If you've seen or heard the word "Plandemic" the last few days, there's good reason. It's the title of a 26-minute video spreading wild conspiracy theories about the coronavirus that has been yanked by YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook. But the word keeps trending as believers find ways to share the video, and as both supporters and detractors discuss it. Coverage:
- Main player: The video features Judy Mikovits, and the Washington Post has an in-depth look at her history. The big item: She authored a study in Science in 2009 that purported to make a big discovery about chronic fatigue syndrome—that the mysterious disease is tied to a retrovirus in mice. But Science later retracted the study. Since then, Mikovits claims the scientific establishment, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, is out to get her.
- The video: It claims, among other things, that wearing masks is dangerous, that the coronavirus had to have been created in a lab, that the number of fatalities is being exaggerated, and that closing beaches is a bad idea because water has "healing microbes," reports the BBC. Mikovits also claims the disease is being deliberately spread to increase vaccination rates.
- Anti-vaxxers: NBC News describes Mikovits as a "prominent anti-vaccine advocate," while the Daily Beast doesn't go quite as far but says she is a "close associate of anti-vaccination activists." In the video, Mikovits denies being against vaccines, though she has co-written two books with anti-vax blogger Kent Heckenlively.
- Anti-Fauci: A new Mikovits-Heckenlively book that slams Fauci, Plague of Corruption, was No. 1 on the Amazon charts this week. The Post notes that "in the weeks before the 'Plandemic' trailer launch, she had been positioning herself as an expert and an anti-Fauci voice in interviews with conspiracy-hawking and far right-leaning websites like the Epoch Times and the Gateway Pundit." Dr. David Gorski, an oncologist who blogs about medical disinformation, tells the Daily Beast that "she’s basically latched onto the anti-Fauci stuff, and came up with this story that sounds really dubious."
- Arrest: After the retraction of her 2009 study, Mikovits was arrested and charged with stealing computer data and notebooks from the lab that fired her, the Whittemore Peterson Institute. Charges were eventually dropped, and Mikovits frames the incident in the video as a way the establishment has tried to silence her. A post at PennLive has more on the tangled background.
- Getting pulled: "Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm, so we're removing the video,” explained Facebook. Vimeo said "it stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information. The video in question has been removed … for violating these very policies." But celebs including Larry the Cable Guy, actress Kirstie Alley, comedian Darren Knight, and various MMA and NFL figures were among those pushing the video, per the Daily Beast and NBC.
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