Why James Delingpole, chronic lyme disease victim, is deserving of our sympathy

“I have discovered that I have a horrible degenerative disease!” journalist, pundit, executive editor of Breitbart UK and author James Delingpole announces to his brother in his latest podcast adding: “it’s the one you get when you have a tick bite.”

James goes on to explain that he has ‘chronic lyme disease’ and is one of the many victims of a silent epidemic that infects 300,000 people in the US every year and is ‘massive in Germany’ – much like David Hasselhoff in the late 1980s. The problem with lyme disease, as Delingpole explains it, is that it is very difficult to detect because the ‘tests they have at the moment are very ineffective’ and worse the NHS and indeed the entire global medical establishment are refusing to accept it even exists because if they did it would ‘open a can of worms.’

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James doesn’t like the NHS. He also doesn’t know how he got CLD – but the nature of the illness is that it can be spread through the air (via air born chlamydia) and as he spends a lot of time around horses and in the countryside he assumes he contracted it there, possibly years ago. James only managed to get his diagnosis after a visit to a lab in Germany which charged him £1,200 for the test and while he is very grateful to finally know what has been plaguing him all these years, it is only now that the real journey starts. The cost of treatment could be tens of thousands of pounds and clearly Breitbart doesn’t have the medical insurance to cover it (or more likely the medical insurers won’t pay out.) Delingpole has started a “Go Fund Me” page and since it was launched, kindly benefactors have sent him almost six thousand pounds of the £40k he hopes to get. In that post he also adds that if there’s ‘anything left over’ he will sort out his teeth and give his wife a ‘proper holiday.’

Delingpole’s CLD symptoms include: “brain fog, migraines, panic attacks, arthritis, crippling fatigue, insomnia, depression, shooting pains” and will be familiar to anyone who has watched the excellent Netflix series Afflicted which follows the experiences of a half dozen individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by chronic illnesses. Indeed, many of those patients end up with a ‘chronic lyme disease’ diagnosis.

Awareness of the illness has grown considerably in recent years, with celebrities including Shania Twain, Mark Ruffalo, Sharon Osborne and Matt Dawson, the rugby international, all claiming to have had it. In the UK there is an established community of sufferers, Facebook groups and even the obligatory website ‘Lyme Disease UK’

But here’s the thing. The general medical and expert consensus is that “chronic lyme disease” does not exist. It is a fake illness. Lyme disease, caused by a bacterial infection carried by some ticks does and if quickly identified can be treated with antibiotics but this is where the confusion sets in because many ‘CLD truthers’ and others call their illness ‘lyme disease’ which muddies the waters considerably. Treatment for this fake illness can be dished out at fake clinics, treated by fake Doctors who claim they can cure it with fake ‘experimental’ techniques and it can be very expensive indeed. In some cases it might even cost the patient their life since many of the symptoms of ‘CLD’ are the same as those associated with severe depression. Misdiagnosed as ‘Chronic Lyme’ some patients have tragically go on to take their own lives.

Fake science preys not only on the gullible – but on the desperate.

James Delingpole belongs to that group of right-wing pundits and writers that include the likes of Toby Young, Isabel Oakeshott and Rod Liddle and via Breitbart he bridges the gap between them and the broader hard right community including Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson).  He claims to have smoked weed with David Cameron at university and is a climate change sceptic and self-defined ‘libertarian.’ He is a familiar figure on twitter and in the UK media and in his columns and podcasts he has denounced the NHS, the poor and ‘the fake disabled.’ It would be very easy for me to launch (as I confess I did on twitter) into a lengthy denunciation of his hypocrisy, his gullibility and the nature of crank magnetism.

But I am not going to do that. Because having listened to him talking to his brother, having watched Afflicted and having read up around this fake illness it strikes me that James Delingpole may well need some help but not the help he is seeking. He may hate to have the sympathy of a ‘liberal’ but he has mine. Delingpole (and those kindly donating money to his fund) is a victim of an essentially wicked industry which has conned thousands of people into believing they have an illness which matches their symptoms, while their real problems go undiagnosed. That this pernicious and malignant quackery is allowed to persist in the 21st century frankly beggars belief – but then in a world where experts and evidence are so maligned perhaps it is only to be expected.

My advice to James is this – put your faith in the experts – get a proper diagnosis – and save the money for that holiday and dentistry.

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Wise words