Psst, wanna know what really happened to Aajonus Vonderplanitz, the raw-food guru who was reported to have died in a fall from the deck of his home in Thailand in 2013?
One of his raw food devotees, Richard Huynh, is trying to make the case that Vonderplanitz faked his death, and that he has been living secretly in the Philippines the last six-plus years.
On a private Facebook page devoted to keeping alive “The Primal Diet of Aajonus Vonderplanitz,” he posted a link to a video interview with two people very close to Vonderplanitz, a Venice, CA, friend, Larry Otting, and a Thai woman friend known as Wasma. The two seem to confirm that Vonderplanitz died from injuries he suffered in a fall from the deck of his house in Thailand, which I reported six years earlier. No matter.
Here is the commentary on the video from Huynh:
“As a recent primal dieter, I went to examine what really happened 6 years ago.
“Here I will give timestamps and quote the interview as well as write my thoughts in parenthesis as to why I think it’s a story and why I think AV faked his death.
“Please watch the video along with the timestamps to see what I mean
- Lucky (Larry Otting) and Wasma are laughing and smiling a lot in the video, especially around AV’s death, corpse and ashes -> red flags
- Lucky, Wasma describe how weak the fencing is, the way they describe it and the conversation going forward seems like they are trying to convince you that he really died
- Lucky, Wasma and interviewer (Paul K.) are in on the secret.”
Huynh then goes on to identify about a dozen places where Otting and Was either smile at each other or otherwise seem insufficiently bothered about what happened, to begin to make his case, at the end noting:
“(Look at how they word it, saying how if AV was still alive, he would be loud, trying very hard to convince you he’s really dead)“
“(At the end)
“Interviewer: “So it makes 0 sense that he just had enough of us all and that he hide some place”
“(now I know for sure the interviewer is in on it)”
For the record, a few weeks after Vonderplanitz died, I heard from a couple of people who knew him well, telling me about “sightings” of Vonderplanitz at Los Angeles area farmers markets. He looked as if he had had extensive plastic surgery, according to these reports, but his walk and build were recognizable by the people who saw him. The man walked quickly away when these people approached him.
Those reports prompted me to call Larry Otting, the close friend of Vonderplanitz. He told me at the time of Vonderplanitz’s reported death that he (Otting) had flown to Thailand to identify the body and make the burial arrangements. I told Otting I was hearing reports that Vonderplanitz might not be dead.
Vonderplanitz was a great creator of conspiracy theories around himself, based on his advocating for raw milk. In his tales, he was kidnapped by agents from the dairy industry and injected with poison (that he miraculously survived) and run off the road in Thailand by mysterious agents (and again miraculously survived), among various stories.
Otting knew the stories well, but was having none of it with regard to Vonderplanitz’s passing. “He’s dead,” Otting told me six years ago, dead serious. “I saw his body with my own eyes.”
This new conspiracy theory about Vonderplanitz brings to mind a whole series of far-out explanations emanating from the foodie movement, beginning in 2005, when I began writing about the movement for raw milk. It was that year, just as raw dairy was gaining in national popularity, that some 18 people became ill from drinking raw milk produced at Dee Creek Farm in Washington state. Some, including several children, became so sick they had to be hospitalized because of complications that included kidney failure.
There were a number of seemingly reasonable explanations put forth in both the raw milk and regulatory communities to explain the outbreak from the especially dangerous E.coliO157:H7 pathogen—the family that ran the farm was new to farming and to the challenges of producing safe raw milk, there had been heavy rains for weeks leading to muddy fields around the Dee Creek barn that made it nearly impossible to maintain sanitary conditions, and there wasn’t any regular ongoing pathogen testing at the farm.
For the Weston A. Price Foundation, which had encouraged the family that owned Dee Creek to organize a herd-sharing arrangement to distribute milk, none of the obvious explanations for the outbreak mattered. There was almost certainly some deviousness to explain the outbreak, speculated Sally Fallon Morell, WAPF’s founder and president, on the organization’s web site a few months later (and still there): there had been a suspicious car parked outside the farm’s barn in the days before the outbreak; there were other E.coli O157:H7 outbreaks in the state at the same time; perhaps due to bad water; or even “genetically engineered soy, created by using fragments of E. coli micro-organisms as a vector for gene insertion, fragments which can mutate easily and which find the perfect environment for proliferation in the acidic guts of grain-fed confinement cows.”
In other words, government shenanigans were conspiring to blame raw milk for an outbreak of serious illnesses that had to have other causes. When other outbreaks of illnesses from pathogens in raw milk sprang up over subsequent years, Fallon-Morell invariably brushed off the possibility that raw milk was the source of the illnesses. Tainted well water or corrupt public health inspectors were likelier causes—not the raw milk.
The fact that overly aggressive state and federal regulators came down harshly on raw milk farmers and users definitely gave some measure of credibility to Fallon-Morell, and likely sowed confusion among WAPF adherents for a number of years. It wasn’t until the fermented cod liver oil scandal of a few years ago, with any number of WAPF adherents becoming ill, that the conspiracy theories began developing holes. When people very committed to WAPF, like Ron Schmid and Kaayla Daniel, began questioning the safety of FCLO, Fallon-Morell branded them troublemakers. Daniel was voted off the WAPF board. As I described the snowballing problems on this blog, I was included as one of “three amigos,” with Fallon-Morell going so far as threatening to excommunicate from WAPF chapters guilty of the crime of quoting from my blog.
Never did Fallon-Morell or any other WAPF officials offer even a hint of concern about people getting sick, either from raw milk or from FCLO (aside from suggesting that some may have become ill because they took more FCLO than recommended). Those expressing concern about FCLO were always seen as driven by questionable motives, while Fallon-Morell’s motives were always pure. The disdain for nonbelievers continues to this day, even as a disturbing number of people closely affiliated with WAPF who were regular users of FCLO have become sick and even died over recent years.
In the current political climate, all these conspiracy theories take on a familiar ring. Since Donald Trump burst on the political scene, it’s been one conspiracy theory after another to foment trouble and cover for misbehavior.
It all started back in 2011, when Trump publicly encouraged his theory that Barack Obama was born outside the U.S., and thus not qualified to be president. It was pure delusion, and Trump eventually gave it up, in 2018, but without any apology. Crazy as it was, the birther thing got him enough political attention that he was able to launch his presidential candidacy.
I guess he figured if it worked once….. Again and again, he’s resorted to the delusion of conspiracy theories. There was the one about voter fraud in the 2016 election, which presumably accounted in his mind for the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than two million votes. He even put together a commission to investigate the supposed fraud, which fell apart when the evidence didn’t materialize. There were also the theories about Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails and about the Clinton Foundation’s misbehavior. With Trump controlling the U.S. Justice Department, he could investigate to his heart’s content, yet none of it has resulted in any substantive legal action.
He always seems to find conspiracy on the part of those investigating his questionable behavior; for example, he launched a major investigation of the FBI and its initial investigation of the Trump campaign’s Russian connections; the results are due in a week or so, but initial reports are that while there may have been some procedural errors, there was no hanky panky by highers up.
Lately, during the House impeachment hearings, we’ve been learning about yet additional conspiracy theories that apparently drove Trump to withhold aid voted by Congress for Ukraine. The most prominent one is that it was the Ukraine, not Russia, that sabotaged the 2016 American election by hacking the Democratic party’s emails, despite massive evidence, and court indictments and convictions, linking the hacking to Russia.
Once the Ukraine conspiracy is eventually put to rest, and the Rudy Giuliani capers come to nothing (except perhaps indictments of Giuliani), you can be sure Trump and company will have moved on to yet another conspiracy theory, and another, and another.
The part I don’t fully understand is why some large numbers of people, in both the food rights movement and among Trump followers, never seem to tire of the fantasy world explanations. Maybe I shouldn’t be puzzled. Conspiracy theories have been a staple of authoritarian regimes for a long time, whether from Adolph Hitler or Josef Stalin in the 1930s or Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt (“My favorite dictator,” says Trump) or Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey (hard to imagine how more than 45,000 people could have plotted a coup against the guy, though that’s how many have been arrested since 2016).
The only thing I can figure is that delusion is like a seductive and powerful drug, so powerful it can divert lots of seemingly normal and rational people from the reality of what is going on around them and right in front of them. There is no other reason I can think of to explain why people continue to believe in stories that always turn out to be wrong.