What motivates people to spread false health information? In most cases, it is the old age reason. Money or power or both. The individuals you’ll meet below are essential crooked business people, cons who have happened on one of the most lucrative markets in the world and now prey on people’s health fears and weaknesses. If you aren’t afraid, they’ll make you afraid. The reason? They have something to sell you that will remove that fear. Let’s meet the worst of the worst.
The Disinformation Dozen
The following people have been identified as being responsible for 65% of the anti-vaccine and health misinformation circulating on social media. On Facebook, they account for up to 73% of misleading vaccine propaganda. On Twitter, their names are referenced on 17% of anti-vaccine tweets. Meet the Disinformation Dozen.
- Joseph Mercola
- Robert F. Kennedy Jnr
- Ty and Charlene Bollinger
- Sherri Tenpenny
- Rizza Islam
- Rashid Buttar
- Erin Elizabeth
- Sayer Ji and Kelly Brogan
- Christiane Northrup
- Ben Tapper
- Kevin Jenkins
- Clay Clark
These names (with the exception of Clay Clark, who Medika has added for reasons you’ll see below) are listed on a report issued by The Center for Countering Digital Hate,(CCDH), a not-for-profit NGO that seeks to disrupt the architecture of online hate and misinformation. You can access the full report here and this article comprises much of the report. They are, with the possible exception of Kennedy, grifters par excellence.
The report reveals that just twelve individuals and their organizations are responsible for the bulk of anti-vaxx content shared or posted on Facebook and Twitter. The majority of the Disinformation Dozen remain on major social media platforms, despite repeated violations of their terms of service. We’ll summarize each of the names listed with a brief explanation as to why these individuals pose a real and present danger to public health. Where individuals are linked to existing Medika articles, we’ve referenced those articles by linking the names.
In addition to the named individuals listed above, their business or websites pose an equal or greater threat to public health. A sample of these are shown below and these websites multiply like viruses, with more springing up every day.
- Children’s Health Defense (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.)
- Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) (Del Bigtree)
- National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) (Barbara Loe Fisher, Joseph Mercola)
- Organic Consumers Association (OCA) (Joseph Mercola)
- Millions Against Medical Mandates
How did the CCDH narrow down its list?
The individuals above were selected because they have large numbers of followers, produce high volumes of anti-vaccine content, or have seen rapid growth of their social media accounts in the last two months. According to the report:
Analysis of a sample of anti-vaccine content that was shared or posted on Facebook and Twitter a total of 812,000 times between 1 February and 16 March 2021 shows that 65 percent of anti-vaccine content is attributable to the individuals named above. Despite repeatedly violating Facebook, Instagram and Twitter’s terms of service agreements, nine of the Disinformation Dozen remain on all three platforms, while just three have been comprehensively removed from just one platform.
This is the product of a series of failures from social media platforms:
- Research conducted by CCDH last year has shown that platforms fail to act on 95 percent of the Covid and vaccine misinformation reported to them.
- CCDH’s recent report, Malgorithm, uncovered evidence that Instagram’s algorithm actively recommends similar misinformation.
- Tracking of 425 anti-vaccine accounts by CCDH shows that their total following across platforms now stood at 59.2 million in December, an increase of 877,000 more than they had in June.
- CCDH’s ongoing tracking shows that the 20 anti-vaxxers with the largest followings account for over two-thirds of this total cross-platform following of 59.2 million.
- Analysis of anti-vaccine content posted to Facebook over 689,000 times in the last two months shows that up to 73 percent of that content originates with members of the Disinformation Dozen of leading online anti-vaxxers.
- Facebook’s own internal analysis of vaccine-hesitant content on its platform is likely to underestimate the influence of leading anti-vaxxers by failing to address the ultimate source of this content, and by the recorded failure of its algorithms to identify content concerning vaccines.
- Analysis of over 120,000 anti-vaccine tweets collected in the last two months shows that up to 17 percent feature the Disinformation Dozen of leading online anti-vaxxers.
Who are the Disinformation Dozen?
If you’re not familiar with the names above, these brief bio’s will help you develop a clearer understanding of the names listed and their places in the anti-vaxx community.
1. Joseph Mercola
We’ve previously listed Mercola on Medika’s Quack scale and he’s been consistently selling his version of quackery for far longer than most, allowing him to build up an impressive social media following of misled converts.
His ridiculous suggestions widely shared on Facebook include
- Hydrogen Peroxide can successfully treat most viral respiratory illnesses, including coronavirus — FALSE
- The same number of people died on average in 2020 that died the previous year, so the coronavirus deaths are a hoax — FALSE
- Forced vaccinations are part of a plan to reset the global economy — FALSE
Mercola has been peddling dietary supplements and false cures as alternatives to vaccines for years. His combined personal social media accounts have around 3.6 million followers. At the time of writing, Mercola still enjoys active social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
2. Robert F Kennedy Jnr
Trained as a layer, Kennedy enjoyed early public successes against large chemical corporations guilty of chemically contaminating our environment and knowingly poisoning their communities and customers. His early career boasts many admirable achievements and he was one of the original eco-warriors.
Which makes what has become of him, al the more painful. His focus gradually shifted to big pharma and his clear vision has been clouded by an obsession with healthcare conspiracies and anti-vaxx rhetoric. In many ways, he may have been one of the original victims to buy into a complex web of lies and deceit. Many now view him as the unofficial, uncrowned “king” of the anti-vaxx movement, and the reach and influence he exerts through his website, Children’s Health Defense, would support this view.
In Kennedy’s case, his misguided and misleading exertions are not necessarily spawned by a desire to grift but may be seated in a deeply subverted view of actual science and medical fact. His background suggests he would view any large corporation as suspect, including pharma and government. Irrelevant of his motivation, he poses a real and present danger to public health. His Children’s Health Defense offers a welcoming platform to many of the names on this list, to further their propaganda, expand their reach and further enrich themselves at the cost of public health and safety.
A recent film made by Kennedy on Black healthcare displays all the tactics of anti-vaxx propaganda and appropriates black culture to promote Kenedy’s agenda. We discussed this move at length here.
3. Ty and Charlene Bollinger
Ty and Charlene Bollinger are anti-vax entrepreneurs who run a network of accounts that market books and DVDs about vaccines, cancer, and COVID-19. In 2020 they launched the United Medical Freedom Super PAC ahead of last year’s United States elections.
The Bollingers have promoted the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates plans to inject everyone with microchips as part of a vaccination program.
The Bollingers have also posted content that violates platform standards on election misinformation. As with almost every name on this list, their ties to the Republican party are undeniable. The pair are extremely talented alternate health charlatans profiting handsomely from the disinformation they spread. At the time of writing, they still enjoy active social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
4. Sherri Tenpenny
Dr. Sherri Tenpenny is an osteopath physician who spreads anti-vaccine sentiment and false claims about the safety and efficacy of masks via her social media channels. While her Facebook account has been removed, her Twitter and Instagram are still intact. One of her most recent claims related to the covid vaccine.
“Some people are going to die from the vaccine directly,” Tenpenny said in the video, which has nearly 1 million views. “But a large number of people are going to start getting horribly sick and get all kinds of autoimmune diseases, 42 days to maybe a year out.”
This is of course complete nonsense. you can read an article here that debunks this ridiculous statement. In the video, Tenpenny refers to the covid vaccine as deadly and a bioweapon. She is a licensed osteopath based in suburban Cleveland and the author of “Saying No To Vaccines: A Resource Guide for All Ages.” She runs an alternative health clinic and has previously claimed vaccines cause autism.
On 23 June 2020 Sherri Tenpenny tweeted that the longer you wear a mask, the more unhealthy you get. Tenpenny alleged that masks suppress your immune system.https://medika.life/media/4fa458bd9d888e08c17eb721712bb898
5. Rizza Islam
Rizza Islam’s anti-vaccine posts aim to spread vaccine hesitancy amongst African Americans. While Facebook removed Rizza Islam’s Facebook Page in February, he continues to post anti-vaccine messages from his Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Islam intentionally discourages fellow African Americans from being vaccinated. His dangerous rhetoric contributes to the increased risk of death this sector of the population faces from the coronavirus. His Twitter account is a carefully managed stream of vaccine misinformation, focusing on the covid vaccine. Every person he turns away from the vaccine is a potential death at his hand in a community he claims to serve.
He’s no stranger to manipulating healthcare for his own profit. In 2015 the executive director of World Literacy Crusade (WLC), then Hanan Islam, Ronnie Steven Islam (AKA Rizza Islam), and Hanan’s adult children were arrested for Medi-Cal fraud and insurance fraud for billing for a detox program. The Compton, Californian offices of the WLC housed a drug detox program using “dry heat sweat therapy.
This Jan 4 article explains what’s awaiting a very deserving con artist. Hanan and Rizza Islam get trial date for $4 million Medi-Cal fraud at Scientology rehab. At a pretrial conference, the trial was set for May 20 in the case, which seeks felony convictions against Hanan Islam, 61, and three of her children, including her son Ronnie “Rizza” Islam, 30. If you’re an African American, Rizza Islam is not your friend.
6. Rashid Buttar
Rashid Buttar is an American osteopathic physician from Charlotte, North Carolina. He is an ardent conspiracy theorist known for videos posted to his YouTube channel. Buttar claims that COVID-19 tests have living microorganisms (discouraging people from getting government-approved tests) and that Covid vaccines cause infertility
In an early 2020 video, after warning that corrupt government leaders would seize on the crisis to enact authoritarian rule, Buttar — a widely discredited osteopath — directed viewers to his website, where he sells information packages that cost up to $450. Only there, he claims, can he share the “real truth” in its entirety. Buttar is a grifter, a con artist, not a particularly good one, with a healthcare spin. A popular QAnon Instagram page reposted one of his videos with the caption “Coronavirus Was Man-Made.”
While Buttar’s scam may not be as sophisticated as many of his more practiced colleagues on this list, he is nonetheless hugely disruptive to public health. At the time of writing, Buttar still enjoys active social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
7. Erin Elizabeth
Erin Elizabeth is the partner of Joseph Mercola (surprise, surprise). She runs Health Nut News, a prominent ‘alternative health’ website with affiliated newsletter and social media accounts.
She has posted an antisemitic conspiracy theory about the Rothschilds to her Instagram account, connected Bill Gates to wild vaccine plots, suggested the influenza vaccine makes you chronically ill. She actively supports Mercola and they are, not unlike the Bollingers, representative of a new element emerging from the alternate health sector, the “Power-Con Couples”. Healthcare Bonnie and Clyde’s but they aren’t robbing banks, they’re threatening your health.
Her social media accounts remain active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
8. Sayer Ji and Kelly Brogan
Another “Power-Con Couple” with a slight difference. The only real danger here is Brogan. Her partner, Sayer Ji, is the joke on the list. If you want to take health advice from an unqualified supplement salesman, then you pretty much get what you deserve. His philosophy degree is as far away from healthcare as the sun is from the moon.
Sayer Ji runs a popular alternative health website, GreenMedInfo.com, and affiliated social media accounts that promote pseudoscience and anti-vaccine misinformation. Despite his GreenMedInfo accounts being removed by Twitter and Instagram, it is still available on Facebook.
Kelly Brogan on the other hand is a cold, calculating medical charlatan. You can read more about her on Medika’s Quack Scale and her abusive relationship with past patients. She now claims to practice “holistic psychiatry” and sells a range of books and courses from her website. In a widely viewed video in March 2020, Kelly Brogan claimed that “there is potentially no such thing as the coronavirus” because “it’s not possible to prove that any given pathogen has induced death.”
A post on Kelly Brogan’s website titled “Why We Stay Asleep When Covid-19 Is Trying to Wake Us Up” cites a number of COVID conspiracy theories, including that the pandemic was planned. CrowdTangle analytics show it has been shared on Facebook nearly 11,000 times.
9. Christiane Northrup
Our favorite Covid kook. Christiane Northrup offers up theories so wild and unbelievable, they’re actually entertaining. If she didn’t pose such a serious risk to public health, we’d be encouraging her to take her show on the road.
We’ve written about Christiane Northrup on Medika’s Quack Scale and she doesn’t shy away from insanity when attacking the covid vaccines, dragging fetal cells, 5G cell towers, and tracking chips out in the same breath. The only thing more amazing than Northrup’s crazed theories is the fact that anyone would even consider them. She makes baseless claims that vaccines cause an 800% increase in chronic illness and that getting vaccinated will allow governments and organizations to somehow track you.
She’s a sought-after guest on alternate health podcasts and “news” channels, appearing with Thrivetime’s, Clay Clark in his latest anti-vaxx, anti-covid effort, the “Health and Freedom Project”, a Republican based disinformation campaign with ties to QAnon, designed to destabilize a Democrat-led American government. Her social media accounts remain active on all three platforms, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
10. Ben Tapper
Ben Tapper is a chiropractor with a growing following on social media. He has routinely posted COVID disinformation and spoken out against masking. Although he is fond of introducing himself as a doctor, he is not a medical doctor. In fact, some doubt exists as to his actual qualification.
Apparently, chiropractic students are now doing courses in virology and molecular biology and have a broad knowledge of nutrition and chemical interactions when they qualify. Oh no wait, that’s not actually true. In fact, they aren’t doctors at all and their courses focus on the mechanistic treatment of pulled muscles, and aches and pains supposedly initiated by poor spinal alignment. Their manipulation techniques apparently extend beyond just treating patients.
This small technical issue doesn’t however stop an inordinately large amount of chiropractors from advising on everything from virology to pandemics and cancer cures. Tapper is the perfect example of someone way out of his depth. Here is an article that debunks a lot of nonsense Tapper sprouted about PCR tests (under the false guise of being a medical doctor) while addressing a city council in the USA.
At the time of writing, all Tapper’s social media accounts remain active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
11. Kevin Jenkins
Another black man hell-bent on harming his fellow African Americans by spreading lies about the dangers of Covid and the Covid vaccine.
Kevin Jenkins is an anti-vaccine activist with a growing social media presence who has appeared at public events with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Jenkins has called vaccines a “conspiracy” to “wipe out” black people and is a co-founder of the Freedom Airway & Freedom Travel Alliance, a company founded in late 2020 to help its members travel around the world without observing any masking, quarantining, vaccination, or other pandemic control measures.
In a now-deleted Facebook Live from DC on January 6th, Kevin Jenkins stands on stage and tells the crowd that Black people are being targeted with the vaccine. “They are spending a trillion dollars to convince you [the Black Community] that it’s ok to kill yourselves [with the COVID vaccine].” Jenkins has also claimed that the Black community is being targeted for experimentation with the vaccine.
All Jenkins’ social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram remain active.
12. Clay Clark
Clay Clark was not originally included in the original Disinformation Dozen. Medika feels this is a massive oversight and we’ve rectified it here.
We’ve left the best for last and judging by the photo below, you may want to make sure your children are tucked up tight in bed. Clay Clark has officially embedded himself with his fellow Republican anti-vaxx, democracy denying, covid doubting, Qanon supporters, and sympathizers.
The presenter of Thrivetime now actively promotes quacks, covid conspirators, and a host of other radical Republicans directly from the front page of the Thrivetime website. It’s worrying that people with profiles like Clark’s feel comfortable enough to come out in such a public show of support for these radical elements, such is their confidence in their growing power base and if ever there as a wake-up call to moderate and sane Republicans, Clark represents this call.
A link on the front page of Thrivetime takes you directly to Christiane Northrup discussing fetal cells and tracking devices in the covid vaccines, both repeatedly disproven statements. One of the sites he links to is called timetofreeamerica.com with possibly the largest collection of anti-covid propaganda we’ve comes across. It also includes false claims on 2020 election fraud, a popular Trumpian narrative.
Gates is shown as an orchestrator of world domination and every other imaginable covid conspiracy is wheeled out, including the disgraced Judy Mikovitz. The scariest part of all this, as if it could get any worse, isn’t the collection of fake and misleading, misquoted and appropriated science, it is Clark’s clear attempt at garnering himself a power base for his political aspirations. He intends to do this by ingratiating himself with an ever-expanding radical segment within the Republican party.
He’s hosting conferences, which he has inappropriately labeled “Health and Freedom” conferences and we wrote extensively about them here. They are nothing more than an embarrassingly public display of the collapse of the mainstream Republican party, eroded from within by Clark and the cancerous elements he represents. He isn’t grifting for money, it’s power he’s after.
Speakers at the first event included Andrew Wakefield, Christiane Northrup, Simone Gold, and a smorgasbord of conspiracy theorists, covid doubters, and general health disinformation experts. Clark is actively mixing alternate health and anti-vaxx propaganda with seditionist rhetoric and election fraud conspiracies.
Clearly, he feels this base is growing sufficiently within the Republican party to justify coming out of the closet. Make no mistake, Clark isn’t a believer. He’s merely a skilled manipulator who’s seen an opportunity he can exploit for his own benefit. He enjoys a large public following and all his social media accounts remain active. Don’t forget to vote for him when you see the ticket.
What can you do to stop the Disinformation Dozen?
There are actually a few really simple actions you can take to deplatform these individuals. Despite this list having been provided by a congressional body to the implicated social media companies well over a month ago, most of the accounts above still remain active.
Report these accounts whenever you come across them, report individual posts, and ensure the owners of platforms like Twitter and Facebook are continuously made are of their responsibility to protect the public against disinformation.
If you’re a mainstream Republican that values democracy and the rule of law, express your outrage to your local Republican office. Question why these elements are allowed to persist and thrive within your party. Act now or you may find yourself looking for a new political homeland in the not too distant future.
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