How Many People Will WorldNetDaily Kill?
WND has long opposed vaccines, but it has gone utterly conspiratorial in its fearmongering about the swine flu vaccine. Will WND's irresponsible editorial policies actually result in the deaths of some of its readers?
By Terry Krepel
It's not often that a news organization is determined to kill off its readers, but that's what WorldNetDaily seems to be doing in its wild fearmongering about the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.
WND has long fearmongered against vaccines. A 2007 issue of WND's Whistleblower magazine was entirely dedicated to it. Among the articles included was this:
"Doctors' group opposes all vaccine mandates." The 4,000-member Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, established in 1943, has called for a moratorium on the government forcing any vaccines on the American people, warning, "Our children face the possibility of death or serious long-term adverse effects"
As ConWebWatch has detailed, the AAPS is little more than a conservative advocacy group whose views WND has touted in the past. Indeed, the AAPS has peddled its own medical inaccuracies, such as a notorious 2003 journal article falsely claiming that leprosy had sharply increased due to illegal immigration.
A June 2007 column by WND managing editor David Kupelian, which also appeared in that magazine, encapsulates those anti-vaccine talking points. While Kupelian concedes that "vaccines have saved countless lives," he is quick to add: "They also have a history of disastrous side effects and suspected or proven dangers a dark downside utterly covered up by the public health establishment." Kupelian goes on to attack the societal benefits of vaccination:
It's critical to understand clearly that most "health officials" concerned with immunology are not focused on what is best for you and your individual child, but on what they perceive to be the best interests of the population as a whole. And from that macro viewpoint, they strive to maintain what they call the "herd immunity." In other words, if large numbers of people opt out of vaccination, even for the most wholesome and sensible of reasons, the medical establishment will oppose it out of fear that once-eradicated (like smallpox) or near-eradicated (like polio) diseases will come back.
Kupelian refused to point out the obvious -- that vaccinations are the reason those diseases were all but eradicated, and if large numbers of people are not vaccinated against them, they will, in fact, come back.
A May 2008 column by WND editor and CEO Joseph Farah defended the idea that refusing to immunize one's children is a good thing. In railing against an apparent decision by Texas officials to have the children of cultists that they have taken into custody vaccinated against the usual diseases, Farah asserted that the parents are "mothers and fathers made conscious and well-informed decisions not to immunize their kids because of the potential for dire health risks." Really? How does Farah know this? Indeed, he offers no evidence that the parents "made conscious and well-informed decisions not to immunize their kids"; in fact, one can argue that, given that they are members of a polygamist cult, they have a demonstrated history of not making "well-informed decisions."
A July 2008 article by Bob Unruh asserted, based on the claims of an blogger with no demonstrated medical expertise (and who describes himself as "retired from corporate"), that the nasal-ingested flu vaccine FluMist poses a great danger to children. While Unruh quoted from some MedImmune press release about expansion of flu vaccination recommendations, he does not give MedImmune any opportunity to respond to the attacks. Unruh also quoted Jane Orient of the AAPS without noting the group's political affiliation or anti-vaccination activism.
WND has also long touted supposed links between vaccines and autism -- specifically, the role of thimerosal, a preservative used in vaccines -- defending it even as more evidence comes to light questioning such a link. For instance, a Feb. 28, 2008, article reporting on a government agreement to pay compensation to the parents of a child who developed autism after receiving a series of vaccinations distorts the case in question to promote its own anti-vaccine agenda. WND quoted only anti-vaccine activists and ignored other evidence in the case that weakened the argument of those activists.
However, as a March 7, 2008, Associated Press article noted, the child received five simultaneous vaccines as a toddler, after which she regressed into an autistic state. The parents, according to the AP, "were exploring two theories to explain what happened to [the child]. One is that she was born with the mitochondria disorder and the vaccines caused a stress to her body that worsened the condition. The other is that the vaccine ingredient thimerosal caused the mitochondrial dysfunction."
Further, as a March 8, 2008, New York Times article reported:
The disease control centers, the Food and Drug Administration, the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all largely dismissed the notion that thimerosal causes or contributes to autism.
The Times article also stated:
“Let me be very clear that the government has made absolutely no statement indicating that vaccines are a cause of autism,” Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday. “That is a complete mischaracterization of the findings of the case and a complete mischaracterization of any of the science that we have at our disposal today.”
Similarly, the AP article added:
“There are no scientific studies documenting that childhood vaccinations cause or worsen mitochondrial diseases, but there is very little scientific research in this area,” said Chuck Mohan, executive director the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based group that raises money for research.
It's a much more complicated case than the WND article made it appear. But WND did not feel compelled to report the full story.
As worries about H1N1 swine flu began to mount this year, WND seized on it to repeat its old anti-vaccine attacks, then ultimately filter them through its anti-Obama obsession.
In June, WND carried an ad reading: "Obama and super-flu ... a connection? Globalist's agenda of world population reduction by bio-weapon!" As blogger Richard Bartholomew detailed, the ad linked to a website asserting that the swine flu is "a bio-engineered weaponized ‘flu’ designed for mass population reduction." The ad went on to state:
The Globalists (people who run the world and have 90% of all wealth, influence and authority) have elected to create total chaos to undermine and finish breaking the world’s economy so they can complete implementing the “New World Order” a fascist regime of world domination, brutal controls and Martial Law…The politicians who did this answer to the Globalists and not to those who elected them to office.
What the ad was actually selling was "MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution)," a "germicidal agent capable of attacking and killing even early stage 'flu' viruses. It operates without regard for the strain or variation that may evolve or be manufactured." It could be yours for just $24.95. The operator the website, Bartholomew noted, is a man who runs a companion website called “SML”, or “Survive Martial Law,” with similar globalist conspiracy-mongering.
The man's website now states: "We have removed our MMS and SML sites because of the need for people to understand what is really happening in the world and not just simple survival techniques when people still will spiral down to death regardless of what we do to keep you alive a little longer." It goes on to state, "We have moved into the period of the Great Tribulation and soon the horrors beyond anything man has seen or done in all history will be our final lesson."
(Then again, the removal of the MMS website may also be because that little potion has all the earmarks of a scam.)
(UPDATE 11/30/2009: The website has since been deleted; a PDF of the final message is here.)
Corsi and WND engaged in more fearmongering, claiming that "a massive public relations program launched by the federal Center for Disease Control aimed possibly at creating the atmosphere in which U.S. citizens could be forced to take H1N1 vaccinations against their will." WND ignored the possibility that such a campaign should be taken for what it actually is -- an effort to save lives.
The article also stated: "Neurologists around the world have been warned to watch out for an increase in a brain disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or GBS, which was generated by a similar swine flu vaccine administered by the government by the Ford administration in 1976." In fact, the 1976 vaccine was never definitively linked to GBS, which also "may be an extremely rare reaction to any vaccination."
The article then asserted:
"Red Alert intends to closely watch how the H1N1 scare is handled by the White House," Corsi wrote. "With the Obama administration intent on the government taking over major sectors of the private economy, we are concerned the swine-flu pandemic scare is simply another component of that socialist agenda."
So what happens if low vaccination rates result in a swine flu epidemic? Can Corsi and WND be held liable for causing the deaths of Americans by their fearmongering?
In Sept. 1 and Sept. 3 articles on swine flu vaccines, reporter Chelsea Schilling referenced a claim by "investigative journalist Wayne Madsen" that "even scientists who helped develop a vaccine for small pox are saying they will not take the vaccine and urging friends and family to refrain from taking the injection as well." But Madsen has a record of making dubious claims -- including claims about Barack Obama's birth certificate that apparently even WND didn't find credible enough to embrace.
Madsen has already made one discredited claim about swine flu: that it is the result of "gene splicing" and could not have occurred naturally -- an echo of the conspiracy-mongering WND advertiser from earlier in the year. In fact, research has shown that the progenitor for the virus first surfaced in pig farming and processing operations in 1998.
WND reported in October 2008 that one claim in a lawsuit filed by Philip Berg over Obama's birth certificate was that "Wayne Madsen, Journalist with Online Journal as a contributing writer and published an article on June 9, 2008, stating that a research team went to Mombassa, Kenya, and located a Certificate Registering the birth of Barack Obama, Jr. at a Kenya Maternity Hospital, to his father, a Kenyan citizen and his mother, a U.S. citizen." But WND has not referenced the claim since, suggesting that it doesn't believe it to be true (despite WND's history of reporting false claims on the subject).
Madsen has also claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working with increasingly discredited birther lawyer Orly Taitz and conservative groups in the U.S. to use the birth certificate issue against Obama in retaliation for the Obama Administration's pressure on Israel to restrict expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem. You'd think that this would be a claim tailor-made for WND, since it merges two of its favorite obsessions, the birther stuff and Aaron Klein's efforts to portray Obama as pro-Muslim and anti-Israel (mostly through anonymous sources).
But WND has curiously kept its hands off that claim as well. Do they not believe it? Or are they a functioning part of Netanyahu's conspiracy?
Given that WND apparently can't trust Madsen's reporting on other subjects it's interested in, it's strange that Schilling and WND have decided he is trustworthy on the subject of swine flu vaccines -- even though he has previously been discredited.
Such freak-outs made it inevitable that WND's first instinct after President Obama's declaration of a national emergency over the H1N1 flu virus was to fearmonger.
The subhead of a Oct. 24 article by Drew Zahn read, "Is president's proclamation formality, or institution of Obama martial law?" Zahn then focused on the latter, offering the possibility that "the Obama administration might use the declared emergency to suddenly expand government power," citing a writer for InfoWars -- not explaining that InfoWars is affiliated with conspiracy-monger extraordinaire Alex Jones. Zahn also cited "a WND reader in an e-mail" who allegedly wrote, "Here we go with martial law." Zahn framed these as "rumors" that were "quick to flame" because the news media offered "little explanation" about what the emergency declaration meant.
Zahn curiously didn't completely dismiss the InfoWars assertion that "we may witness a move toward martial law, forced vaccination and internment of those who refuse," and indeed suggests that it's a realistic possibility. It's not until the seventh paragraph that Zahn finally broke away from the fearmongering:
But even if there really is a plot to manipulate the H1N1 virus scare into enforcing a sweeping expansion of federal power, today's "national emergency" falls far short of martial law.
Why didn't Zahn lead with that instead of indulging in fearmongering and media-bashing accusations? Because fearmongering is what WND does.
Joseph Farah spent his Nov. 2 column alternately downplaying fears about H1N1 and spreading fears about H1N1 vaccine. Farah began with the downplaying:
U.S. deaths have surpassed 1,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Farah doesn't acknowledge the main differences: Unlike malaria, swine flu is not confined to Third World countries, and AIDS, unlike swine flu, is not an airborne disease.
Farah then wrote that "malaria could be eradicated much easier and more economically. But the most effective weapon in the arsenal against malaria, DDT, has been banned in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world, even though it saved the lives of tens of millions, because of pseudo-scientific hysteria about alleged, unproven environmental effects."
In fact, contrary to Farah's claims that DDT's effects on the environment are "unproven," it has been found to cause cancer, endocrine disruption and adversely affect the immune system (though some studies claim otherwise).
Now, on to the fearmongering:
While no one disputes DDT's absolute effectiveness against malaria, there are no studies that prove the H1N1 vaccine actually prevents swine flu. In addition, many doctors consider it to be dangerous because it contains aluminum, a toxic metal, thimerosal, a mercury toxin and is believed to contain a squalene product that can injure the immune system.
First, some flu vaccines do not contain thimerosal. Second, as the CDC states:
Since 2001, no new vaccine licensed by FDA for use in children has contained thimerosal as a preservative and all vaccines routinely recommended by CDC for children under six years of age have been thimerosal-free, or contain only trace amounts, except for some formulations of influenza vaccine. Unfortunately, we have not seen reductions in the numbers of children identified with autism indicating that the cause of autism is not related to a single exposure such as thimerosal.
But that's not good enough for Farah:
I don't know about you, but I don't trust the government to make medical decisions.
Does Farah think he's more trustworthy than the government on life-and-death decisions? WND's fearmongering has likely scared some people out of getting the vaccine who will, as a result, contract H1N1. A few of those people may die.
In other words, WND may very well be killing its readers.
Farah may not trust the government, but people would be absolute fools to take medical advice from him and WND.