The Better Way anti-vaxx conference hit on every single medical conspiracy theory… except one Aaron Rabinowitz The Skeptic

In my first article about the Better Way antivaxxer conference in Bath, England, I laid out the buffet of medical conspiracy theories on offer during the three day event, including:

Anthony FauciBill Gates, and Klaus Schwab are using the CDC, WHO, and WEF, respectively, to control every other government and organisation on the planet, with the goal of either killing humanity or enslaving us into a transhuman dystopia.Klaus Schwab’s “great reset” is a blueprint for creating a world of stakeholder capitalism, which makes us all slaves to corporations.The WHO passed a new rule allowing them to declare pandemics whenever they want to, as a way to overrule state sovereignty and ensure endless lockdowns.Covid is a bioweapon developed in a lab in Wuhan, and Monkeypox will be the next ‘manufactured’ crisis.“Big pharma” is hiding the evidence that vaccines are ineffective and have a higher likelihood of harmful side effects, including autism.“Big pharma” is hiding the evidence for safe and effective alternative COVID-19 treatments, such as Ivermectin.Transhumanist globalists are trying to “hack” us and control our behaviour through gene editing, neural implants, AI, chemtrails, and 5GVaccines, either in general or during a pandemic, lead to dangerous new variants that could kill off the entire human race.Mass shootings and other violent crimes are caused by SSRIs and other medications pushed by big pharma.Modern pharmaceuticals are causing humans to devolve, making us less intelligent so that we’ll be better consumer slaves.Mainstream media is using hypnosis techniques to cause mass formation psychosis.Social credit scores will be tracked using implanted chips and will determine our level of personal freedom.The government is setting up a “strawman” legal “person” in your name to exploit through weird financial transactions, and other Sovereign Citizen pseudo-legal claims.Fluoridation is harmful and unnecessary as long as parents teach their children proper oral hygiene.The Better Way community is engaged in an existential struggle and the peaceful ways to resolve that struggle have failed or are rapidly failing.

While the primary goal of the conference was to convert COVID antivaxxers and lockdown ‘skeptics’ to the cause of full-on antivaxxerism, there was still plenty of time across the weekend given over to finding common cause with these already existing conspiracy theories.

Yet, amidst the endless churn of ten-minute conspiracy theory presentations, there was one kind of medical conspiracism that was noticeably absent from the Better Way proceedings: anti-trans conspiracism. In more than twenty hours of content, I didn’t hear a single speaker even mention the existence of trans issues, let alone discuss the significant similarities between anti-vaxxer narratives and anti-trans narratives.

Now, it’s possible I missed a throwaway line about trans issues, but I was keeping a keen ear out on this front because of my previous work on anti-transhumanist conspiracism in ‘gender critical’ communities. Earlier this year, I engaged in debates with several gender critical activists, including on Graham Linehan’s YouTube channel. I argued that prominent figures in that community were promoting laundered antisemitic conspiracism packaged as anti-transhumanist, anti-globalist conspiracism, and pushing regressive policies based on a flawed philosophy.

Coming out of that research, it struck me how the anti-vaxxer conspiracism I heard being advanced at the Better Way conference was nearly identical to the anti-trans conspiracism. I don’t mean these forms of conspiracism simply have some important overlaps, I mean that they’re as close to identical as two theories can be, while technically addressing distinct subjects. The only substantial difference was the type of treatment being criticised.

In both anti-vaxxer and anti-trans conspiracism, you have communities centered around a fear of perceived medical malpractice, with an emphasis on irreversible harm to children. Both claim that the malpractice is driven by a dangerous mix of greed and ideology. Both claim that “the mainstream media” shamelessly promotes the malpractice as “cutting edge innovation” that will save lives as long as nobody questions the costs. Both argue that there is a growing mountain of evidence that the medical interventions are harmful, but that “they” are suppressing that information and silencing critics so they can continue to exploit and maim all of us, but especially the children.

Both movements have their survivors: “detransitioners” and “vaccine injured persons”. Caroline Pover, a self-identified “vaccine injured person”, gave a particularly intense talk at the Better Way conference about the symptoms she experienced after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, and the adverse reactions she gets from people when she talks about her experience. Even the claimed harms have similar themes, from loss of fertility and passion, to lifelong medicalisation and other taboo costs. There is a constant refrain that these survivors are shamed and silenced in mainstream discourse, and so must be given significant deference within the community.

Both movements also lionise whistleblowers who come forward to expose the grand medical conspiracy. The whistleblower stories generally follow a similar formula: the doctor starts out as a staunch advocate for the treatment, before getting “medpilled” by the facts and awakening to the horrors of their complicity. This confession is followed by profuse apologies for past sins and condemnation for their former colleagues, who always provide private confessions of agreement but are too afraid to publicly follow suit. These stories are met with love-bombing from the community and an ironic amount of emphasis on the person’s medical expertise as a now reliable source.

A textbook example is Pierre Kory, a pulmonary and critical care specialist and president of the Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), another sponsor of the Better Way conference. Kory is a rising star in the antivaxxer community because of his advocacy for Ivermectin, vitamins, and other untested or debunked treatments. In the promotional video loop that preceded each Conversation, there was a clip of Kory on a panel explaining his de-conversion and lamenting the cowardice of the medical community.

In terms of policy conclusions, both movements advocate for a wide range of changes, from requesting more precautionary research prior to further treatment up to outright bans and criminal charges for past and future practitioners. In both cases, this creates genuine miscommunication, where individuals with genuine concerns are accused of secretly harboring more extreme positions, while those who critique extreme policy conclusions and bad faith calls for precautionary research get accused of dogmatically rejecting all forms of criticism.

Up to this point, you could rightly object that these are features common to most medical conspiracy theories, or naturalist conspiracism more broadly. However, when you look at the claims they’re making about the evil figures pulling the strings, it becomes truly odd that there was no crossover content.

Both forms of conspiracism are deeply rooted in the anti-globalist conspiracism popularised by Bill Cooper and Alex Jones. As I mentioned in my first article on the conference, Klaus Schwab is treated as the architect of the broader ‘Great Reset’ conspiracy, and his true goal is apparently transhumanist technofascism, the complete control of other humans through coercive technologies.

This wasn’t just coming from fringe speakers either. The anti-transhumanist conspiracism started with Bigtree, Nawaz, Malone, and other headliners on day one of the conference. In their sit-down chat after Malone’s talk, Nawaz and Malone went on at length about how transhumanists are planning to brand everyone with QR codes to track our social credit scores, or just use mind control chips and genetic editing to control our behavior directly. Exactly the sorts of conspiracism that Alex Jones spins up out of stories about DARPA.

These conspiracy theories are based on misrepresentations of a talk Yuval Harari gave to the WEF, where Harari warns of the growing risk of human hacking technologies. It seems odd that the WEF would allow such a talk, if it exposes their evil plan. You can find these same claims of human hacking in the antisemitic, anti-trans conspiracism around Schwab, Soros, and other Jewish billionaires that has spread into gender critical communities. Gender theory, vaccines – they’re all just pretexts for experimentation and increased control.

Yet, in three days of conference, there was no attempt to find common cause on trans issues. This presents a confounding data point for researchers, like myself, who theorise that belief in some kinds of conspiracism makes people more susceptible to belief in other kinds of conspiracism, especially when the two theories have major points of overlap. If you had shown me just the clips of speakers attacking Schwab, I would have predicted that trans issues would come up as a common point of comparison.

There’s a couple possible explanations for this omission, but I don’t find any of them satisfying. It wasn’t like the organisers simply wanted to stay laser focused on vaccines. During the Conversations on “vaccine injured persons”, there were speakers who talked exclusively about the dangers of anti-depressants, and the potential side effects from vaccines and anti-depressants were often lumped together.

For example, one of the first day speakers was Kim Witczak, a “reluctant” drug safety advocate who played a role in getting “black box” suicide warnings put on antidepressants after her husband’s death. The labels have faced significant criticism from mental health advocates, who argue the change was an overreaction that actually harmed patients by reducing the use of safe and effective medications.

Witczak was included in the headliners panel I discussed in my first article, during which Bigtree asked her about antidepressants and mass shootings. Witczak claimed, with Weinstein and Malone and everyone nodding along, that she has “long thought, when there’s a school shooting, we need to start investigating what drugs…all we hear is they have mental health issues…” She added that, after shootings, “fixers” come in and silence discussion of medication and “go after the low hanging fruit, which is the guns”. This is extremely harmful misinformation that has been thoroughly debunked, separate from the absurdity of calling guns “low hanging fruit” in American politics. So, there was clearly no compunction amongst the organisers or headliners about muddying their message with talk of other medical conspiracies.

What’s more, it would have been easy to provide a talk comparing trans issues to vaccine issues, given that there are individuals, like Sherri Tenpenny, who actively advocate against both vaccines and gender affirming care under the banner of resisting transhumanism. Sherri got internet-famous for claiming that Covid vaccines magnetise people, but within the anti-vaxxer community she’s treated as a reputable source. She appeared in roundtable videos with Del Bigtree, Andrew Wakefield, Robert Kennedy Jr., and Judy Mikovitz, creator of the popular conspiracism internet video Plandemic. The panels were hosted by Ty and Charlene Bollinger, the organisers of the Jan 6 Stop-the-Steal anti-vaxxer event.

The remaining explanations for the omission are sheer coincidence or a directive specifically to avoid discussing trans issues, neither of which seem plausible.  It seems like too much of a coincidence that nobody ever mentioned the issue, even in passing, but it also seems implausible that the organisers would send out a directive, or even conveyed a preference against anti-trans conspiracism. Given the likely demographics of the conference, it seems unlikely they would worry about upsetting people with anti-trans rhetoric, and I can’t see any other reason to avoid the topic.

Ultimately, l’m unable to explain the omission. Optimists might look at this and infer the risk of sliding from one form of conspiracism to another is actually smaller than we think, even when there is a lot of overlap in the theories. They would then have to explain all the other forms of conspiracism running rampant at the conference. I think we can infer that the psychology of conspiracism is sometimes surprisingly complex, but beyond that we’ll have to wait and see whether anti-trans conspiracism is absent from future Better Way conferences.

Postscript: After finalising this article, the antiwoke atheist activist Stephen Knight (aka Godless Spellchecker) released a conversation with Graham Linehan where Linehan expressed skepticism about COVID, vaccine safety, and climate change, with no challenge or pushback from Knight:

Graham Linehan saying that he doesn’t know who to trust on COVID vaccines, and “isn’t 100% on climate change anymore.”

Why? Because “gender criticism” is a conspiracy theory cult, and it encourages conspiratorial thinking in its adherents.

This is radicalisation in real-time. pic.twitter.com/3VCNnYmMxs

— Aidan Comerford (@AidanCTweets) September 30, 2022

This is a textbook example of the conspiracism slide I’m concerned will spread through these communities.

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The Better Way conference wasn’t shy to throw in as many medical conspiracy theories as it could find – which is why it was surprising that nobody mentioned the moral panic around trans people
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