U.S. Senate candidate Stan Jones learned the hard way that extreme-right prescriptions can have some very unpleasant side effects.
Most of the folks who gathered in late September for a U.S. Senate debate in Great Falls, Mont., expected to focus on what the Republican and Democratic candidates had to say. After all, the Libertarian in the race, antigovernment stalwart Stan Jones, had managed only 2% of the vote in a 2000 run for governor and was faring no better in the polls this time around.
So why was every eye in the house staring at Jones? They couldn't help it. Clearly, something awful had happened to the white-haired Air Force retiree. Something that had made him blue — literally.
Since Jones' previous run for office, his skin had turned a spectral shade of grayish blue. In the debate audience, reported Tom Kotynski of the Great Falls Tribune, everyone was "wondering aloud" about Jones' health. For his part, Kotynski "wondered if his circulation might have been cut off and feared he might have a heart attack right there."
Never fear. Jones was not dying on stage, or suffering from a particularly nasty case of nerves. Instead, he was showing the all-too-visible aftereffects of a serious case of panic.
In the late 1990s, Jones attended one of scores of "Preparedness Expos" that attracted antigovernment "Patriots" and others who feared millennial meltdown when the clock struck 2000.
Among the sellers hawking portable water purifiers, freeze-dried foods, sun ovens and Israeli gas masks, Jones watched a demonstration on how to make your own colloidal silver, touted by some alternative-health types as "the universal antibiotic."
Concerned that the impending Y2K crisis would dangerously reduce supplies of antibiotics, Jones went home and started brewing his own. He electrically charged a couple of silver wires in a glass of water, then mixed the resulting particles into a daily dose of drinking water — and started to notice the benefits right away.
"It cured my psoriasis," he told the Intelligence Report.
Jones was hardly alone in his colloidal silver habit. Ads for colloidal silver became a staple of both Preparedness Expos and Patriot publications in the late 90's — one of dozens of "remedies," including such eyebrow-raising cancer treatments as blueberry enemas, that radical right ideologues insist are being secretly held back by a heartless and nefarious federal government.
According to Dr. Stephen Barrett, who dissects colloidal silver myths on his Web site, www.quackwatch.com, antigovernment Patriot magazines and fairs are rife with "quacky things." The quacks made especially wild claims for colloidal silver's efficacy — "effective against more than 650 diseases," "Dusty, my dog, is alive today because of it!" — but made no mention of any side effects. One ad in The American's Bulletin even went so far as to declare that colloidal silver has "NO side effects."
But its main side effect — argyria, a condition that permanently turns skin bluish-gray — has been widely known in medical circles since the early 20th century. Most doctors stopped prescribing silver-containing health products in the 1920s after silver nose drops caused an outbreak of cadaverous skin.
Jones' own outbreak became obvious last year.
"I'm looking at myself in the mirror shaving every morning, and you don't notice something gradual," he says. "But then people started asking, 'Hey — you feeling OK? You look kind of pale.' And you start to realize something's wrong. My Paul Newman face was no longer so attractive."
For Jones, there's been more good news than ill since his blue skin went public at the September debate. Sure, the "Papa Smurf for Senate" jokes are bound to get annoying. But for a Libertarian running a shoestring campaign, any publicity is welcome.
"It's been for the wrong reasons," Jones says, "but at least I have a flash in the pan right now."
Jones, who joined the Libertarians after Ronald Reagan's presidency proved "too liberal," is not about to let a little thing like blue skin color his laissez-faire principles. After all, this is a man who, while announcing his candidacy last spring, proudly told reporters that he had not paid federal income taxes for three years. A man who promised, if elected, to issue pardons to all Montanans cited for hunting or fishing without a license.
Though he no longer takes his daily dose of colloidal silver, Stan Jones blames no one but himself for his condition.
"There's tons of research that proves it's very effective," he insists gamely. "My problem was that I didn't study it well enough to make it properly."