In recent weeks, social media has been doing what it does best – laughing at idiots. The idiots du jour are right-wing anti-vax folk, and mocking them has become a cause célèbre for everyone else. But what led to a subsection of the American right to turn to “horse paste” as a Covid medicine?

The story really is one for our age, a mixture of institutional distrust and alternative media groupthink. Its nexus is where the evolutionary need to keep safe intersects with the growing conspiracy industry. 

Of course, the American right wing has been on an increasingly intense diet of conspiracy theories, starting long before Donald Trump came along and started spoon feeding this hungry crowd. In many ways they were primed for a pandemic and all its opportunities to spread nonsense. We’ve had everything from masks inhibiting oxygen intake, to Bill Gates microchips, to 5g causing Covid.

But the horse paste one caught my eye, not only because it’s so ridiculous, but because of the way people reacted – in a completely understandable and really unhelpful way.

Let’s break down the story a little. The reason people are taking horse medicine is because of the what’s in it – ivermectin. Ivermectin has been touted by some as a Covid-19 wonder drug. The most high profile of these devotees is probably Bret Weinstein, who with his wife rose hosts the DarkHorse podcast. Weinstein, an evolutionary biologist, is one a member of the so-called intellectual dark web, a group of smart people who, in their words, think outside the mainstream box, and are prepared to ask questions that the mainstream deems unconscionable. 

Along with people like physician Dr. Pierre Kory MD, self-designated inventor of mNRA vaccines Robert W. Malone MD, and millionaire entrepreneur Steve Kirsch, they have come out with some quite remarkable claims. These include the claim that ivermectin can drive Covid to extinction, is incredibly effective at stopping you get Covid, and works really well as a treatment if you’ve already got it. They back up their claims with anecdotal evidence, and also with reference to complex trials which most of us don’t understand. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” is their message, and ivermectin is the gift that keeps giving.

These claims are only half of their narrative. The other half is just as important: the big pharma conspiracy to hide the truth about ivermectin, because ivermectin is an old drug which doesn’t generate profits. Big pharma wants you to take their expensive drugs, of course, and the regulators and the mainstream media and big tech are all in on it too.

Not only do they praise ivermectin, but they simultaneously cast doubt on the vaccines. They’ve made misleading claims about how vaccine spike proteins effect ovaries, and that having a more highly vaccinated population increases the chance of creating new Covid variants. So while undermining trust on a brand new vaccine, they also present a perfectly safe alternative. That’s got to be appealing for anyone who is dubious about injecting something new and scary into their arms.

To be clear about ivermectin. It is an anti-parasitic drug developed by Merck in 1975 and has been taken by billions of people. It’s not dangerous for humans, unlike Trump’s medical suggestion – bleach. But the WHO, the CDC and the FDA don’t just go around endorsing medicines for illnesses just because we know they are safe, otherwise we’d all be frantically downing aspirin to ward off Covid. Whether ivermectin has any benefits against Covid is currently being investigated – drugs do get repurposed after all. Some countries have indeed been using it for Covid treatment (sometimes just to appease sick patients who are convinced it will help). But the trials and meta-analysis referred to by Weinstein and his associates are not conclusive in the way they claim; some have even been retracted because of concerns about fraud. 

On the other hand, there is a completely transparent, global, real-world study on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines, because they are literally being taken by people almost everywhere, and the death rates plummet as a result. The data comes straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

However, these dubious claims about ivermectin and the vaccines have been heard by millions of listeners and YouTube viewers, most of whom follow these intellectual dark web types precisely because of their insatiable anti-mainstream appetite. In other words, they are ready to believe whatever the opposite of the ‘establishment’ happens to be. If mainstream medicine did come around to endorsing ivermectin, these audiences would probably move on to something else.

In the meantime, some of those who are doubtful about the vaccines have convinced themselves that ivermectin is a great alternative. And now the seeds of this campaign are beginning to bear fruit. A British man called Leslie Lawrenson recently died having chosen not to get vaccinated. He had shared DarkHorse info on his Facebook. Caleb Wallace, from “San Angelo Freedom Fighters” in the USA, was self-medicating with ivermectin, and died in August after getting Covid. Dr. Pierre Korey, who had called ivermectin “miraculous” before a Senate Committee, recently got Covid, despite using ivermectin to prevent himself getting Covid. And then there’s all those buying the horse paste. 

With regulators not recommending ivermectin for Covid prevention or treatment, those convinced of its benefits aren’t often able to get it through the regular means. Instead, they’ve discovered that horse dewormer also contains ivermectin, and decided to take that. While ivermectin is a well-established drug, the version designed for animals could poison you, and that’s what’s been happening quite a lot.

As one person on Facebook called Charity asked the community, “What diaper size is best for the first 24 hours? I knew I’d be pooping a lot but I’ve already gone through 4 pairs of underwear in the last two hours. Pads don’t work either.”

But the real problem here is how the alt-medicine racket gets entangled with the anti-vax message, and heightens the cultish paranoia that certain people have with the whole pandemic saga. The result is that these people aren’t getting the approved, free vaccines which are by all accounts really effective. That extends the pandemic for the rest of us.

But I would say that, wouldn’t I? Because I’m one of the MSM-brainwashed sheeple.

In an April article on OutbreakNewsToday detailing an FDA warning about using animal ivermectin, a commenter called Susan, using fairly typical language, implored others to “STOP BELIEVING THE LIES THAT THE LIBS AND MEDIA ARE SPILLING. BE PROACTIVE. I WISH I HAD KNOWN ABOUT IVERMECTIN FOR MY SON, MAYBE HE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN SO SICK.”

As natural as it is to mock people who are ingesting horse paste and getting diarrhoea when there is a perfectly good, safe vaccine available for them, unfortunately the mocking and shaming doesn’t change their minds. They just look for someone online with an MD after their name who agrees with what they already think, and double down. 

A lot of the jokes about ivermectin understandably refer to the fact that people are eating some disgusting paste designed for deworming horses, which sounds crazy, while most of the thinking behind the craziness is a belief that this drug, ivermectin, should be rolled out as a Covid treatment. That is far less crazy, especially if you don’t know anything about medicine and someone with Dr. in front of their name or MD after their name has been telling you it’s a wonder drug. Far less crazy, but still wrong.

Fundamentally, the fact that many of the horse paste eaters got their idea from a podcast called DarkHorse is too good not to make jokes about. We are just human after all, and the human flaws that lead some down rabbit holes are the same flaws that make it irresistible for others to mock them, even sometimes the dead ones.

Some of the ivermectin advocates have begun to distance themselves from the controversy as their claims look stupider and the real-world damage becomes more apparent. But it seems that for ivermectin, the horse has already bolted. Black markets selling the stuff are popping up all over, and those touting the drug have an attentive audience. They don’t want to change horses in midstream. The conspiracy industry is galloping on, and we’re all cracking the whip.

AD Hutchings


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  1. Addenda to above – This article is a display of ignorance coming from a respected left wing outlet.
    No attempt to produce a balanced view therefor it is a very biased view. Which wouldn`t be so bad if you were right but clearly, you are NOT.
    Right now, Oxford University are carrying out a large trial on Ivermectin under the instruction of the World Health Organisation to test its validity. This is because the WHO have already concluded a preliminary trial and the result was sufficiently positive to take it further.
    Countries who do not have access to Vaccinations but have used Ivermectin have had great success. The WHO have records – go and check – it is called “Research.”