How the anti-vax grifters make their coin. Plus: When the predator becomes the predator; and did the Freedom Convoy buy a church? ⛪
We kick off this week’s Bug-eyed and Shameless with news from America’s most incompetent grifters doing some light forced labor in the name of trying to entice high-profile politicians into an underage honeypot.
How’s that for a lede?
Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman — either together or individually — have been charged with all kinds of securities fraud, tried to invent sexual assault accusations against Robert Mueller, faced massive FCC fines for doing some racist voter suppression robocalls, baselessly alleged Pete Buttigieg was a sexual predator, pumped up deranged conspiracy theories about murdered DNC staff Seth Rich designed to cover for the Russian hacking of John Podesta’s emails, started a $50 OnlyFans account for photos Wohl, and, well, whatever the hell this is:
Their most recent grift is a To Catch a Predator-style TV show with the uninspired name of PredatorDC. It’s not hard to tell what the game is: They’re trying to gain kompromat on high-power D.C. figures for their delusional dirty tricks campaign. Their season three preview, published last month, advertises them “catching” a “CIA officer turned investment banker,” a guy who works at the International Monetary Fund and a “presidential radiologist.”
You can join this batshit crusade for as little as $10 per month. (Bug-eyed and Shameless is just $6 per month!)
But things, as is always the case with Wohl and Burkman, are not as they appear. The woman who plays the bait — the pretend underage honey in the honeypot — posted a Tiktok recently, in tears. Tizzyent, who I gather is like Tiktok’s dad, reached out to the woman to get the full story. He recounts the whole thing over two Tiktoks. They’re worth the watch:
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While Wohl and Burkman may be comically inept at grifting, it’s worth remembering that real people can still get hurt by this stuff.
Onto our main story this week: Supplements!
When Infowars LLC filed for bankruptcy, it painted a pretty bleak picture of Alex Jones’ vast derangement empire.
Jones, through his lawyers and accountants, reported assets of between $0 and $50,000 — and liabilities of somewhere between $1 million and $10 million. All of those liabilities were from various lawsuits and copyright claims Jones had lost.
The families of the children massacred at Sandy Hook, who were being tormented by the deranged conspiracy theories Jones was hawking, weren’t buying it.
Lawyers for the families obtained Infowars financial statements showing that the company earned some $165 million in sales between 2016 and 2018. It's only gotten better for Infowars since then. Based on the company’s financial documents, the lawyers argued in court filings, “it would appear InfoWars has generated another quarter billion dollars in revenue during the three years of this lawsuit solely from online sales in the InfoWars.com store.” That doesn’t include, they note, various other revenue streams like subscriptions and donations.
The families are still in the midst of legal wrangling to seize Infowars’ ill-begotten gains. But one thing became abundantly clear in the litigation: Supplements are big business.
Log on to the Infowars Store, or Infowars Life, and you’ll be inundated with all manner of things that sound superduper important — the ultimate immune support pack. wholefood multivitamins, Bodease (you can never get enough Bodease!), SUPER CONCENTRATED BEET EXTRACT ESSENCE VASOBEET, and a plethora of other cursed Willy Wonka-esque concoctions.
Putting aside, for a second, whether any of this stuff works: Jones’ business is in the mark-up. In convincing his fans that he, and only he, can be trusted for medical advice and that he, and only he, knows about the coming war.
You could, for example, shell out $54.95 for about 30 grams worth of KAVA CHILL™ pills (ok, $32.95 on sale.) Or, counterpoint, you could spend $8 to get the same amount of those superduper ingredients via a pouch of sleepytime tea.
You could try Top BRAIN for
$39.95 $17.95 and get your daily dose of theobromine (found in chocolate), L-theanine (green tea), green tea extract (green tea), benfotiamine (b12), and club moss (ok, it’s just club moss.) At that point, you may as well drink green tea and chew on some moss in the sun.
Or, perhaps, you fear the coming nuclear war and/or fluoride in the water. Well Alex Jones-approved radiation-eliminating filters are available for just $59.95. Or, get it for half that price anywhere else. Or, better yet, accept that if your water supply is fully irradiated then fresh water is probably just prolonging the inevitable.
Certainly, some of the ingredients in the supplements that Jones hawks have shown to have modest health benefits — but most people already get plenty of the nutrients found in these supplements. And the claims being made are just ludicrous.
As Harvard Health Publishing noted recently: “There is not much, if any, evidence from randomized clinical trials — the gold standard for research — on isolated vitamins or minerals and brain health.” The same is generally true for any claims of dramatic immune system benefits.
But of course this isn’t about what works. It's not about how much more Jones' shit costs. This is about believing in a brand. It's about being so sure that everyone with power is lying to you that only the man hysterically screaming on the side of the road can be telling the truth: Who could wield less power than Alex Jones?
Jones is the big fish, here — I can't repeat this number enough: He’s earning a hundred million dollars a year on this shit — but others are getting in on the game.
A Telegram channel devoted to the return of John F Kennedy Jr (we don't have time to unpack that) recently advertised "Q's health pack" — $60 for Magnesium, oil of Oregano, and something called "Cell Food" that I, with all my investigative journalism chops, have not been able to figure out.
That website also offers $30,000 donations to "Contribute To My Vice Presidential Campaign." Whose campaign? Who cares!
You won’t be surprised to learn that many hucksters have been hawking this stuff as a miracle cure for COVID-19.
The big name in alternative (see: ineffective) cures for COVID-19 is Vladimir Zelenko. He pioneered the Zelenko Protocol: Which largely turns on zinc, vitamins C and D, a pair of antibiotics, Hydroxychloroquine, and Ivermectin.
I’m sure it goes without saying at this point, but this treatment regimen does not work. A meta-analysis of ten randomized control trials found Ivermectin had no effect whatsoever on COVID-19 patients while a meta-analysis of 19 trials found Hydroxychloroquine is similarly ineffective.
Despite that, and thanks to some less-than-reputable non-randomized studies, Zelenko has convinced millions that his protocol is the real way to prevent and treat COVID-19 — not masks, not vaccines, not a sane doctor’s care.
And, guess what: Zelenko sells supplements! (Or, at least, he did. Zelenko died last week. RIP to a real one.)
In the Zelenko store, a bottle of 90 kids’ gummies — Vitamins C and D, Zinc, Quercetin — goes for $73 a bottle. Virtually the exact same supplements go for $20 on Amazon. There is, by the way, not a lot of good evidence that taking these supplements will do much good, unless you’re vitamin deficient.
Zelenko’s store reports they’re sold out of the kids’ gummies, and are only taking pre-orders for when they come back in stock.
It’s all made possible thanks to the wonderful e-commerce platform built by Canadian tech wunderkind Shopify.
Not everyone in this space is quite so shameless. (Some are just bug-eyed.) One QAnon Telegram account recently blasted their compatriots: “I'm shocked at the prices some well known health influencers are charging for their monthly immune boosting supplements,” they wrote. “I don't consider trying to get a family on a subscription that costs $2/day/person to be ‘helping’ anything but your own wallet.”
The user said they recently “declined a significant affiliate opportunity because I consider this to be morally reprehensible.”
Others are way more shameless, and have gone well beyond the supplement business.
One New Zealand clinic is offering telephone consultations to dish out mask exemptions and peddle nonsense solutions for the coronavirus — just $95 for 20 minutes.
For the low, low price of $500 you could attend the fabulous “Freedom Doctor Conference” grift-con. It was held earlier this year at the (I kid you not) Margaritaville Lake Resort in Texas. Conference organizer Angelina Farella has said vitamins are more effective than vaccines. Fascist pillow king Mike Lindell was there as well.
Dr. Peter McCullough, who has peddled a treatment regimen similar to the Zelenko Protocol and been lauded on Tucker Carlson’s show, recently launched a GiveSendGo crowdfunding campaign to “Help Dr Peter McCullough with legal IT travel cost.” Whatever that means. (McCullough peddles his epidemiological expertise despite, best I can tell, not having any epidemiological expertise or training.)
McCullough has been looking to raise about $2 million — the progress bar, if you can trust GiveSendGo’s progress bar, reports he’s raised about $700,000.
This is just a brief cross-section of the industry. Realistically, we are talking billions of dollars in new spending in this space since the arrival of COVID-19.
That money is coming from the very people who have been convinced that the entire public health apparatus has been taken over and perverted by the pharmaceutical industry. Those marks have, in many cases, sacrificed personal relationships, jobs, earning potential, even their health in their quest to rage against the vaccines. Now, they’re forking over cash for bullshit supplements that do not do what they claim to do. No matter how much you think those decisions are stupid and amoral: You have to accept the willingness to sacrifice for a cause.
But they, in essence, have fled one billion-dollar industry for another.
At least vaccines have to be proven effective before being put on the market.
Below the paywall: Has a “Freedom” embassy been established in Ottawa?
A Reddit post was brought to my attention recently, proclaiming: “A group with close ties to the Freedom Convoy has acquired a large church in Ottawa to serve as a base of operations, and no one seems to have noticed.”
The anonymous Reddit user reports that a group called The United People of Canada acquired a big old church in Ottawa’s Byward Market. Could this be, they wondered, the fulfillment of a promise made earlier this summer that the champions of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” to set up a forward operating base in Ottawa?
Indeed, an organizer with the anti-vaccine Veterans 4 Freedom group said in a livestream in June that they would establish “Camp Eagle" just outside the city to host events all summer long.
Maybe they bought a church instead?
The church is still on the market: Listed for a cool $6 million. The deconsecrated church is currently being used by the Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, which rents out space to other organizations — a blog post on the United People’s website obliquely references that they are just renting space there.
Nevertheless, this organization is holding a weekly BBQ there — to, as their Facebook page notes, “gather, socialize and continue to strengthen our community in a fun and respectful environment.”
If you want to figure out what, exactly, this group is all about: Good luck.
This group was incorporated in March, but hasn’t done much since then. Their website, rather unhelpfully, describes them as “a diverse, intergenerational fraternal organization.” They refer to the church as their “embassy” but never really gets around to saying what, exactly, they are ambassadors for.
Corporate filings lists three directors: William Komer, Kimberley Ward, and Diane Nolan. The three are also listed as directors of something called the Magna Carta Fund. (Your guess is as good as mine.)
Komer is the executive director of digital marketing and design firms Campus Creative and Synesure, which explains why their website is semi-functional — unlike most of the other digital properties of the “Freedom” movement.
Ward is an associate of convoy organizer Tamara Lich — when Lich was granted bail, it was Ward who came outside to address the television cameras.
Nolan is full-bore anti-vaccine, anti-mask, sign-this-petition-to-remove-Trudeau.
So it certainly seems that behind all the vague pablum, the gang is hoping to prosthelytize some anti-vaccine nonsense to the residents of Ottawa. (Good luck with that.)
But I don’t get the sense that this is an official arm of the “Freedom” movement. For starters, the United People of Canada have a measly 147 Facebook followers. Their BBQ invite has two RSVPs.
The larger organization, Veterans 4 Freedom, has already incorporated under that name and under the Canadian Citizens Coalition. While we don’t yet know where their “Camp Eagle” is located, I would put money down that it is on one of the spacious farms that they used during this winter’s occupation. It’s something to watch.
If any Bug-eyed and Shameless reader decides to mosey down to the United People of Canada’s embassy and grab some free hotdogs, please report back.
Don’t forget to get some Vitamin D this week.