Canadian Anti-Hate Network
A free 12-page newsprint monthly has gone from the work of one motivated publisher to a national source of vaccine denial and modern conspiracy theories.
Started in 2020 by Shawn Jason Laplante, Druthers was another project in the toolbelt of the handyman and carpenter. Two years into its run, the magazine has been a consistent source of conspiratorial news and a platform for doctors of a consistent medical bent: anti-vaccine positions.
Over the past 12 months, four individuals bearing the qualifications of “Dr.” ahead of their names have adorned the upper fold of the newspaper’s front page.
Dr. Vernon Coleman’s byline graces the cover alongside an article with the headline “Our Children Are Being Destroyed,” above a photo of a masked blonde child weeping while staring straight out of the page. Coleman uses the article to compare child labour practices to public health measures adding that we are all living through a “deliberately staged global panic.”
Before COVID, Coleman garnered attention by using his medical credentials to suggest AIDS did not exist – claiming instead the condition was, in part, a plot to fuel the “huge AIDS industry.”
Another esteemed medical professional to take page one is Joseph Mercola. Mercola is an osteopath based in Florida, and someone The New York Times called “The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online.”
Far beyond simply spreading questionable claims, the online influencer has seen his article translated into multiple languages, employs a staff and has been smearing the collective discourse doorknob with claims about vaccines altering genetic coding since the pandemic’s outset.
Mercola appears as the first name, ahead of even Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in a list of the “disinformation dozen,” frequent creators of medical disinformation identified by Center For Countering Digital Hate. Despite frequent reporting on the claims, Mercola has around 3.6 million followers across multiple social media platforms.
Other front page doctors include Mark Yeadon, a former researcher with Pfizer who has made numerous unsubstantiated claims, including that the United Kingdom would experience no second wave. Another is an Ontario doctor, Mark Trozzi, who was suspended, along with several other practitioners from granting exemptions for the COVID vaccine, masking requirements, and testing.
Trozzi’s most recent article, which took up the front page of the November issue alongside a picture of 80 allegedly “vaxxed and dead” doctors, which he claimed died despite being part of the “criminal injection campaign.”
“Here is a recent compilation of Canada’s growing number of injected and lost medical doctors (currently 80). Our condolences go to the family’s [sic] of the lost Canadian physicians whose names and faces appear,” he wrote.
A simple look at some of these individuals shows no known connection to the vaccine in their tragic passing. Some died from explained previous illnesses, for others the cause of death was not released publically. One of the named and pictured individuals died in a car crash in Ireland.
The only qualification to be on this list is to have been a medical doctor who unfortunately died.
Vaccines seem to be the central issue driving much of Druther’s coverage, though it is certainly not the only topic. Casting a wide net, the paper uses its page space to promote a number of conspiracy theory-laden websites. These run the gamut from Vaccine Choice Canada – whose president Ted Kuntz has articles regularly featured in Druthers – denial of global warming, and no shortage of allegations of collusion between nations and the World Economic Forum.
Boasting what can only be described as impressive distribution numbers for each issue, the paper that began in Laplante’s garage now appears at protests and in stacks at sympathetic (and sometimes unwitting) locations across the country.
Two Years Running
“10 cents. A dime. That's all it costs us to print a 12 page newspaper filled with honest news and information and plant them in the hands of people all across Canada,” reads the Druthers’ website. “How many dimes would you spend if those dimes helped wake up more Canadians?”
Now publishing for two years, Druthers promises to report on news the mainstream media refuses to touch. A number of prominent figures from COVID-conspiracy theory protests, anti-vaccination groups, and more have bylines, but it is not clear if all are aware that their words are appearing in the publication. One individual, Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament Roman Baber, appeared in the publication, completely unaware that a portion of his newsletter was copied and pasted into the pages of a March 2021 edition.
“I didn't author, knew of, authorize or agree to the byline published by Druthers in its March print edition,” Baber wrote on social media in response to someone asking about his appearance in the paper.
He included a screenshot that appears to be from the same page as the article in Druthers that had the text attributed to him removed, and replaced with an apology.
“The removed piece was from a newsletter Mr. Baber sent out to his mailing list. We decided to print it to help bring more attention to his [Lift The Lockdowns] campaign.”
The bylined text with Baber’s name, without additional notes about its origins or authorship, still lives on Druthers’ website in the PDF version of the same edition.
Laplante indicated he would be willing to respond to questions when reached for comment by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, but has not responded since. If a reply is received after publication, we will update the article.
“December will be our 24rd [sic] issue. We started in December 2020 with 25,000 copies and in just 24 months, because of all your love, support and donations, we have printed and given away nearly six million newspapers to people all across Canada.”
On each backup of the digital editions, the alleged number of copies distributed is listed below. Most reach into the hundreds of thousands. The size and the breadth of the network in a country like Canada is attributed by Laplante to the generosity of donors and hard work of volunteers.
“We’re able to do it so cheaply because people are helping out,” he told one interviewer. “We send skids across the province, and to our hubs, and people flock to these hubs to get their bundles and go into their communities and give out these papers.”
Druthers appears to be Laplante’s first venture into publishing. Previous projects from the man in his 40s include the endearing “I Love You, Pass It On” campaign. This project consisted of distributing hugs rather than papers and the organization sold merchandise through two associated websites.
Some of the remaining stock of t-shirts are available for purchase on the Druthers website, but Laplante wrote he was looking to move onto more “aggressive activism” while searching for someone to take over the ILYPITO brand. It does not appear that he ever did.
Online, Canadians report receiving copies of Druthers through editions tucked under windshield wipers, in stacks at ferry terminals, within other newspapers, and in their mailboxes – though Druthers encourages its volunteers not to leave the papers in people’s mail unsolicited.
Laplante is careful to say he does not fully agree with some of the individuals and organizations he highlights, however, during a November 8 interview on Christopher James Pritchard’s live stream, the Druthers publisher said he was a fan of Pritchard’s work.
“I’m really happy to be here,” he said sitting in what appears to be Pritchard’s home office. “I can’t believe I’m finally meeting you.”
Pritchard is a live streamer who promotes and proselytizes his own brand of the very broad Sovereign Citizen ideology. His recent work includes promoting Marcus Anthony Ray’s vague and aborted plan to occupy a courthouse or attempting to represent an OPP officer facing disciplinary action.
The URL for Pritchard’s website has appeared in Druthers since the second edition.
“I’ve been watching you a long time, since before even Druthers,” Laplante told the host at the end of the interview. “I really appreciate what I see teaching and sharing and exploring. I appreciate you, keep going. Keep going.”