YANSS 262 – The drives and motivations of those who sell modern snake oils and engage in age-old quackery

At the peak of COVID-19, Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling set out to write a book about the widespread pushback against masks and vaccines as away to discuss the rise of the medical freedom movement in America. But after meeting a series of people within that movement his efforts took a sharp turn into the motivations, tribulations, and personal lives of the people who sell miracle cures and dietary supplements, skirting the law when they can, and heading to jail when they can’t. The book is titled, If It Sounds Like a Quack, and it is a deep dive into the marketplace of snake oils and magical procedures sold by people who each claim to have found the one true cure for any and everything that could ever ail you. 

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A Pulitzer Prize finalist’s bizarre journalistic journey through the world of fringe medicine, filled with leeches, baking soda IVs, and, according to at least one person, zombies.

It’s no secret that American health care has become too costly and politicized to help everyone. So where do you turn if you can’t afford doctors, or don’t trust them? In this book, Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling examines the growing universe of non-traditional treatments — including some that are really non-traditional.

With costs skyrocketing and anti-science sentiment spreading, the so-called “medical freedom” movement has grown. Now it faces its greatest challenge: going mainstream. In these pages you’ll meet medical freedom advocates including an international leech smuggler, a gold miner-turned health drink salesman who may or may not be from the Andromeda galaxy, and a man who says he can turn people into zombies with aerosol spray. One by one, these alternative healers find customers, then expand and influence, always seeking the one thing that would take their businesses to the next level–the support and approval of the government.

Should the government dictate what is medicine and what isn’t? Can we have public health when disagreements over science are this profound? No, seriously, can you turn people into flesh-eating zombies? If It Sounds Like a Quack asks these critical questions while telling the story of how we got to this improbable moment, and wondering where we go from here. Buckle up for a bumpy ride…unless you’re against seatbelts.

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling is a George Polk Award–winning journalist and author of A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear and If It Sounds Like a Quack.

In Matt’s words, he could be described chronologically as a “stockboy to server to business owner to poker player to cabbie to social worker to Pulitzer finalist & award-winning journalist.”

As an international journalist driven by narrative features and investigative work, he has ranged from Maine’s stately Governor’s Mansion to the mud hut of a witch doctor in Sierra Leone. When he writes, my goal is to immerse the reader into the subject’s world while telling a story with nuance and meaning. Matt enjoys enjoy finding unexplored topics, and bringing fresh perspective to existing topics.

My first book was published in September of 2020. It features the strange-but-true story of Grafton, NH, a small town that became the nexus of a collision between bears, libertarians, guns, doughnuts, parasites, firecrackers, taxes and an angry llama.

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