How the 'Plandemic' conspiracy theory took hold

Guardian Technology 23 May 2020 03:00
Dr Judy Mikovits, who appears in Plandemic, in 2011. Photograph: David Calvert/AP

To have one viral sensation, Oscar Wilde might have said, is unfortunate. But to have two smacks of carelessness. And that’s what we have. The first is Covid-19, about which much printer’s ink has already been spilled. The second is Plandemic, a 26-minute “documentary” video featuring Dr Judy Mikovits, a former research scientist and inveterate conspiracy theorist who blames the coronavirus outbreak on big pharma, Bill Gates and the World Health Organization. She also claims that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (which is headed by Dr Anthony Fauci) buried her research showing vaccines weaken people’s immune systems and made them more vulnerable to Covid-19. Just to round off the accusations, Mikovits claims that wearing masks is dangerous because it “literally activates your own virus”. And, if proof were needed that the pharma-Gates-scientific-elite cabal were out to get her, the leading journal Science in 2011 retracted a paper by her on a supposed link between a retrovirus and chronic fatigue syndrome that it had accepted in 2009.

As it did so, a number of journalists and network scientists began to map the route by which this niche obsession made it into the big time. A New York Times team traced it back to a Facebook page dedicated to QAnon, a rightwing conspiracy theory, which has 25,000 members, headed with the clickbait injunction “Exclusive Content, Must Watch”. The video went from being viewed directly on YouTube to people linking out to it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels, with each link increasing the possibility that it would make the next big jump.

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