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Trump Campaign Taps NH Activist Touting Fringe Conspiracies

Terese Bastarache (formerly known as Terese Grinnell) is having a good week — despite the vast global conspiracy working against her.

Monday night, on the eve of Bastarache’s criminal trial over charges of disrupting a state meeting, the state of New Hampshire dropped its case.

On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump’s campaign announced Bastarache, an outspoken anti-vaccination activist and conspiracy theory proponent, will be its Trump 2024 “town captain” in Loudon.

“Today, President Donald J. Trump announced his initial New Hampshire Grassroots Leadership Team with over 150 dedicated activists and organizers throughout the Granite State’s ten counties,” the campaign said in a press release. “These supporters represent the overwhelming strength of the MAGA Movement and will again propel President Trump to win the First-in-the-Nation primary.”

The campaign released an impressive list of 14 county and city/town chairs, featuring respected names in the party like longtime Republican activist Augusta Petrone. They also released the names of more than 100 town and ward captains, including Bastarache.

Bastarache is one of the self-declared “Noble 9,” a group of anti-vaccination activists charged with disrupting the October 2021 Executive Council Meeting. Their goal was to stop New Hampshire from accepting federal funding for COVID-19 vaccines. (The Executive Council voted 4-1 to reject the funding.)

A month earlier, Bastarache and fellow activist Frank Staples shouted down the September meeting so aggressively the Executive Council canceled it, citing security concerns.

“This is bigger than my case,” Bastarache said Tuesday after the charges were dropped. “This is about the corruption, collusion, and entrapment of civilians. This was a violation of every New Hampshire constituent’s constitutional rights.”

Bastarache, a registered nurse, has made her views on the COVID vaccine, government mandates, and public health policy very public since the pandemic began. She has likened the federal government’s COVID policies to Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews.

“It will take away our Live Free or Die; it will make us unsafe,” Bastarache said at the September 2021 protest. “People are dying from the injections, this is Numenberg [sic] trials!”

The Nazi comparisons did not stop there. In an October 2021 appearance at Christian Revolution in Manchester, Bastarache denounced COVID protocols tied to federal vaccine funding.

“It’s the Holocaust,” she said.

And in an interview with Free State Project leader Carla Gericke, her COVID protests started her down a “rabbit hole” of research, bringing her to believe in the Agenda 2030 conspiracy. That is the theory that a World Economic Forum cabal intends to institute a one-world government through depopulation. Included in the conspiracy claims are the Sununu family, New Hampshire inventor of the Segway scooter Dean Kamen, the Chinese Communist government, Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Gates, Harvard University, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Lloyd’s of London, and WalMart.

“Then I find out [Sununu’s] brother works for the World Economic Forum, and they’re being very bold and brazen about accelerating Agenda 2030,” Bastarache said. “I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is truly happening.’”

Bastarache’s Truth Social feed is full of conspiracy memes linking Sununu to Agenda 2030 and links to groups like Grazing The Surface, which purport to uncover the New Hampshire ties to the nefarious world domination plot.

Bastarache also believes the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent, and she is part of the ‘We the People’ organization, along with election denier Marilyn Todd, pushing that oft-disproven theory.

NH Health Professional Oppose Allowing Access to Ivermectin Without Doctor Oversight

A state House committee Tuesday debated a proposal to allow Granite Staters to get the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin without a traditional doctor’s prescription. The drug has been embraced by some Americans, particularly in the anti-vaccination community, as a treatment for COVID-19, despite the lack of supporting evidence.

“Ivermectin is not indicated to treat COVID-19 and prescribing it for such is dangerous and totally out of line with standard of medical care around the world,” Dr. David Levine of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center said in written testimony to the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee. “I would never want this medication prescribed to myself or my family and would take legal action against anyone who recommended this to my loved ones.”

The committee heard testimony on HB 1022, which would allow doctors or advanced practice registered nurses to issue standing orders to pharmacies that allow patients to get Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 without first seeing a doctor. The law, co-sponsored by Rep. Leah Cushman (R-Weare), would also prohibit pharmacists from discouraging the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19. The bill further prevents medical professionals from being punished for administering Ivermectin for COVID-19.

New Hampshire doctors and hospital officials made their opposition clear.

“Ivermectin is not authorized or approved by the FDA for use in preventing or treating COVID-19. While the effectiveness of Ivermectin relative to COVID-19 is currently being assessed through clinical trials, we cannot overlook the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH, as well as other federal agencies charged with protecting public safety,) have all stated that Ivermectin is not recommended to prevent or treat COVID-19,” Steve Ahnen, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, said Tuesday.

Dr. William Palmer, governor of the New Hampshire Chapter of the American College of Physicians, added another issue. “I would also be concerned, given how overwhelmed our New Hampshire healthcare system is, about where patients go and who will cover the care for any Ivermectin-induced side effects,” he said in written testimony. “Please vote this bill down.”

The pro-HB 1022 side did bring a doctor to testify, Dr. Paul Marik with the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance. Marik falsely claimed the COVID-19 vaccines were responsible for 200,000 deaths during his testimony, and he recommended taking vitamin D in order to ward off COVID-19.

Marik recently resigned his position as Professor of Medicine and Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine with Eastern Virginia Medical School after he was reprimanded by the Virginia Board of Medicine for prescribing drugs like phenobarbital, oxycodone, tramadol, alprazolam, and diazepam to people who were not his patients, according to news reports.

Some members of the left-leaning media have inaccurately described the drug as a “livestock dewormer.” In fact, the drug is widely prescribed to humans to treat parasitic diseases like river blindness. In 2015, two key researchers in its development won the Nobel Prize for their work.

Rep. Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom), who is also a doctor, told the committee that while Ivermectin is a good drug to deal with parasites, it is not proven to work against COVID-19. He worries that allowing people to use it for COVID-19 might result in the infected not getting appropriate medical care in time.

“I have nothing against Ivermectin. But there is no credible evidence that it is effective,” Knirk said.

Knirk added people are much better off getting vaccinated against COVID-19 than experimenting with Ivermectin.

The Union Leader reported Monday that former conservative state Rep. JR. Hoell and his family are under investigation by the Division of Children, Youth, and Families after Hoell treated his children with Ivermectin when they had COVID in late November. DCYF has been attempting to take custody of Hoell’s two minor children since early December when a nurse practitioner reported Hoell’s ivermectin usage to the agency, the paper reported.

Podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan, a vaccine skeptic who trades in misinformation about the pandemic, treated himself with Ivermectin and other drugs prescribed by his doctor last year after he contracted the virus. At the time, Rogan was mocked in the media for taking a “horse drug.” 

Dartmouth Professor Concerned About Spread of Liberal Conspiracy Theories on Social Media

One hears about right-wing media sites, like Breitbart, InfoWars, and Gateway Pundit, spreading conservative conspiracy theories almost on a daily basis. The latest comes from Fox News’s Sean Hannity who kept talking about the debunked theory that Seth Rich, a staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was shot dead near his Washington, D.C. home, had supplied DNC documents to WikiLeaks and was killed for it. While those stories get covered extensively by mainstream media, a Dartmouth professor is concerned that liberal conspiracy theories are also being spread across social media.

In an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio last week, Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College and New York Times contributor, explained there are many conspiracy theories or fake news stories about President Donald Trump and his possible campaign connections to Russia.

“I’m seeing a disturbing trend of people taking the very serious and real questions about Russian interference and using that as a pretext for all sorts of wild and unsupported conspiracy theories. These are often coming from internet personalities and people who work on social media, but they’re infiltrating into the discourse more generally through liberal elites who are amplifying them. So we’re seeing a spread of these claims out into the mainstream in a way that I think is potentially worrisome.”

He points to several examples in the past few weeks of the spread of misinformation online that has reached a mainstream audience. On Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show “The Last Word,” he gave legs to the theory that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre in Syria to help Trump’s popularity ratings by encouraging him to launch a missile strike.

“It’s important to remember Democrats spent the last eight years complaining about the birther myth and all sorts of conspiracy theories around Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and now just a few months later, here we are,” Nyhan said.

The rise of liberal conspiracy websites or social media personalities, especially on anything related to Trump and Russia, has been analyzed by a few media outlets.

“Liberals desperate to believe that the right conspiracy will take down Donald Trump promote their own purveyors of fake news,” wrote Sarah Jones of The New Republic.

“By embracing every single tweet or whisper as yet another piece of full-proof evidence of just how terrible Republicans are, Democrats run the risk of appearing like the boy who cried wolf to the public — and in the process taking some steam out of the very legitimate questions they are asking about the Trump administration,” wrote Chris Cillizza of CNN.

Vox’s Zack Beauchamp calls it the “Russiasphere.”

“They worry that the unfounded speculation and paranoia that infect the Russiasphere risk pushing liberals into the same black hole of conspiracy-mongering and fact-free insinuation that conservatives fell into during the Obama years. The fear is that this pollutes the party itself, derailing and discrediting the legitimate investigation into Russia investigation. It also risks degrading the Democratic Party — helping elevate shameless hucksters who know nothing about policy but are willing to spread misinformation in the service of gaining power.”

Another theory was spread after Republicans passed the American Health Care Act earlier this month. A reporter tweeted about a large supply of beer in the Capitol. Liberals took that ammo and fired off theories that spread like wildfire on social media that the beer was going to a GOP meeting celebrating the bill’s passage.

The theory was later found to be false, and even though the reporter tweeted a correction, that tweet only got a handful of retweets. Mic’s headline is indicative of the early coverage: “Republicans celebrated taking away Americans’ health insurance with cases of beer.” (The millennial news site has since changed the headline to: “Reports of beer delivery to GOP health care celebration called into question.”)

But Nyhan said the damage was already done.

“People are looking for bits of factual information that seem to confirm a pre-existing narrative. This is the problem with confirmation bias,” he said. “We’re seeing that sort of pattern in much more serious circumstances when it comes to the Russia investigation where every piece of information that comes out is being spun and interpreted in the worst possible ways, and in some cases, we’re seeing outright fabrication and speculation being reported and amplified.”

Not everyone is convinced, though, that leftist conspiracy theories are being spread as much as conservative ones. Jeet Heer of The New Republic wrote a counterargument analysis saying while there’s no denying that conspiracy theories are spread on the left, only the Democratic Party acts “responsibly when faced with politically convenient, but obviously fantastic, stories.”

“There still exists a feedback loop on the left, so when a prominent person falls for a conspiracy theory, they are challenged by the media and willing to correct themselves,” he wrote. “Conversely, conservatives tend to adhere to a ‘no apologies’ ethos that makes admitting error verboten.”

In a survey administered by Survey Sampling International immediately after the election (Nov. 7-10, 2016), found that partisans’ conspiratorial predispositions can vary depending on which party holds political power. Democrats’ “conspiracy scores” increased significantly compared with a previous survey in July 2016.

The percentage of Democrats who agreed on average with the conspiracy claims in the scale increased from 27 percent before the election to 32 percent after the election. By contrast, Republicans’ willingness to endorse conspiratorial claims declined after the election over all, decreasing the percentage of Republicans who agreed on average with the false statements from 28 percent to 19 percent.

Nyhan said everyone plays a part in spreading misinformation and more people should be willing to publicly correct themselves if they get a fact wrong or spread a debunked theory.

“We all can take some responsibility for this in the kinds of information we share on social media,” he said. “We’re all potentially complicit in the spread of misinformation. Everyone will be fooled. That’s part of the medium, for better or for worse. What I’ve been disappointed to see is how many people don’t exercise the appropriate care in what they do amplify and fail to correct the record when the information they’ve circulated turns out to be wrong.”

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