The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection$
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewRon Unz Archive
American Pravda: Vaccines and the Mystery of Polio
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • B
Show CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments

Covid and the Rise of the Anti-Vaxxing Movement

Until the last year or two, I’d never paid any attention to the anti-vaxxing movement, which very occasionally received some coverage in my newspapers. It seemed to mostly consist of a small slice of agitated women from affluent suburbs, morbidly fearful that the standard series of childhood vaccinations would injure their infants, perhaps producing autism or other serious disabilities. I regarded them almost as an eccentric cult that I mentally filed away with Scientologists or UFO adherents.

That all changed in 2020 as the massive Covid epidemic led the Trump Administration to propose an equally massive roll-out of mRNA vaccines, which were rushed into release without undergoing the usual years of careful clinical trials. Given the new technology employed—which effectively hijacked the body’s own cellular machinery into producing portions of the Covid spike-protein—and the lack of testing, it’s hardly surprising that many individuals were fearful of such injections. Indeed, there were plausible claims that the heavy media campaign against alternative Covid treatments relying upon HCQ and IVM had actually been orchestrated, intended to ensure that the lack of effective alternative drugs would allow the government to use its emergency powers to deploy the Covid vaccines without the lengthy normal testing process. This government-sponsored vaccination project had raised the market value of the large vaccine manufacturers by hundreds of billions of dollars, provoking the reasonable suspicions of cynical observers.

So by 2021 our website was flooded by waves of militant anti-vaxxers, while many of our existing writers and commenters also latched onto that same issue, sometimes to the near-exclusion of most others, a situation that greatly irritated me. Their wild outcries warned that the mRNA vaccines would kill millionsor even billions—perhaps as part of a diabolical globalist plot by Bill Gates to depopulate the earth. All of this seemed like stark, raving lunacy to me, and I regularly said so, incurring their ferocious outrage.

I felt that their basic concern about the widespread use of a relatively untested medical technology might have possible merit. But on balance, the risks appeared smaller than the dangerous Covid epidemic it was intended to mitigate, at least according to an overwhelming large majority of medical professionals. Given my lack of personal expertise, that was the most I could say. So I got my shots, stopped paying any attention to the issue, and hoped for the best.

Fortunately, two years of statistical data now seems to indicate that the medical establishment had mostly been correct and its fervent critics mistaken, and in several recent articles I’d shown that across numerous countries, the number of non-elderly vaccine deaths seems almost invisibly low, too small to be noticeable in the mortality statistics. Anti-vaxxers frequently claim that the vaccines are responsible for a large wave of sudden deaths among youthful individuals and athletes; but the evidence suggests that these are much more likely due to the lingering consequences of Covid infections rather than the vaccines intended to combat the virus, as I’ve discussed in several recent articles:

It’s certainly not impossible that the long-term consequences of mRNA injections might be harmful, but at least so far there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of this, which is the most we can expect at this stage.

The Surprising Flaws in Vaccine Safety Testing

To a huge extent, concerns about mRNA-based Covid vaccines have come to define today’s anti-vaxxing movement, so much so that they seem to be the main focus of perhaps 95% or 98% of all the angry anti-vaxxers I’ve encountered over the last couple of years. Indeed, many of these activists have explicitly said that they’d feel fairly comfortable with the more traditional Covid vaccines released by Russia and various other countries. Although I’m sure that most of the original anti-vaxxers of 2019 are still around, they seem to have been reduced to a tiny minority in the movement that they once pioneered.


However, those earlier vaxxing concerns still have a presence here and there, and a few months ago I received a book on exactly that broader subject, published under the auspices of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense organization. It had originally been released in 2019, long before anyone had ever heard of Covid or Wuhan, so it had nothing to do with this current issues, but addressed the previous vaccine controversy. The authors were anonymous—supposedly a couple of Israeli medical doctors—and their work had originally been published in their own country, but had now been released in an English-language American edition. Except for a few simple charts, the contents consisted entirely of text, and the title was a puzzling one: Turtles All the Way Down. But the explanatory subtitle of “Vaccine Science and Myth” alerted me to the topic, and given my lack of interest in the vaxxing issue, I put it on the shelf, never intending to read it. After all, since I’d concluded that the radically new mRNA Covid vaccines probably seemed harmless, how likely was it that the traditional ones that had been used for so many decades were actually dangerous?

However, in early October I happened to listen to Kevin Barrett’s interview with Zoey O’Toole, one of the editors of the American edition of Turtles. To my considerable surprise, she came across as quite rational and persuasive, making all sorts of very reasonable points, and raising important issues that I’d never previously considered, so I dug out the book and decided to spend a couple of days reading it.

I was really quite impressed. Most of the Covid anti-vaxxers I’d encountered on the Internet were prone to making wild, very doubtful charges involving gigantic body-counts but I encountered very little of such grandiosity in this extremely sober 500 page discussion of the subject.

Yet although the tone and the factual claims were quite restrained, in many other respects this book constituted a far more radical critique of vaccines than anything I’d previously seen, amounting to a frontal assault against their traditional role in modern medicine. Turtles aimed at overthrowing what most of us had long assumed we knew about those established public health measures, so I was hardly surprised that the authors chose to conceal their names for fear of professional retribution. According to the foreword to the American edition, some months after its original publication the book had received a strongly favorable review in Israel’s leading medical journal, but the senior academics who praised it were then harshly vilified by a medical establishment that was unwilling to directly challenge the substance of the text they had applauded. The front of the book is studded with lengthy endorsements by nearly a dozen medical professionals and other academics, certainly enough support for me to take the book seriously rather than merely dismissing it out of hand. Just over a year ago, I’d been stunned by the contents of Kennedy’s own #1 Amazon best-seller, and since then I’ve grown much more cautious in accepting the conventional wisdom of the medical establishment.

Turtles provides some 1,200 references, which fill 273 pages of an online document, but just as in the case of the Kennedy book, I haven’t attempted to check any of them, partly because I lack the technical expertise to properly do so. According to the editors, the claims of the authors have not been obviously refuted in the three years since publication. So without taking any position on the issues, I’ll merely do my best to summarize some of their main arguments, encouraging those so interested to read the book and decide for themselves.

A central theme of anti-vaxxers has been that many of the vaccines they criticize actually have serious adverse side effects, sometimes doing more harm than good, and I’d always been quite skeptical of this claim. After all, I’d known that prior to their general release new vaccines must typically go through a long period of clinical trials, in which they are matched in randomized, blinded large-scale tests against placebos. But the very first chapter of Turtles claimed that this was mostly a myth and a deception.

According to the authors, such vaccine trials are not conducted against true placebos such as saline solutions, but only against previously approved vaccines. So a new treatment is considered safe if its rate of harmful side-effects is no worse than those of previously approved versions rather than no treatment at all, an illogical approach that seems to make little sense. Thus, the supposed safety and efficacy of current vaccines has only been established relative to a long series of their predecessors, often stretching back decades, and this constitutes the “Turtles All the Way Down” metaphor of the book’s title. This sort of very simple factual claim seems unlikely to have been made unless it were actually true.

Surprisingly enough, the tested rate of adverse vaccine side-effects is sometimes quite significant. For example, during the clinical trials of the Prevnar vaccine, about 6% of the 17,000 infants tested needed emergency room visits and 3% required hospitalization. But because the previous vaccine used for comparison purposes had similarly high rates of negative side-effects, Prevnar was judged safe and effective, a shocking verdict.

There are also cases in which no previously approved version of the vaccine existed for use in such a comparison trial, and one might naturally assume that the only possible choice would be to use a true placebo such a saline solution. Yet as Turtles reveals, in that situation a deliberately crippled version of the vaccine itself is given to the other half of the trial population, a compound which could not provide any benefits but would still probably produce all the same adverse side-effects. The most plausible reason for this strange methodology would be to mask the existence of those adverse side-effects, thereby ensuring the vaccine’s approval.

Turtles summarizes this outrageous situation by stating that each year tens of millions of vaccine doses are administered to infants and toddlers in America, and not a single one of them has ever been tested in clinical trials against an inert placebo. None of this proves that any of these vaccines are dangerous, but it certainly raises that serious possibility. Pilots who fly blind may not necessarily crash, but they probably have a much greater chance of doing so.


Once a vaccine has passed its clinical trials and been approved for general use, any future problems that might appear are supposedly covered by VAERS, the “Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System,” whose name indicates its role of bringing any such problems to the attention of public health authorities. Turtles devotes a full chapter to this system, which the authors claim is very poorly designed and quite unreliable.

In particular, the reporting system is entirely voluntary, so that medical professionals are not obligated to file reports regarding harmful results they have encountered, even those involving the most severe reactions. This suggests that a large degree of under-reporting may be occurring, while at the same time false or misleading reports can also be filed by anyone, without any verification process.

As a result, the data collected by VAERS is statistically suspect and probably quite unreliable, and the authors are suspicious as to why those huge defects in such a seemingly vital system have been left uncorrected for decades. They suspect that these flaws may be deliberate, intended to mask the dangers of the vaccines the system is supposedly meant to monitor.

The authors recognize that skeptical readers may find it difficult to believe that ill-effects from so widespread a product as vaccines might have remained concealed for decades, so they take a short digression into the past history of disease epidemiology. They note that lung cancer was once extremely rare, but then suddenly began to appear in the early part of the twentieth century around the same time that cigarette smoking became widespread, and did so in many of the same populations. But although scientists began pointing to the possible connection and the supporting statistical evidence, that causal relationship was fiercely disputed for decades, partly because of the wealth and power of the industry responsible. Turtles suggests that this tragic history, which led to the premature deaths of millions of lung cancer victims, should be kept carefully in mind as we consider the issue of vaccine safety.

By the late 1990s, renewed questions regarding the safety of vaccines were beginning to appear in the scientific literature, notably the 1998 publication of a hugely controversial study concerning the safety of the MMR vaccine by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues in the Lancet, a leading medical journal. In addition, the appearance of the Internet for the first time allowed ordinary individuals to share their experiences and concerns, and organize themselves to investigate these issues.

But according to Turtles, the response of the vaccine establishment was to release a series of studies debunking these concerns, studies that the authors argue were severely flawed, biased, and possibly even corrupt, but which were heavily promoted by the medical establishment and its subservient media allies. They devote most of a long chapter to analyzing five of these major studies in considerable detail, noting that some of the most influential contained errors that seemed to severely damage their credibility. Remarkably enough, the raw data presented in one of the most important, the 2002 Madsen study of Danish children, actually seemed to support the opposite conclusion, suggesting that the vaccine indeed had dangerous side-effects, but various dubious statistical “adjustments” were then employed to produce the desired, reassuring result.


At this point the authors raised a very simple question. The easiest and most convincing means of demonstrating that vaccines are actually safe and beneficial with few serious side-effects, would obviously be to conduct a large randomized trial study comparing the total health consequences of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, what they call a “Vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated” (VU) study. Yet according to Turtles, no such study has ever been conducted: “It seems inexplicable that VU studies have not been initiated by the vaccine establishment for so many years.”

Indeed, there already exist substantial populations such as the Amish which forego vaccinations and whose health outcomes could easily be compared with a matched control group of the general, fully-vaccinated public, and Turtles notes some disturbing indications in this regard. A journalistic investigation found that the rate of autism in the Amish was just a small fraction of that in the general population, and the same condition was non-existent in unvaccinated Ethiopian-born children in Israel, while their fully-vaccinated Israeli-born siblings showed normal levels. A similar pattern occurred with Somali immigrant families to both Minnesota and Sweden. Given that those autism-vaccine concerns have for years been such a flashpoint among anti-vaccine activists, it does seem quite suspicious that the public health authorities have been unwilling to respond with a large-scale VU study to conclusively settle the issue.

There have been repeated demands for such VU studies but the regular response of the medical establishment has been to dismiss the proposal as unethical, claiming that it would require denying a large group of children access to beneficial vaccinations; but this is obvious nonsense. A non-randomized study could be based upon unvaccinated groups or a retrospective study could use the health history of large numbers of children who had been unvaccinated in the past. Turtles notes that 0.8% of all American children are today completely unvaccinated, thereby providing 30,000 potential subjects in each birth cohort, while in Australia the rate is 1.5%. These would obviously provide large enough numbers to conclusively determine the relative health benefits of vaccinations, so various other doubtful or entirely specious excuses are typically made.

So why has there been such strong opposition to conducting a comprehensive VU study? Turtles offers a simple answer.

There can be only one explanation: The results were markedly in favor of the unvaccinated. [boldface in original]

The authors argue that such studies have indeed almost certainly been quietly conducted, probably many times, but the results have never been made public because they pointed in the wrong direction. After all, the data has been accessible to government authorities for many years and it seems inconceivable that no analysis was ever performed, only that the findings were never released. While I can’t be certain that the authors are right, I do think that their deeply cynical suspicion is more likely correct than not.

The Exaggerated Role of Vaccines in Public Health

The second half of the book shifts to a broader historical perspective, focusing on what the authors describe as the “founding myths” of public health, especially the supposedly crucial role that medical innovations such as vaccines had played in freeing us from the deadly diseases of the past. For nearly my entire life, I had always vaguely accepted these beliefs and had never seriously questioned them.

The authors tell a very different story. They explain that beginning in the early 1960s, Dr. Thomas McKeown, a leading British physician and academic researcher, and his colleagues had published a series of ground-breaking articles that successfully challenged these assumptions, noting that the huge reductions in infectious disease mortality in Britain had actually long pre-dated the introduction of either vaccines or medical treatments such as antibiotics. Instead, the sharp reductions in disease mortality had overwhelmingly been due to major improvements in public sanitation and private hygiene, a surprising conclusion later confirmed in the US as well. They provide several very telling charts demonstrating these facts.

Among other factors, changes in urban transportation technology such as the replacement of horses by automobiles had had an enormous impact given that the former produced an average of 25 pounds of feces per day, much of it scattered on the city streets. The urban reliance on horses involved other major health hazards, with New York City having to remove some 15,000 horse carcasses from its streets during the year 1880. Meanwhile, refrigeration greatly reduced the consumption of spoiled or tainted food, and advances in nutritional understanding increased personal health.

The authors emphasize that forty years after McKeown and his allies produced this “conceptual revolution,” leading health authorities have fully recognized the relative importance of these different factors. A report by the American Institute of Medicine states that

the number of infections prevented by immunization is actually quite small compared with the total number of infections prevented by other hygenic interventions such as clean water, food, and living conditions.

But although the academic community has absorbed these facts, they have still not been widely disseminated or given proper attention. For example, most CDC publications still misleadingly emphasize the central role of vaccinations, leading to widespread public misconceptions. According to Turtles

the scientific consensus regarding the minor role vaccines played in reducing the burden of infectious diseases has become a kind of “open secret” in scientific and medical circles: Everyone knows the truth but nobody cares to share it with the public.

Turtles does freely admit that some major diseases were largely eliminated by vaccines, notably smallpox, and also that vaccines played an important role in reducing the morbidity—widespread illness—of others such as measles, even if not their mortality.

But even these successful examples may raise complicated, hidden questions. Just as the widespread use of vaccines was successfully eliminating various contagious but non-fatal childhood illnesses, other important changes in public health occurred, sometimes quite negative ones. For example, chronic, incurable illnesses such as asthma, autism, and ADHD began appearing for the first time in significant numbers or rapidly growing, soon greatly surpassing the dwindling infectious diseases in their debilitating impact. Despite this, most such chronic diseases have received little attention from the CDC and other infectious-oriented health organizations that prefer to continue focusing upon the vanishing sliver of measles or mumps cases while the millions of children now suffering from chronic illnesses are given much less attention. Turtles raises the disturbing suspicion that these two divergent trends may be directly connected, suggesting once again that large-scale studies should explore the possible links of these new chronic illnesses to the vaccines that were introduced during roughly the same period.

Finally, one of the main justifications for widespread, mandatory vaccination campaigns has been the role of “herd immunity” in protecting the broader public from infection, but the authors argue that for most vaccines the case is actually far weaker than is widely assumed. Vaccines are often less effective in preventing infection or transmission than in greatly reducing the symptoms of the illness. But this allows vaccinated carriers to still pass the infection along to others as easily as the unvaccinated, thereby eliminating the social benefit that might justify the mandate. To the extent that this is true, vaccination requirements seem unwarranted, even in the case of strongly beneficial vaccines.

The Mysteries of Polio

Turtles had presented all of these vaccine and public health issues in a relatively cautious manner, and although I found much of the information quite surprising, almost none of it provoked any sense of disbelief. However, the penultimate chapter of the book was by far the longest, amounting to nearly a quarter of the entire text and its contents were far more shocking. I suspect that the authors deliberately placed it near the end so that the earlier reading would have already softened the skepticism of readers, reducing the likelihood that this explosive material would simply be dismissed out of hand. The title of the chapter is “The Mysteries of Polio” and the first sentence describes the towering edifice they are boldly preparing to assault:

The epic tale of science’s victory over polio—more than any other account of a fight against disease, even the fable-like story of Edward Jenner and his smallpox vaccine—is the foundational myth of vaccination.

Just as the authors suggest, the successful use of the polio vaccine to eliminate that dread disease became the greatest public health triumph of the 1950s, one that saved countless children from crippling paralysis and lifted a reign of terror facing American families, while elevating Dr. Jonas Salk and his vaccine to secular sainthood. The history of that fearsome disease and the vaccine that eradicated it seems as solidly established as anything can be in medicine, with the Wikipedia page running well over 11,000 words and including nearly 150 references.

Yet remarkably enough, Turtles seeks to completely overturn this long-established narrative, claiming that the scientific facts are actually far more complex and ambiguous than I or most other readers would have ever imagined. While this single long account can hardly overcome my enormous presumption in favor of so seemingly well-documented a medical history, it did raise numerous major issues that I’d never previously known, so I will merely present their arguments, urging those interested to read the book and then decide for themselves.

The authors begin by briefly summarizing the standard history of polio, explaining that the disease is caused by a viral infection that can produce a flu-like illness, but which in less than 1% of the cases may also damage the nerve cells thereby creating long-term paralysis. Polio has apparently been around for thousands of years, with the earliest evidence being an Egyptian stele from 1500 B.C. showing a young man with a withered leg supported by a crutch, and its first medical description came in a book by a physician published in 1789. But the illness was extremely rare with no recorded outbreaks so it received minimal attention until near the end of the 19th century, when such outbreaks suddenly began in Europe and the U.S. These soon multiplied in size, claiming 9,000 paralyzed victims in New York City in 1916, and polio epidemics then came and went without any clear pattern, increasing after World War II and reaching a peak in the early 1950s.

The mystery of the illness was solved in 1908 when the virus responsible was isolated, and with the later support of FDR, himself a paralyzed polio victim, huge sums were invested in studying the disease and seeking a cure. This finally culminated in the Salk and Sabin vaccines of the early 1950s, leading to the disappearance of the disease in the industrialized world in the 1960s and 1970s and its eventual near-eradication elsewhere by the end of the twentieth century.

Yet the authors note that this apparently simple story that I had casually absorbed over the years and never questioned, actually hides numerous strange anomalies, mysteries that have always been known in scientific circles but that were never brought before the public. There was no explanation of why polio outbreaks first began in the late 19th century, why they were entirely confined to industrialized countries, and why they were far more severe in summer and early fall. Polio spread and intensified exactly when most other infectious diseases were sharply declining, most victims had no identified contact with other infected individuals, and there was no explanation as to why the virus would only so very rarely attack the nervous system. It proved impossible to infect laboratory animals orally, as humans themselves supposedly became infected.

And oddly enough, although the disease itself has supposedly been vanquished and almost eradicated by medical science, all these mysteries still remain unanswered today despite over a century of research, and some of them have become even more puzzling.

As the authors emphasize “Polio is one of a handful of diseases that have become a major threat to public health during modern times” and the well-documented record of its appearance followed a very strange pattern. The early outbreaks in Europe and North America were sufficiently conspicuous that they clearly represented a new phenomenon, yet there is no explanation for why they suddenly began.

These outbreaks were almost entirely confined to industrialized countries, and in those rare cases in which they spread to other parts of the world, the disease was almost always restricted to Westerners and only rarely affected local residents. American soldiers based in the Philippines contracted polio, but local Filipinos did not, and the same was true for such troops located in China and Japan. American soldiers stationed in the Middle East contracted polio at a rate ten times higher than their counterparts who remained in the U.S., but local residents seemed almost immune. During the early 1940s, polio cases were five times higher among British officers stationed in India than among British enlisted men and 120 times higher than for local Indian troops. Similarly, British officers based in North Africa and Italy were nearly an order-of-magnitude more likely to contract polio than the soldiers serving under their command. Numerous similar instances were recorded of this strange pattern of infection, disproportionately striking those of higher social status.

So during exactly the era when improved sanitation, hygiene, and diet had caused the dramatic decline of other infectious diseases in industrialized countries, polio began its frightening rise. By the late 1940s, the noted tendency of polio to strike Westerners rather than locals living elsewhere gave rise to the theory that “improved hygiene” was somehow an important contributing factor, a conclusion widely accepted by many top polio experts. Scientific hypotheses were formulated to explain this, but these were soon contradicted by empirical research.

However, as the authors point out, the earliest outbreaks of polio in the U.S. had actually followed the exact opposite pattern, being concentrated in the dirtiest, least hygienic urban slums, which had led to the widespread belief that polio was a disease of poverty. But then after polio waned and eventually disappeared in the industrialized world during the 1960s and 1970s, it suddenly reemerged in impoverished Third World countries at rates similar to its 1950s peak in the West. So over the course of a couple of generations, a disease widely believed caused by poverty and lack of hygiene had been transformed into a disease associated with affluence and too much hygiene, but then afterwards returned to its roots as a disease of poverty and dirt. According to Turtles, these totally contradictory assumptions were sometimes simultaneously accepted by leading polio researchers. This very strange pattern of polio infection raises the obvious possibility that the true nature of the illness had been misunderstood in some very fundamental way.

A crucial point that Turtles raises is that contrary to public perceptions, the flaccid paralysis characteristic of polio may actually have a very large number of different causes, perhaps as many as 200 according to the medical literature, with most of these involving poisonings or toxic chemicals. But by the early decades of the 20th century the very high profile of the polio disease meant that the label “polio” was almost always immediately applied to any such physical illness. In some important cases, this was later found to have been a misdiagnosis, but the authors wonder whether this problem may have actually been much more widespread than was realized at the time.

As they emphasize, something very dramatic must have happened late in the 19th century producing the remarkable rise in the incidence of paralytic polio, and they note that this same period saw the widespread introduction of new dyes and pesticides based upon arsenic, lead, and other potentially toxic chemicals.

As a suspicious example, they explain that farmers in the northeastern U.S. began applying lead arsenate to their apple trees in 1892 and the following year there was a large rise in polio cases in the Boston area, which more than quadrupled in number. Moreover, these cases peaked in apple-picking season and most of the victims came from the rural areas surrounding Boston rather than from the city itself. Even decades later, medical experts emphasized that it was very difficult to distinguish polio paralysis from the nerve damage caused by lead poisoning, and misdiagnosis was common. The authors note that the rise of apparent polio cases from a few each year to hundreds or more seems to closely match the widespread use of lead arsenate, which was not only far more dangerous than previous pesticide chemicals but also remained on the fruit much longer.

As this point, Turtles employs highly restrained language to offer a remarkably explosive hypothesis:

The supposition that polio is an infectious and contagious disease—that is, it is caused by a living organism (typically a bacterium or virus) and is transmitted from person to person—has not been in dispute in scientific circles for many decades. The institutional version of polio history has cast a thick layer of concrete around it, and any scientist daring enough to challenge it is likely to be ignored or mocked. The disease, as “everyone knows,” is caused by the poliovirus—a highly contagious virus that enters the body through the mouth and is excreted in the feces. But is polio really an infectious and contagious disease? Delving into some of its early history suggests that the answer to this question is not nearly as straightforward or unequivocal as the official polio story would have us believe.

During the early years of polio’s rise, the nature of the illness was often disputed, with critics of the infection theory emphasizing that they could find no examples of person-to-person transmission. Indeed, the cases were so geographically scattered that almost none of the victims had had any contact with each other. Among 1,400 cases reviewed, less than 3% involved more than a single patient in a family.

Meanwhile, there were many other large-scale instances of such paralysis produced by poisoned foods. In Manchester, England, a mysterious epidemic broke out in 1900, paralyzing thousands of people and killing several dozens, which was eventually traced to high arsenic concentrations in the sulfuric acid used to process sugar in local beer breweries. It was later determined that a similar problem at lower levels had been producing dozens of mysterious cases of paralysis each year in northwestern England during the late 19th century. In 1930, 50,000 Americans became paralyzed in the southern and central regions after they drank a patent medicine contaminated with a toxic chemical, and ten days had usually passed between time of consumption and first onset of the symptoms, completely masking the true cause.

The notion that the paralysis ascribed to polio might actually be due to a toxic chemical seems an astonishing one, not easy for me to accept, but it would help to explain the very strange pattern of the disease and its apparent lack of transmissibility.

Meanwhile, the authors carefully examine the historical studies said to have established the contagious and infectious nature of polio, and find them very doubtful and inconclusive, pointing out that scientific critics had raised many of these same objections at the time. Although repeated experimental failures seemed to establish that polio infections were strictly unique to humans, they note that some of the earliest reports of the rural outbreaks had mentioned that similar forms of paralysis had also afflicted local farm animals such as horses, dogs, and fowls, suggesting that a toxic agent might have been responsible.

So the question naturally arises as to why the possible role of lead or arsenic poisoning had been ignored in those early studies, which instead concluded that a viral disease was responsible. The authors suggest that this was due to the powerful influence of the chemical industry, which marketed these dangerous compounds as pesticides for apple farmers. At the time, such chemicals were totally unregulated by the American government, and indeed several European countries banned American apples for exactly that reason.

The authors note that polio outbreaks in the northern hemisphere tended to peak in the summer and autumn months when fruits and vegetables were most heavily consumed and also intensively sprayed with chemicals to protect them from pests. By contrast, other infectious childhood diseases were much less likely to occur during those same months because schools were not in session.

Polio paralysis had become a notable illness in America by the late 1930s, but its incidence then grew very rapidly after the end of World War II, while outbreaks also began to afflict countries such as Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands, where it had previously been unknown. The first epidemics in France, Belgium, and the Soviet Union were only recorded during the 1950s. Medical historians have no explanation for this strange pattern, which elevated polio to a particularly fearsome disease even as so many others were finally being controlled and disappearing.

The authors note that a pesticide revolution was occurring at exactly this same time, with DDT becoming the global insecticide of choice, an inexpensive, powerful, and long-lasting compound that attacked the nervous system of common agricultural pests. Although the chemical was officially judged completely safe, early reports did show some examples of apparent toxicity to humans, even including paralysis as a symptom. According to some medical critics at the time, the pattern of surprising growth in polio infections both in America and other countries seemed to generally track the widening use of DDT, but the Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies strongly denied any possible connection.

Any lingering doubts about the true nature of polio were seemingly swept away once the Salk vaccine was released in 1955, followed by the rapid disappearance of the illness, but the authors raise serious doubts about this seemingly conclusive cause-and-effect relationship. They note that polio cases had already been sharply declining nationwide for several years, and this trend merely continued, followed by a noticeable rise in polio incidence a few years later. The trajectory in Israel was even more contradictory, with a long decline in polio cases actually being reversed after vaccinations began, before dropping back down a few years later.

According to the authors, during the early 1950s American government agencies had become quietly concerned about the health effects of DDT and began discouraging its extensive use, especially in food preparation and within houses. They suggest that this might explain the sharp decline of apparent polio cases during the years prior to introduction of the Salk vaccine.

So for whatever combination of reasons, polio had largely disappeared from the US and the rest of the industrialized world by the 1970s. But meanwhile, the widespread use of DDT and other pesticides in many Third World countries was soon followed by a surprising rise in apparent polio outbreaks, which had previously been unknown in those regions, leading to the launch of a global vaccination campaign in 1988 to eradicate polio.

That massive effort has seemingly been very successful, and by 2013 reported cases of polio had dropped by 99.9%. However, the authors seriously question this triumphal narrative, noting the concurrent, even more rapid rise of “Accute Flaccid Paralysis” (AFP) syndrome, a physical ailment with similar characteristics but not ascribed to the polio virus. If the actual number of severely paralyzed individuals has remained constant or even sharply increased, perhaps the supposed success of the global polio vaccination campaign has been achieved merely by redefinition, a sleight of hand.

Although I’d found most of the previous sections of Turtles interesting and reasonably persuasive, these had hardly prepared me for the incendiary impact of this very long chapter on polio, which completely astonished me. The mere possibility that one of the most famous historical diseases of the twentieth century had largely been a figment of medical misdiagnosis simply boggled the mind.

Polio’s fatalities had been relatively few in number, but its legacy of permanently crippled children had established it as a particularly terrifying illness, finally conquered by the heroic medical breakthroughs of Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin, for which the former received a Nobel Prize. Just as the authors declare, the eradication of polio had been a crowning achievement of mass vaccination drives, permanently justifying that public health measure and leading to its widespread expansion. My view on all these matters had always been quite conventional and I’d never doubted what I’d read in my newspapers or textbooks. So I was stunned to encounter 125 pages—soberly written and carefully argued—that raised the serious suspicion that the contagious disease had never really existed, with most of the victims actually suffering from various types of toxic poisoning rather than any viral infection.

I’d similarly remembered the controversy surrounding the use of DDT as a pesticide and its ban a half-century ago because of the threat it posed to wildlife. But I’d accepted the arguments that it was almost entirely harmless to humans and had never heard of any possible connection to an illness, let alone anything as high-profile as the paralysis attributed to polio.


There is obviously an enormous difference between creating serious doubts about a landmark scientific issue and successfully overturning it. Even if I were willing to check the hundreds of scholarly references Turtles provides to support its revolutionary hypothesis, I probably wouldn’t possess the technical expertise to properly evaluate them. The victory over polio ranks as one of the most famous triumphs of modern medicine, and surely its legion of defenders could produce lengthy rebuttals to the arguments made by these anonymous authors, rebuttals that would have to be carefully weighed by those with the expert knowledge to effectively do so. Reversing our settled understanding of polio is the sort of monumental feat that would require an equally monumental professional debate. But from my perspective, even merely raising significant doubts about such a seemingly central element of medical history entirely justifies reading the book of these courageous authors.

The Possible Analogy with HIV/AIDS


Most of us tend to be much more respectful of official narratives in areas that we have never investigated. My lengthy American Pravda series includes numerous historical revelations, but just a couple of years ago I would have been extremely reluctant to even consider the possibility that so seemingly established a scientific matter as the nature of polio might seriously be called into question.

However, in December 2021 I had read a stunning book by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that included 200 pages presenting a somewhat similar analysis of HIV/AIDS, a disease that had spent nearly four decades as the world’s highest-profile illness. According to his account, the deadly condition had actually been caused by toxic poisoning but was instead misdiagnosed as a infectious disease carried by a virus.

Yet according to the information provided in Kennedy’s #1 Amazon bestseller, this well-known and solidly-established picture, which I had never seriously questioned, is almost entirely false and fraudulent, essentially amounting to a medical media hoax. Instead of being responsible for AIDS, the HIV virus is probably harmless and had nothing to do with the disease. But when individuals were found to be infected with HIV, they were subjected to the early, extremely lucrative AIDS drugs, which were actually lethal and often killed them. The earliest AIDS cases had mostly been caused by very heavy use of particular illegal drugs, and the HIV virus had been misdiagnosed as being responsible. But since Fauci and the profit-hungry drug companies soon built enormous empires upon that misdiagnosis, for more than 35 years they have fought very hard to maintain and protect it, exerting all their influence to suppress the truth in the media while destroying the careers of any honest researchers who challenged that fraud. Meanwhile, AIDS in Africa was something entirely different, probably caused mostly by malnutrition or other local conditions.

I found Kennedy’s account as shocking as anything I have ever encountered.

Kennedy’s claims had initially seemed utterly unbelievable to me, but after weeks of additional reading and investigation, I had finally concluded that he was probably correct. I also noted in my subsequent articles that although the mainstream media ferociously attacked him on so many other grounds, his critics maintained an absolute silence regarding his incendiary chapters on HIV/AIDS, and their surprising reticence seemed to confirm my verdict.

So while I have hardly devoted any similar research effort to the remarkable scientific claims provided in Turtles, I’m much more open to the possibility that they might be proven correct. If AIDS was indeed merely a phantom disease produced by medical misdiagnosis, perhaps the same might have earlier also been true for polio.

Related Reading:

The American Pravda Series
All Comments Hidden • Show  411 Comments • Reply
Personal Classics
Which superpower is more threatened by its “extractive elites”?
The Surprising Elements of Talmudic Judaism
The Shaping Event of Our Modern World
Analyzing the History of a Controversial Movement
From the Leo Frank Case to the Present Day
Our Reigning Political Puppets, Dancing to Invisible Strings