By now, you’ve probably all had it happen. A well-meaning pal popped you a link via text or social media DM and stated simply “Interesting” or “Whaddya think?” Or maybe a more vocal acquaintance went the bold route, sharing Plandemic proudly on their social media feed stating, “We’re being lied to!” or calling those against ending lockdown too soon,or taking COVID-19 seriously, “sheeple.” If you pride yourself as being open-minded you probably clicked the link, and saw that it was broken because YouTube or Vimeo took the 26 minute movie down (due to copyright issues and dangerous, slanderous content), which of course only strengthened arguments that “they don’t want us to know the truth.”

The truth? According to Plandemic — which is the first part of a full-length project to release this summer and, which by the way, is easy and free to watch via its own website and always has been — the coronavirus is not an organically occurring disease but a lab-created one that was made on purpose to control us and to make money for evil, patent-hoarding mad scientists, the most wicked of which is none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci.

There’s a lot more too. The clip, which is mostly just a one-on-one interview by filmmaker Mikki Willis with former Fauci collegue Dr. Judy Mitkovits, offers all kinds of outrageous claims — that wearing a mask will reinfect people and hence give them coronavirus, that the flu shot can cause coronavirus, that we shouldn’t be sheltering at home but rather going outside so we can build up resistance  (or something like that), and that Fauci — the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the only guy who seemed sane and earnest on the president’s task force — is basically the devil himself. Of course, the person making all these claims is known as an anti-vaxxer (she says she isn’t, but a simple google search refutes that) and was put in jail for stealing from her last job (she says she was set up).

Anti-vaccination proponents, the wild conspiracy group QAnon (the group who believe that Satan-worshiping pedophiles and 5G have something to do with all this) and “Reopen America” backers — of which the latter two tend to be Trump supporters — have latched on to Plandemic and helped it go viral, leaving those who think it all sounds bonkers to either do their own research on the web, unfriend people who push these theories or ignore it altogether. But the word “research” has become a meaningless meme these days, which is sort of sad. We all have the same search engine tools at our disposal and it’s easy enough to find stories that support any point of view. Since Donald Trump co-opted the term “fake news,” which was initially coined to describe Russia’s disinformation campaign against Hillary Clinton, it’s had a chilling effect on trust of mainstream media, which of course was the point. So what’s actually true and who do we believe?

Covering conspiracy theory is something every good journalist must grapple with. Is giving it attention at all contributing to the noise and helping to spread dangerous ideas? Or is not covering it giving credence to conspiracist’s claims about silencing dissenting views? In this case, the doc has permeated the zeitgeist and then some, so the best thing we can do is point to those who seem to have done their homework, as we have done here:

1. Marshall Allen’s story for ProPublica has been linked, re-purposed and aggregated all over the web this week for good reason. The reporter reached out to both Mikovits and Willis and got answers which damage the credibility of the doc. In it the film-maker admits his movie is propaganda (but says all media is) and Mikovits admits to over-simplifying parts of her story. Read it here: I’m an Investigative Journalist. These Are the Questions I Asked About the Viral “Plandemic” Video.

2. Casey Newton’s Interface column for The Verge explores how conspiracies such as Pandemic go viral so quickly. The answer for this one: Facebook, Q-Anon and 9/11 “truther” groups and Mikovits’ book (of course, there’s a book to hawk) which is a Top 10 seller on Amazon. Read it here: How the ‘Plandemic’ video hoax went viral.

3. Rory Power’s piece for Eco-Hustler has been lauded as a worthwhile read providing not only a comprehensive overview but objective perspective integrating numerous elements of the current crisis and exploring the power of conspiratorial media. Read it here: Is the virus our vaccine? COVID-19: Chinese curse, causing crisis and collapse; or canary in the coalmine and catalyst for change?

4. NPR’s Scott Neuman investigates some of the charges against Fauci in particular, namely that he profited from patents for HIV meds back when Mikovits worked with him. But as the piece shows — with links to the respected peer-reviewed medical journal known as the BMJ (British Medical Journal) — he was required by law to put his name on the patent and “he felt it was inappropriate to receive payment and donated the entire amount to charity.” Read it here: Seen ‘Plandemic’? We Take A Close Look At The Viral Conspiracy Video’s Claims.

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