Sunday, March 29

Natural News went from selling cheesy kale chips to peddling far-right prophecies, racking up many Facebook followers along the way.

The headline warned of “LGBT progressivism horrors: Parents to start out physically maiming their own babies to slice off all ‘gender’ organs within the name of progressivism and ‘equality.’”

“The next escalation during this war on biology will, I predict, involve parents maiming their newborn infants by slicing off their penis and scrotum shortly after birth so as to ‘rid’ the kid of gender inequality,” the author wrote, adding that oldsters will “commit felony assault against their own children with a scalpel and an ice pack… beat the name of ‘progressivism.’”

The article was punctuated with a mid-page sales talk for Organic Broccoli Sprout Capsules.

This wasn’t Alex Jones of Infowars. it had been Mike Adams of Natural News, which began as a health news hub but has since became a strong conspiracy empire. Natural News has nearly 3 million Facebook followers, quite Infowars and Alex Jones combined before Facebook banned them from the platform last summer.

You might never have clicked on a Natural news story , but you’ve probably felt its influence. the location is one among the most important brokers of far-right conspiracy theories, including disinformation about vaccines. Natural News has spent the past 10 years moving from relatively innocent claims about the advantages of herbal remedies, to full-blown culture war, with a side business of selling survivalist gear.

The shift from turmeric salesman to scalpel scaremonger was only the newest evolution for Natural News’ founder, who features a history of shady business ventures, many of them raising money off moral panics. (Natural News didn’t return repeated requests for an interview with Adams.)

Natural News didn’t start within the deep end. Indeed, a number of Natural News’ early posts even took liberal stances, like debunking claims that undocumented immigrants burdened the country’s health services. The site’s skepticism of genetically modified foods may be a somewhat common view on the left. Anxiety about Big Food and large Pharma are common entry points for conspiratorial belief on each side of the political aisle.

Natural News’s founder went further than the typical organic food evangelist, however.

Adams has been preaching the apocalypse online for 20 years. In 1998, he launched Y2K Newswire, a site that warned of imminent catastrophe that might come when computer calendars converted to the year 2000. the location promoted all the worst Y2K scares—stock market collapse, power system failure, food scarcity, societal implosion—even as experts debunked those fears.

“Y2K Deniers and hate-speech supporters have one thing in common: the lack to differentiate between words and actions,” Adams wrote during a Y2K Newswire piece condemning hate speech laws, adding that “it’s only a matter of your time before it’ll be illegal to merely THINK non-politically-correct thoughts. that might include, of course, thinking that Y2K could be a drag .”

The internet was a special place in 1998. Without social media giants like Facebook, websites used more basic ways of attracting an audience. Adams found it in mass emails, which he pioneered. In 1993 he launched Arial, a mass-email management company that might continue to say customers like Microsoft, the Department of the Treasury , and UCLA. He also worked on “patents on program ranking improvement technology,” consistent with his Y2K website—in other words, techniques to spice up his articles to the highest of blossoming search engines like Yahoo and Google.