Stupid, Like a Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone has been unable to verify its own ivermectin story as of the time of this update.

On September 3, Rolling Stone falsely claimed that gunshot victims in Oklahoma were delayed treatment at hospitals overwhelmed by ivermectin overdoses. Some Americans have opted to take it instead of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The media narrative around ivermectin is that it is a “horse dewormer” dangerous for human consumption. But in 2015, William C. Campbell, an American parasitologist, won the Nobel Prize for his role in the drug’s development. Though its application began with domestic and farm animals, it “was later tested in humans with parasitic infections and effectively killed parasite larvae,” reads the Nobel Prize press release. Campbell’s work “led to the discovery of a new class of drugs with extraordinary efficacy against parasitic diseases.”

Rolling Stone toes the media line about ivermectin, and it quotes a doctor who readers presume is speaking from an on-the-ground view.

“The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated,” Dr. Jason McElyea said. “All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it,” he added. “If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”

The story went viral. Rachel Maddow’s official Twitter account shared to her 10.5 million followers McElyea’s interview with a local news outlet, from which Rolling Stone drew for its reporting.

The subtext of the piece is obvious: people who take ivermectin are not only stupid but bad, as opposed to people who vaccinate themselves, who are smart and good. One dose of the “jab,” and you will suddenly grow light as a feather, gently drifting upward to join the ranks of a “sophisticated, vaccinated crowd,” as one reporter described the attendees of Barrack Obama’s recent birthday bash. Yes, I’m vaccinated. Yes, I have many black friends. Yes, I’ve put my children on puberty blockers. 

I have taken neither the vaccine nor ivermectin, and I oppose vaccine mandates and the COVID-19 universal homogeneous state. I also don’t think it is possible to separate profit and power from people’s motives. Not a few are willing to lie, blur the lines between truth and desire to keep the permanent pandemic going. The Rolling Stone piece is a case in point—it is an example of what the “sophisticated, vaccinated crowd” wants to believe.

On September 5, Rolling Stone quietly issued an “update.” A retraction would have been more appropriate, but it wasn’t even an update by the magazine, just a grudgingly copy and pasted statement from Northeastern Hospital System Sequoyah, a regional healthcare provider in Oklahoma.

UPDATE: Northeastern Hospital System Sequoyah issued a statement: Although Dr. Jason McElyea is not an employee of NHS Sequoyah, he is affiliated with a medical staffing group that provides coverage for our emergency room. With that said, Dr. McElyea has not worked at our Sallisaw location in over 2 months. NHS Sequoyah has not treated any patients due to complications related to taking ivermectin. This includes not treating any patients for ivermectin overdose. All patients who have visited our emergency room have received medical attention as appropriate. Our hospital has not had to turn away any patients seeking emergency care. We want to reassure our community that our staff is working hard to provide quality healthcare to all patients. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify this issue and as always, we value our community’s support.”

Rolling Stone leaned heavily on McElyea’s comments, which were not at all representative of conditions on the ground, according to NHS Sequoyah.

Several of McElyea’s reviews are less than stellar on Healthgrades, a website that “provides the most accurate, comprehensive information about doctors and hospitals with data not available anywhere else.” One comment from May 27, 2020, reads:

I had an unpleasant and insensitive visit with this doctor. I have no idea why he would be so curt and unresponsive. I came in early in the morning because I had been up most of the night with viral symptoms. I thought my throat was closing. He told me “yes, you probably have covid”, but did not test me. The next day I went to my doctor and he tested me and I’m awaiting results. Whatever your hospital policy is, it should be explained to the patient in a relatively professional manner.

Even the original image Rolling Stone used for the piece was misleading. It showed a line of people readers presumed were patients at Oklahoma hospitals recently delayed care due to overdosing deplorables. But it’s actually from January 26, and it showed people waiting to receive vaccines at a church.

The headline, photograph, thesis—all untenably fake. Indeed, a few hours ago, Rolling Stone changed the story’s headline and image—it is now a picture of ivermectin—and issued one more “update.” This one no longer includes or links to NHS Sequoyah’s damning statement. My emphasis in bold of what is now affixed to the article:

Update: One hospital has denied Dr. Jason McElyea’s claim that ivermectin overdoses are causing emergency room backlogs and delays in medical care in rural Oklahoma, and Rolling Stone has been unable to independently verify any such cases as of the time of this update.

The entire story was bullshit.

McElyea and the team at Rolling Stone terrified a community, burdened hospital staff with public relations damage control, and stoked enmity between vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans. But what do they care? It’s not like their readers care. Rolling Stone publishes this sort of thing and does not apologize because there are consumers who want not only to read it but believe it, just as the writers and editors ran with McElyea’s statements without caring to verify them. Because people who take ivermectin may as well do bad and stupid things because they are both bad and stupid—they certainly wouldn’t put their kids on puberty blockers, which is smart and good.

It is, however, an exercise in futility to point out double standards in these things, because double standards they are not. Witness the “adults in the room,” operating based on a rigid hierarchy incapable of recognizing hypocrisy or acknowledging inconsistency and incompetence because that would undermine their prestige and power. In other words, you cannot “own” them with facts and logic hard enough to change their behavior. Only when they feel real professional and financial consequences, a righteous kind of cancel culture, will anything change.

Note: there was a mistake in the original title, so you may have received this post twice in your email.