Thursday, July 30, 2020

Trump's New Covid Expert

Just like my post the other day about Christians protesting dishwasher detergent, the whole religious conservative universe seems determined to degenerate into self-parody. Stella Immanuel is apparently a new "coronavirus expert" supported by Tea Party conservatives and the Trump administration.

Also a relevant point: if these really are the sorts of experts Trump is listening to, the executive branch response to COVID-19 is likely doomed. At the very least it's going to involve somebody stepping up and making a point of ignoring these yahoos. I have to say, this development makes me even happier that Minnesota's governor is a former science teacher who has been handling the pandemic reasonably well.

And look, I know full well that I'm a political lefty and don't like Trump, so I'm biased. But I dare anybody of whatever political persuasion to read this and still stand by Immanuel's claims.

I'm going to quote pretty liberally - no pun intended - from the original article, because, well... it's a whole lot of crazy to unpack. And understand that even with that, I'm going to gloss over some of it.

Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches.

She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.

Immanuel gave her viral speech on the steps of the Supreme Court at the “White Coat Summit,” a gathering of a handful of doctors who call themselves America’s Frontline Doctors and dispute the medical consensus on the novel coronavirus. The event was organized by the right-wing group Tea Party Patriots, which is backed by wealthy Republican donors.

In her speech, Immanuel alleges that she has successfully treated hundreds of patients with hydroxychloroquine, a controversial treatment Trump has promoted and says he has taken himself. Studies have failed to find proof that the drug has any benefit in treating COVID-19, and the Food and Drug Administration in June revoked its emergency authorization to use it to treat the deadly virus, saying it hadn’t demonstrated any effect on patients’ mortality prospects.

“Nobody needs to get sick,” Immanuel said. “This virus has a cure.” Immanuel said in her speech that the supposed potency of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment means that protective face masks aren’t necessary, claiming that she and her staff had avoided contracting COVID-19 despite wearing medical masks instead of the more secure N95 masks.

There was early evidence from one Chinese study that hydroxychloroquine appeared to be effective as a COVID-19 treatment when combined with azithromycin, a common antibiotic. But a number of groups tried to replicate the study and failed to do so. Because this is science, that means there's no proof that it works. And it is known to have some serious potential side effects, so it's not like taking it is risk-free.

For younger people COVID-19 is nowhere near as deadly as it is for older folks. It is possible that she's treated hundreds of people with hydroxychloroquine at her clinic and they all got better, but that could have happened whether or not the drug was doing anything - especially if, as a pediatrician, she was treating mostly younger patients and children.

Not understanding that, though, is some really sloppy thinking. You'd like to think someone with a medical license would understand science and wouldn't fall for anecdotes over data, but keep reading.

Toward the end of Immanuel’s speech, the event’s organizer and other participants can be seen trying to get her away from the microphone. But footage of the speech captured by Breitbart was a hit online, becoming a top video on Facebook and amassing roughly 13 million views—significantly more than “Plandemic,” another coronavirus disinformation video that became a viral hit online in May, when it amassed roughly 8 million Facebook views.

“Hydroxychloroquine” trended on Twitter, as Immanuel’s video was embraced by the Trumps, conservative student group Turning Point USA, and pro-Trump personalities like Diamond & Silk. But both Facebook and Twitter eventually deleted videos of Immanuel’s speech from their sites, citing rules against COVID-19 disinformation. The deletions set off yet another round of complaints by conservatives of bias at the social-media platforms.

Immanuel responded in her own way, declaring that Jesus Christ would destroy Facebook’s servers if her videos weren’t restored to the platform. “Hello Facebook put back my profile page and videos up or your computers with start crashing till you do,” she tweeted. “You are not bigger that God. I promise you. If my page is not back up face book will be down in Jesus name.”

Facebook's servers aren't down. Where is your God now? Seriously, though, this is a prediction and it hasn't come to pass. According to the scripture Immanuel supposedly follows, if a religious leader makes a prediction that doesn't come true, they are a false prophet and no one should follow them. But I doubt her flock will get the message.

In sermons posted on YouTube and articles on her website, Immanuel claims that medical issues like endometriosis, cysts, infertility, and impotence are caused by sex with “spirit husbands” and “spirit wives”—a phenomenon Immanuel describes essentially as witches and demons having sex with people in a dreamworld.

“They are responsible for serious gynecological problems,” Immanuel said. “We call them all kinds of names—endometriosis, we call them molar pregnancies, we call them fibroids, we call them cysts, but most of them are evil deposits from the spirit husband,” Immanuel said of the medical issues in a 2013 sermon. “They are responsible for miscarriages, impotence—men that can’t get it up.”

I'm going to answer this one as an honest-to-goodness wizard. Most of the time, "the dreamworld" isn't actually a world. It's your brain reshuffling and reorganizing memories, which get combined in novel ways when you recall the process. It is possible to engage your psychic senses while dreaming and experience something from outside your sphere of sensation, but it's not that common for anybody with an average level of psychic talent who hasn't worked at developing those abilities.

It also is possible to use a technique like spirit vision or astral projection to "have sex" with spirits, though since they're spirits the experience is pretty different than having sex with a person. It also is true that most sexual dreams don't have any sort of spiritual component, and nobody I know of who claims to have engaged in spirit sex has ever reported any medical issues associated with it.

In her sermon, Immanuel offers a sort of demonology of “nephilim,” the biblical characters she claims exist as demonic spirits and lust after dream sex with humans, causing all matter of real health problems and financial ruin. Immanuel claims real-life ailments such as fibroid tumors and cysts stem from the demonic sperm after demon dream sex, an activity she claims affects “many women.”

“They turn into a woman and then they sleep with the man and collect his sperm,” Immanuel said in her sermon. “Then they turn into the man and they sleep with a man and deposit the sperm and reproduce more of themselves.”

And this is just wrong from a scriptural standpoint. The nephilim in Genesis were the offspring of humans and angels, and were the ancient "men of reknown," clearly flesh-and-blood creatures. What Immanuel is talking about are incubi and succubi, which come from Roman Catholic mythology made up by celibate priests and theologians in the Middle Ages. They are a class of demons, NOT nephilim.

As I wrote in my article published in the Holy Guardian Angel anthology, I'm convinced that the reality of the nephilim myth is more like the "mystic marriage" of the human magician and the Holy Guardian Angel that "gives birth" to an Adept. So this story is really about people with the ability to use magick and the prejudice against us from time immemorial.

According to Immanuel, people can tell if they have taken a demonic spirit husband or spirit wife if they have a sex dream about someone they know or a celebrity, wake up aroused, stop getting along with their real-world spouse, lose money, or generally experience any hardship.

Alternately, they could just be having dream-sex with a human witch instead of a demon, she posits. “There are those that are called astral sex,” Immanuel said in the sermon. “That means this person is not really a demon being or a nephilim. It’s just a human being that’s a witch, and they astral project and sleep with people.”

Or it could be just a dream, a relationship issue, financial trouble, or bad luck. All of those things are much more common than attracting "spirit spouses" unwittingly. And again, speaking as an honest-to-goodness wizard, there are magical practices that can be used to unite with a spirit spouse or lover. But it's very hard to do by accident - unlike all those other possibilities.

Immanuel’s bizarre medical ideas don’t stop with demon sex in dreams. In a 2015 sermon that laid out a supposed Illuminati plan hatched by “a witch” to destroy the world using abortion, gay marriage, and children’s toys, among other things, Immanuel claimed that DNA from space aliens is currently being used in medicine. “They’re using all kinds of DNA, even alien DNA, to treat people,” Immanuel said.

Immanuel’s website offers a prayer to remove a generational curse originally received from an ancestor but transmitted, in Immanuel’s telling, through placenta. Immanuel claimed in another 2015 sermon posted that scientists had plans to install microchips in people, and develop a “vaccine” to make it impossible to become religious. “They found the gene in somebody’s mind that makes you religious, so they can vaccinate against it,” Immanuel said.

There's no real "Illuminati" any more, so there's no "Illuminati plot," unless she's talking about something being hatched by The Ancient and Illuminated Seers of Nigeria, which you can join by sending all of your banking information to a random phone number with the +234 country code. I have to say, though, I've heard of no plots from those folks besides scamming us out of all our money. We also have never come across actual alien DNA.

Generational curses can be real, but they are transmitted down the ancestral line and aren't related to placentas in any meaningful way. There are no plans to microchip people, and those supposed "nanochips" don't even exist. Finally, I'm aware of the study that I think she's referencing, which identified two human phenotypes. One tended towards religious and spiritual experiences, and the other tended to not have those experiences.

But it's not a gene, it's a phenotype. The authors of the study hypothesized that there might be a genetic component, but for something so complex it likely is related to hundreds of genes at the very least. Oh, and you can't vaccinate for a gene. If you could, we would have cures for all sorts of genetic diseases that are caused by single mutations already, like sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis just to name two.

Immanuel elaborated on her fascination with witchcraft in her 2015 Illuminati sermon, claiming that witches were intent on seizing control of children.

In her 2015 sermon on the Illuminati’s supposed agenda to bring down the United States, Immanuel argues that a wide variety of toys, books, and TV shows, from Pok√©mon—which she declares “Eastern demons”—to Harry Potter and the Disney Channel shows Wizards of Waverly Place and That’s So Raven were all part of a scheme to introduce children to spirits and witches. Immanuel warned that the Disney Channel show Hannah Montana was a gateway to evil, because its character had an “alter ego.” She has claimed that schools teach children to meditate so they can “meet with demons.”

Let's see - so she thinks all fantasy that involves magick or spirits is evil. Having an alias is evil. I suppose her followers are prohibited from changing their names? And meditation has absolutely nothing to do with "meeting with demons." In fact, demon evocation is an entirely separate magical discipline.

Now this is the bit I absolutely love:

In the sermon, Immanuel preserved special vitriol for the Magic 8-Ball, a toy that can be shaken up to “reveal” any answer. Immanuel claims the otherwise innocuous Magic 8-Ball was in fact a scheme to get children used to witchcraft. “The 8-Ball was a psychic,” she said.

Really? The Magic 8-Ball??? There's no way that a hunk of plastic is "a psychic." I can't even bind a spirit into one that would make it work that way, and that's with decades of magical practice.

I suppose it's also no surprise that she's a fan of David Icke's oddball reptilian hypothesis that seems to be made up of elements from the V miniseries broadcast in the 1980s.

Immanuel’s oddball claims about the world extend to politics. She didn’t bring up this allegation publicly in Washington, but she has claimed that the American government is run in part by non-human reptilians.

“There are people that are ruling this nation that are not even human,” Immanuel said in her 2015 Illuminati sermon, before launching into a conversation she had with a “reptilian spirit” she described as “half-human, half-ET.”

The article goes on about how she's homophobic and transphobic, and supports corporal punishment for children, but compared to all of the above that's not unexpected or even interesting. Pretty much all religious conservatives are like that, since as far as I can tell for them the only sins worth mentioning revolve around sex, gender, and reproduction - and they have no problem with hitting kids.

So no sexy dreams. No gays. No trans people. No abortion rights. But no Magic 8-Balls is a new one. I'll have to make a note of that for posterity!

Finally, there's this:

Immanuel has seized on her newfound celebrity, tweeting a video demanding that CNN hosts and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Anthony Fauci give her jars of their urine so she can test if they’re secretly taking hydroxychloroquine even as they caution against its use. “I double dog dare y’all give me a urine sample,” Immanuel tweeted in her challenge.

Because, seriously, there's no better way to wrap up an article like this than "give me your pee." This is the Trump administration we're talking about, after all.

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Bruce said...

An interesting post here Scott. I'm not a lefty, I do support Trump's Presidency. I've only taken a cursory look at Dr Immanuel. I have no stake in Hydroy*** as a possible useful medicine for treating COVID 19. I saw the video where she and the others expressed support for the use of this medicine to treat COVID 19. Cure is a strong word for a medical doctor to make.

I've only begun to look for video evidence of the things claims as statements she's made.

I don't trust reports that she said this or she said that. My distrust is built on personal experience with the main stream media outlets providing something as a fact which on closer investigation wasn't factual. To me, until more information comes out, this looks like an ad hominem smear attack to discredit her. Whether or not she has eccentric views bothers me less than whether or not this medicine is useful or not to treat COVID 19. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

My wife tested positive for COVID 19 in the early part of August, she got well. She has underlying health issues diabetes and asthma. It was the asthma that led to her being hospitalized for what, from our perspective at the time would normally have seen her doctor in clinic. When my wife contracted COVID 19 I did some investigations to look for some things that might help her that the physicians might not consider.

I successfully used garlic to treat a severe flu that I once caught that included severe chills. I ate 1 clove of garlic every 4 hours for 1 week and got better. A coworker got sick before I did, with the severe chills. He had to go to the hospital. He owned a farm next to a pig farm. So possibly swine flu.

It's likely that our family's consumption of garlic protected her from having a more severe reaction to COVID 19. Just our anecdotal experience.

I also used some of my talents to help her when she first became ill.

I don't really have a solution other than it's useful to test these things a bit more. The NIH reports that garlic may be useful as a prophylactic useful in preventing infection. Some think this hydro*** might be useful too.

The NIH has also reported that laughter and smiling may improve immune response which makes sense to me. When people fall in love they smile strongly at one another and it would be detrimental to romance for people to make each other sick.

Since we're facing a lot of unknowns and possible prophylaxis' available I think it could be useful to suggest that people protect themselves by adding smiling and laughter and some garlic to their diet.

I also have concerns for the ability of physicians today to diagnose properly. I see them making the same sorts of errors that I saw electronics technicians were making which made them unable to diagnose/troubleshoot the equipment failures with the same sort of excuses why. So I am not convinced that they'll be able to find any solution any time soon.

The one thing that I know, is we did not respond to the swine flu by shutting down the economy. That's frankly my greater concern. In the Twin Ciities we've lost some long standing small businesses.

My last point is that the MN Department of Health has been ineffective in taking actions that could lead to an end of this pandemic other than montoring our temperature. In my family my wife had a weakened COVID 19 infection, none others had any symptoms even though earlier we had contact with each other. And we all passed the 2 week period without any problems yet no one wanted to test any of our blood. Then or now. There are likely indications in our blood as why we did not get sick and why my wife's sickness was muted in spite of underlying health conditions that should have made it worse.

Scott Stenwick said...

It sounds like if you look Immanuel up on YouTube the statements the article are referring to are out there, so you should be able to look them up for yourself. As I commented on Facebook, hydroxychloroquine was studied extensively after the original Chinese results came out as a potential cure. None of those studies showed a strong enough effect to be noteworthy. That doesn't mean it does nothing, but rather that the effect was weak enough that it probably would not have been very useful. Taking it prophylactically is a bad idea because it can have serious side effects.

A really interesting point about asthma - interestingly, it doesn't seem like asthmatics are any more likely to die from covid-19. I've carefully followed this since I have asthma myself. That's weird, since you would think that any chronic respiratory issue would make it worse. But it also came out that dexamethasone, a steroid, has been proved effective as a covid treatment. Asthmatics are often treated with flucatisone, also a steroid, and montelukast, a cytokine blocker. So maybe some combination of those medications has an effect that offsets what you would think should be a vulnerability.

I'm all for as much research as we can do, though, on anything, including alternative treatments like garlic and other herbs with antiviral properties. I'm not down on alternative medicine at all, I just think it shouldn't replace conventional care but rather complement it.

The problem with not trusting doctors and media outlets is not that they're always right - I grew up in a medical family and doctors do make mistakes. Likewise, a lot of media has biases - which is why I disclosed my politics up front. But my question would be what's the alternative? I wind up seeing too many folks on the Internet basically assuming that anything in the media is wrong because it's in the media, and then pulling up nonsense they find on random YouTube channels as "the truth." Just to be clear, I am in no way implying that you are one of these people. But it really is a problematic attitude. There's a difference between applying critical thinking to media sources, and rejecting them out of hand.

Also, odds are nobody wanted to test your blood because nobody has any idea what to look for. The blood type study from China also couldn't be replicated, just like their hydroxychloroquine study that got all the attention. So we're most likely looking at some genetic factor that you would never be able to determine from a few samples.

Bruce said...

I'm enjoying this conversation. Just thought I'd put that out there.

My skepticism is informed by experiences I've had of facts being reported not matching with facts found from reliable sources. One experience was when there was a fire at a nursing home my Mom worked at, in fact I saw her crossing the TV screen as the reporter told of the fire. She told me a very different story than the news told their audience. The agreed that there was a fire and the name of the nursing home. All other details were in disagreement. While on the USS New Jersey BB-62 I saw an AP wire story that had the name of the ship correct and the ocean we were in correct but all the other details were off. Details they were allowed to print were not there.

I'm skeptical of the diagnostic ability of Doctors. They in my view make the same mistakes that I saw Electronics technicians whom I was called in to help diagnose the equipment they were stuck on made.

One quick example: the process they use is incorrect. The correct process is to use a series of questions to guide the diagnosis starting from the over all entire system and a working your way down to the specific. Both groups latch on to a specific that might be the cause and check that. If not that, then they go to another possibility and guess again. They might find a part of the problem and everything sorta works after that but there are always glitches left undone.

Here's one example that I know of: My wife had hypertension. The diagnosis stopped there and she was prescribed a cocktail of pills to control the symptoms of the hypertension. The underlying cause of the hypertension was never addressed. A few years later and a different doctor. She had chronic untreated pain. This doctor found the pad of fat that was pressing on her nerve and causing my wife's pain. So the pad of fat was removed and coincidentally her hypertension abated. She no longer needed her prescriptions.

I discussed this with our doctor and he said it was too complicated to diagnose any further. This was the same complaint that I heard from those Technicians, that it was too complicated to trouble shoot the entire system. Both groups focus too closely on a limited number of tests to diagnose by. They take in too little information. I am teaching myself the functional level of the body so I can teach my doctor how to diagnose further.

I had the occasion to speak with a researcher at the U of M. He's a physicist who's studying artificial cells in order to learn how living cells operate. His research was fascinating to me, we only had a short ride together as I was driving him to his place of work. I was able to suggest an area of inquiry that might prove fruitful. He too was focused on answers when he should be asking more questions.

I agree, they likely don't know what to look for in any blood samples and that's a concern for me. Comparing samples of my blood with samples of those who succumbed to COVID 19 would be tedious as science tends to be. But your immediate focus on genetic differences highlights the problem in my view. We don't know that. And we don't know because we're not looking. Not asking enough questions

There is a power in the question that often goes untapped. When we ask a question that we don't know the answer to the subconscious is prompted to search for the answer and when found pops it into the mind's eye. If we answer it ourselves too soon, the subconscious stops it's search.

I once play trivial pursuit with friends with a variation, the first answer was spontaneous, then we did the more consciously considered answer. After a short time something happened. The first spontaneous answers were the correct answer, even when I did not know the answer to that question. We have access to the answers we need but we have to get the Conscious mind out of the way. In essence we've been mistrained on how to use our Conscious mind.

Thank you Scott.

Scott Stenwick said...

I am not disputing that doctors make diagnostic mistakes, and I am not disputing that reporters sometimes get their facts wrong. But I am highly skeptical that people without medical training will do a better job diagnosing illnesses, or that people who are not journalists will report on stories better than those with that background. Overall, of course. Individual anecdotes are not the same thing as data when removed from their statistical context.

Ignorance is not equivalent to knowledge. It certainly isn't superior to knowledge. This is true whether or not knowledgeable people sometimes make mistakes. Ignorant people are going to make more mistakes even if they sometimes guess right, any way you look at it.