It occurs to me that it’s odd that I’ve never blogged about Ben Garrison (or, as far as I can tell, even mentioned him on this blog before). The reason, of course, is that he is one of the crankiest of cranks when it comes to COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, and the pandemic. (Indeed, a whole section of his website devoted to COVID-19 is called “Plannedemic,” obviously a play on the term “Plandemic,” a conspiracy theory that emerged early during the pandemic as a result of a video by conspiracy “documentarian” Mikki Willis featuring Judy Mikovits, a disgraced scientist turned antivax conspiracy theorist and COVID-19 grifter, claiming that the whole pandemic was a “plandemic” designed so that the elites can take total control. Of course, Garrison is about so much more than just COVID-19 conspiracy mongering and antivaccine nonsense. He is arguably the most famous pro-Trump cartoonist, and his cartoons buy into pretty much every piece of propaganda and conspiracy theory promoted by by Donald Trump over the years. Garrison’s style is also very notable in that he makes his cartoons so complicated that he feels a compulsion to label everything, as in these two examples:
Unsurprisingly, Garrison is very antivaccine, for example:
Given that background, you must know what’s coming next. Yes, Ben Garrison has caught COVID-19:
Ben Garrison, a right-wing cartoonist known for his opposition to vaccines and his extremely flattering drawings of former President Donald Trump, told Gizmodo late Sunday that he contracted covid-19 and has been sick for about two weeks. But allegedly getting covid hasn’t changed Garrison’s mind about modern medical science.
Garrison, who lives in Montana, believes that he got covid-19 while dining out at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago. Montana has seen a disturbing rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with about 900 new cases each day.
“Yes, it’s definitely Covid and we’ve had all the symptoms. My wife and [I] went out with a couple to a restaurant and the next day all four of us were sick. One of us went to see a doctor and was told she had Covid, and that was the clincher,” Garrison told Gizmodo via email. (Garrison has been banned from Twitter for supporting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.)
Of course, Garrison is also treating his COVID-19 with ivermectin and other quackery:
“We’re taking Ivermectin and various vitamins including a lot of Zinc,” Garrison continued, explaining what he’s doing to treat the disease. The cartoonist also notes he’s taking beet root juice. None of this has been proven to treat or prevent covid-19, with monoclonal antibodies and vaccines being the only real ways to fight this pandemic, which is still raging in many parts of the world.
Beet root juice? That one, believe it or not, I hadn’t heard of as a quack treatment for COVID-19, but apparently it’s a thing in the “wellness community” to “build your immunity” against the virus. My usual retort to such claims is this: You want to know what really builds your immunity against COVID-19? The vaccine!
But, of course, Garrison and his wife are unvaccinated:
Garrison told Gizmodo that he and his wife are not feeling well and that he’s completely lost his sense of taste and smell. Garrison seems to believe that he and his wife are struggling to overcome the disease because they’re in their mid-60s.
“Both Tina and I feel slightly better after two weeks, but it has been rough. I lost my taste and smell as well as desire to eat any kind of food. I lost 15 pounds as a result. Young people tend to bounce back more quickly, but we’re in our mid-60s,” Garrison wrote.
When Gizmodo asked Garrison whether he’d been vaccinated against covid-19, he repeated many of the same conspiracy theories that appear in his cartoons.
“We will never take their foul spike protein-producing jabs, which are neither safe nor effective. They’re not real vaccines. They’re gene therapy,” Garrison wrote in an email to Gizmodo.
As I’ve discussed many times before, ivermectin is the new hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19. Like hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial and mild immunosuppressive drug used to treat some autoimmune disorders, ivermectin is a repurposed drug with no good evidence of efficacy at treating or preventing COVID-19 that’s being promoted by conspiracy theorists and grifters as a miracle cure for COVID-19 (that of course means that you don’t need the vaccine, or so infer the ivermectin-pushing quacks and cranks).
Unsurprisingly, Garrison is deep into COVID-19 conspiracy theories. He’s quoted as saying that the pandemic response is about “control,” not public health (where have we heard that before?); that the vaccine is not a “real vaccine” but “experimental gene therapy” (it’s not); and that the vaccine is killing tens of thousands (there’s no evidence that this is true, other than a misinterpretation of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System database, or VAERS).
Garrison also refuses to go to the hospital for any reason:
Garrison says he’d never visit a hospital to treat his covid-19. (Last week, NBC News reported that anti-vaccine Facebook groups have been influencing members to not seek hospital treatment for covid-19 and even instructed them to pull their sick family members out of ICU.)
“I would never go to a hospital with Covid. Robert David Steele did it a few weeks ago and they killed him. The hospitals get extra money for Covid death reports, which is necessary to keep fear ramped up,” Garrison claimed in an email to Gizmodo.
The man Garrison is referring to, Robert David Steele, was a conspiracy theorist who frequently appeared on InfoWars with Alex Jones. The 69-year-old Steele believed some incredibly bizarre things, including that NASA had imprisoned children on Mars to work as slaves. Steele, who claimed to be a former CIA officer, reportedly died of covid-19 in August.
Of course, this particular conspiracy theory is not a new one. It’s existed in one form or another beginning very early in the pandemic. A variant of this conspiracy theory is the claim that hospitals are categorizing people who die of other things as having died of COVID-19 and that only 6% of people whose cause of death is listed as COVID-19 actually died of the virus. It’s a claim that depends upon an utter misunderstanding of how death certificates are filled out and dates back at least to summer 2020. Before even that conspiracy theory was one that claimed that doctors were intubating COVID-19 patients willy-nilly and thereby hastening their demise.
Still, the new conspiracy theory being pushed on Facebook groups that claims that doctors are keeping COVID-19 patients from using “miracle cures” like ivermectin or are even killing them on purpose, which means that people who contract COVID-19 should avoid emergency rooms and hospitals in favor of treating themselves is a horrific escalation in the distrust of the medical profession being stoked by COVID-19 conspiracy believers. It’s definitely a conspiracy theory that will lead to a lot of unnecessary deaths, as your odds of surviving severe COVID-19 at home in essence untreated are far worse than if go to a hospital and accept the best care, supportive and coronavirus-directed, that we currently have.
It’s also leading to this:
Those concerns echo various local reports about growing threats and violence directed toward medical professionals. In Branson, Missouri, a medical center recently introduced panic buttons on employee badges because of a spike in assaults. Violence and threats against medical professionals have recently been reported in Massachusetts, Texas, Georgia and Idaho.
Conspiracy theories of the sort being promoted by Ben Garrison are leading to threats and violence against the very people trying to save the lives of those who contract COVID-19 and develop severe, life-threatening disease as a result.
You’ll excuse me if I admit to a bit of schadenfreude at Garrison’s misfortune. I don’t want him to die; I don’t even want him to end up on a ventilator (as unlikely as that would be given his refusal to go to the hospital). However, it’s hard not to see this as a bit of cosmic justice.
On the other hand, my schadenfreude is tempered by knowledge I’ve gained over the years from cancer patients who fall for quackery, indeed, patients who fall for any kind of quackery. Assuming that Garrison recovers from COVID-19, as he is likely to do, there is no doubt that he will attribute his recovery to ivermectin and all the other quackery that he’s been using, even though there’s no evidence that any of it has any therapeutic effect against the disease. Basically, if Garrison recovers, he will have done so without any effective treatment, but he will certainly tout ivermectin, zinc, beetroot juice, and whatever else he’s using as the things that “cured” him. He’ll also become more antivaccine than ever.