When I heard about this supposed miracle cure for autism, and that it was basically just making bleach and then using it as a self-made miracle cure for pretty much everything, I said to myself, Self, that sounds a lot like something religious people would come up with. And I turned out to be right. Here’s the story of the Miracle Mineral Solution, and how this woo fits into the fundagelical vision of the Happy Christian Family.
A Primer For People Who Are Not Especially Immersed in the World of Woo.
Tomorrow is another day. Unless you drink bleach. Then you’re free.
Mr. Bea Arthur, February 13, 2018
MMS, or Miracle Mineral Solution (sometimes Miracle Mineral Supplement, or Master Mineral Solution, or permutations like that; also CD or CDS, for Chlorine Dioxide Solution), is a liquid solution of chlorine dioxide, which is to say it’s just industrial bleach. The people who advocate for it are very straightforward about making it: you just mix a solution of sodium chloride with an acid, like citrus juice, and it creates bleach. Then this solution is fed to people with various maladies in the belief that it will cure them.
And that list of maladies is extensive, friends. Among other things, proponents of MMS think that it cures everything from HIV to malaria to the common cold.
Obviously, not one single clinical trial has ever been conducted on MMS, and nothing exists beyond anecdotal evidence that it does anything at all–beneficially-speaking, at least. We have lots of real evidence that it’s actually harmful, but somehow that information doesn’t ever seen to show up in MMS forums. (Yes, there are whole forums of people devoted to this particular bit of woo.)
And hoo boy it is harmful. Drinking bleach is dangerous, as if anyone needs to say that. It causes all kinds of problems–from simple nausea to the shedding of the mucous membranes in the victim’s intestines. And it can kill people–and has. For years, various health agencies and watchdogs have been alerting the public to the lethal nature of MMS.
I only wish I had a dress that fit me as well as MMS fits the profile of medical quack cures. It’s amazing how closely it fits the profile of the ur-woo.
One of its most popular uses, and the one we’re zeroing in on today, is MMS as a cure for autism.
Interesting 2016 YouTube video from CBC news regarding MMS, this time touted by Royce Hamer, a charlatan who thinks that that drinking bleach can cure ebola and HIV, cancer (“cancer is so fragile!”), herpes (“it’s definitely a three-month run” required for that), and more.
The Religion Connection.
With this kind of inept policing, it is little wonder that the country [Kenya] is a haven for fake, substandard, counterfeit and even demonstrably dangerous medicines.
The Guardian, September 2010
A former Scientologist, Jim Humble, created MMS in 2006 and wrote about it in a self-published book (likely because no peer-reviewed health journal would touch him or his woo with a ten-meter cattle prod). That alone doesn’t make MMS religious-based medical woo, but what follows certainly does.
Humble himself specifically set up his woo-peddling group as a church because it would allow him to operate outside of governmental restrictions (and as a Scientologist he’d have seen first-hand the power of religious recognition for a predatory organization). He even saw missionaries–presumably Christian–as a real source of competition for his woo in Africa; this suspicion was confirmed when those missionaries truly improved human lives for what may be the first and only time in their entire religious careers: alerting the people in the area, including other missionaries, to Humble’s woo, which sharply reduced his herd of potential victims and drove him out of the entire region. He clearly presents this anecdote as an example of the religious persecution he perceived happening against him.
When the Guardian tracked down this claim, incidentally, they discovered that yes, it was true: Kenya in particular was warning citizens in the strongest possible terms not to touch MMS. But Humble still had quite a fervent ally in Kenya in Christian Bishop Javan Ommani, who is a very powerful Christian elder and politician who (as his biography page informs us) commands “200 churches, a hospital, [and] a Bible College.” That political and cultural power may well be behind the “puzzling” reason that “the government is so impotent when it comes to taking action against people who break the law” regarding medical practices in Kenya, a question asked by a Kenyan newspaper at the time. As we often see with the peddlers of woo and dangerous ideas, hucksters go where they’ll find the most prey.
So–being fully aware of the power of identification as a religion–Jim Humble set up a group called “Genesis II: Church of Health and Healing,” declared himself its “Archbishop,” and set about creating for his group a whole religious-based ideology. MMS and its ingredients thus became his new church’s “sacraments.” And then he went a-hucksterin’ across the world, including in Australia in 2014, where his “miracle” poisoned 10 people at least.
The United States archbishop under Humble is Michael Harrah, who apparently claims he is a Christian pastor; I saw rumors abounding about his apparent ability to cure AIDS and about curing himself of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, all with MMS, but he’s been extremely careful not to attach his name to anything that I could see, so take those as you like.
Just as Humble saw in Africa, Christians are a perfect herd of sheep to fleece. I’ve seen a great many religious nutters talking up MMS and claiming it’s “helped” them with various physical problems–like this Christian blogger who calls himself a “lover of the Truth.”
Even other woo-friendly people, like a lady interviewed by the CBC in 2016 (at the 5:30 mark), say they are “alarmed” by case studies regarding how dangerous MMS is.
The Autism Connection.
I’m worried that those kids are being tortured.
April Griffin, interviewed by the CBC, “MMS: The Miracle Cure?”
(CN: Really disturbing report.)
Considering all the other things that MMS’s believers think that their woo cures, it might seem quite natural that eventually they’d come around to it curing autism too.
Autism must have seemed like such a target-rich environment for woo-peddlers. The parents of autistic kids are inundated with quack science and fake cures constantly. Some of these parents get with the program damned near immediately, accept their new normal, and approach that new normal in rational ways to optimize their kids’ chances in life.1 Unfortunately, a lot of parents go the opposite route. Their palpable disappointment at not having “normal” kids radiates off of their blogs and interviews. They very clearly had this idea in their heads about what their future as parents would look like, and the Wheel of Life did not give them the results they wanted. Little wonder that entire conferences like Autism One exist purely to push quack cures on this second group.
It sickens me to think of the idea of woo-peddlers descending on such vulnerable people. But that’s exactly what has repeatedly happened in the past. And it happened once again at the 2012 Autism One conference thanks to the irresponsible assholes who run things over there.
Sandwiched in between the usual panic over vaccinations and other fake cures and preventive measures was a talk by one Kerry Rivera, who bills herself as the founder of a “Biomed-based Autism Clinic in Latin America.” She told her audience that “MMS (chlorine dioxide) has become the ‘missing piece’ to the autism puzzle” — and she even claimed to have given it to 38 children who recovered from autism as a result. Among those children is her own son.
Just look at this photo of her with her autistic son, shown in the intro page for a podcast interview lending her way more legitimacy than she deserves, and just try to tell me she looks like someone who is totally happy with her life. (And now I’m wondering if anybody asked that boy if he wanted to be in a photo online.) As she herself puts it in that interview, she packages MMS in with a bunch of other woo that’s already popular in that community–like dietary cures–and adds in some bizarre claim about how the phase of the moon impacts the effectiveness of her fake medicine.
Until that autism-woo conference, the community of autism parents (the term means “the parents of autistic children“) had been largely free of appeals aimed at getting them to make their kids drink bleach. It was just another one of a long line of what’s known as “biomedical” treatments aimed at alleviating the symptoms of autism, piggybacking on the autism-woo idea of the condition being caused by “parasites.” Killing these “parasites,” therefore, cures autism–or rather, the symptoms of it. (For some reason they’re super-careful about that wording, I’ve noticed; Rivera herself calls it “losing their autism diagnosis.” I wonder if this wording is an attempt to avoid more legal problems like the one leading to her signing an agreement recently with the State of Illinois not to sell or promote MMS or any similar autism cures anymore there.)
This timeless wisdom applies in particular to this interview. No, all opinions are not equally valid, and we do wrong in giving woo-peddlers a platform without contextualizing them as what they are.
The scam artists pushing these quack cures have been targeting autism parents for years, and the pushing begins the second a parent reports to any group that their child has just been diagnosed as being somewhere on the autism spectrum. That’s one of the most delicate and precarious moments in the lives of autism parents–and a time when they are very vulnerable to these come-ons and scam attempts.
But after that seal was broken, the idea of MMS curing autism took off bigtime.
The Happy Christian Family Illusion.
Christian hucksters sell adherents and potential adherents a lot of things about what life will be like if they sign on to whatever it is the huckster is promoting: safety, cultural dominance, health, peace of mind about this life and the next, certainty, superiority over other people.
One of the most potent offers these hucksters wave around is happiness. Happiness in relationships, happiness in family life, whatever it might be. Just do this, and you will achieve happiness. It’s a powerful sales tool, probably one of the most powerful that Christians can put on the table.
A pity that it’s a false offer (like all the other ones, for that matter!). But Christians will chase that dragon till their dying days, convinced that if they can only perform the huckster’s program perfectly then they will at last achieve the happiness promised. People who have a high need to control others and their environment will succumb most easily to this promise–and that’s also a good description of toxic Christians.
In turn, one of the most potent happiness offers Christian hucksters make is the offer of a happy Christian family. In this offer, Christian parents sign on to the program being sold in hopes of achieving a family life marked by obedient, happy, smart, industrious, well-adjusted children–as well as a life as parents marked by intimacy, joy in each other, a great sex life, and a lack of interpersonal conflict. These illusions are like a string of “Kodak Moments” for relationships.
I’ve come to refer to these offers as Happy Christian Illusions–and the specific sub-offers as the Happy Christian Marriage Illusion and the Happy Christian Family Illusion. Christians push hard to achieve these illusory offers, and will even pretend to the world like they already have achieved them, even when in reality they’re all fighting like they’re about to murder each other, everyone in the group hates each other, and someone’s doing something that’s gonna land them in prison for a while.
This pretense is, itself, one of the requirements for achieving the promise. Someone who stops pretending is criticized for not having achieved it. And since pretending to have already achieved the promise and having actually achieved the promise are identical in outward appearance, you can well imagine that it’s next to impossible to figure out what, if any, success is being had by anybody.
And then a wild autism diagnosis appears, and it throws that illusion right out the window.
A Perfect Storm of Crazy.
It would be hard to imagine any parents who are more susceptible to quack “miracle” cures for autism than Christians, especially very fervent ones.
They already suffer from a serious inability to assess and evaluate claims made to them. They already don’t know how to pick and choose experts to trust. They already stand at serious risk of falling into conspiracy theories, financial scams, and medical woo alike. They already have a really iffy understanding of medical and psychiatric disorders. Christian parents already have no real concept of consent and bodily autonomy, allowing them to abuse and neglect their children with perfect serene confidence that they are doing wonderful things for their kids (autistic kids may be way more at risk for abuse and neglect simply by virtue of being less verbal, being more out of the public eye, and simply because of public misunderstanding about them and their needs). And Christians already have more than a suspicion that autism is caused by literal demons, or at the very least that it is something that “Jesus” can totally cure with magic.
Then there’s the lightning coursing through that bottle of crazy enzymes: Christian parents’ consistent vulnerability to the Happy Christian Family Illusion.
These parents are thus uniquely positioned to buy into medical woo that promises to deliver their illusions to them at last.
(I wish that I had stronger words to convey my complete contempt for people who’d treat children the way I see Christians treating their autistic kids. Consider this about ten virtual F-bombs thrown on the ol’ barbie, here.)
So we shouldn’t be particularly surprised to see Christian wackadoodles not only using this fake “cure” on their kids, but then claiming that any attempts to stop them are honest-to-dog Christian persecution. Bonus: here’s an archived link from The Blaze that is fully on the side of the wackadoodles feeding their kids bleach!
Just check out comments on posts like this other one, written by an anti-vaxxer autism mom, to see the kind of mindset I’m talking about here. Nobody does woo quackery like Christians stuck in that really hard place between reality and their Happy Christian Family Illusion. Notice that first comment, by “rob,” chiding the blogger for her poor stewardship? Remember how last time we talked about that being pure Christianese for a wise handling of one’s resources? He’s not being super-overt about his religious posturing, but it’s right there in Line 1–for those who have learned to notice fundagelical dogwhistles.
MMS-touting communities and hucksters found a perfect home on the internet. There, they are free of much government interference. Carefully-worded ads and appeals, plus stringent membership requirements, keep MMS hucksters on the down-low.
The appearance of MMS on Facebook is being blamed now for a resurgence in the MMS quack “cure’s” popularity.
Yesterday the headline in The Sun blared: “‘CURE FROM HELL!”
It’s about a father who found out that his wife was forcing their autistic daughter to drink bleach. She did it after seeing the cure touted on Facebook. The father raised the alarm to the authorities, who have removed the child from that home. The Sun also found parents forcing bleach enemas into their children with similar hopes of finding a cure–often through secret closed Facebook groups requiring a monetary donation from people wishing to join up. And these groups often have thousands of members.
The Mirror’s “Sunday People” feature also captured some really disturbing screenshots of the doings of one of these groups and it’s some eye-opening stuff.
People are genuinely hurting their kids thinking it’ll recapture for them the Happy Family they were promised years ago, and the suffering those children must be experiencing is heartbreaking in the extreme. And the tribe that positions itself as uniquely best-suited for rightly dividing the word seems the least capable of identifying and rejecting woo that is hurting children. At the very least, a group that ought to be the most loving, compassionate group in the world (by its own billing at least!) turns out to require detailed tutorials in how to cope with autistic children in their ranks.
Hooray Team Jesus… amirite?
In conclusion, MMS is not a specifically Christian quack cure–but it fits perfectly into common Christian delusions and the organization pushing it the hardest has a very specifically (and intentionally) Christian-ish organizational structure and mindset. So MMS has a special place in the hearts of Christian parents of autistic kids, making it a particular danger for children in those homes.
Thankfully, it appears that public outcry is happening faster now–and may result in some real restrictions placed upon these predators. In the United States, a purveyor of MMS, Daniel Smith, was convicted in federal court for fraud and various other charges related to his sale of MMS for human consumption. In Canada, the government there regularly issues health warnings related to MMS. And in the UK, awareness seems to be raising about how dangerous MMS is. As always, one of the most potent ways of resisting woo there are is simply awareness–both of the quack medicine itself and of what is and isn’t reasonable to ask or expect of modern medicine with regard to what the quack medicine offers to cure.
We must keep pushing, always.
We’re going to talk about how someone’s reasons for rejecting religion might change and evolve over time–and we’ll see you then!
1 A close family member of mine found himself in exactly this situation with his first child. He took a leave of absence from work for a year to work closely and constantly with his newly-diagnosed child. Decades later, that child is now living independently, working at a decent job, and about to get married to a very nice girl. So I’ve got a personal, if tangential, connection to this story.
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