Plandemic refers to a pair of 2020 conspiracy theory videos produced by conspiracist Mikki Willis which promote falsehoods and misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. They feature Judy Mikovits, a discredited former researcher who has been described as an anti-vaccine activist despite her denial, and many others.
The first video became viral, making it one of the most widespread pieces of COVID-19 misinformation. It was soon removed by multiple platforms. Meanwhile, the second video, Plandemic: Indoctornation, did not get as much attention. The videos were criticized by scientists and health professionals. Willis's response varies, from being silent to being supportive of Plandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The outbreak was declared an international health emergency in January 2020, and a pandemic in March. Since then, it has caused tens of millions to contract them; some recover, while others died. As a result, travel restrictions, social distancing measures, and many other measures have been taken to prevent spread of COVID-19, whilst many vaccine candidates are undergoing trials.
Like many medical topics, misinformation and conspiracy theories about the pandemic emerged, spread by all kinds of people, from regular citizens to notable politicians. Notable misinformation focuses on the scale of the pandemic, as well as the origin, prevention, diagnosis, and/or treatment of the disease. Some think that the virus is a bioweapon to either control the population, doing espionage, or being the effects of 5G networks. Some people have claimed magic or faith-based cures to the disease.
The word plandemic, a portmanteau of "plan" + "pandemic,"[α] is not a new term. It has been used since 2006 by Frank J. Cilluffo, a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council, among with The Sydney Morning Herald. It has also been used It has been used a lot since the pandemic, saying that it is the correct term because "it is all planned– like 9/11." Facebook anti-vaccine activist Larry Cook also called the pandemic a "plandemic," among with former deputy assistant secretary Gellin, and Khali Raymond at a Google Books book.
The first video, titled Plandemic: The Hidden Agenda Behind Covid-19, promotes the conspiracist claim that vaccines are "a money-making enterprise that causes medical harm". It takes the form of an interview between the producer, Mikki Willis, and Judy Mikovits, a discredited former research scientist, in which Mikovits makes numerous unsupported or false claims around coronavirus, and her own controversial history. Fact-checker PolitiFact highlighted eight false or misleading claims made in the video, including:
- That Mikovits was held in jail without charge. Mikovits was briefly held on remand after an accusation of theft from her former employer, the Whittemore Peterson Institute, but charges were dropped. There is no evidence to support her claim that notebooks removed from the Institute were "planted" or that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and its director Anthony Fauci bribed investigators. When asked, both Mikovits and Willis admitted that it was an error to say she had not been charged, and in fact she had meant to say that the charges were dropped, Mikovits saying that "I've been confused for a decade" and that in future she would try to be more clear when she talks about the criminal charge ("I'll try to learn to say it differently.").
- That the virus was manipulated. An article in Nature analyses the likely origins and finds that "Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus".
- That the virus occurred from SARS-1 within a decade, and this is inconsistent with natural causes. This is incorrect: SARS-CoV-2 is similar but not directly descended from SARS-CoV (SARS-1), with only 79% genetic similarity.
- That hospitals receive $13,000 from Medicare if they "call it COVID-19" when a patient dies. This claim, which had previously been made on The American Spectator and WorldNetDaily, was rated "half true" by PolitiFact and Snopes: payments are made, but the amount is open to dispute, and there is no evidence that this influences diagnosis, and in fact the evidence suggests that COVID-19 is, if anything, under-diagnosed.
- That hydroxychloroquine is "effective against these families of viruses". This claim originates with work by Didier Raoult, which has subsequently received a "statement of concern" from the editors of the journal in which it was published. The first randomized controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 found no evidence of benefit and some evidence of harm. The NIH says that there is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against this use. As of May 7, 2020, other bodies were running additional controlled trials to investigate hydroxychloroquine's safety and efficacy.:
- That flu vaccines increase the chance of contracting COVID-19 by 36%. This claim is false. The claim misinterprets a disputed article that studied the 2017—2018 influenza season, predating the COVID-19 pandemic. The claim that the flu vaccine increases the chance of contracting COVID-19 does not appear in the original article at all. The author (Greg G. Wolff) wrote that coronavirus cases increased from 5.8% (non-vaccinated) to 7.8% (vaccinated) with odds ratio of 1.36, with (1.14, 1.63) 95% confidence interval, and the article highlight said: "Vaccinated personnel did not have significant odds of respiratory illnesses." The article was referring to seasonal coronaviruses (common cold), but COVID-19 was added by the website disabledveterans.org.
- That "If you've ever had a flu vaccine, you were injected with coronaviruses". This has also been debunked, the flu shot contains no coronaviruses.
- That "Wearing the mask literally activates your own virus. You're getting sick from your own reactivated coronavirus expressions." This claim is unsupported by evidence. Masks prevent airborne transmission of the virus, especially during the asymptomatic period (up to 14 days), when carriers may not even be aware they have the disease; a virus may be de-activated, but cannot add to one's infection level if it leaves the body even temporarily.
- That Italy's COVID-19 epidemic has links with influenza vaccines and the presence of coronaviruses in dogs. There is no relation whatsoever between the three.
- That SARS-CoV-2 was created "between the North Carolina laboratories, Fort Detrick, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and the Wuhan laboratory." Science says that considering the relations between the US and the Wuhan lab has stopped, the claim is certainly false.
- That she is not anti-vaccine. Science proved otherwise, saying that she once wore a Vaxxed II merchandise, a sequel to a film promoting the claim that vaccines cause autism, as well as that she once sent a PowerPoint presentation to them calling for an "immediate moratorium" for "all vaccines."
- That the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) "colluded and destroyed" her reputation, and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did nothing but secreting it. Science responded with "Mikovits has presented no direct evidence that HHS heads colluded against her."
- That Mikovits's article on Science "revealed that the common use of animal and human fetal tissues was unleashing devastating plagues of chronic diseases," when the article does not reveal anything of the sort.
- That Mikovits's Ph.D. thesis Negative Regulation of HIV Expression in Monocytes "revolutionized the treatment of HIV/AIDS," when the thesis "had no discernible impact on the treatment of HIV/AIDS."
Mikovits also alludes to a number of conspiracy theories which claim Bill Gates is implicated in causing the pandemic in order to profit from an eventual vaccine, and makes false and unsupported claims that beaches should remain open, as "healing microbes in the saltwater" and "sequences" in the sand can "protect against the coronavirus". The video claims that the numbers of COVID-19 deaths are purposely being misreported in an effort to control people.
Willis claimed via the Ojai Valley News that "Because of [Mikovits'] direct connection with [those] involved with the pandemic, [...] I reached out to her for advice. We met, had a meeting, and what she revealed to me I knew the world needed to know.” He also said that shooting took a day, and editing took two weeks. He claimed that he halted continuation in editing a film he made in 2019, that "Plandemic was the priority." Initially, he is also unsure whether to make a continuation or not.
The video was released on May 4, 2020. It spreads virally on social media, garnering millions of views, making it one of the most widespread pieces of COVID-19 misinformation. The video was removed by multiple platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, and Twitter, because of its misleading content and promotion of false medical information. On TikTok, it continued to find popularity via clips excerpted from the full video, part of which were removed by the platform.
Scientists, medical doctors and public health experts condemned the film for promoting misinformation and "a hodgepodge of conspiracy theories". Physician and comedian Zubin Damania wrote in his commentary: "Don't waste your time watching it. Don't waste your time sharing it. Don't waste your time talking about it. I can’t believe I'm wasting my time doing this. But I just want to stop getting messages about it." Accelerated Urgent Care, whose discredited press conference statements by co-owners Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi were utilized in the video, released an official statement disagreeing with the video's agenda and claiming that the company never gave permission to Willis to utilize their video. Specialist disinformation reporter Marianna Spring, writing for BBC, worries that its "Slick production means videos often look quite credible initially - before promoting totally false claims. That makes them as dangerous - if not more so - than advice with a mix of truth and misleading medical myths."
- it "taps into people's uncertainty, anxiety and need for answers";
- it "is packaged very professionally and uses common conventions people already associate with factual documentaries"
- it effectively exploits various methods of persuasion, including the use of a seemingly trustworthy and sympathetic narrator, appeals to emotion, the Gish gallop, and "sciencey" images.
Zarine Kharazian, assistant editor of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, described the response to the removal of the video from Facebook and YouTube as a "censorship backfire", invoking the Streisand effect.
Mikki Willis' response
ProPublica health care reporter and investigative journalist Marshall Allen contacted Willis; Willis says that Plandemic "is not a piece that’s intended to be perfectly balanced." When asked whether the video would be suffice to be called a propaganda, which is "information [...] of a biased or misleading nature" as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, he opines that although he thinks there's no misinformation in the video, the definition fits. He also thinks that by the definition, "100% of news reporting [related to Plandemic] is propaganda."
The Center for Inquiry (CFI), Benjamin Radford and Paul Offit gave WIllis eight questions concerning the accuracy of the claims made in the video, either asking for evidences, clarification, or a general question such as "considering that bacteria don’t kill viruses, how would “healing microbes” reduce or treat coronavirus infection?" While Willis agreed to answer all of the questions, they have not received some kind of reply from him. The CFI reacted on their website: "If the claims made [...] in Plandemic are [factual], you’d think they would be eager to [prove it]. Where are their responses? Why are they suddenly so quiet? Why are they afraid to answer questions? What do they have to hide?
The 84-minute version, titled Plandemic: Indoctornation (the word "Doctor" being highlighted in the logo as an altering of the word indoctrination), was released on August 18, 2020. Willis says that the video is a "response video to all the debunkers," interviewing 7,000 doctors as well as attorneys, saying that his goal is to "reform our medical systems such that they’re not under the stranglehold of Big Pharma."
The argumentation presented in the video aims to demonstrate the existence of an worldwide conspiracy seeking to control the entire human population through fear and making money, the COVID-19 pandemic being a key moment in a plan that spans decades. Willis points to actors as various as Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control, Google and the fact-checking agencies it employs, Wikipedia, the Chinese government, and Bill Gates who somehow coordinate with each other.
The video's thesis is supported by a number of claims that have been discredited. Experts are satisfied that COVID-19 has not been engineered in a laboratory and a 2019 disaster response exercise could not have been a plan to release an actual virus into the population. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation still funds projects in India and cooperates with the Indian government on several initiative; it does not have technology allowing it to covertly implant an invisible proof of vaccination.
The video was released by an online distributor called London Real, who promotes several discredited theories about the COVID-19 pandemic. Because it was promoted in advance, social media platforms were able to prepare ahead of the release, whereas they usually scramble to react to misinformation already circulating on their networks. As part of their policy to counter disinformation about the pandemic, Facebook, Twitter and others took steps to limit the spread of the video as son as it was posted, affixing warnings to links users shared. YouTube removed from its service multiple copies of the video, as well as sixteen clips presenting specific sections. Facebook warned users when clicking the original video link, although no steps of blocking were taken. TikTok and Instagram blacklisted the link. Thus, Plandemic: Indoctornation is not as viral as expected.
London Real claimed it was seen 1.2 million times by the end of the first day, but the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab calls it "a total flop", with much lower levels of social media engagement than the shorter version. Because social media were forewarned during the viral season of the first video, the distribution of Plandemic: Indoctornation was more limited. The Daily Dot says that the only platform were it succeeded in were Facebook with 4,000 views, linking to the video on BitChute, with 40,000 views.
Observers said that the producers' initial claim of the first video being a trailer for a feature film were seemingly false, that while the second one picks up on some of the same themes and also features Mikovits, it is noted the most of the "trailer" isn't actually used in the feature-length film.
Jane Lytvynenko at BuzzFeed gave it "0 stars," saying that while the first video presents a protagonist (Mikovits) and a fairly clear narrative, Plandemic: Indoctornation lacks that focus. The video jumps from one topic to the next without establishing clearly how the various pieces of information presented relate to each other, the result being "bloated, confused, and filled with nonsense." Mikovits appears only to respond to criticism about elements of the first video. Mike Rothschild of The Daily Dot calls it "not as good."
Sinclair Broadcasting Group
In July 2020, Sinclair Broadcasting Group (SBG) scheduled to air an interview with Judy Mikovits and her lawyer Larry Klayman, conducted by Eric Bolling on the America This Week show. During the interview, Mikovits put forth a baseless claim that Fauci created COVID-19 and sent it to China. Bolling did not argue against Mikovits' allegation or fact-check it on-air, although he claimed that he had indeed argued against Mikovits by calling her allegation "hefty." SBG distributed the interview to its local stations, and also released the interview online, with an on-screen graphic of "Did Dr. Fauci create COVID-19?" After media reports regarding the interview emerged, SBG received substantial criticism, resulting in Sinclair delaying the television release of the interview by around a week.
|Look up plandemic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- COVID-19 vaccine
- Timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019
- Protests over responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
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