Thursday, March 31, 2016

#1633: Brigitte Gabriel

Brigitte Gabriel is a Lebanese-American fundie TV pundit who used to work for Middle East Television when it was owned by the South Lebanon Army (a Christian militia allied with Israel; the station was later sold to Pat Robertson). Today, she travels the world giving presentations sponsored by wingnut groups, mostly claiming that Jews Muslims are conspiring to seize power in the world, while promoting her personal biography describing her as a victim of Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists. Gabriel’s anti-Islam rhetoric does have the kind of disconcerting quality that have made many Jewish groups uncomfortable with her, but her hysterical conspiracy mongering has been happily picked up by various wingnut organizations, websites such as the WND, and events such as the Values Voter Summit 2015. And there is reason to be afraid, apparently: According to Gabriel, there are up to 300 million Muslims who want to be suicide bombers out there. Moreover, you should remember that it is impossible for Muslims to assimilate into American society, apparently because only Christians can be true Americans. Gabriel has accordingly endorsed Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering America, claiming in the process that “he is the General Patton of our lifetime.” Here is her take on the common “America will not survive if X wins the election argument.

Gabriel heads ACT! for America (formerly American Congress for Truth), an organization that has tied up with various rightwing groups to promote some common and silly conspiracy theories – in particular the delusion that they have to pass laws banning the supposed danger of American courts being taken over by sharia law. Among her other targets are American public schools, whose students are currently being “indoctrinated in Islam” through their history textbooks, which have turned classrooms into “recruiting grounds for Islam” (her group even got the Alabama state board of education to delay approval of history textbooks due to their complaints). She is also somewhat nonplussed that “Jewish leftists in this country” such as Anti-Defamation League president Abraham Foxman “are eager to embrace Islam.” The target of blame, she concludes, should be the universities, which are teaching more complex and accurate  “anti-America and anti-Israel” material – with the help of Saudi oil money. President Obama’s anti-American attitude is also “a direct result of what is being taught at our universities.” And presumably because he spent his childhood as a fanatic Muslim who attended a religious “madrassa” and grew up “praying just like Osama bin Laden prayed”. In fact, he is still a Muslim, according to Gabriel, and a terrorist supporter, a conclusion she can safely make on the observation that she disagrees with him on policy issues.

In 2014 there was much consternation among various less intelligent wingnuts in the wake of the announcement that the federal government will relinquish oversight of the Internet to a US-backed nonprofit. Gabriel’s response was among the more impressively stupid one. According to Gabriel, Obama is handing the internet over the UN control (which is, in fact, more or less precisely the opposite of what the administration did), and it will lead to the imposition of Sharia law on the Internet. It is hard to reconcile that claim with the assumption that she does, in fact, know what sharia law is. Or the internet. (She doesn’t have the faintest clue what was actually happing, of course, but that is less surprising.)

Here is Gabriel agreeing with Dennis Michael Lynch that Obama (“a girly man in an empty suit sitting in the White House endangering the country”) is intentionally allowing ISIS to gain territory in order to cause a refuge crisis that he can use as an excuse to settle said refugees in the US to forcibly “intermingle America.” No, the step from there to demanding an end to lizard people mind control over Americans through chemtrails is not a big one.

Here is the leader for the Texas chapter of ACT! for America, Dorrie O’Brien, talking about stealth jihad; yes, these people are in all seriousness promoting ideas that remarkably resemble the most medieval ideas of the kind of Taliban-style fundamentalism they imagine that Muslims in general support.

Diagnosis: It is interesting (but hardly surprising) that groups like Gabriel’s tend to promote policy suggestions and a sense of paranoia that to a very large extent resemble the target of their paranoia. As for Gabriel herself, there are reasonable people who take her seriously. Don’t. Brigitte Gabriel is a deranged conspiracy theorist.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

#1632: Sherry Gaba

CAM treatments like acupuncture do not work better than placebo. Some CAM defenders have accordingly gone the predictable route – the dumbest route – and argued that this very fact not only doesn’t show that the CAM treatments in question don’t work (which is what it does show), but that it vindicates The Secret. That’s right: the placebo effect demonstrates the efficacy of the Law of Attraction; the Law of Attraction being the idea that if you really want something strong enough, magical forces in the Universe will vibrate them into existence for you (the religious version often involves the intermediate step of sending money to your local televangelist) – that is, the idea that wishful thinking can replace hard work, because magic. CAM regimes are, accordingly, really magical rituals and artifacts you can deploy to channel the spiritual energies of the universe.

This is for instance the theme of Sherry Gaba’s essay “The Law of Attraction and the Placebo Effect”, published on Deepak Chopra’s group blog IntentBlog, who introduces the placebo effect as “[p]eople that believe they are taking a ‘cure’ actually have mild to extremely positive results from taking the placebo, leading to a partial to complete cure of the condition without any real medical intervention.” That is a bit of a misdescription, of course. The effect of the psychological side of the placebo effect only “work” for subjective symptoms: Your psychological state doesn’t actually cure anything but at most (and unreliably so) lead to change in subjective perception of the symptoms. (Other effects lumped in with the psychological effect are effects of changed behaviors of test subjects under observation: people participating in a test of a weight loss drug tend to start doing all sorts of other things, like working out and eating less, that have effects on the outcome – that doesn’t exactly vindicate the Law of Attraction). To Sherry Gaba, however, “[t]he placebo effect is, in reality, the medical proof that the Law of Attraction really works. The Law of Attraction simply says that what you focus in on in your life is what you will receive. In the medical case the patients taking the placebo focused in on becoming healthy and overcoming a medical condition, which is exactly what happened. Some people believed so strongly in the effectiveness of the placebo that they were completely cured.” Which is not how the placebo effect works but how Gaba presumably, well, wished that it worked. And just to emphasize the obvious: the placebo effect does not vindicate bullshit alternative treatments.

In her dayjob Gaba is a “psychotherapist, author and life coach” who specializes in “all addictions” using “traditional and alternative techniques such as somatic experiencing and tapping.” She is the author of The Law of Sobriety™: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery, which lays out her steps for curing addiction and “connect with a universal life force to create a life filled with harmony and peace,” based on the law of attraction. The book is praised as “a masterpiece” by Deepak Chopra

She’s not the only CAM advocate to make startlingly ridiculous claims on behalf of placebo. Robert Schiffman thinks placebo effects are proof of the existence of God.

Diagnosis: Admittedly more of a promoter of fluffy corporate newspeak bullshit than a promoter of pastel energy dolphin teleportations. Her fluffy corporate newspeak law of attraction stuff is nevertheless exasperating bullshit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

#1631: Charles Fuqua

Charles Fuqua (I don’t know how it is pronounced) was a candidate for the state legislature in Arkansas in 2012, and garnered substantial financial support from the Republican party, at least until someone close-read his book God’s Law: The Only Political Solution, which advocated not only a theocracy based on Old Testament Law, but even tried actively to justify some of the more unsavory elements of that suggestion. So for instance, Fuqua did argue for the idea that unruly children should be put to death like it says in the Bible. Yeah, that’s right: Death penalty for disobedient children at their parents’ discretion (as long as they follow “proper procedure”, which was presumably filing the request with the elders of the town). Oh, but it’s not really bad: You see, it would have (probably unlike the death penalty for adults) a deterrent effect and wouldn’t be used often since parents love their children so much that they would probably almost never want them to be put to death. Which would, according to Fuqua’s own reasoning, presumably defeat the purpose, but there is reason to think that Charles Fuqua at this stage in his argument would have had some trouble recognizing “conflicts of reasons”. He is also firmly opposed to abortion.

In the same book, Fuqua also advocated expelling Muslims from the U.S. (we know: fairly anticlimactic at this stage), saying it would solve what he described as the “Muslim problem.” We haven’t bothered to figure out precisely what that problem is, but he has described liberals and Muslims as the “anti-Christ” and said that he believes they are conspiring to create a “bloody revolution.” The uniting principle is, of course, that they are enemies of Christianity, and follow the principle that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

It is worth mentioning that the Arkansas legislature was at this time already saddled with Loy Mauch, who has defended slavery and denounced Abraham Lincoln as a Nazi and Marxist. We’ll return to him.

Diagnosis: Whoops. I guess it’s a tough game to stand out among the fringe nutters in the state legislatures. Fuqua has hopefully crawled back into whatever hole he emerged from.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

#1630: Aaron Fruh

More anti-gay ridiculousness, this time from Aaron Fruh, an Alabama pastor who seems to be treated as an authority on the issue of homosexuality by the American Family Association and who was picked up by Janet Porter’s coalition Israel: You Are Not Alone, which is campaigning against any concession Israel might make to the Palestinians on the grounds that giving Palestinians land or rights is a direct cause of terrorism.

Fruh claims that any society that has failed to oppress gays has been destroyed by God: “So when it comes to civilization and society, God knew that the people of the earth were going to destroy themselves through same-sex marriage,” said Fruh, “so that’s why he brought the flood.” So just you dare! Like so many others Fruh also claims that marriage equality is actually “heterophobic” because it discriminates against heterosexuals and “against the unborn children who will never see the light of day if you revise the historical, moral and legal view of traditional marriage.” In other words, he appears to believe allowing gays and lesbians to marry means taking away heterosexual couples’ right to marry and have children, and that banning homosexual marriage will make homosexuals enter into heterosexual marriages instead. In fact, marriage equality is the “height of bigotry,” and gays and lesbians are “hateful and malicious” toward married heterosexuals (yes: he takes advocacy of gay marriage to be a direct attack on him for being non-homosexually married), but his arguments make it rather abundantly clear that Fruh doesn’t really understand what it means to be “hateful and malicious” against groups of people, or what “bigotry” involves.

Diagnosis: Fruh has emphasized that “I don’t consider myself homophobic,” but it really doesn’t matter how he considers himself. Fruh is abysmally homophobic. And angry. And evil.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

#1629: Catherine Frompovich

Catherine Frompovich is an antivaccine loon who writes for the International Medical Council on Vaccination (an Orwellian name if there ever was one) and has (proudly) co-authored several papers with anti-vaccine legend Harold Buttram. In particular, Frompovich, who claims to have a degree in “orthomolecular therapy,” which is not a medical degree, is most familiar for touting the idea that shaken baby syndrome (SBS) (or, as it is correctly termed, “abusive head trauma”) does not only not exist, but is really a misdiagnosis for vaccine injury, an idea (discussed here) “so unbelievable and so outrageous that” that it should have “died off by now through the sheer contempt and ridicule so justly heaped upon it by anyone with a modicum of critical thinking skills.” Of which, unfortunately, Frompovich is in short supply. She’s also a bit desperate for evidence for her delusion, naturally enough, and will apparently use anything that comes her way, regardless of quality and even if it does in no way even purport to support her idea. In fact, Frompovich has (with Buttram) even made presentations on SBS for the FDA. We do not know how the FDA reacted, but we suspect they’re used to facepalming.

Frompovich still believes that “vaccines DO cause autism.” Not only that, but the FDA, official health agencies and pharmaceutical companies know this. As evidence she, well, uses whatever seems to come her way, such as vaccine court rulings, which do, to put it mildly, not indicate that any such connection exists – Frompovich is fond of dumpster diving in the VAERS database, something anti-vaxxers are fond of and which is proof as good as any that they have no idea how evidence works, and Frompovich truly loved this one, which itself demonstrates that she has no idea what its significance might be. She also links to scientific studies that she has apparently not read and far less understood. Par for the course.

Her work has also been published by Age of Autism and – notably an article with the title “Aborted Human Fetal Cells in Vaccines” (yes, that gambit; only the purest and craziest of antivaxx morons dare run that one.) And she is the author of a book, Vaccination Voodoo: What YOU Don’t Know About Vaccines, which does, indeed, tell you a lot of stuff neither you nor Frompovich or anyone else know or could know about vaccines – it has as much to do with reality as Time Cube. Here is a deconstruction of one of her articles on Gardasil. Needless to say, she has no idea what she is talking about.

Diagnosis: Fuming conspiracy theorist. As such, she has made a name for herself among other fuming conspiracy theorists and the darker parts of comment sections on health-related articles. Crazy as shit, and anyone who ever cites any of her stuff has automatically lost whatever argument they were engaged in and should be laughed out of the room.