Footnotes for “Waging War on Medicine”

These are the footnotes for an excerpt from the second-half of chapter 6 of The Occult Elite: Anti-Communist Paranoia and Other Ruling-Class Delusions (2022).

[1] Curtis MacDougall, Superstition and the Press (Prometheus Books, 1983). On the issue of media misreporting, one scientific study examined 2,337 terminal cancer patients in palliative care and determined that, while most died after 5 months, one percent survived beyond five years. But somehow the Independent newspaper reported in January 2006, in an article titled “’Miracle’ cures shown to work”, that the reason for survival owed to alternative medicine, when nothing of the sort was shown. Instead, the scientists had merely shown that a small number of people recover for no known reason even without any additional form of medical intervention. By way of a contrast, when a 2007 article from the British Medical Journal showed that a cheap practical parenting program could significantly improve children’s behaviour, the story was “unanimously ignored” by the British news media. The article in question is titled “Parenting in Sure Start services for children at risk of developing conduct disorder: pragmatic randomised trial.” Goldacre, Bad Science.

[2] In China acupuncture dropped in popularity at the onset of the First and Second Opium Wars, and its use was only revived in 1949, precisely because it served as a cheap alternative to mainstream medicine in a poverty-stricken country. In line with this practical reasoning, Chairman Mao’s personal physician confirms that Mao did not personally believe in the use of Chinese medicine, but Mao thought it useful as it allowed him to appear to be caring for his populous by creating an extensive network of traditional healers (‘barefoot doctors’). For further details about the invention of “Traditional Chinese Medicine,” see Kim Taylor, Chinese Medicine in Early Communist China, 1945–1963: A Medicine of Revolution (Routledge Curzon, 2005).

[3] Singh and Ernst, Trick or Treatment?, p.144, p.145. When homeopathy was first introduced to India in 1829, the primary reason for its quick uptake owed much to the fact that it was “perceived as being in opposition to the imperialist medicine practised by the British invaders.” (p.144)

In June 1988, homeopathy received a welcome boost from the scientific community when the prestigious scientific journal Nature published an article by a French scientist named Jacques Benveniste that supported homeopathic claims about the efficacy of their regime of water dilutions. Yet given the magical claims being made in the article, John Maddox, the editor of Nature, added a disclaimer saying that Nature was rerunning the experiment to confirm its legitimacy. The only other time that Maddox had made such a statement was when Nature had published a paper (in 1974) by Uri Geller about his mystical spoon-bending powers. When Benveniste’s experiment was eventually repeated with external supervision by a team from Nature, they determined that the results of the study showed no evidence to support homoeopathy.

[4] For a useful critical overview of the development of health clinics, see the January 1972 issue of Science for the People (pp.22-6). Indeed, Neighborhood Health Centers (NHCs) “were not without their critics. Some black rural and urban physicians worried that the NHCs would compete for Medicaid patients. A 1971 exchange between Dr. Jack Geiger and Dr. Howard Levy of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) and Health-PAC, a New York–based New Left think tank devoted to medical issues, also revealed a negative view of NHCs from a progressive point of view. This exchange revealed that not all members of the movement to transform health care in the United States were happy with the NHCs. Levy critically assessed the NHCs as tools of a medical establishment bent on collecting Office of Economic Opportunity federal dollars without delivering any real transformation of health care or empowerment of the poor.” Nelson, More Than Medicine, p.87.

[5] Joel Schwartz, “Cancer: we cause it, we cure it!,” Science for the People, July 1971, p.12. Writers affiliated to Science for the People who travelled to China, were, like their counterparts in the American mainstream, unfortunately overwhelmed by the alleged curative powers of acupuncture. In fact, the first article that Science for the People carried on this issue was written by the same American biologists who had been featured in a New York Times article earlier in the year that had emphasized the wonders of China’s alternative treatments. Ethan Signer, “Biological science in China,” Science for the People, September 1971, p.5; Seymour Topping, “U.S. biologists in China tell of scientific gains,” New York Times, May 24, 1971.

[6] Jon Feltheimer, “The U.S. ethical drug industry,” Science for the People, July 1972, p.12. Feltheimer correctly explained that the “Food and Drug Administration has caused further deterioration to an already sick situation, by making the public believe that the drug industry is heavily and scientifically regulated.” (p.32) In another excellent article contained within the same issue titled “What do health maintenance organizations maintain?” Britta Fischer highlights two particularly important critical texts: the first was the Medical Committee for Human Rights’ booklet Politics of Health Care (1972) which was edited by Ken Rosenberg and Gordon Schiff; and the second was Barbara and John Ehrenreich’s The American Health Empire: Power, Profits and Politics (Vintage Books, 1971) which they say “is the best radical analysis available.” (p.25)

[7] Joshua Dressier, “Free to choose your own destruction: laetrile, helmets and libertarians,” In These Times, October 5, 1977; Ron Rosenbaum, “Tales from the cancer cure underground,” Harper’s, November 1980. Right-wing health freedom activists had first formed the International Association of Cancer Victims and Friends in 1963, while in 1973 another group that was spun off from this association was the related Cancer Control Society. The latter group counted Lorraine Rosenthal among their cofounders, the individual who was responsible for the production of the National Health Federation documentary, Action for Survival, that had starred Ralph Nader and Adelle Davis. Another significant Laetrile lobby group was Dr. Robert W. Bradford’s Committee for Freedom of Choice in Cancer Therapy (later known as the Committee for Freedom of Choice in Medicine). This group had been formed in 1972 around a nucleus of diehard members of the ultraconservative John Birch Society.

[8] An informative review of this aspect of the Laetrile wars is provided in Mary Ziegler’s book Beyond Abortion: Roe v. Wade and the Battle for Privacy (Harvard University Press, 2018), pp.121-62. “Arguments based on the right to choose allowed the Laetrile movement to convince politicians who agreed on little else, from feminists and populist Democrats to small-government conservatives. While the medical establishment convincingly insisted that Laetrile had never helped anyone, almost half the states in the nation embraced what many saw as a patient’s right to choose.” (p.143)

[9] James Patterson, The Dread Disease: Cancer and Modern American Culture (Harvard University Press, 1987), p.273.

[10] The John Birch Society’s toxic legacy lives on through the activities of an influential group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, see Olga Khazan, “The opposite of socialized medicine,” The Atlantic, February 25, 2020. Furthermore, to this day Laetrile quack treatments continue to be administered in Tijuana; and until his death in 2004, National Health Federation activist Michael Culbert, the author of the early conservative classic Vitamin B-17–Forbidden Weapon Against Cancer: The Fight for Laetrile (Arlington Press, 1974), had served as the information officer for the Tijuana-based Bio-Medical Center. Although Culbert earned a BA from the University of Wichita, his medical degree was obtained from the Sri-Lankan based Medicina Alternativa – the very same institute which, in 1984, delivered a “doctor of biochemistry degree” to Robert W. Bradford (another leading Laetrile activist).

[11] Ralph Moss still promotes Laetrile and starred in the conspiracy documentary Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering (2014) which was directed by Eric Merola – a director who has produced a number of documentaries promoting the related quackery of Stanislaw Burzynski, the most recent one being Burzynski: The Cancer Cure Cover-Up (2016). In the film Second Opinion Moss recalled how he had initially tried to promote his advocacy of Laetrile within the New York Chapter of Science for the People. However, Moss noted that most members were not interested in a cancer treatment so closely associated with the John Birch Society so Moss and a few others “broke away” to form their own group called “Second Opinion” which printed the first leaflet/publication December 1976 (discussed in documentary from 39 min). Moss’ employer, New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, was featured in the September/October 1976 issue of Science for the People, but it is important to highlight that at no time in the magazine’s history did Science for the People cover the issue of Laetrile.

[12] Gary Null rose to health fame after publishing a series of articles in Penthouse magazine in 1979. “The great cancer fraud,” was the title of the first explosive piece in Null’s series exposing the alleged “suppression of independent thought,” an article which named-check many of America’s most notorious cancer fraudsters, including Harry Hoxsey, William Koch, Max Gerson, Linus Pauling, and Ralph Moss and other boosters for Laetrile which Null states had by then “become the central target of American Cancer Society door-slamming.” Null’s series of articles somehow manages to contain no mention of the central importance of right-wing politics to the health freedom movement.

The first article in the Penthouse series was published in September 1979. The second Null article was then published the following month as “The suppression of cancer cures” (which focused on the work of Stanislaw Burzynski); and the final part, which was co-authored with Anne Pitrone in November, was titled “Alternative cancer therapies.” In this final instalment Null introduced his readers to the controversial views of Dr. Dean Burk. After retiring in 1974 from a senior position at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Burk had promoted Laetrile and led campaigns against water fluoridation (which he referred to as “a form of public mass murder”). Finally, it is relevant that in later years that Null, who in his earlier years had been highly influenced by the magical beliefs of Rudolf Steiner, went on to promote dangerous conspiracies about AIDS and became a leading opponent of vaccinations. For a useful examination of the anti-vax movement, see Jennifer Reich, Calling the Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines (New York University Press 2016); and for a discussion of the many problems caused by Null’s popular legacy, see Andrew Leslie Phillips, “Alarming Pacifica developments“, The Unrepentant Marxist, January 14, 2014.

It is perhaps fitting that the founder of Penthouse, Bob Guccione, himself played a critical role in promoting paranormal beliefs which were an integral feature of his other publishing outlet, Omni magazine. (Omni was cofounded in 1978 by Bob Guccione’s long-serving business partner and later wife, Kathy Keeton, who also maintained a lifelong commitment to alternative healing modalities. In 1989 Keeton also founded to her founded Longevity magazine which has counted leading health conspiracy-theorist Patrick Holford among their regular columnists.)

[13] In the late 1970s Peter Barry Chowka published a number of articles about fictitious cancer treatments for the East West Journal (which was the official organ of the macrobiotic community). Within the pages of this, and other New Age publications, Chowka revived the mythology of Hoxsey and other persecuted treatments like Laetrile. Chowka currently acts as a regular commentator and host on far-right talk shows like the Hagmann Report which is a close ally in the war on truth with Alex Jones’ more famous InfoWars.

[14] Samuel Epstein, Cancer-gate: How to Win the Losing Cancer War (Routledge, 2005), p.7. Epstein’s pioneering cancer research featured prominently in the pages of Science for the People during the 1970s, although their magazines writers remained critical of the liberal orientation of his work. In Science for the People’s 1980 review of Epstein’s classic The Politics of Cancer (Anchor Press, 1979) Bob Ginsburg points out how “Epstein evidently denies that the basic problem is the nature and priorities of capitalism.” (Ginsburg, “Why there is no cancer prevention,” Science for the People, May-June 1980, p.20.)

Other noteworthy books/articles that successfully draw attention to how a focus on prevention and capitalist exploitation would best address the environmental causes of cancer include Robert Van den Bosch, The Pesticide Conspiracy (University of California Press, 1978); Jack McCulloch, Asbestos Blues: Labour, Capital, Physicians and the State in South Africa (James Currey, 2002); Dan Fagin, Toxic Deception: How the Chemical Industry Manipulates Science, Bends the Law and Endangers Your Health (Common Courage Press, 2002); Shannon Brownlee, Overtreated:  Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer (Bloomsbury, 2008); John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, “Rachel Carson’s ecological critique,” Monthly Review, February 1, 2008; Alexey Yablokov et al. (eds.), Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010); Mahiben Maruthappu et al.Economic downturns, universal health coverage, and cancer mortality in high- income and middle- income countries, 1990– 2010: A longitudinal analysis,” Lancet, 388(10045), 2016; and Vinayak Prasad, Malignant: How Bad Policy and Bad Evidence Harm People with Cancer (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020). As Mike Marqusee concludes in The Price of Experience: Writings on Living with Cancer (OR Books, 2014), “What we need is not a ‘war on cancer’ but a recognition that cancer is a social and environmental issue, and can only be fully addressed through far-reaching economic and political change.” (p.35)

[15] One famous right-wing powerbroker who cut his legislative teeth in the Laetrile wars was Dan Burton, who served as the Republican Congressman for Indiana from 1983 until 2013 and thereafter became a lobbyist for the Church of Scientology. In 1977 while serving as a state representative in Indiana, Burton had led a successful fight to approve the use of Laetrile, although during his later years in Congress he was more famous for the support he led to the misconception that vaccines cause autism. On a related matter Burton’s first wife died from cancer in 2002 and in 2006 he married Dr. Samia Tawil, the women who had helped care for his dying wife. Dr. Samia Burton is currently a board member of the Wongu University of Oriental Medicine, an institution which was founded in 2012 (in Nevada) by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Considering the leading role that Dan Burton played in building the anti-vaccine movement it is significant that right-wing health freedom advocates (whose ideas were popularized by the mainstream media) were at the forefront of undermining public trust in vaccine safety.

Here the one documentary that arguably did most to promote vaccine distrust was DTP: Vaccine Roulette (WRY-TV, 1982) which prominently featured the fearmongering of the then president of the National Health Federation, Dr. Robert Mendelsohn (this controversial affiliation however was not mentioned in the documentary). In the wake of the release of this documentary, worried parents came together to form a group “called Dissatisfied Parents Together (DPT), and this group would eventually go on to become the National Vaccine Information Center, which is now the largest organization in America that is committed to eliminating vaccine mandates.” Today this group attempts to maintain a nonpartisan approach to politics – eliciting sizable support from both liberals and the far-right – with major funders of their work including the Albert and Claire Dwoskin Family Foundation (the Dwoskins’ being major Democratic Party donors) and leading Republican Party donors, particularly individuals who are “supporters of libertarian candidate Ron Paul.”

“As befits a movement leader trying to gather together a big tent of supporters, [Barbara Loe Fisher] invokes lefty-sounding environmental terms alongside right-wing libertarian values.” Thus, the single most famous right-wing multimillionaire who continues to donate the most money to Fisher’s National Vaccine Information Centre is the osteopathic physician/vitamin supplement salesmen’ and Covid-19 conspiracist, Joseph Mercola. Another important libertarian funder of the anti-vaccine movement is the hedge fund manager and New York-based philanthropist Bernard Selz, whose wife, Lisa, happens to be the president of a vaccine misinformation group known as the Informed Consent Action Network. This latter group was founded by Del Bigtree, a vocal libertarian who now promotes countless conspiracies through his own widely watched internet talk show, but who first courted fame when, with the assistance of Andrew Wakefield, he produced the controversial documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe (2016).

Emily Willingham, “Former U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, vaccine foe, now lobbying for Scientology outfit,” Forbes, October 21, 2015; Reich, Calling the Shots, p.59;Anna Kirkland, “The legitimacy of vaccine critics: what is left after the autism hypothesis?,” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 37(1), 2011, p.80; Kirkland, Vaccine Court: The Law and Politics of Injury (NYU Press, 2016); Neena Satija and  Lena SunA major funder of the anti-vaccine movement has made millions selling natural health products,” Washington Post, December 20, 2019; Bryan Smith, “Dr. Mercola: visionary or quack?,” Chicago magazine, January 31, 2012; for a useful debunking Andrew Wakefield’s anti-vaccine propaganda, including a critical review of Vaxxed, see Jonathan Berman, Anti-vaxxers: How to Challenge a Misinformed Movement (MIT Press, 2020), pp.69-96; and Brian Deer, The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Andrew Wakefield’s War on Vaccines (Scribe, 2020).

Another highly influential individual who continues to spread anti-vax propaganda across the world is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. whose most recent toxic addition to the world has been his release of the documentary Medical Racism: The New Apartheid (2021) which “mixes real examples of racism in healthcare and vaccine misinformation to push an anti-vaccine agenda on marginalized communities of colour.” Jonathan Jarry, “The anti-vaccine propaganda of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.,” McGill Office for Science and Society, April 16, 2021. Tragically Kennedy tricked progressive and even socialist activists (including a leading member of the Black Lives Matter movement) into participating in this film without letting them know the true purpose of the documentary (an issue which is discussed in Will Stone’s article “An anti-vaccine film targeted to black Americans spreads false information,” NPR, June 8, 2021).

For a progressive alternative to Kennedy’s manipulations, in 2022 PBS will be airing Stanley Nelson’s documentary, Medical Racism, “will take a hard look at the evidence for medical racism in America, connecting today’s stories to a long and reprehensible history that includes the Tuskegee syphilis study, the eugenics movement and slavery in the Americas.”

[16] Barrie Cassileth, “After Laetrile, what?,” New England Journal of Medicine, 306, 1982, p.1482, p.1483. In response to Cassileth’s article, James Harvey Young comments within his book The Medical Messiahs: A Social History of Health Quackery in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton University Press, 1992): “The new mode owed much to New Age philosophies and religions from the Far East, as well as to earlier unorthodox traditions that once had great vogue in an earlier America: homeopathic and naturopathic concepts, and the belief that intestinal putrefaction lay at the root of disease.” (p.460)

A well-publicized example of the growing promotion of such mind-cures in the mainstream media came about when Norman Cousins published his autobiographical book Anatomy of an Illness (W. W. Norton & Company, 1979), which was made into a television movie in 1984. For criticisms of this influential book, see Florence Ruderman, “A placebo for the doctor,” Commentary, May 1980; and Sidney Kahn, “The anatomy of Norman Cousins’ illness,” The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 48, 1981.

[17] For a review of similar occult literature, see E. Patrick Curry, “Carl Jung, Stanislav Grof, and new age medical mysticism,” SRAM, 6(2), March 2002.

[18] In 1953 Giovanni “Gianni” Agnelli (who was introduced earlier in this book) married Marella, whose father, at the time, was working as secretary-general to the Council of Europe.” (The Times obituary, February 26, 2019)The obituary notes: “For the second half of the 20th century Marella and Gianni Agnelli were, in effect, Italy’s royal family. At their peak, his businesses, which encompassed hundreds of companies including FIAT, Juventus football club and the newspaper La Stampa, constituted a quarter of the value of the country’s stock market.” David Rockefeller appointed Angelli to the international advisory committee of Chase Manhattan Bank. For two detailed examinations of Giovanni Agnelli’s reactionary politics, see Alan Friedman, Agnelli and the Network of Italian Power (Mandarin, 1989); and Jennifer Clark, Mondo Agnelli: Fiat, Chrysler, and the Power of a Dynasty (Wiley, 2011).

[19] Dr. John Richardson and Patricia Griffin (the wife of G. Edward Griffin), Laetrile Case Histories: The Richardson Cancer Clinic Experience (Bantam Books, 1977); Gerald Markle, James Petersen, and Morton Wagenfeld,  “Notes from the cancer  underground: participation in the Laetrile movement,” Social Science and Medicine, 12,  January 1978.

[20] In the early 1970s Dr. Norm Shealy cofounded the Science of Mind Church of Chicago, an institution which eventually evolved to become Holos University. Notably Dr. Shealy trained the “medical intuitive” Caroline Myss. Myss has co-authored many books with Shealy and maintains her own Russian connections through the leading role she played at the helm of Mikhail Gorbachev’s State of the World Forum and in leading the work of the Wisdom University (now Ubiquity University, whose founding was discussed earlier).

[21] Dr. Norm Shealy, “Who runs the world?,” Shealy-Sorin Wellness Center, August 13, 2013. In the same article Dr. Shealy expresses his debt of faith to the work of conspiracy theorist David Icke; while in a later blog post he writes that he had first been inspired by the John Birch Society classic None Dare Call It Conspiracy when he had first read it in the 1970s (see “The perception deception,” Shealy-Sorin Wellness Center, July 30, 2014).

[22] Orrin Hatch’s political orientation is closely connected to the activism of Utah-based health freedom warrior Clinton Miller whose experience of the FDA in the 1950s led him to equate their surveillance of supplement manufacturers as being akin to Hitler’s regime of terror. He therefore soon joined the National Health Federation and played a leading role in opposing the fluoridation of water in Utah. Although in later years Miller played a part in supporting DSHEA, throughout the sixties and seventies he excelled himself as one of the NHF’s most effective spokespersons and lobbyists in helping push through the Proxmire Vitamin Bill. Riding the revivalist tide of right-wing politics, in 1976 Miller then sought the Republican nomination to stand in Utah, and amongst the four other prospective candidates was Orrin Hatch, whose lack of prior involvement in politics allowed Hatch to stand as the “nonpolitician.” To improve his chances of victory, Hatch “ran to the right of his four competitors, seeking the support of the most conservative factions in the state” with one of his “most prominent backers” being Cleon Skousen – the bestselling Mormon writer for the John Birch Society, who helpfully provided finances and volunteers for Hatch’s successful campaign. Matt Canham, “The political birth of Orrin Hatch,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 31, 2012; for more general context, see Matthew Harris (ed.), Thunder from the Right: Ezra Taft Benson in Mormonism and Politics (University of Illinois Press, 2019); Jay Logan Rogers, Utah’s right turn: Republican ascendancy and the 1976 U.S. Senate race, M.A. Thesis, University of Utah, 2008; and Michael Tomasky, “The sad trajectory of Orrin Hatch,” New York Times, January 3, 2018.

Once elected in 1977, Senator Hatch embarked upon a long political exploration in conspiratorialism that only ended in 2019, making him the longest serving Republican Senator in history. Hatch thus played a critical role in pressing forward a coalition between the Old Right and the emerging New Right, a coalition that echoed Skousen’s own positive reception among the Reagan administration and the ultraconservative evangelical community centered around Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. Critically, the Christian Right “formalized its acceptance of the Mormon Church in 1982 by appointing Skousen to the board of the Council for National Policy.” Skousen’s Freeman Institute (which had been formed in 1971) was subsequently renamed the National Center for Constitutional Studies upon Reagan’s election, and Skousen’s reactionary ideas were now” being taken up by Idaho-based militias and white supremacist groups”; while Reagan remained a fan and praised Skousen’s Center as “doing fine public service in educating Americans.” Alexander Zaitchik, Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance (John Wiley & Sons, 2010), p.226, p.229.

“Crucial to the growth of his [Freeman] institute was Skousen’s unlikely friendship with the Korean mogul and self-declared prophet Sun Myung Moon. When Skousen arrived in D.C. at the dawn of the Reagan era, Moon was energetically showering the nascent Christian Right with cash. Skousen made sure that the Freemen Institute benefited from Moon’s largesse, and before long the humble Mormon had established a close working friendship with the billionaire cult leader and tax felon, whose claims of a direct line to God mirrored those of Mormon founding prophet Joseph Smith.” Zaitchik continues: “This odd couple became an even more bizarre trio with the addition of former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, who was baptized a Mormon in 1983 and soon became friendly with both Skousen and Moon. Cleaver, one of Mormonism’s most famous midlife converts prior to Glenn Beck, gave lectures under the Freemen Institute banner until 1986.” Zaitchik, Common Nonsense, p.271.

[23] One commentator concluded that: “In their own way, vitamins are at the centre of a cult that is as powerful as any religious movement that has swept across the nation.” Fried, Vitamin Politics, p.28, p.45. “Incredibly, no government agency is presently responsible for testing dietary supplements to assure their purity and potency. One hundred years after Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, supplement manufacturers continue to enjoy a free pass to operate outside the bedrock principle that all drugs should be, at the very least, pure and of reliable potency.” Dan Hurley, Natural Causes, p.159.

[24] Frank Mintz, The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture (Greenwood Press, 1985). In the following presidential election, the Populist Party’s presidential candidate was the white supremacist David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. While by the late eighties Maureen Salaman was playing host to her own popular television show “Accent on Health,” which was broadcast on a new right-wing evangelical network called Family Christian Broadcasting Network. Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right (Black Rose Books, 1990), p.27.

[25] Robert Pear, “Health frauds said to prey on elderly,” New York Times, May 31, 1984.

[26] Eric Boyle, Quack Medicine: A History of Combating Health Fraud in Twentieth-Century America (Praeger, 2013), p.158.

[27] Nestle, Food Politics, p.241.

[28] “It is a tribute to the effectiveness of supplement industry lobbying efforts that suggestions made by its leaders in 1985 and again in 1987 were eventually incorporated as elements of the 1994 DSHEA. In 1987, however, the CRN [Council for Responsible Nutrition] proposals merely encouraged the White House to continue to delay publication of regulations until the FDA could guarantee that they ‘would not be too restrictive on industry.’” Nestle, Food Politics, p.244.

[29] Nestle, Food Politics, p.255.

[30] Shortly after the raid, Dr. Jonathan Wright temporarily replaced Maureen Salaman as the president of the National Health Federation.

[31] Hurley, Natural Causes, pp.84-6, p.94. Other celebrities who supported the public service announcements promoted by the supplement industries newly form Health Freedom Task Force included Whoopi Goldberg and Randy Travis; while Victoria Principal starred in her own advert that was produced by the Nutritional Health Alliance.

[32] Reflecting upon his own spiritual awakening, William Gazecki, talking on a conspiracy channel on YouTube (in 2016), explained that: “Complete, open and free knowledge of divinity, the sharing of mind, knowledge and experience, coexistence, you know the Essene lifestyle in its day was quite evolved and unique considering its surrounding cultures. My involvement with the Essenes began when I was quite young, I was in my twenties, and I was introduced to an Essene – it was a woman, I will call her a master, an Essene master, she was a clairvoyant. She developed a system of healing using color, meditation and projection, and reflection of color. It was a very sophisticated system, it was her life’s work, and she taught it. Apparently, she was also involved with esoteric translation of ancient texts, though she was schooled in Sanskrit and perhaps other ancient languages. A very interesting person. I only met her physically once although I was around her work, her students, quite a bit.  One of her students was my mother-in-law. I married her daughter, and it was a very, very profound environment to be around, especially at my young age.” (from 50min onwards) “The Knightly News: William Gazecki” (hosted by Michael Henry Dunn), Project Camelot TV YouTube Channel, streamed live on March 31, 2016. (The current leader of the Modern Essenes is holistic health practitioner, Rabbi Gabriel Cousens.)

[33] At the time Steven Fowkes was the president of Direct Action for Treatment Access, a San Francisco based advocacy group which campaigned for rapid drug approvals for treatments relating to diseases like AIDS. For a useful discussion of how drug companies were able to use such campaign groups to push forward their own deregulatory agendas, see Courtney Davis and John Abraham, “Desperately seeking cancer drugs: explaining the emergence and outcomes of accelerated pharmaceutical regulation,” Sociology of Health & Illness, 33(5), 2011.

[34] The main medical advocate promoting “alternative medicine” in the PBS documentary was Dr. Russell Jaffe, a person who, in 1990, had established the Health Studies Collegium, which he did after converting to the cause of alternative medicine following a long career as a science-driven medical practitioner. Other recent integrative researchers based at Dr. Jaffe’s institute included Artemis Simopoulos and Michael Lerner (a cofounder of Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute).

[35] Dan Hurley, Natural Causes, pp.226-7. Michael Barkun argues that “No work on the Illuminati published in recent decades – whether secular or religious – has matched the influence of Pat Robertson’s The New World Order, which first appeared in 1991.” Barkun adds: “Oddly enough, Robertson’s views passed nearly unnoticed by the mainstream press for four years, until they became the subject of two lengthy and critical articles in The New York Review of Books in 1995. The articles’ authors, Michael Lind and Jacob Heilbrun, pointed out that Robertson had drawn heavily on the work of both” Nesta Webster and Eustace Mullins “and that in fact he was recycling their anti-Semitic theory of history.” Barkun, A Culture of Conspiracy, p.53.

[36] In Susan Stafford’s autobiography, Stop the Wheel, I Want to Get Off! (Xlibris, 2010) she recalls how privileged she felt to be on the advisory council of Tony Nassif’s Cedars Cultural and Educational Foundation –a group which Stafford points out focused on the problem of keeping the traditional family intact to protect against sex trafficking. (p.18) Later Stafford adds to her story the bizarre claim that “Nearly 800,000 children a year are reported missing in America.” (p.17) For a useful review of the far-rights obsessions with satanic panics and more recently with QAnon, see Ryan Milner, You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape (MIT Press, 2021).

[37] Nestle, Food Politics, p.259. Another ‘health freedom’ program that attacked the FDA was Kevin Miller’s 1994 documentary “Let Truth Be the Bias” a film which was narrated by Earl Ray Jones. Following on from this documentary Miller had gone on to make a series of health-related films that bolstered similar far-right conspiracies, which includes the 2005 documentary “We Become Silent: The Last Days of Health Freedom” which was narrated by another celebrity, Dame Judi Dench. This latter documentary features all manner of conservative authors like Carolyn Dean (author of Death By Medicine) who apparently believes that 784,000 American die prematurely every year “due to modern medicine intervention”; with Dean following this statement by adding that she had “also found studies that said we are only capturing 5 to 20 percent of the actual deaths.” (4.22min onwards). Another talking head of note who features in “We Become Silent” is John Hammell, who is a member of Freedom Force International – a group that describes itself as “a network of men and women from all parts of the world who are concerned over loss of personal liberty and expansion of government power.” The founder of Freedom Force is the influential member of the John Birch Society, G. Edward Griffin (see Sean Easter, “Who is G. Edward Griffin, Beck’s expert on the Federal Reserve?,” Media Matters, March 26, 2011).

[38] Nestle, Food Politics, p.273; Jonathan Berman, Anti-vaxxers: How to Challenge a Misinformed Movement (MIT Press, 2020), p.169. Latest estimates suggest that globally the supplement sector could be worth around $278 billion a year by 2024.

[39] Hurley, Natural Causes, pp.102-3. The romanticization of natural ways of living extends far beyond medicinal remedies, and particularly since the early 1990s we can see a similar trend with conservative Christian activists like Dr. Sears sermonizing about the need for mothers to return to natural (and allegedly healthier) methods of childbirth and care provision. For more on this see Ornella Moscucci, “Holistic obstetrics: the origins of ‘natural childbirth’ in Britain,” BMJ Postgraduate Medical Journal, 79, 2003; Chris Bobel, The Paradox of Natural Mothering (Temple University Press, 2001); Emily Matchar, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity (Simon & Schuster, 2013); and Alison Phipps, The Politics of the Body: Gender in a Neoliberal and Neoconservative Age (Wiley, 2014).

Oftentimes opposition to the medical establishment is linked to a rejection of mainstream education, both being topics that were popularized in the 1970s by the anti-establishment writings of Ivan Illich, author of Deschooling Society (1971) and Medical Nemesis (1975). Yet Illich’s radical critiques can just as easily serve the needs of the capitalist free-market as can be seen in the following socialist critiques of his work: Herbert Gintis, “Towards a political economy of education: A radical critique of Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society,” Harvard Educational Review, 42(1), 1972; and Vicente Navarro, “The industrialization of fetishism or the fetishism of industrialization: A critique of Ivan Illich,” Social Science & Medicine, 9(7), 1975. For a related discussion of the politics of homeschooling, see Heath Brown, “Steve Bannon hopes homeschooling moms will be his new shock troops,” The Daily Beast, September 14, 2021; and Brown’s book Homeschooling the Right: How Conservative Education Activism Erodes the State (Columbia University Press, 2021).

[40] James Harvey Young, “The development of the Office of Alternative Medicine in the National Institutes of Health, 1991-1996,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 72 (2), 1998, p.280. “Growing up poor in rural Iowa during the 1940s, Tom Harkin, a coal miner’s son, found little reason to put much faith in mainstream medicine. His mother, a Slovenian immigrant, died when Harkin was ten. His brother Frank became deaf at the age of nine. During the 1970s, while Harkin was serving as proudly liberal Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, two of his sisters died from breast cancer. So, in 1991, during his second term in the Senate, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that when he was offered an unconventional treatment for his hay fever allergies, Harkin was willing to give it a try.” Hurley, Natural Causes, p.241.

Initial members of the Office of Alternative Medicine’s advisory panel included best-selling New Age authors Deepak Chopra and Bernie Siegel (who in 1986 was the author of the HarperCollins’ bestseller Love, Medicine & Miracles), not to mention Bedell and Wiewel. Harkin’s key lobbying role paid off when he was able to appoint four of the initial 18 members of the board overseeing the Office of Alternative Medicine, these being Berkley Bendell, Frank Wiewel (“the leader of a group called People Against Cancer, which arranged trips outside the United States for people seeking remedies, such a laetrile”), Ralph Moss (“who published People Against Cancer’s newsletter”), and Gar Hildenbrand (the executive director of the Gerson Institute, “which recommended, among other things, coffee enemas as a way to prevent and treat cancer”). Hurley, Natural Causes, p.243.

Max Gerson (1881-1959) was a Jewish, German-born American physician who developed the Gerson Therapy, a dietary-based alternative cancer treatment that he claimed could cure cancer and most chronic, degenerative diseases. As the fifth edition of the Gerson Therapy Handbook (Gerson Institute, 2013) noted, Max “considered that degenerative diseases were brought on by toxic, degraded food, water and air.” In the same paragraph the book makes the ridiculous statement that it “is rare to find cancer, arthritis, or other degenerative diseases in cultures considered ‘primitive’ by Western civilization.” (p.11)

Gerson therapy has received much positive publicity in recent years as a result of the film-making efforts of Steve Kroschel who has produced and directed four films about the treatment. These four documentaries are The Gerson Miracle (2004), Dying to have Known (2006), The Beautiful Truth (2008), and Heal for Free (2014), with the latter featuring all manner of other proponents of alternative medicine including Edgar Mitchell and Dr. Joseph Mercola. Another right-wing proponent of Gerson therapy is South African right-wing Christian evangelist, Peet Louw, who in 2004 established Christian Resource Network, a one-stop Christian DVD resource distribution and marketing company. Louw in addition to providing “godly”, “anti-Darwinian” onboard entertainment to the passengers of the long-haul bus operator Intercape, is the head of the South African branch of the National Health Federation. Craig McKune, “Bus company offers only ‘godly’ shows,” IOL News, July 24, 2009.

[41] A founding member of the advisory panel of the Office of Alternative Medicine, Barrie Cassileth, has since been highly critical of the Office, saying: “The degree to which nonsense has trickled down to every aspect of this office is astonishing… It’s the only place where opinions are counted as equal to data.” Young, “The development of the Office of Alternative Medicine in the National Institutes of Health, 1991-1996,” p.282. Eugenie Mielczarek and Brian Engler, “Measuring mythology: startling concepts in NCCAM grants,” Skeptical Inquirer, 36(1), January/February 2012; for an abridged version of this study see “Culling non-science from scarce medical resources.”

[42] George Zabrecky and Daniel Monti, “Thomas Jefferson University adds Department of Integrative Medicine and Nutritional Sciences,” Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine, 2017. In the same year Bernie Marcus distributed a gift of $38 million (over five years) to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora to enable them to establish an Institute for Brain Health that will integrate alternative medical approaches with genuine medical treatments.

[43] For a useful critique of Andrew Weil, see Hans A. Baer, “The work of Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra – two holistic health/New Age Gurus: a critique of the holistic health/New Age movements,” Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 17(2), June 2003. Baer writes: “Like the larger holistic health movement, both Weil and Chopra engage in a rather limited holism in that they both focus largely on the individual rather than society and its institutions. Rather than encouraging people to become part of social movements that attempt to either reform or revolutionize society, they take the larger society as a given to which one must adjust “ (p.240) For other criticisms of Weil, see Arnold Relman, “A trip to Stonesville: Some notes on Andrew Weil,” The New Republic, December 14, 1998. It is noteworthy that his Weil Foundation, which was set up in 2005 to promote “integrative medicine,” includes on their board of trustees liberal members of the ruling-class like Adele Smith Simmons, the former president of the MacArthur Foundation. For another interesting discussion about philanthropy, see Orac, “Andrew Weil, the Coors Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity, or: “integrative medicine” isn’t just for hippy dippy lefties anymore,” Respectful Insolence blog, November 13, 2015.

[44] Other whacky funders of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine include Lynda Resnick, a lucrative purveyor of pomegranate juice (which she says cures cancer), and manufacturer of the less tasty pomegranate supplement pills. Until recently Resnick sat alongside David Koch on the board of directors of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, which had founded by the famous corporate criminal Michael Milken who, since his release from prison, has gone on to be the co-author of The Taste for Living Cookbook: Mike Milken’s Favorite Recipes for Fighting Cancer (1998). For more on Resnick and Milken’s anti-cancer activism, see Michael Barker, “Juicy cancer revelations: the POM queen’s secrets,” Swans Commentary, October 7, 2013.

[45] In 2017 Henry and Susan Samueli pledged a further $200 million to allow the construction of a new College of Health Sciences focused on the delivery of “interdisciplinary integrative health.”

[46] Dr. Dean Ornish has been celebrated by Forbes magazine as being “one of the seven most powerful teachers in the world,” and has been a physician consultant to Bill Clinton since 1993, serving alongside the former President on the advisory board of the exclusive elite retreat known as Renaissance Weekend. Dr. Ornish, who is the medical editor at the Huffington Post, which is an online outlet run by Arianna Huffington (a close friend of Lynda Resnick), whose content provides its very own microcosm of a snake oil salesman’s carnival wagon, a haven of quackery no less. Just a handful of the many well-known purveyors of nonsense (other than Dr. Ornish) whose new age wonders work grace Huffington Post’s digital netherworld include Ervin Laszlo (discussed earlier), Sandra Ingerman (author of such gems as Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide), Dana Ullman (who is one of America’s leading advocates for homeopathy), and last but not least Deepak Chopra.

[47]Greedy Tea Party millionaire owns company that turns away cancer patients,” Teamster Nation Blog, March 6, 2013. In recent years Richard Stephenson divorced his longstanding wife and married a chiropractor (Dr. Stacie Stephenson).

[48] Steven Salzberg, “Making a profit from offering ineffective therapies to cancer patients,” Forbes, December 31, 2012. For a scathing criticism of Richard Stephenson’s business practices from one of his former employees, see “CTCA: The Cancer Treatment Charade of America? Profiting on alternative medicine,” Naturopathic Diaries, July 21, 2015.

[49] Amy Gardner, “FreedomWorks tea party group nearly falls apart in fight between old and new guard,” Washington Post, December 25, 2012.

[50] Bastyr University alumni Dr. Lise Alschuler actually served as the department head of naturopathic medicine at Midwestern Regional Medical Center – Cancer Treatment Centers of America; although she is presently employed at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. It is significant that the far-right spiritual movement headed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon also played an important role in building legitimacy for naturopathy. After bailing out the nearly bankrupt University of Bridgeport in 1992, Moon built upon Bridgeport’s already stellar commitment to pseudo-medicine, which in 1991 meant they had become the first US university to officially create a College of Chiropractic, by ensuring that his university established its very own school of Naturopathy (which was opened in 1996). Perry DeAngelis, “The cultiversity of Bridgeport,” The New England Skeptical Society, January 1997.

The comfortable alliance between right-wing activism and alternative medicine has historically speaking always been bolstered when mainstream medical organizations have been overzealous in their attacks on alternative practitioners. A suitable illustration here is provided in the instance of chiropractors, who received welcome publicity during the 1970s and 1980s when the juicy details of the American Medical Association’s (AMA) campaign against them were exposed in the media. This case arose when leaked internal documents from the AMA encouraged chiropractor Chester Wilk to file an anti-trust lawsuit against the AMA as early as 1976. Unfortunately, the lawsuit was only resolved in 1987 when the presiding judge ruled in Wilk’s favour, giving further fuel to the alternative medicine movements nearly completely fictitious claims to be oppressed by the establishment. Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial (Corgi, 2009), p.202, p.206. Singh and Ernst provide a critical overview of the mystical origins of chiropractic therapy, but conclude that the scientific evidence suggests that chiropractors are only worth seeing if you have a back problem: even then they offer sage advice on how to consult with a chiropractor, the most important advice being to make sure you are not treated by a fundamentalist chiropractor, that is those who believe every word of the mystical founder of chiropractic therapy, B.J. Palmer.

In Holly Folk’s book, The Religion of Chiropractic: Populist Healing from the American Heartland (University of North Carolina Press, 2017), the author provides a short but succinct overview of the politics of chiropractic practitioners. She surmises that: “The participation of chiropractors in radical groups seems to outstrip their natural distribution in the population. Chiropractors form a sizeable contingent of the Tea Party, and also of the Sovereignty and Tax Protest movements. And while the vast majority of chiropractors are not racists, a number of leaders of racist movements have been members of the profession. By far, the best-known chiropractor in the hate movement is Edward Reed Fields, co-founder and past president of the National States Rights Party, who studied at Palmer in the early 1950s. It is not clear whether Fields earned his diploma, unlike James Malcolm Edwards, who graduated from Palmer in 1951. In 1966 Edwards was named Grand Dragon of the United Klans of America for the State of Louisiana. Beyond the KKK, chiropractors have led other controversial movements. The notorious public-access television show Race and Reason was hosted by Florida chiropractor Herbert W. Poinsett. In the 1990s, Scott Anthony Stedeford studied chiropractic as he rose in the ranks of the Aryan Republican Army. More recently, South Carolina-based chiropractor William Carter, an associate of David Duke, has been a leader in the Populist Party and the Council of Concerned Citizens, and was one of the founders of the America First Party.” (p.263)

[51] Like other pharmaceutical companies, Metagenics doesn’t leave their financial fate to vagaries of the magical free-market, and they boost their bulging profits by employing skilled lobbyists to peddle their placebo treatments. One such lobbying outfit fronting for companies like Metagenics and Bristol-Myers Squibb is Walker Martin & Hatch, whose most significant founder and political operative is Scott Hatch, the son of Senator Orrin Hatch. Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, “Swallowing anything: The hype behind alternative remedies,” PR Watch, 4(3), 1997. For a useful overview of the longstanding relationship between profiteering and science, see Clifford Conner, The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump (Haymarket Books, 2020).

[52] Ben Goldacre, Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks (Faber and Faber,2010), pp.108-9.

[53] Goldacre, Bad Science, p.109.

[54] Michael Hiltzik, “Orrin Hatch is leaving the Senate, but his deadliest law will live on,” Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2018. Jerry Rubin (1938-1994), the counterculture icon who helped lead the Yippies, ended-up ditching his radical ambitions and spent his final years working as a supplement distributor for a pyramid scheme known as Omnitrition, which itself was founded by three former Herbalife distributors, see Daniel Akst, “Freedom is still Rubin’s motto,” Los Angeles Times, January 21, 1992.

[55] Hurley, Natural Causes, pp.210-1. Amway, the firm which pioneered Herbalife’s marketing strategy, maintains close links to the supplement industry as Michelle Stout, who serves as Amway’s current regulatory policy director (with a strong focus on the dietary/food supplement sector) is presently the chair of the International Alliance of Dietary Supplement Food Associations.

[56] Young, Medical Messiahs, p.340. For a useful review of Nutrilite’s exploits, see Swann, “The history of efforts to regulate dietary supplements in the USA.”

[57] In 1960, a thirty-nine-year-old activist for the National Health Federation named Charles Crecelius joined Amway and quickly rose through their ranks to serve on the company’s prestigious National Distributors Association Board. By 1965, Crecelius had then become the president of the National Health Federation and remained in leadership roles within the Federation well into the 1980s. Nevertheless, the relationship between Amway and the NHF were mutually reinforcing and when Crecelius was set the task of instigating a mass letter writing campaign to lobby the FDA, it was critical that he could draw upon the hundreds of thousands of struggling “distributors” involved in the type of multilevel supplement marketing schemes that were overseen by Amway. This point is well made in Charles Marshall’s, Vitamins and Minerals: Help or Harm? (George F. Stickley Company, 1983), p.17. Also see, Katherine Carroll, “Leadership lessons from a freedom pioneer,” National Health Federation, September 2015.

[58] Stephen Butterfield, Amway: The Cult of Free Enterprise (South End Press, 1985), p.2; also see Kathryn Jones, Amway Forever: The Amazing Story of a Global Business Phenomenon (John Wiley & Sons, 2011); and Kerry Lauerman and Rachel Burstein, “She did it Amway,” Mother Jones, September/October 1996.

[59] Butterfield, Amway, p.13.

[60] Davor Mondom, “Compassionate capitalism: Amway and the role of small-business conservatives in the New Right,” Modern American History, 1(3), 2018.

[61] Kshama Sawant, “‘The wealthy took their best shot at us, and we beat them. Again,’” Socialist Alternative, December 10, 2021.


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