How the ‘Plandemic’ conspiracy theory took hold

May 23, 2020 at 04:00PM

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.

The video went online on 4 May when its maker, Mikki Willis, a hitherto little-known film producer, posted it to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and a separate website set up to share the video. For three days it built up a head of steam on Facebook pages dedicated to conspiracy theories, many of which linked to the video on YouTube. By 11 May it had been viewed more than 8m times on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and had generated countless other posts on websites and social media. Later that day YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook took down the video, and in theory it disappeared from the internet – only of course it hadn’t, in the time-honoured way of subversive material in the networked world. The cognitive pathogen had escaped into the wild and was spreading virally.

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