When did you first suspect you were being trolled by fake news?

The recent coronavirus outbreak is serious news and an important concern for world health. It seems there is no worry so great that someone won’t find a way to exploit it. Australians have been getting dire warnings to avoid certain places and certain foods because they have ‘positive readings’ for coronavirus; one clue is that they also try to paint Chinese immigrants as tainted, to get the clueless racists to bite. The Australian health service had to make a statement that these were bogus claims.

A spokeswoman for NSW Health said: “NSW Health has been made aware of a social media post that is being widely circulated warning people to not consume certain foods or visit certain locations in Sydney.
“This post has not originated from NSW Health or any entity relating to us. Further, there is no such entity as the ‘Department of Diseasology Parramatta’.
“NSW Health would like to assure the community that the locations mentioned in this post pose no risk to visitors, and there have been no ‘positive readings’ at train stations.”

Diseasology? Seriously? I get the impression that the trolls don’t respect their victims at all.

Oh, wait! This isn’t the dumbest troll yet. QAnon is telling everyone they can stave off the coronavirus threat by drinking bleach.

As the global death toll from an alarming new coronavirus surged this week, promoters of the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory were urging their fans to ward off the illness by purchasing and drinking dangerous bleach.

The substance—dubbed “Miracle Mineral Solution” or “MMS”—has long been promoted by fringe groups as a combination miracle cure and vaccine for everything from autism to cancer and HIV/AIDS.

It’s a wonder that conspiracy theorists and medical quacks haven’t already gone extinct. Maybe this will do it.


  1. Matt G says

    Seriously, you’ve never heard of diseasology? There are many distinguished diseasologists out there with honors Ph.D from Trump University.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    promoters of the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory were urging their fans to ward off the illness by purchasing and drinking dangerous bleach.


  3. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Well, sure.
    Drinking beach was BANNED by tyrant Obama, by tyrannical executive order, because of Obamacare, and reasons.

    So of course, Trump/QAnon had to overturn that ban PDQ. Bottoms up, Trumpers!

    In other news, wouldn’t it be great to be someplace that was NSW?

  4. kestrel says

    The Partner just pointed out that Q-Anon is correct – drinking bleach WILL stave off coronavirus. But that’s because you’ll be dead from drinking bleach. So…. win-win, I guess?

  5. says

    The MMS scam reminds me of a product I saw recently. It was advertising great cleaning power from only table salt and water, allowing people to save money by not buying expensive cleaners and to preserve the “health” of their home by using only “natural, harmless” chemicals for cleaning.

    Read a little further and you find that they’re using jolts of electricity through the salt in the presence of water to “power up” their cleaning solution.

    Combined with video showing that the powered-up “salt water” really does clean well and the admonition that after cleaning there may be a slight “chlorine-like smell” which the manufacturer promises will dissipate rapidly, what’s going on becomes clear:

    They’re using electrolysis to break hydrogen and oxygen out of water molecules, and then react those with NaCl. In the midst of the large amount of remaining water, then, you gain NaClO, NaOH, HCl, and depending on how the reaction is managed, a certain amount of H2 proportional to the NaClO production and possibly also some O2. NaOH and HCl will tend to recombine, of course, but since they are created as the solution is being sprayed out of the powered bottle device the company is selling, there’s probably some time to do a little wiping up before they’re entirely gone. In the meantime, the more stable chlorine bleach (that’s what NaClO is) is the real active ingredient here, as it is in the Miracle Mineral Solution.

    Of course, this all renders ridiculous the idea that you’re using “harmless” chemicals to do the cleaning, or even that you’re cleaning up using table salt and water. The cleaning up is done primarily by the longer-lasting NaClO and secondarily by any surviving hydrochloric acid and Lye (Sodium Hydroxide). In fact, what really galls me is the way it was marketed as avoiding harsh and/or harmful chemicals.

    The whole thing borders on the nefarious. The bleach is what it is, and it’s not that much more expensive than salt water. Lye is going to eat through your washcloths even faster than the HCl. This isn’t “harmless”, although I’m sure it’s cheaper to produce your NaOH and HCl at the point of use than to produce it industrially and ship it in containers immune to their effects. So you can save a bit of money with the product if you use it over a very long time (since the price difference between bleach and salt water is minimal), but the nature of what you’re using is still harmful, and by advertising it as a safe alternative to harsh chemicals, those without any education in chemistry are going to think that the bleach smell is an accident – not the direct result of producing bleach through an electrically powered salt-water reaction.

  6. davidnangle says

    The French are stockpiling natural curative potions under their topsoil that the Germans sent them via holistic, ballistic natural trajectories just over a century ago. It would take a little digging to find those treasures, but I guarantee if you open them up, all your problems will be over.

  7. jrkrideau says

    It’s a wonder that conspiracy theorists and medical quacks haven’t already gone extinct.
    Naw, they don’t follow their own advice, just the marks do and they bank the profits.

  8. weylguy says

    “…paint Chinese immigrants as tainted…”

    Chinese acupuncture specialists are getting hit hard, and “Date Sexy Asian Women” sites are crashing. Oh, the humanity.

  9. xmp999 says

    As a scientitian specializing in Diseasology, I can confirm that drinking bleach can in fact keep you from acquiring coronavirus – if you die, you won’t get sick. Simple!

  10. yaque says

    Does anybody remember who was awarded a “Doctorate of Thinkology’?
    with a parchment scroll and everthing!

  11. robro says

    Artor @ #12

    I was thinking much the same thing. While we’re at it get all the pro-Trumps in on it. We might encourage them by suggesting it makes them even whiter than the average white person, inside and out, and therefore even more super-human.

  12. Zeppelin says

    I suppose an advantage of bleach over literal snake oil is that no snakes are hurt in the process.

  13. doubter says

    Drink bleach to ward off coronavirus? This is irrefutable proof of QAnon’s identity. It’s 4Chan!

  14. Brigham Narins says

    Reminds me, once again, of the MASH episode in which Col. Flag proudly states he has “permission” to die doing his duty. Hawkeye says to him, “Well Flag, if we had more men like you we’d have fewer men like you.”

  15. wzrd1 says

    @13, Scarecrow, from the Wizard of Oz.

    As for chlorine dioxide, good for treating municipal water supplies, lousy for any medical treatments.

    What has me scratching my head is, nobody panics when influenza is making the rounds and it has a similar morbidity and mortality rate to the Wuhan coronavirus.

  16. microraptor says

    wzrd1@ 20: Influenza is a “normal” virus that everybody’s used to. Coronavirus is scary and foreign (and probably not Christian).

  17. says

    Re: fake news in general, I don’t recall ever seeing any. Maybe their algorithms detect reading habits.

    I don’t understand how people get fooled by this stuff. The first time anything appears, I look at the source, who’s saying it. Are people reading what appears on social media and accepting or forwarding it without knowing the source because it was put in front of them? It sounds like a high school rumour mill. At least when it was on TV, they voluntarily chose the channel and what they saw was limited to that channel.

  18. jrkrideau says

    I rather like the Department of Diseasology. It can be used to make fun of all sorts of quacks and scammers.

    “Researchers in the Department of Diseasology at St Jude’s University in Come By Chance, NL have found that rubbing Durian juice on one’s body helps reduce the chance of flu and colds.”

  19. jrkrideau says

    @ 22 Intransitive
    “Are people reading what appears on social media and accepting or forwarding it without knowing the source because it was put in front of them? ”


    If you are familiar with Kahneman’s thinking fast and slow; some people “never” think slow.

    A friend of mine has told me that a) Canada was at war with Argentina, and b) A mass or serial murder had just moved in down the street and was was planning on going on a murdering spree.

  20. garnetstar says

    Thanks to CripDyke, enjoyed reading your chemical explanation of that scam!

    Just to say, I’ve always been gobsmacked by the idea of anyone ingesting MMS. It’s so much stronger than household bleach that it’s not allowed in consumer products, not even to do heavy-duty cleaning, etc. It’s allowed for industrial use only.

    And, you know that people who ingest regular household Chlorox often die quite quickly (and painfully). I cannot wrap my mind around deliberately ingesting a much stronger bleaching chemical.

  21. gijoel says

    @Snarki NSW stands for New South Wales. I’m sorry if your op was a joke,I’m tired and might have missed something.

  22. Ysanne says

    @Crip Dyke #5,
    this is in fact one of the most popular ways of keeping domestic swimming pools sanitised: Their water is kept slightly salty, and in the pool filter’s circuit, there’s a thing called a “chlorinator cell”, basically a piece of plastic tube with electrodes in it, which produces hypochlorous acid (HClO), aka the important part of bleach, from the salt and water.
    However, on a cleaning-dirty-pool scale, the bottled bleach bought in bulk, or even better, the granular Calcium Hypochlorite, are more cost-effective than running the chlorinator on high (especially considering the need to power the pump and filter as well). It’s more suited to automated use on low-ish levels for daily maintenance.

  23. leerudolph says

    jkrideau@23: Actually, I think your proposed Durian prophylaxis could reduce person-to-person transmission effectively to 0!