Mike Adams—the self-proclaimed “Health Ranger,” owner of the conspiracy-addled “health” website Natural News, and a frequent guest on Alex Jones’ InfoWars—churns out articles with admirable frequency; nearly as often, he creates a truly indelible turn of phrase. Natural News is a major hub in the conspiratorial universe, a place where disinformation often trickles from the fringe to the so-called mainstream, and a reliable heat check for what kinds of narratives are gaining traction. Which brings us to one of Adams’ most recent missives, in which he warned his readers, unforgettably: “Welcome to your police state future: You will eat crickets and drink pee on a floating prison barge.” But will we? Let’s dig in.
Point one: Will we eat crickets?
In his article, Adams warned, as he put it, that “the corrupt governments of the world are meticulously destroying domestic food supplies while cranking up cricket factories to mass produce billions of pounds of ground cricket meal to be used as “health food” for humans and pets.” (Emphasis very much his.)
For many years, experts in sustainable food systems have pointed out that eating insects, particularly crickets and grasshoppers, is probably a good idea. Bugs are a good source of protein, require less energy and resources to produce than meat does, and some of them are already a popular food item in many parts of the world, including countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Aspire was founded, Ashour told Motherboard, when he was in medical school; he and his cofounder entered a contest that was “encouraging entrepreneurs to think of ways to address global food security.”
And just as eating crickets is not new, neither is the hysteria over their consumption. Periodically, new rounds of outrage over purported future cricket-quaffing seizes the right, the far right, and the broader conspiracy universe. At first glance, this seems very stupid; at second glance, it also seems that way. Nonetheless, like many successful conspiracy theories, there’s a grain of truth here, surrounded by a luminescent pearl of bullshit.
Adams linked to an article in the Westphalian Times, a conspiratorial news source focusing mainly on Canadian and U.S. news. The article reported, in a fairly straightforward way, that the Canadian government is investing $8.5 million in an insect production facility in London, Ontario. This is true; the Canadian agriculture department announced the investment in a press release at the end of June. The company it’s funding is called Aspire, a cricket protein farming company founded in 2014, with offices in Austin, Texas and a new commercial production facility in London. The one thing here that goes more or less unmentioned in both Natural News and the Westphalian Times, is that Aspire does not currently produce cricket food for people, its CEO and co-founder Mohammed Ashour told Motherboard.
“We’ve more or less moved ourselves out of marketing crickets for human consumption and the majority of our focus is pet food,” he said in a phone call this week. The reason for that is that while he believes passionately that crickets could be a sustainable food source for even more people across the globe, in the U.S and Canada, there is still, Ashour acknowledged delicately, “a bit of an ick factor.” Whatever the merits, many people—me, for instance; I shall not be eating the crickets—are not yet ready to make the leap, a fact which Ashour accepts philosophically.
“It took time for people to eat raw fish and sushi,” he said. “It’s not going to happen in one or two or three years. It’s a progressive process.”
While Ashour insists that “the traction in the human food market is real and is growing,” he explained, “it’s not large enough to justify a huge commercial scale production facility, which is what we’d need to have to have the economies of scale that allow us to break the cost barrier. But we found that the pet food market is very much in high demand for this product, at significant volumes. So we saw that it would be a stepping stone for our ultimate destination.”
The central issue with insects, besides the obvious, is that they’re difficult to produce year round, Ashour said. In Oaxaca, where chapulines, a certain kind of grasshopper, are regularly eaten, “a kilogram is more expensive than a kilogram of beef, chicken and pork combined. It’s a delicacy of the wealthy because of the labor and cost and seasonality.”
As Mark Hay pointed out in the Daily Beast last year, the latest round of conspiratorial bug hysteria focuses on the idea that global elites are plotting to force the rest of us to eat crickets while they hoard steak for themselves—a crunchy, snack-based arm of the broader Great Reset. Paul Joseph Watson, the Britishest of the InfoWars hosts, wrote, for instance, that the Great Reset would entail “a drastic reduction in living standards for the plebs, which will force them to put bugs, weeds, and sewage on the menu while the Davos elites continue to feast on the finest cuisine.”
Adams, the Health Ranger, took it a step further with his memorable recent broadside, claiming it was part of a broader push to execute most of humankind: “Anyone who defies the globalist agenda to exterminate humanity will be arrested, rounded up and either exterminated in a soylent green plant or incarcerated by the corrupt regime,” he wrote, inimitably.
Ashour and Aspire are extremely aware of the fact that they have been incorporated into the conspiracy universe, because they get emails about it. Emails, and Google reviews, and the occasional visit to Aspire’s factory in Ontario. Ashour first became aware that he was becoming a character in the broader cricket paranoia sphere when he was sent an article about Aspire in Western Journal, the far-right website; it referred to him as “Egypt-born,” which he is not, and which he recognized as not a neutral descriptor. (The Western Journal article also referred to another current conspiracy theory, that the global elites are purposely decimating our food systems to incite mass starvation, writing, “We mysteriously losing one farm, factory or food processing plant after another to strange and destructive mishaps lately, but now we’ve also gained a brand-new facility that is making food out of insects.”)
“That was the first major spike in negative traffic in terms of inbound emails, negative reviews,” Ashour said. The company’s Google reviews have been “decimated,” he said, a fact borne out by a 10-second look at them. (“Climate hoax psych0paths that want us to eat insects, worms, live in 400sf homes, not fly and not drive, “ write one reviewer, Kitty T., “while they themselves eat kobe beef, live in oceanfront mansions and fly in private jets and yachts.”)
The cricket hostility has also been taken up by politicians and media figures. Dr. Leslyn Lewis, a Conservative member of the House of Commons, wrote a blog post declaring, “Governments shouldn’t be interfering in how we farm. Bugs are not beef. Let’s stand up for farmers and protect our food security.” (There is no evidence that the Canadian government thinks bugs are beef.)
And then, recently, Rebel Media, the far-right Canadian news outlet, showed up; Ashour said two men arrived at the London factory, one shooting on an iPhone and the other “wearing a cowboy hat and talking loudly.” He made the strategic decision to bring them inside and show them into a conference room, granting an interview out of a basic desire to show, as he put it, that “none of this is remotely disguised or hidden from plain sight.”
In a joint statement, Health Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (the country’s health and agriculture departments, obviously) told Motherboard that the country is “not specifically researching the use of crickets as a source of protein,” and that Canadians are, as they put it, “free to consume foods of their choice.” Their statement reads, in full:
“Health Canada is not specifically researching the use of crickets as a source of protein. While the Government makes recommendations as outlined in Canada’s Food Guide, Canadians are free to consume the foods of their choice.
For the development of dietary advice, Health Canada considers scientific reports that include extensive systematic reviews of the literature on food, nutrients and health, as well as national survey data on what Canadians are eating.
In addition, all foods sold in Canada must be safe. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that its products comply with the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and its Regulations. While many insect species have a global history of safe food use, such as crickets, some insect products may be considered novel foods as defined under the Food and Drug Regulations. Health Canada issued an advisory for people with crustacean allergies in August of 2021 warning that they could have allergic reactions if they eat edible insects like crickets.”
Point two: While drinking pee?
Adams is concerned that we’ll wash down our crickets with sparkling urine, writing, “As the water runs out in Lake Mead and most of the Western United States, wastewater recycling will leap into a whole new phase where people are forced to drink recycled urine if they hope to have drinking water. The water that’s removed from biosludge processing — teeming with viruses, birth control chemicals, pesticides and medications — will be filtered and repackaged as “drinking water’ for the masses.” (Emphasis, again, unforgettably his own.)
Conspiracy theories about wastewater recycling are less common than those about crickets, possibly because the steps involved are too boring and complicated for anyone but the most dedicated conspiracypeddler to really grab hold of. (Usually conspiracy theories are relegated to what governments are supposedly putting in the water; see, for instance, the decades-old claim that fluoride is added to water as a form of mind control.)
It’s absolutely true that water levels in Lake Mead are at historic lows—a situation which, it was predicted, would turn up any number of long-sunk dead bodies. The prediction has come grimly true, and some of our nation’s more out-there QAnon figures have tried to turn the situation into proof of widespread human sacrifice; one recently wrote on Telegram that the remains were “noteworthy considering the recent explosion at the Hoover Dam, and the occult symbolism at the dam.” That hasn’t caught on, in part because it seems more likely that some of the bodies found were put there by the Mob, back in its violent Vegas heyday.
In any case, the idea that we will be able to effectively recycle enough wastewater for all of the imprisoned masses to wash down their crickets with is unusually optimistic for Adams. In reality, such a possibility is both desperately needed and a long way off. Some municipalities in California are recycling wastewater, a massively complicated enterprise that produces eminently drinkable, thrice-filtered water. Even more of the United States can and should consider these types of programs, but progress has been stymied by the unforgettable, uh, flavor of the phrase “toilet to tap,” which has been coined to describe this process. Like crickets, it takes people a little while to get over.
Adams correct that we all could, one day, God willing, be drinking more recycled water that may, at one point, have contained some pee. By the time it reached your lips (again), though, it wouldn’t contain any pee. In Sweden, a university pilot program is figuring out how to collect urine from waterless portable toilets and convert it into “concrete-like chunks,” as Nature puts it, which would ultimately be made into fertilizer, which would be used to grow barley, to be made into beer, which, famously, makes you pee a lot. The symmetry is pleasing, but it still does not meet Adams’ stated standard of drinking pee.
Not to worry: For those who are really determined to drink someone’s pee, it’s still possible to get it straight from the tap, as it were, a setup that would really be nobody’s business but your own.
Point three: On a floating prison barge, though?
Adams writes that a “a massive prison barge is currently floating in the East River of South Bronx, near NYC.” (The Bronx is, not to be a pedantic dick here, literally part of New York City.) The barge, Adams continues, “holds 800 prisoners who are being subjected to chemical assaults, vaccine medical experiments, ‘enhanced restraints’ and other forms of illegal torture and incarceration.”
Adams is absolutely correct that the East River is home to a sprawling prison barge; what he fails to note is that it’s been there for about 30 years, in plain sight, the subject of a great deal of public outrage. The Vernon C. Bain Center opened in 1992 and was described as a temporary solution to prison overcrowding, which happened as a proximate cause of the crack epidemic. “The Boat,” as the jail is referred to, will supposedly be closed as part of New York’s glacially slow plan to shut down Rikers Island, New York’s massive and shameful prison complex. Plans to shut down Rikers are now officially delayed until 2027, and, a cynic would suspect, far longer than that. In 2015, a VICE journalist write about the dark comedy of trying to reach The Boat to post bail,
While The Boat is certainly an outrage, there’s no evidence that it’s the site of any innovative wastewater treatment or insect-farming programs. In an incredibly elegant bit of irony, however, a firm called Jacobs Civil Consultants won a bid this year to study the feasibility of Rikers as a wastewater treatment facility. The proposed facility is not expected to product potable water, according to a report from ENRNew York, but rather “fertilizer, non-potable water and renewable energy,” all of which would be better than the international embarrassment it’s currently being used for. None of that would impact The Boat, however, which activists say should simply be sunk.
So, will we all drink pee and eat crickets in a floating prison barge?
It’s entirely possible that some unlucky New Yorkers will find themselves on a floating prison barge. Others of us may find ourselves sampling a cricket or a sip of treated wastewater. It is profoundly unlikely, however, that any of us will wind up doing all three of those things at the same time—unless, of course, Canada elects to open a floating prison vessel for extremely bad pets, fed with Aspire-sourced cricket-based pet food, and hydrated with the recycled pee of many Canadians. In the meantime, with a flair for imaginary victimhood, Rebel Media has begun circulating a ridiculous petition against eating bugs, a thing nobody is making them do.
Ashour sees Aspire and the broader cricket industry at the center of a confluence of forces: farmers who feel beleaguered and unfairly blamed for climate change; a sector of the populace who greet any new initiative by the government with suspicion; and, of course, the whole broader, conspiracy-driven freakout about eating insects. While Aspire continues to monitor any threats to the safety of their employees, he said, they’re also going to continue about their business, under increasingly surreal circumstances.
“It’s definitely—it’s a new development,” he said, of the conspiracy hordes massing at his literal and metaphoric gates. “It’s not something I expected or anticipated. I generally believe that what we’re doing has the potential to change the world in an incredibly positive way.”
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