This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books
Book: Apocalypse Waiting to Happen: The Plagues That Threaten Us All
Author: Dr. John Coleman
Type of Book: Non-fiction, conspiracy theory, disease
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Well, I bought it at the marvelous Austin book store, Brave New Books. That’s a good clue as to potential oddness. The content cinched the deal.
Availability: Published by World in Review Books in 2009, you can get a copy here:
Comments: Take this statement for what it’s worth but it took me forever to write this discussion because I came down with a case of the flu that will not go away. If I were paranoid, I would be very concerned.
Man, I am definitely going to have a good time examining this book in close detail because it combines all the best things I have come to love in lunatic screeds predicting the end of the world, but before I begin, I have to say that books like this make me long for the days of ‘zines. Really, this book is a long form ‘zine, or maybe a very long newsletter. This book should have been written on an electric typewriter, single spaced, no margins, hand-written corrections in the margin and mailed to everyone who signed up for it. This book took me back to those days long past, wherein the only way one could get a hold of a strangely-spelled, interestingly-reasoned screed was to wait impatiently by the mail box.
If you are of the right mind, this book will amuse you to no end. Because when you pick up a book that is ostensibly discussing the diseases that could mark the end of the world, and the disease “Guillain Barre” is spelled “Guillane Barre” on the cover and in the table of contents you find a chapter called, “The Terrible Toll of NRSA,” you know you are in for one hell of a time.
There are moments of complete coherence wherein you think, “Hey, Dr. Coleman may be on to something, though he seems like he may be overstating it.” Then there are moments of utter lunacy wherein you think, “What sort of doctor is this guy anyway?” I still have not been able to determine what his doctorate is in, or if he is an MD, but the little bit of research I did showed me that Dr. John Coleman is a man who should have already been on my radar because he is a conspiracy theory Renaissance Man. Sometimes I am disappointed in myself but I comfort myself with the knowledge that my new Kindle and I will rectify my Coleman deficiency as soon as possible.
So, in just the cover and the table of contents, I already know this book’s content is going to be a bit iffy and my suspicions are played out in the text. This book is ostensibly a treatise on the diseases that could potentially end mankind as we know it, and it takes all kinds of very interesting turns while offering some information that turned out to be more or less factually correct when I looked into it and some that is simply the stuff of conspiratorial dreams (and that is a statement anyone should take advisedly because though I am deeply interested in illness as a topic, I am a liberal arts sort of gal, not a scientist).
It’s hard to buy into the alarmist nature of the book but all conspiracies are alarmist and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I knew I was in for a ride when I read this (and from here on out, just know I am not going to enter the traditional [sic] when there is a grammar, spelling or structural problem in Dr. Coleman’s text because it would become tiresome):
The cardinal sin being committed against God and man by the spiritually wicked men in high places is the destruction of mankind through so-called “natural means.”
Okay, so I now know Dr. John Coleman is going to look at this via a Christian filter of the Apocalypse, which is just fine with me because as an atheist I don’t have any dog in that fight but it also means I will be able to dismiss some of what he considers proof. We also know that we might venture into the idea that some of these diseases threatening us are not natural in origin. Hoo boy, I am very excited now. You should be, too.
Despite the fact that I know that very excellent conspiracy awaits me, I have to say the hands-down best parts of this book are all the left turns that come out of nowhere. The sort of shifts in content that make you shake your head and wonder if you missed a page or something, and realize no, it’s not you. The quote I give above is at the top of page 2. Dr. Coleman then spends three paragraphs discussing disease and how it is that the death toll of disease far outweighs casualties of war plus some fear of Socialist government, which was sort of a “What?” but still mildly topical in context, then :RECORD SCRATCH:
This book is not about politics per se, so I will confine my remarks to posing the question that so badly needs to be asked: What in God’s name are our soldiers doing in Iraq and Afghanistan?
No matter how tragic the Columbine School and the Virginia Tech massacres of April 20, 1999 and April 16, 2007, they cannot be viewed as anything other than sad and terrible occurrences. What is so savage about it all is that the victims were not allowed by law, to defend themselves.
Okay, so we now know this is going to be a roller coaster of weirdness. We now have a pretty good window into Dr. Coleman’s mind: the government is going to kill us with disease, governmental action that Dr. Coleman does not like will be called Socialist and he is pro-gun to the extent that he thinks high school freshmen should carry them to school. And if it sounds like I am mocking Dr. Coleman, maybe I am a little, but mostly I have mild affection for people with mindsets complete different than mine because without them this website would be basically a shill for Eraserhead Press. And, it has to be said, I have been known to harbor one or two wacky ideas myself…
Of particular interest to me was Dr. Coleman’s take on the Clinton presidency refusing to destroy all of the smallpox samples housed with the CDC:
In 1996 the World Health Organization demanded that all existing stocks of smallpox viruses be destroyed. At first the United States was vociferous in its demands, that all nations possessing stocks of the virus join the U.S. in destroying such stocks. All of a sudden, having gotten a taste of what it is like to be mass killers in Serbia and Iraq, the governments of Britain and the United States did a 180 degree turn. “We are not going to carry out our previous decision” (to destroy the smallpox hoard), said Clinton “just in case the U.S. may need them in the future.” This startling announcement came on April 22, 1999. Mark the date well. Future historians will trace the start of the coming apocalypse to this date.
Having read enough Richard Preston to ensure I lost sleep, I have a different take on the U.S. refusal to destroy their smallpox stocks. You see, disease is a form of mutually assured destruction and nations talk a big game about getting rid of disease stocks and nukes but such stores are preventative measure to keep other countries from using disease as a form of warfare because they know we could just return the favor. Moreover, in the event a country launches a dirty bomb against us and we don’t have samples of the disease to make a vaccine, we are sitting ducks. Unpleasant, but true. Stocks of nukes and stocks of disease make for better diplomacy in a world wherein seats of political power are occupied by egoists and madmen. Interestingly, before declaring Clinton the worst sort of bastard for reneging on the U.S. promise to destroy smallpox stocks, Coleman, who has already shown little use for dictatorships and Socialism in general, declares:
When apprised of Clinton’s decision not to destroy our stash of deadly smallpox viruses, Mikhail Shurgalis, Russia’s spokesman on the treaty, denied his country has any stocks of smallpox. Iran and China also deny holding any Biological Warfare stocks.
Okay, I don’t think Dr. Coleman is twisting facts and ideas to suit his particular hobbyhorse. I think riding his hobbyhorse gives him a strange myopia. Does he really trust Iraq, Russia or China’s word on whether or not they destroyed their smallpox stores? And say Clinton had believed them and sometime in our lifetime we found out those nations in fact had their smallpox stores and we had destroyed our disease deterrent as well as the means to make a vaccine? Policy in such matters is cloak and dagger to be sure but not nearly as straightforward as Dr. Coleman seems to think. “Oh, China and Russia say they no longer have smallpox viruses? That’s good enough for us. Those countries have never given us cause to doubt them before,” seems to be the reasoning where disease stockpiles are concerned. Would such a naive approach work in nuclear disarmament? Probably not.
The overall structure of Dr. Coleman’s book makes some level of sense and as a rule, I can see where he is coming from as this sort of conspiracy is nothing new – the government wants us sick and covers it up, the government accidentally makes us sick and covers it up. Many people exhibit this manner of thinking, notably Jenny McCarthy, and it was therefore not that surprising to see it in action here.
Autism in children may be the result of vaccinations. British doctor, Stephen Walker, was the first to discover a possible link between child vaccinations and autism on June 3, 2006. This has led to speculation among medical researchers that there must be a common factor somewhere, but discovery of what that factor is, remains beyond reach. Are we being used as human guinea pigs?
Well, we might be, but not via vaccinations. Stephen Walker has come out and admitted he cannot prove a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and as of right now there is not a single link between vaccinations and autism.
But Dr. Coleman is all too willing to go that extra step in the course of his paranoia despite the fact that one of his own sources has backed down from his initial findings:
We know now vaccines injected into children weaken their immune system and leave them vulnerable to other diseases. Could it be that the grand design is to make children vulnerable to infectious plagues, which will then sweep millions of people to their deaths in far greater numbers than the Black Plague of the 14th Century? After all, didn’t Bertrand Russell say that there had to be a return of the Black Plague. Vaccinations have become the chic way of allegedly warding off terrible diseases, but what we are learning through research into such illnesses as chronic fatigue syndrome is that the more prevalent the inoculations programs are, the more there is a growing incidence of strange and exotic diseases, which hitherto, were unknown or only occurred in limited numbers.
It’s actually extremely questionable that vaccines weaken a child’s immune system when the end result is that children with these vaccinations do not develop mumps, measles, German measles, whooping cough and all the myriad childhood diseases that made children die left and right. And if you don’t get Dr. Coleman’s riff about Bertrand Russell and why his musings on the Black Plague are de facto evidence of anything sinister in the government to sicken people, it’s discussed in the book and evidently in some of his other books and I will touch on it more in a bit. But yeah, it’s conspiri-tastic. And bless Dr. Coleman for associating vaccines with the word “chic.” When I get my next flu shot I better get a Chanel bandaid. I also dispute the idea that CFS is new or burgeoning as it is a disease that most commonly afflicts women and the annals of medical history are crammed with depictions of sickly, easily tired, wasting, neurasthenic women. CFS has been around for a long time but like most auto-immune illnesses, there is still very little known about it.
But don’t get me wrong. I love conspiracy theory but I have no issue discussing where it falls short and can be dangerous. Hell, the conspiracy about vaccines has led some to believe that Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccine advocacy has a body count. So while I am largely amused by Dr. Coleman and quite interested in reading more of his books, the fact is, he sort of doesn’t mind mixing it up in a way that makes it hard to swallow even the passages where he gets things right. The government is at fault, Bertrand Russell is somehow behind it, and that’s all well and good because heaven knows Russell could stand to be taken down a peg or two posthumously. But given all the conspiratorial bends this book takes, the following was… shocking… and upsetting to a liberal gal like me:
The incidence of all strains of hepatitis, A-G, is very heavy in Central and Latin America and India, and immigrants from these areas are not screened when they are arrive in the U.S., so that there is a vast pool of infection — a veritable reservoir of hepatitis in our midst. In California the situation has become so serious as to border on panic as more and more people are discovering that they are infected with hepatitis C. Yet, in spite of the terrible dander, concerned citizens who demand medical screening for immigrants are called “racists.”
Terrible dander, eh? One would think a panic about an infectious disease that reduces lifespan would be more than a dander but maybe I shouldn’t nitpick that. Instead let me nitpick facts. In the United States, the vast majority of people who currently have Hepatitis C contracted the disease before blood was tested for the diseases as a matter of course in refined tests to find the disease, which was developed in 1990. Since accurate screening began, the number of people who contract Hepatitis C has fallen dramatically. In the current climate, the top causes for Hepatitis C transmission are via risky sexual and drug usage behaviors. Because Hepatitis C is blood-borne, there is some risk from food-handlers, and to be blunt, no one really knows all the potential methods of transmission but blood seems to be the most reasonable risk.
But as a whole, it is, in fact, racist to say that people from Central and Latin America and India who have Hepatitis C are more likely to become drug abusers and engage in unprotected sex, and statements like this one, a statement Dr. Coleman makes several times in the book, is a rallying cry for people who desperately need to cling to something to prove motive behind their race hate. Moreover, most people well-versed in epidemiology will tell you that we have far more to fear simply from legal travel. A disease like Hepatitis C is small beans compared to the capacity for a super-flu to spread and cause a pandemic because of the ease of rapid air travel. Immigrants with Hepatitis C are the least of our troubles.
But the weird statements don’t stop there, and it would be disappointing if they did:
In a sense, HVC [Hepatitis C] is worse than HIV because there is no indication at the onset of the disease that one is really ill.
Well, actually, there isn’t a whole lot at the beginning of HIV contraction that lets you know you’ve contracted the disease. Obviousness of infection and delay of symptoms are actually a common trait of both conditions.
Then there are the delightful statements, like this one:
It is more desperately urgent, that we defend our liver!
Ignoring the implication that we are all sharing a single liver, I shouted a comma-less variant of this exhortation the day I stopped drinking.
Now here is why Dr. Coleman is such an excellent conspirator: He lays out interesting information that may or may not link together ideas but never really follows through, which is one of the hallmarks of excellent conspiracy:
A horrific outbreak of the Black Plague occurred in 1348, dislocating the wage and price structure producing major economic and political conditions and social crisis, and carrying away millions of people. We are presently living in the middle of economic and political conditions closely paralleling those of 1338, which fit in with the predictions of Ziegler who said a great plague would come by the year 2020. This also confirms the expectations of Hecker who said that each succeeding plague would be more virulent that the last. In 1347, famine in parts of Europe, notably in what is now Italy, helped the spread of the Black Plague. Compare this with Africa today, where millions are dying from starvation and AIDS.
Actually, Dr. Coleman rides off the rails with the AIDS comparison because despite the sheer horror of AIDS, the fact remains that it does not kill with the rapidity of yersinia pestis. A person with AIDS can live a very long time and the way the disease is spread is more selective so while it is a pandemic in parts of Africa, it is not even in the same class of rapid-death disease spread we are discussing when we talk about Black Plague. But this is a tantalizing passage because Dr. Coleman is not talking about Nostradamus-styled predictions. Phillip Ziegler is an excellent source for information about the history of the Black Death and it would have been nice if Dr. Coleman had told us how the economic and political conditions today closely parallel those of 1338 because having read Ziegler (admittedly many years ago), I don’t see the correlations. The Hecker he is referring to is J.H. Hecker and I know nothing of his work so I don’t know if Hecker is a good source, but this could have been such an interesting section if Dr. Coleman had laid out for us how we are looking at a political climate and social climate that could result in a plague. I think such conditions are here. I’ve read enough writers like Laurie Garrett to know that things could become quite dire quite quickly if conditions were right. I just want Dr. Coleman to better explain his alarmist utterings.
And I gotta tell you, his section on MRSA, though he calls it “NRSA” in his table of contents, was damn informative. I have family in the medical community who have echoed that MRSA is a nightmare, that once a hospital has a MRSA contamination, getting rid of it is dicey, that unions prevent some hospitals from removing from service nurses who test positive as being carriers for MRSA via the nose tests, and that in many cases, surgery is a crap-shoot (and if you ever read much about prion diseases, you will fear surgery for the rest of your life, believe me). I had to have a steel plate put in my ankle two years ago and I recall the weird things people told me to do after surgery. One nurse told me that after surgery that I needed to go home and run the hottest water I could stand over my incision, no matter what the doctors said. I didn’t because it would have hurt like 20 bastards in a bastard boat but I always wondered if she told me this because she felt this was a deterrent to MRSA. The parts about MRSA are as jumbled and use as interesting grammar as the rest of the book but here Dr. Coleman was on point and his paranoia, while perhaps overblown and strangely stated, was not out of bounds when healthy teenagers are picking the infection up in locker rooms and dying from it.
And then there are other sections where he starts off strong, with cogent, well-thought out points, but then he just veers off course, falls down the mountain and crashes in the valley below. In an excellent paragraph explaining what he failed to explain in the passage about the Black Plague, Dr. Coleman explains in detail how poverty, overcrowding, and crappy government in Brazil have led to a perfect storm for AIDS that could lead to a complete pandemic. Then he follows that with this:
The monsters in the Club of Rome and those running the Global 2000 mass extermination program are well pleased with their work. Barring a change of plan – – which appears totally unlikely – – billions of people will die of AIDS this decade. If Lord Bertrand Russell and H.G. Wells were alive today, they would look upon AIDS as a providential gift, a dream come true.
Dr. Coleman explains earlier in the book what the Club of Rome is and why Bertrand Russell and H.G. Wells are among history’s greatest monsters (they evidently are a part of a plot to kill off “useless eaters”) but I’m weary, the explanations are suitably lunatic and until I read his books on the topics themselves, I will not discuss them, but I wonder why, in the face of actual evidence of wrong-doing that causes problems in the here and now we have to ascribe these ills to the machinations of two dead Brits, one so priapic he barely had time to manage his sex life with decorum, let alone plot to destroy the world a century after his death.
Dr. Coleman’s information about AZT, the drug used to treat AIDS is another instance wherein Dr. Coleman may have been presenting excellent information but the fact that he thinks that Bertrand Russell was a part of a cabal to kill off the world makes it hard to know if AZT is the poison that Dr. Coleman says it is. That’s one of the few times conspiracy theory makes me unhappy – when conspiracy folk may have an excellent point but you can’t trust in it because of all the lunacy that accompanies it. A very basic Google proved that AZT is not in fact the miracle drug I had initially thought it to be. But it is… unsettling that many of the voices who bring us dissenting information are as untrustworthy in their own way as the the standard sources of news.
His take on flu viruses, especially H1N1, was timely but also unnecessarily alarmist:
According to a top scientist for the United Nations, who examined the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Africa, as well as the victims of HIV/AIDS, concluded that H1N1 possesses certain transmission vectors that suggest that the new flu strain has been genetically manufactured as a military biological warfare weapon.
He goes on to cite “scientists,” who are evidently working for the UN, who say that H1N1 was a human-engineered disease, which doesn’t pass the basic skeptic sniff test. The H1N1 virus subtype has been identified for almost a century, both the avian and swine infections. I can only assume that the horror of it creating a Spanish flu-type pandemic (which was caused by the avian H1N1 virus) is one of the reasons people feared this disease so much and as I have begun to note, fear is the cause of most conspiracy. However, unless anyone can give me the mechanism by which they think this known disease was mutated to make it similar to Ebola, I call shenanigans. I can only assume that the reason anyone would link H1N1 to Ebola is because the former on occasion and the latter always cause a cytokine storm in the sufferer. But the cytokine storm was an element of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic so again, we’ve known for almost a century that cytokine storms can happen in flu and it would be hard to say that a flu that causes a cytokine storm is anything new.
The conspiracy continues, and this seems especially odd since Dr. Coleman understands in Brazil how poverty, overcrowding and bad government contribute to the spread of disease:
…I believe that Swine Flu will return with a vengeance once the creators of the virus have finished their new genetic model and it is once again released to run amuck throughout the world. Certainly there have been several major pandemics in the U.S. (poliomyelitis, Spanish Flu and Avian Bird all proven or suspected). With Swine Flu, there should have more than likely been well over a thousand fatalities. But what was the actual count? The only fatality was a child. Of course that has changed but why is it that so many more deaths occurred in Mexico than anywhere else. Other races, even other Hispanics, appear to contract a much milder form. Was this due to the lack of medical facilities and the state of the slums around Mexico City and other major cities? But if one looks at Rio de Janeiro and its infamous “favelez” slums –far worse than anything found in Mexico — the theory does not hold up.
Well, the epicenter of the Swine Flu outbreak occurred in Mexico City, not Rio. Had it started in Rio, would we wonder why people in Mexico City slums didn’t fall as fast or as often? No. Where a disease begins is hit the worst. North and South America had time to react and the disease spread simply didn’t occur the way some panicked epidemiologists suspected it would, exactly as what happened with recent outbreaks of SARS and Avian Flu. And as a whitey white white, I got H1N1 and have never been sicker so I am unsure where the idea that other races are less affected comes from – the people who died in the U.S. were not in slums nor were they uniformly of Mexican descent. My anecdata and the actual data simply do not bear out Dr. Coleman’s beliefs.
And it spirals down the rabbit hole from there, with incendiary insinuations that the WHO sat on information about the outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico, the WHO may have started the outbreak and bizarre and completely unscientific assertions that it is impossible for “four different viruses from three different animals” to mutate into a single disease.
And that’s the worst part of this whole thing, the sour note at the end of this symphony of sickness: Dr. Coleman has interesting points that are made suspect or outright overshadowed by some of his more lunacy-laden beliefs. I haven’t read anything else by Dr. Coleman – maybe he has a line on information that will completely redefine how I think about Bertrand Russell – but there is enough truth in so much that is terrible in medical history that I really don’t need to know about the Club of Rome or a plan by H.G. Wells to believe terrible things have happened and have been covered up. The presence of such whackadoodlery taints the points that Dr. Coleman could drive to town and take to dinner. Hell, I consider myself a skeptic but still believe Edward Hooper’s research that indicates that AIDS is a zootrophic condition that jumped from simians to humans as a result of the development of an oral polio vaccine in Central Africa. That’s some hard core conspiracy right there but it doesn’t require a cabal of long dead elites – just the hubris of a few men who hid the bad things they did and a compliant and easily redirected medical community and press that would not and still refuses to look hard into the issue.
So, I can’t really recommend this book unless you, like me, like nothing more than out-there conspiracy and stories of disease. I think Dr. Coleman’s works, however, are going to appear here again soon, because I have had ill-will for H.G. Wells after discovering he was a plagiarist of the worst sort. I really want to believe Dr. Coleman that Wells was indeed a terrible, terrible man. But there are far better books that make the case for conspiracy and illness. Tackle one of those first before reading this. But I intend to start reading Dr. Coleman’s works apace. He seems a man who will offer a ton of insanity with a few ounces of clarity and frankly, a few ounces of clarity combined with the entertainment of good conspiracy are worth it for me.