Always tell Steve Kirsch “NO”

What an interesting dilemma: if I were seated next to this smug asshole, would I take the money? How about you?

On the one hand, that would be a nice sum for my retirement, and the odds of getting COVID from one exposure are low…and the odds of dying from the disease are even lower. On the other hand, gambling my health and life against what this guy considers chump change is a fool’s game.

The deciding factor for me is that Mr Kirsch is an obnoxious jerk who’d use my acceptance as propaganda to do greater harm to other people. His seatmate turned him down, as did several other people he offered $10,000 to. So yeah, I’d tell him no, and probably tell him to fuck off.

As it turns out, Steve Kirsch is a notable liar and quack with a lot of money.

Kirsch is a serial entrepreneur who has spent decades pitching the next big thing, whether optical mice (Mouse Systems), document processing (FrameMaker), search engines (Infoseek), digital security (OneID), or e-commerce (Propel Software). His latest startup, M10, is a spin-off of a spin-off that sells a blockchain for banks. He has made millions from these projects, even if they have not turned him into a household name.

“You see this with people who have a lot of money, who think that reflects their intelligence,” Richman told me. “He considers himself an expert in something that he doesn’t have training or experience in, and he’s not following scientific methods to assess data.”

Man, we sure have a lot of examples of that phenomenon.

His current obsession is with promoting crank COVID cures like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. He’s funding clinical trials, which is good, but then he tends to ignore or even contradict the results when they don’t go in the direction he wants, which is antithetical to doing good science.

His peers and the beneficiaries of his wealth are beginning to realize that.

Peter Meinke, another former board member, spent nearly three decades in drug discovery at Merck.

“It’s really, really common for a small effect, something that looks exciting, to be a statistical fluke when you look at a larger population. It’s sad, but it’s true,” he told me. “With covid, 80% of your patient population does just peachy with no treatment at all, just a little bed rest and fluid. It’s actually much harder to parse out a signal than if you’re treating diabetes or cancer.”

In addition to the issues with fluvoxamine, advisors grew increasingly uncomfortable with Kirsch’s posts about ivermectin, which he has repeatedly claimed in blog posts and appearances in alternative media can be used together with fluvoxamine to prevent 100% of covid-19 deaths. (“The ivermectin data are trash,” Feinberg told me. “There’s nothing there.”)

Things took a final and dramatic turn once Kirsch started claiming the government was covering up vaccine deaths.

An obnoxious crank with money. That’s all he is.


  1. specialffrog says

    I might do it if I thought I would actually get paid. But I would assume the kind of person who would make this kid of proposal is not at all trustworthy.

  2. StevoR says

    Sounds like Steve Kirsch he’s also a toxic disinformation spreading snakeoil flogging liar who out of willful ignorance, malice or likely both is helping a deadly virus kill and harm people too.

  3. hemidactylus says

    From what I recollect perhaps incorrectly about ivermectin, whatever effects it may have had wasn’t so much directly related to COVID itself but to the reduction in parasite load in regions where that’s a thing. It’s been a while since I read that and things cold have changed since.

  4. wzrd1 says

    If on the ground, I’d seek the lead flight attendant, advise him or her of the entire situation and calmly state that I no longer feel safe on the same aircraft as this delusional individual.
    If in the air, he gets a reading from the Book of Threats, remain silent for the remainder of the flight, save for requesting passage to the aisle and back or I’d crush his hyoid bone and quietly deplane upon landing, having no idea what happened to that poor man, what a tragedy. Then, brook no argument, advising that the first moron quack that made the same “case” died two days after refusing to wear a mask, as they “don’t work” of pneumonic plague in Mongolia and everyone else wore masks and survived. Which is actually quite true, well documented history.
    At an absolute minimum, I’d accept being reseated to a better seat, if stuck in the air with him or worst case, deplane and raise merry hell, with one option being contacting the media about the entire hot mess of harassment of passengers being encouraged by Delta Airlines. Yes, I’m a PR nightmare from hell.
    Although, I do lean more toward the hyoid option.

    But then, I have mitral valve damage from my COVID-19 infection, as well as other cardiac damage that is quite annoying, if not currently life threatening. So, from my perspective, he’s inviting me to play Russian Roulette with a machine gun.
    That’s simply reinventing “Tickling the dragon”, which didn’t work out very well both times it became a routine event during the Manhattan Project.

  5. wzrd1 says

    OT weird, my video settings for my secondary monitor, a smart TV (boy, what an oxymoron!) got all jacked around overnight, with no intervention. This is twice now, if it recurs, I’ll have to take a deep dive into the logs to see what bug is causing it.
    Ubuntu 22.04 LTS, so I’m rather accustomed to stability.

    In other OT, bumblebees appear to have culture, with bees able to be trained to push either a red or blue lever to access high sugar food and training other bees in doing so, all retaining that information and being now studied to determine if that behavior will overwinter and remain present after the winter colony collapse.
    Also saw a brief video displaying a neural map of an insect, showing various neuron direction (ipsilateral, contralateral and bidirectional being shown) and thinking, pretty good map, figuring out the logic should be about as simple as engineering a fully operational quantum computer, given the sheer volume of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. But, it’s an excellent major step forward!

  6. Artor says

    If, in the unfortunate case that I were forced to sit next to this numpty, I would make it clear that he sounds really fucking stupid for the claims he makes, and if he insisted on the money thing, I would make it clear that I don’t trust him. No way he has that kind of cash on him while traveling, and no I wouldn’t take a check from an obvious fraud with mental health issues either.

  7. wzrd1 says

    Bloody autoeject, that should’ve been binomial.
    Yay, it stuck! ;)
    So entertaining when some words aren’t in the crappy default dictionary.

  8. Bruce says

    What would people say if Kirsch asked the people around him to take off their shirts for the flight? After all, nobody indoors needs a shirt. Still sounds super weird.
    And I agree I wouldn’t trust a check or any other transaction he could reverse at the end of the flight.
    Not that COVID-caused heart damage even can be reversed.
    Even if masks did nothing, Kirsch would get no benefit from anyone else not wearing them, except the comfort of others agreeing with his delusions. Like a child who wants everyone to serve tea to his imaginary friend. Or eat the flesh and drink the blood of his imaginary dead god.

  9. nomadiq says

    It’s the hubris of the guy that I found particularly annoying. He explained how masks don’t work! No blunt in 3 minutes, and on a flight. No prepared presentation, no data. He is so smart, you see. None of that is required, ergo, everyone must accept he is right!

    That’s the kind of arrogance we should wholly reject and even laugh at. The truth is, shit is hard. And I’m tired of this new internet thing that seems to turn people into experts without them actually doing any of the hard work required. Everyone is a smug asshole and I’m exhausted.

  10. stochastic says

    A few months ago, I was waiting to have blood drawn, as one does at a certain age. Masks were required, of course. Of the dozen or so of us waiting, I was the youngest, since I am still, for a few more months, in my seventh decade.
    A young women, maybe 25 or so, was leaving. No mask.
    She does a little dance, twirling around, saying in a weird sing-song voice “It’s all lies, masks don’t do anything”.
    I politely said “Idiot”.
    She appeared to take offense at this, coming up to me and rather loudly calling me a sheep. She looked around and said “you all are sheep”.
    The women sitting next to me, who appeared to be about 90, just looks at her and goes “baaaaahh”.
    Everyone in the room started bleating like sheep.

    The fool quickly left.

  11. robro says

    One of his gigs was blockchain banking…wonder if he was invested in Silicon Valley Bank. Oops. Apparently he and his wife are Democratic party donors. Evidence that not all idiots are MAGA Republicans.

  12. dstatton says

    Bret Stephens of Even the Liberal NY Times recently claimed that mask don’t work by willfully misinterpreting a study. He is also a notorious climate “skeptic”.

  13. billseymour says

    The first thing I thought is, “Why does he even care?”  Maybe PZ is on to something:

    … Mr Kirsch [would] use my acceptance as propaganda to do greater harm to other people.


    This was after I explained they don’t work.

    My understanding is that, although masks aren’t as good as we’d like them to be at protecting me from him, they’re much more effective at protecting him from me.  That’s the bit that Ayn Randians and other egoists don’t get.

  14. Reginald Selkirk says

    My understanding is that, although masks aren’t as good as we’d like them to be at protecting me from him, they’re much more effective at protecting him from me.

    This sounds like the guidance from when people were wearing cloth and surgical masks. Current guidance is for N95 and KN95 masks, which do indeed protect the wearer.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    Ironically, there is real progress in developing non-vaccine treatments (like oral medicines) for COVID but it has nothing to do with the bogus stuff trumpeted out during the worst time.

    Fun fact; I am already beginning to forget the fear and the hassle of the pandemic because the brain dislikes bad stuff.

  16. Reginald Selkirk says

    @3: “Viral load” was an attempt to make sense of the early ivermectin-COVID literature, much of which came from tropical countries (Brazil, Iran). But once you remove the studies that are clearly bogus, there is no effect left to explain. I’m talking 2-3 dozen studies; some of them might be “extremely sloppy”, others are clearly fraudulent.

  17. says

    If that photo of that Ahole is first class, then flying cattle cars have gotten a lot worse, lately. Or, is he just lying about where his seat is? Seems like everything he says is suspect or bovine excrement. I think that it’s still ‘engine bleed air’ that gets pumped into the cabin and I’ve seen engineering diagrams of CO2 that show the air is circulated so everyone is always breathing everyone else’s germs. And, that is even if, as they claim, filters are used. And, how often are those filters changed. I still mask up and maintain distance whenever I go out. At least three people in our neighborhood got Covid in the last month. One is now on dialysis for life. Steve Kirsch sounds like an irresponsible grifter. His ‘big new thing’ products mentioned were crap.
    The other commenters hit the nail on the head, too.

  18. wzrd1 says

    Reginald Selkirk, even cloth and surgical masks offer a fair amount of protection. Even N95/KN95 masks won’t filter out viral particles or many bacteria, but then, neither would they filter out chlorine gas. That isn’t their purpose, they filter out droplets that carry the infectious particles.
    And well, some protection beats no protection at all.
    I do find it interesting that the naysayers, who megaphone Nirvana fallacy their ignorance to the world will duck if they think that shots are fired, despite that not being a highly effective protection, thereby disproving their own pointless point.
    Although, to the Nirvana fallacy embracing individual, well, they want 100% effective or nothing. OK, eating doesn’t guarantee that your life will continue, so stop eating. The same for breathing.

    stochastic, before she’d get to calling everyone sheep, which only proves she’s heavily influenced by far right ideology, I’d look at an elder peer and point a thumb, remarking loudly, “Darwin Award seeker, well in progress”.

  19. billseymour says

    Reginald Selkirk:

    @16:  yes, I’m an N905 guy.  There’s a big-box hardware store (Home Depot) near me that always has a good supply.

    @17:  and yes, Mike the Mad is almost always a good read; and I learn from it.  He hardly ever gets any comments, though.  I hope that’s not because few people know about him.

  20. marner says

    Being in a position where it makes sense to turn down $100,000 or even $10,000 for fear of a low probability risk says a lot about wealth inequality.

  21. says

    @25 marnersays: for fear of a low probability risk says a lot about wealth inequality.
    I reply: if you read my comment @20 dialysis for life is not a great prize to win and the data I’ve seen indicates that the risk of being crammed into those flying cattle cars for hours is much higher than most other environments. I’ll keep my KN95 and tell S. Kirscher to get the hell away from me and suggest where he can stuff his money.

  22. crivitz says

    Whether he’s in coach or first class, what is this supposedly wealthy Master of the Universe doing by travelling with hoi polloi in the first place if not just to troll the proles and show off his wealth and his “superior” intellect and be a general nuisance.

  23. charley says

    If you turn down $100k to wear a mask you’re a cultist. If you accept the offer you’re a hypocrite. Since you can’t escape his idiot logic either way, I’d take the money if there was a way to guarantee payment.

  24. billseymour says

    shermanj @20:  yes, that looks like what’s called first class in the US, business class elsewhere.  It’s in front of a bulkhead (The door to the airplane is probably just the other side of that on the right.), and there appear to be just two seats on each side of the aisle.

  25. rorschach says

    that was my first thought too, what the hell is this cattle cabin called “First”? First Class is supposed to be a solo booth with check-in separate from the economy and business sheep, and a personal butler who serves you 50 year old french red wine.
    And can I just say how I hate these jerks who start up a conversation on planes, ignoring your personal space and just being generally a giant impolite dick.

  26. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Okay, airplanes have really good in-flight ventilation, so once pushed back from the gate, the danger from being maskless is tolerable (to me, at least).

    But that Kirsch guy seems like a dishonest a-hole, so the odds of him paying up seems problematic.

    If I had a chance to think about it in advance (and now I have!) I’d demand an IOU with his full name, signature, and address, checked against his driver’s license. Then take a photo with him and the IOU.

    After which “my brother in law does collections for loan-sharks. I’ll be sending this to him in a week if not paid by then. Too bad about your kneecaps, if so”.

  27. rorschach says

    “Okay, airplanes have really good in-flight ventilation, so once pushed back from the gate, the danger from being maskless is tolerable (to me, at least).”

    No, no they really don’t. The air filtration is if I’m not mistaken designed to filter the air coming in, from around the jets, and not the other way around. So many people have taken CO2 readings during plane trips in the last 3 years that we know fairly well how unsafe the air inside planes is, and not just around boarding. And besides, if the guy sitting next to you exhales virus directly into your nasal passages, the best HEPA can’t save you.

  28. wzrd1 says

    rorschach, quite correct. Cabin air quality actually was better back when smoking was allowed, as air is filtered, conditioned for temperature and flows through the cabin, to an outlet valve at the rear of the fuselage. Airlines stopped smoking due to both a few trash fires that resulted in the loss of passengers and aircraft and as important to the companies, conditioning air costs energy, which means fuel, so lowering the need for air exchange, such as in enforcing no smoking, was and remains an economic winner. The air quality inside of the cabin is typically set at the absolute minimum to maintain passenger comfort and health.
    Some people think that the air is recirculated and filtered, but it isn’t. It flows into the cabin and out through the outlet valve. If the turbine begins to leak, well, we’ve all saw and heard news reports of odors and smoke in the cabin from unknown sources and dismissed health concerns. The source of the air is bled off bypass air, not engine air, but if the turbine begins to leak or overheat, the bypass air becomes mildly contaminated with oxides, mostly of lubricant.
    Yeah, worked for an airline many years ago.

  29. Tethys says

    Engaging willfully stupid people is never effective at making them shut-up and go away. I’m quite amused by a room full of elderly folk who simply started ‘bahhing’ at a rude 25 yo until she ran away.

    Mockery is far more satisfactory, so a creative answer to this numpty might sound something like this:

    No one knows what it’s like
    To be the bad man
    To be the sad man
    Behind blue eyes
    And no one knows what it’s like
    To be hated
    To be fated to telling only lies

    But my dreams they aren’t as empty
    As my conscience seems to be
    I have hours, only lonely
    My love is vengeance
    That’s never free

    Alternatively you could start whistling this song:

    I could while away the hours
    Conferrin’ with the flowers,
    Consulting with the rain;
    And my head I’d be a scratchin’
    While my thoughts are busy hatchin’
    If I only had a brain.

    I’d unravel ev’ry riddle for my
    In trouble or in pain
    With the thoughts that you’ll be thinkin’
    You could be another Lincoln
    If you only had a brain.

  30. woozy says

    People flying first class are wealthy, and comfortable. $100,000 is less than a half years wages to the wealthy. If I am comfortable I would not demean myself to an asshole for a half years wages. If I were not comfortable…. only if it is cash upfront (don’t trust him), but if he does have 100,000 in cash, I’d suspect a scam so…. yeah, no matter what I wouldn’t.

  31. flexilis says

    Were I to find myself sitting next to this a$$hole in first class (fat chance) and he made me this offer I would reply, “No thanks. My mask isn’t for covid. It’s a special one in case this plane’s chemtrail spray system malfunctions. One can’t be too careful these days. Here, I’ve got a spare for you if you’d like.” Then we could spend the rest of the flight in a conspiracy theory battle.

  32. Reginald Selkirk says

    @34: If you want interesting ovine lyrics, look to Pink Floyd’s album Animals is a good bet.

  33. vucodlak says

    I’m desperate enough for the money that I’d agree IF he showed me the cash (and only cash would do) beforehand, and put it in my hand the moment I took off my mask. In any other circumstance, I would make his life a living hell for the remainder of the flight. Oh, who am I kidding? I’d make his life a living hell even if he gave me the cash, I’d just be a little “nicer” about it…

    I’m generally very quiet around people I don’t know or trust, but my friends will tell you that I rarely shut up around them. $100,000 is enough to get someone an upgrade to temporary very special friend status. I’d tell him all about my garden, the cats I’ve known, and the many grisly health problems I’ve had. Hell, he’d probably offer me an extra 100K just to shut my mouth.

    I’d take it, and then I’d start humming. “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Ode to Joy,” because those are the only two songs I can hum. Well, I can almost hum them. I have no rhythm, and at least half of my hummed notes are indistinguishable.

    C’mon Stevie, the monkey’s paw’s got one finger left, wanna try your luck again?

  34. says

    I was an assembly line mechanic and engineer that also worked on 747’s decades ago. I won’t quibble about terminology that differs in different settings. But, in a number of aspects aircraft cabin air is not safe. The odors and smoke just mean that there is more leakage than usual.
    OFF Topic, but should interest PZ and the commenters: The explanation about longtermism below the comic is quite good
    A Long Term Birthday Problem

  35. says

    I’d say “sure, give me the money.” (Taking off my mask) “I was wearing the mask because I’m just recovering from COVID and it was to protect you and the other passengers feom my virus. Oh well.” Then I’d cough in his face the rest of the flight, periodically saying useful encouraging things like “I hope you have enough ivermectin …”

  36. snarkhuntr says

    You’ve got to love the entitlement there:

    “I explained to someone that their beliefs were wrong, and they didn’t immediately agree with me and do what I wanted them to do”

    This guy must spend a whole lot of time around sycophants and yes-men. Who else on earth would expect that another human would instantly agree with them just because they hold a contradictory opintion? This is a perfect example of why the very-rich are so often such catastrophically bad decisionmakers.

  37. nomdeplume says

    These rich ar–holes keep emerging on the American body politic like pox on a smallpox patient. WTF has gone wrong with American intelligence?

  38. wzrd1 says

    nomdeplume, I honestly wonder if our lead paint abatement efforts entirely failed and mercury containment somehow spread the mercury.

  39. bravus says

    Would want the cash in hand before I took the mask off: zero trust in his word.

    But in those circumstances, I’d be tempted, especially at his later $100k (claimed) offer level.

    That much money would blow a very solid hole in my mortgage, for a manageable risk.

    It’s a bit like being silent through a prayer of blessing over a meal for me: I don’t believe, but since I don’t believe, I see no harm in it (and some social benefit in shutting up and letting people get on with it).

    I don’t believe his bullshit, but taking the money and then very clearly explaining the calculus of risk could be defensible, I think.

  40. says

    I’d take this money (cash only) and take off the mask and tell him all about my trip to West Africa tending to dying Ebola patients.
    Bet he’ll be screaming to be let off in 60 seconds.

  41. birgerjohansson says

    Silicon Valley Bank ; background .
    Trump’s S 2155 law removied the regulation that would have prevented the collapse of the Silicon Vally Bank; The video is 17 min long, at 11 min we get footage from the debate with senator Feldstein explaining why it was a disastrous idea. The idiots have no idea what they are doing, they are just wrecking stuff. Just say NO.

  42. birgerjohansson says

    Footage with Trump himself bragging about removing bank regulations.

    Later in, we have footage of Republicans claming the Silicon Valley Bank failed because of “wokeness”.
    The party of personal responsibility, right?

  43. wzrd1 says

    Patrick Slattery, you’d have my rapt attention and likely, a wish that the flight was longer. That, from someone who loathes flying, mostly due to altitude and humidity effects.

    birgerjohansson, banks failing in just that way was predicted when Trump had those regulations removed.
    But, who knew or could predict that that which was predicted could occur? Why, the next thing you know, those liberals might predict sunrise in the east, which is crazy talk if wealthy brib – erm, contributors insist that it rises where it does, in the west!
    Those commies ruin everything, even basic math and physics.
    Or something.

  44. wzrd1 says

    Oh, wokeness is commieism, the Trump is god-king and emperor brigade says so.
    Just google “wokeness your a commie”, your brain will melt. Mine starts steaming when they don’t know the difference between you’re and your, the rest, well, just another theory that requires a time machine for it to work.

  45. Louis says

    $100k? Not enough.

    $1m. Minimum. Money credited to my account before my mask moves. No hope of refund/cancelling transaction. Money confirmed as received by my bank, signed refund waiver.

    Not that I am particularly worried about infection, masking protects others a lot more than it protects you, and I’m not flying whilst infectious. I’m just not that much of a [very rude word].

    Given that my requirements would take a working day or two, that poor bastard is going to be locked up with me until I am satisfied of his bona fides, he’s going to suffer me reading clinical data at him for the entire time. And I’ll want relevant and appropriate compensation for missing my initial flight. Unless he defines the “flight” in the contract, I’ll be doing a 50 minute intercity hop maskless, London to Manchester, something like that. I mean, if I have to take this guy seriously enough to play along with his buffoonery, I’m doing it on my terms. I’ll also be filming me reading out that clinical data in a series of borderline racist accents at the top of my lungs shouted directly into his face in a single cubical of an airport toilet. He obviously has to be in there with me. THEN I will accept the cash.

    I’m not worried about the maskless thing very much, but I’ll be buggered seven ways from Sunday if I’m not using this as a grand opportunity to mock a muppet and profit by it.

    Of course I don’t expect such and offer nor compliance were it offered, but girls just wanna have fun, ya know?


  46. wzrd1 says

    erik333, crossing the Atlantic is a bit of a walk, crossing the Pacific is a cast iron bastard of a walk.

  47. says

    crossing the Atlantic is a bit of a walk, crossing the Pacific is a cast iron bastard of a walk.

    Dreadfully slow. Take one step, come up for air, take another step, come up for air…

  48. says

    I knew little Stevie Kirsch when he was an obnoxious brat who was excluded from the UCLA Computer Club either because he was so annoying or because he was too young. He’s a cautionary tale about people with high IQs, a multimillionaire co-inventor of the optical mouse, founder of Infoseek, co-founder of Frame, major Democratic Party funder, who fell down the anti-vax rabbit hole and reverted to the utter asshole side of his personality.

  49. wzrd1 says

    feralboy12, I do indeed walk on water.
    But, it has to be really, really cold for quite a while…

  50. dianne says

    Louis @51: Still not enough money. The person he was offering spare change to was a pharma employee traveling first class. Conservatively, her income was probably $500K/year. In order to risk long covid and job loss, he’d need to offer $20 million at a minimum. More if he was talking to Martine Rothblatt or someone similar.

  51. Louis says

    Dianne @57,

    You make an excellent point. I up my demands to…

    …One Hundred MILLION Dollars!

    (Dr Evil needed whipping out)