When The Metaphorical Snake Oil Becomes Real

What happens when a conspiracy theory suffers so many disconfirmations and failures that no reasonable person could still believe in its efficacy? Do its followers walk away? Do the gurus who have spent years monetizing it realize the error of their ways and renounce their work?

No, they believe harder and grift bigger. That’s why many of the biggest names in QAnon have turned from cranking out books and t-shirts to shilling for a supposed “miracle cure” called MMS. Hey, it literally stands for “miracle mineral solution,” so it must actually perform miracles, right?

Well, no, because MMS is made in part from chlorine dioxide, an extremely hazardous industrial bleach. It’s not technically bleach itself, but the primary ingredient is something used to bleach wood pulp, strip textiles, treat industrial water sources, and to kill bedbugs. It’s never been scientifically tested (because doing so would be unethical), ergo, it has never been proven in a single study to cure a single disease, because anything marketed as a cure-all generally cures nothing. Ingesting chlorine dioxide in medical doses causes all manner of horrors, including severe vomiting, diarrhea, collapse of the circulatory system, and stripping of the intestinal lining.

Because of this, MMS has been banned in multiple countries, been excoriated by the FDA, and implicated in two deaths and countless injuries to children upon whom MMS is forced as a “cure” for autism. So yes, it’s a miracle, but only for the people cashing in on it.

The history of the tragic grift behind MMS, and the horror of forcing MMS enemas and baths on helpless children, has been covered in several outstanding stories by NBC News and Business Insider. It’s grim to read about parents purposefully sickening their babies with an industrial bleach compound to cure something that has no cure, but these stories illuminate the moral bankruptcy behind a scam preying on exhausted parents.

But why would QAnon, a movement that claims to be all about thinking for ones self and protecting children, suddenly throw its arms around a quack cure that’s forced on children?

Part of this is simple iconoclastic ideation. QAnon believers see themselves as smarter and more aware than everyone else, and this extends beyond politics into medicine. A number of QAnon drops rail against “big pharma” (a conspiratorial construct itself) and the medical establishment, including once bizarrely calling out “CHEMICALS PUSHED FOR HOME USE CLEANING [CANCER][BABY ON FLOOR-HANDS IN MOUTH – THE START].” And Q believers love to gush testimonials about crank cures that “worked for them” even though there’s no evidence they actually work for anybody.

Many QAnon believers brag on social media how they haven’t gone to a doctor in decades, cured their own diseases through diet and positive thinking, refuse to take medication, and revel in “nature” as opposed to western medicine. So it’s not surprising that a movement who sees itself as dialed into secret knowledge would embrace a cure being “suppressed” by the “evil” FDA because it’s not making the vaccine and chemo pushers of big pharma enough blood money. That the FDA and scientific establishment are united in opposition to MMS is all they need to know about how great MMS is.

But a more concrete reason that QAnon gurus are pushing MMS so hard is that QAnon is increasingly rudderless. Q has been posting much less frequently, and the drops themselves less interesting and revealing. In the last two months, Q has made just 40 posts, many of which came in a burst over the last two days. the disconfirmations and failures aren’t driving believers away, but they forcing the Q poster to be more judicious in what he/they post. After all, if you don’t predict anything, your predictions can never fail.

Increasingly, the QAnon cult is depending on itself to generate research topics and future targets to “dig and meme.” This is why it’s so terrifying that QAnon believers brigaded the Grass Valley Charter School Foundation into cancelling their benefit due to a bogus decode of a James Comey tweet. The entire thing happened with no input from the Q persona, starting instead with a tweet from an anonymous account that got picked up by staggeringly popular QAnon disciple “Joe M.” And yes, it’s the same “Joe M” who has become one of the biggest Q-adjacent proponents of MMS. No coincidences, right?

A cult that has no leader is a cult with no direction, and no safeguards from being taken over by its own most devoted (ie, monetized) members. QAnon is a cult and a conspiracy theory and a violent patriot movement, but it’s also a massive mailing list, ripe to be spammed. So the gurus are seeing the gravy train start to go off the tracks, and rather than simply let the dream die, they’re hitting that mailing list hard with their own private obsessions. How long before we get QAnon-approved MMS? WWG1WGA Alkaline Water? Declas Flavored Essential Oil?

People apt to believe in a massive purge of evil in politics will also believe that a secret cure for their ailments is being hidden from them – and are happy to buy it from someone who claims to be “unveiling the truth.” In the meantime, the MMS pushers flog bad science and bad faith, scaring parents into putting their children in harm’s way for their own sake.

The facts in this case are simple. MMS is not safe, nor is it an effective treatment for anything. It has never been studied by a legitimate research institution. It is has horrific side effects. It is made largely from chlorine dioxide. Chlorine dioxide is a toxic industrial bleach that should not be ingested as medicine. Because it’s not.

 

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