” as though that were a good thing. (It’s not.) Apparently, Mercola is a fan of cavities and wants to support Big Dentistry, which will have a lot more business if more local governments stop fluoridating their water.
One activity touted by Mercola is a perfect example of how to take a reasonable concern and turn it into a conspiracy theory. I’m referring to warning against a fast-tracked COVID-19 vaccine. After all, I myself just yesterday expressed considerable dismay over Russia’s “Sputnik-V” COVID-19 vaccine, which was approved without any phase 3 trials and, apparently, after only less than 80 people had receive the vaccine. Back in May, I expressed similar concern over President Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed,” the government’s effort to fast track a coronavirus vaccine. What’s the difference between Mercola’s concern and mine? Well, take a look:
The government and pharmaceutical industry are rapidly moving toward mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19, along with tracking and tracing vaccinated individuals. Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), warns that not only will this endanger your right to make informed, voluntary decisions about vaccine risk-taking, but it will also put your health and safety at risk.
This fast-tracked vaccine will be using novel vaccine delivery methods, such as the microneedle array injection, which is funded and promoted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Unlike conventional injections, microneedles have fluorescent quantum dot tags, which leaves an invisible mark that can be read by a smartphone equipped with a special sensor.
According to Fisher, Bill Gates has not only been pushing to vaccinate everyone in the world, but he’s also intent on being able to track vaccination records in our bodies. She says:
“Certainly, this type of administration of a vaccine is a double bubble because not only do you get the vaccine in the person, but you also are able to track them … They’re determined to somehow implant, or in some way have our bodies carry our vaccination records …”
Moreover, the mRNA vaccines being developed against COVID-19 are designed to alter your RNA and DNA to turn your body into a protein manufacturing plant. This is a tremendous concern because if your immune system is hypersensitive, it could overreact and result in autoimmune diseases.
Yes, it is true that there is an initiative to develop a means of identifying who has received which vaccines involving this technology. However, it’s not nearly as nefarious as Mercola makes it sound. For one thing, knowing who’s already received a specific vaccine can protect that person from unnecessarily being advised to receive that vaccine again if there is uncertainty over whether he’s ever had it. Also, this technology is a long way from being ready for prime time. It is, however, unsurprising that Mercola would weave a conspiracy theory about this technology; this is also likely the origin of the conspiracy theory about COVID-19 vaccines claiming that they will implant a chip, and some of the conspiracy theories about it go right into tinfoil hat territory, with one crank claiming, “This vaccine will not only “mark” you like a cattle, you will be injected with nano particules that will make a you a Perfect antenna for the 5G frequencies wich they will use to track you, make you feel and think anything they want.”
As for that last bit about mRNA vaccines being designed to “alter your RNA and DNA”? That’s utter nonsense. mRNA vaccines might be new and as yet unproven platforms for vaccine delivery, as I discussed in the context of the Moderna vaccine, but they do not alter your DNA or RNA. Seriously, does “Dr.” Mercola not understand how mRNA vaccines work? Yes, they do get into your cells and serve as templates to generate proteins to generate an immune response against the pathogen being vaccinated against. That’s the idea. But they do not alter cellular DNA. As for autoimmune diseases? The proteins the mRNA generate are not human proteins. In the case of COVID-19, they’re specific proteins from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. Seriously, “Dr.” Mercola needs to take a refresher course in basic molecular biology, as he’s starting to sound like homologous recombinaltion tiniker all over again. (Oh, wait. This isn’t the first time Mercola has laid down this particular bit of ignorance about molecular biology.) On the other hand, he’s probably well aware that a mRNA vaccine is not going to alter DNA.
Sadly, as glad as I am that there’s finally been some pushback against the likes of Mercola, his very existence is depressing. His great wealth, all obtained from promoting pseudoscience, misinformation about health, and outright quackery in order to sell his wares, is just one more indication that quackery is very lucrative. Quackery sells, and Mercola has been selling it for 23 years now, with no signs of stopping.