The video is on YouTube and features an interview with Judy Mikovits conducted by America’s Voice News. It is incredibly convoluted and complicated, made worse by the fact that the average lay person is not going to have a clue about most of what she is talking about since it involves highly technical sounding science and medicine.
This reminds me of the legend of the Gordian Knot, much like the prominently featured picture of an endless Celtic knot that hung over Mikovits’ left shoulder as she gave her interview.
According to legend, there was an ancient prophecy concerning an elaborate knot that tethered an ox-cart to a poll in the palace of the former kings of Phrygia, a province of the Persian Empire. Whoever could untie the knot was destined to be the ruler of Asia.
As the story goes, Alexander the Great solved the puzzle one of two ways. The most popular version alleges that he sliced the knot in half with his sword in a single stroke. The other version of the myth alleges that he loosed the knot by pulling the linchpin from the yoke, exposing the ends of the cord.
To really make sense of all that Mikovits is saying, one is faced with the seemingly impossible task of untangling this Gordian knot and fact-checking nearly a hundred claims about virology and historical events. It is quite easy to get hopelessly tangled in the web. This is my attempt to make sense of this all and untangle the knot both ways.
First, I will take the most direct route, and cut the knot in half by taking an overall look at the two key players involved. Second, I will expose the “ends of the cord” – key claims by Mikovits that reveal the veracity and trustworthiness of everything else she is saying without having to get lost in the technical details of a hundred different medical claims.
Along the way, I will attempt to hyperlink every possible source I can to substantiate my arguments. This will be an ongoing effort, and I am open to questions about uncited claims and suggestions of helpful links and sources.
Part 1: The Perimeter of Ignorance
Neil deGrasse Tyson famously said:
“As areas of knowledge grow, so too do the perimeters of ignorance.”
This is a most dissatisfying paradigm. And a dangerous one. We look to the wise and learned for answers and when they can’t provide them, something deep inside us says, “That can’t be so! We know so much!” We convince ourselves that there MUST be a satisfying answer to the ever growing list of unknowns. We feel it in our bones. And thus, we open ourselves up and become vulnerable to the charlatans. The snake oil salesmen. The hucksters. The vampires.
The world is ripe for the charlatan, now more than ever. You’d think that as we learned more, we would somehow become increasingly inoculated to them. Au contraire. Our knowledge of the world has become so deep and sophisticated that things we deal with every day appear more and more as “black boxes” of mystery. The amount of knowledge and education we need just to peer into the black box and decipher the inner workings is staggering.
If you find yourself confused and bewildered, then you are not alone. Worst of all, our education system has not adequately prepared us to make sense of a world full of black boxes. In a world of standardized tests with multiple choice answers and the rote memorization of facts and information, we are asked now more than ever to “trust the experts” while being given little training or skills to think and discern truth for ourselves.
There are classes out there. For example, one of the best I’ve taken is Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking by Dr. Steven Novella on The Great Courses. But why must we pay a subscription fee to learn what should be standard curriculum during our primary education? It is frustrating. Side note: Pay the fee, though. You get 14-days free and the class is so worth it. This is not a paid promotion.
I cannot possibly distill all of the lessons and tricks that I have learned through the above course and many others in one blog post. But I can try to apply some of those skills as I analyze this piece of information.
So what was I saying about the charlatans? Ah yes, this is their time. The charlatans take advantage of that ever growing perimeter of ignorance and our deep need for answers (and determination that there MUST be answers out there somewhere) by providing us with answers where there are none. They hand wave the black box away and offer us simple solutions to life’s complex problems. They fabricate pseudo-knowledge all around humanity’s perimeter of ignorance and thus draw our attention and trust away from the real experts – the people we can truly trust, but who can’t always give us satisfying answers.
Part 2: The Wizard’s First Rule
In Terry Goodkind’s epic Sword of Truth fantasy series, he begins his first book by proposing The Wizard’s First Rule:
“People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true.”
Richard Rahl, the Seeker of Truth and primary protagonist of the series, must not only learn to apply this Rule empathetically to those around him, who are sometimes bewilderingly led astray by charlatans, but he must also learn, over the course of tens of thousands of pages of (sometimes exhaustingly pedantic) story, to apply this rule to himself. Because, we are all people. We are all stupid. We are all easily led astray.
Always interrogate your beliefs.
One of the first things I have to do when I encounter new information that I am prone to believe is to ask myself, “Does this confirm my worldview? Does this play upon my fears and insecurities?” If the answer to either question is yes, and, thanks to social media, computer algorithms, and our tendencies to self-select our friends and create our own information bubbles, the answer is almost always yes, then I immediately have to throw up some red flags and dial up my skeptical senses.
Part 3: The Sword
I am going to address the claims in this video by attacking the problem from two different angles.
Prong 1: Dr. Anthony Fauci
First, let’s be clear. This entire interview has one primary purpose: To discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci has served in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for 36 years. Prior to that he spent 16 years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He is a lifelong public servant who has made tremendous contributions to science and medicine. His reputation has been untarnished and his integrity unquestioned all this time. Now, all of a sudden, after all this time, he has become a target. Why?
Anthony Fauci becomes a fringe MAGA target
Medical Expert Who Corrects Trump Is Now a Target of the Far Right
The New York Times, 3/28/2020
Dr. Anthony Fauci Has a Target on His Back
The Nation, 4/6/2020
How Anthony Fauci Became a Lightning Rod
The Atlantic, 4/14/2020
In a nutshell, Dr. Fauci, after 50 years of seemingly unbesmirched public service broke one of the cardinal rules: He contradicted The Leader.
Now, I am more than happy to get into a point-by-point discussion of each place President Trump and Dr. Fauci have diverged in the information they presented as facts. Hopefully, I don’t have to. Hopefully, it is clear to everyone reading this that President Trump has presented gobs upon gobs of contradictory, false, and misleading information over the past several months about COVID-19. Hopefully, it is clear to everyone reading this that Dr. Fauci has done little more than present simple facts backed by evidence, and he has not tried to oversell or fill in the unknowns, the perimeter of ignorance, with easy, satisfying answers. Remember that bit earlier about charlatans?
The Art of the Bullshit
I want to make it clear here that I truly sympathize with President Trump. He has spent his entire life working in a world and achieving success in industries dominated by bullshit. He is a truly gifted bullshit artist. He is the Da Vinci of spinning bullshit. And he has been rewarded for this skill.
So, this has become President Trump’s primary go-to tool for achieving success: Spin bullshit and keep selling it until it becomes true. It has helped him sell properties and ideas at subjectively high values while avoiding the appropriate taxes on them. It has helped him acquire lifeline loans totaling $2 billion from an international bank that had already tried to blackball him. It has helped him continue to hire contractors that swore off ever working for him again because he never paid them (well, that and the ability to set up multiple layers of shell companies to hide who was actually hiring them – I know some of these contractors personally and they still haven’t been paid). His genius for bullshit has afforded him a lavish lifestyle and arguably it helped him overcome seemingly impossible odds (they weren’t really so much in his disfavor, but that’s another story) to get elected president.
So, it should be no surprise that when we got hit with COVID-19 Trump reached for his favorite tool and sincerely thought it would solve this crisis. And you don’t have to take my word for this. Trump has said as much on multiple occasions. When truly pressed as to why he downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19, promising that it would go away “like a miracle” and has touted miracle cures that were not backed by proper research of evidence to know if they would be effective, President Trump has stated that he is trying to project optimism to help us get through this crisis. This was perfectly distilled in his final press conference in March when he said, “I’m a cheerleader for the country.”
While being a genius bullshit artist might help someone find success in the subjective world of real estate, reality television, and creating a lifestyle brand, the opposite is true in the field of science and medicine. Trying to be a bullshit artist in science and medicine will get you run out on a rail and end your career faster than you can say, “Wakefield!”
That is because the system is set up to weed out bullshit. Hundreds of years ago, if you had a wacky paradigm shifting idea, the central authorities that sat at the intersection of science, religion, and the state could do anything from mock you to throw you in jail and put you to death for your ideas. These days, our decentralized system of millions of scientists working independently worldwide will make but one simple request: “Show us the evidence.” And instead of rejecting you out of hand or throwing you in jail, they will try to replicate your work. The more extraordinary the claim, the more harsh the scrutiny and the more evidence will be required to overturn known science. And the greater your shame if you are exposed for fraud. But the greater the reward when you are vindicated. That is how the system works. It isn’t perfect, far from it, but after hundreds of years of refinement it is more perfect than it has ever been.
So, when you put a microphone in front of a respected scientist with integrity, you aren’t going to get an ounce of bullshit, no matter how much you want it or need it. You aren’t going to get unfounded optimism. And you certainly aren’t going to get a cheerleader. This is a problem. Fortunately, people like Neil deGrasse Tyson and the creators of Cosmos: Possible Worlds have learned that science needs to project optimism in order to maintain public interest and trust, but this is certainly a new trend. We are still, mostly stuck with a bunch of Mr. Spocks acting like wet blankets. Can I get a high-five for the Star Trek Original Series reference? Thanks!
So, when you have a president whose primary tool for solving problems is to project optimism and spin bullshit no matter what, and a medical expert whose primary tool for solving problems is realism and dispensing cautious, measured, evidence-based information, you are bound to get some conflicting messages.
And so, Dr. Fauci, on many an occasion committed that cardinal sin: He contradicted The Leader.
Why is this such a problem? Because Trumpism is a cult.
The Cult of Trump
As part of my journey studying critical thinking and proper skepticism, I have had to learn about cults and how they operate. There is a wealth of well-documented and fascinating information about cults out there. Again, it is frustrating that this kind of vital information is not part of the standard primary education curriculum, but what is a lonely skeptic to do? Learn how to be happy while being eternally frustrated, I guess. Here are some good reads if you want to familiarize yourself:
Watch out for the tell-tale signs
The Guardian, 5/27/2009 (Rick Ross, author)
The Seven Signs You’re in a Cult
The Atlantic, 6/18/2014
Warning Signs – Cult Education Institute
(Rick Ross, author)
What Do Cult Leaders Have in Common?
Live Science 4/6/2019
It is important to note that defining Trumpism as a cult does not invalidate his political platform. It does not make his policies and accomplishments “bad.” I am not here to pass judgement on the Trump Presidency or his supporters. Being a cult is not a moral judgement on the values of it’s members or what they would like to see accomplished. And cultism is not a unique feature of the right. Indeed, there is plenty to be said about cultish tendencies and cult-like thinking on the left as well. But, the purpose of this analysis is not to figure out who is worse or more dangerous. It is to analyze the veracity of the claims in the video I watched. So, let’s not get off track here.
Setting aside your affinity towards or admiration for the GOP and the Trump Presidency (and yes, I know that is really hard to do), if you look at Trumpism objectively, it is almost impossible to deny that it functions exactly like a cult. And just in case you need a little help connecting the dots, Steven Hassan, has written a book that does a pretty good job of it titled quite simply: The Cult of Trump.
Is Trumpism a cult? A new book from a former cult member makes the case
That is why I keep referring to Dr. Fauci’s cardinal sin: Criticism of The Leader. In a cult, if you go against the leader, you are automatically the enemy. The continued functioning and health of The System requires that you must be taken down at all costs. So, let’s put two and two together. Dr. Fauci contradicted President Trump (on multiple occasions). Now he has a target on his back. And one of the best tools for taking out an enemy, indeed it is one of President Trump’s favorite weapons, is to discredit through the insinuation of “corruption.”
Death by Insinuation
For me, one of the most frustratingly overlooked details of the whole Biden-Ukraine affair was the fact that President Trump was never really asking Ukraine to open an actual investigation into Biden. All he was ever really asking for, at a minimum, was for President Zelensky to announce an investigation. The documented evidence makes this clear. Right or wrong, impeachable offense or nothing-burger, this is a key detail. You see, President Trump’s favorite tool for vanquishing his foes is to insinuate impropriety. This is often done by engaging in a tactic known as JAQing (Just Asking Questions). It is also done by claiming to have seen damning evidence that can’t be made public (and never materializes).
He did it with Obama’s birth certificate which turned out to be a giant nothing-burger when the long-form birth certificate was made public on April 27, 2011:
“Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate? There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”(3/23/2011)
“He doesn’t have a birth certificate, or if he does, there’s something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now, somebody told me — and I have no idea if this is bad for him or not, but perhaps it would be — that where it says ‘religion,’ it might have ‘Muslim.’ And if you’re a Muslim, you don’t change your religion, by the way.”(3/30/2011)
Side note: Birth certificates do not have a box to declare a baby’s religion, that’s just silly. Also, the world is full of former Muslims. Seriously?
“An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”(8/6/2012)
“Was it a birth certificate? You tell me. Some people say that was not his birth certificate. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I’m saying I don’t know. Nobody knows.”(8/2013)
“Who knows about Obama? … Who knows, who knows? Who cares right now?… I have my own theory on Obama. Someday I will write a book, I will do another book, and it will do very successfully.”(1/6/2016)
“I’ll answer that question at the right time. I just don’t want to answer it yet … I don’t talk about it anymore. The reason I don’t is because then everyone is going to be talking about it as opposed to jobs, the military, the vets, security.”(9/15/2016)
In March 2011, Donald Trump claimed that he had sent private investigators to Hawaii and insinuated that they had uncovered something that would be damning for then President Obama. In an interview on the “Today Show” he said,
Donald Trump: “Well, I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding.”
Meredith Vieira: “You have people now out there searching – I mean, in Hawaii?”
Trump: “Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they’re finding. And I’m serious.”
What did they find? Almost a decade later, no one knows. In fact, there is not even any evidence that Trump actually sent any investigators to Hawaii in the first place.
You see, President Trump knows what many a charlatan has known for centuries and social scientists are only just now beginning to document in study after study. The first thing people hear sticks in their heads as the truth, regardless of how many times and how thoroughly you debunk it later. In one study, researchers presented people with completely fabricated information that appealed to their political biases or belief systems to test how easily people could spot false information. Then, after telling research subjects that the information was completely false or fabricated, often the subjects would start to rationalize right there on the spot why the fabricated “facts” were probably actually true. And even those who accepted that the information was false, later, in follow-up interviews as soon as one month later, they misremembered the facts as true and completely forgot that they were told it was false.
Such is the power of misinformation. Retractions don’t matter. Debunkings don’t matter. Claims of evidence and proof that never materializes don’t matter. If you say you have the evidence, the way people’s memories work, they will somehow remember actually seeing the evidence that they never saw.
This is The Wizard’s First Rule being reinforced by The Wizard’s Third Rule:
“Passion rules reason, for better or for worse.”
So yes, President Trump did this with Obama’s birth certificate. And he is doing it right now with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and claims that COVID-19 escaped from a lab (contrary to the fact that numerous independent virology experts who have studied the virus are all stating unequivocally that this could not possibly have happened and there is clear evidence the virus naturally evolved in the wild and that this is unfortunately quite common, even in North America). To this day, many people still believe that George W. Bush had smoking gun evidence that proved Saddam Hussein was pursuing WMD’s. Even though it turns out that all of the evidence presented to the American people and the U.N. was exaggerated or flat out fabricated, and Colin Powell seems to have admitted as much, it doesn’t matter.
This tactic of insinuating impropriety without a lick of actual evidence is not unique to President Trump. Indeed, there is a case to be made that this is exactly what Tara Reid is doing right now with Joe Biden. President Trump was a victim of this when people started suggesting that he was pushing hydroxychloroquine with a profit motive (Fact Check: he wasn’t). And, it is entirely possible this is exactly what Judy Mikovits is doing with Dr. Fauci now. In fact, reason dictates that this is the most likely scenario. It isn’t a slam dunk, but Bayesian Reasoning and Occam’s Razor suggests it is overwhelmingly likely. In the absence of access to cut and dry answers, we must rely on probabilistic reasoning to determine the truth. This is unfortunate because we are naturally terrible at it. But I think you’ll see how one can quite rationally come to this conclusion once we explore the second angle.
Prong 2: Judy Mikovits
To unravel the hot mess that is Judy Mikovits we must start with addressing one of the areas where she has made a name for herself: Research on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). CFS is a horrible condition that exists right on our perimeter of ignorance. In fact, so little is known about CFS that it might not even be a single thing, but rather a nebulous set of symptoms that could have multiple different physical causes and may even be psychosomatic. Indeed, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has shown many promising signs of being an effective treatment for CFS as demonstrated by Dr. Simon Wessely, but it is not without its critics.
To further complicate things, some recent studies have shown evidence of physical abnormalities among CFS patients, however how those abnormalities contribute and what underlying physical conditions are actually causing CFS is still very much unknown. Therefore, we are still many steps away from developing an actual treatment that involves physical intervention.
However, because CFS has long existed on our perimeter of ignorance, many a charlatan has popped up offering miracle cures, tonics, snake oils, and magical “alternative medicine” therapies to treat CFS.
Side note: There is no such thing as “alternative” medicine. There is real medicine – treatments that have been demonstrated to be effective in multiple properly conducted and double-blind placebo controlled studies that have been subjected to replication and peer review by multiple independent researchers and years of clinical trials, and then there is fake-medicine – treatments that have not been demonstrated to be safe or effective by any legitimate or replicated study – aka “alternative” medicine, aka “complementary” medicine. If an “alternative” medicine can be demonstrated to be safe and effective, regardless of whether or not we understand how or why, then it is simply called “medicine.”
Charlatans who want to sell unproven treatments (snake oil) for conditions that exist on the perimeter of ignorance first need to make the false assertion that they actually know what the condition is and what is causing it so that they can offer a magic cure. Despite a lack of evidence, some people with questionable motivations have taken a hard-line stance that CFS is solely caused by purely physical mechanisms. They have gone out of their way to completely discredit the work of Dr. Wessely. He has been subject to harassment and even has to have his mail X-rayed under advice of police. Now, he could very well be wrong. Plenty of people make honest attempts to treat conditions that seem to be effective and turn out to be wrong. But the kind of crackpots we’re talking about here are so blinded in the Wizard’s Third Rule, that this is how they behave. You have to take that into account while evaluating this.
Going Full Crackpot
And so, it is in this environment that a hero emerged: Judy Mikovits. She published a study in Science (2009) linking CFS to a mouse retrovirus called XMRV. She became a hero of “the movement.” The study has been thoroughly discredited and was was fully retracted in 2011 (a detail Mikovits was evasive about). To be generous, Mikovits may have simply engaged in sloppy lab procedures that led to contamination of samples.
In fact, a follow up study thoroughly discredited the CFS/XMRV link. This is how science is done. You conduct a study and subject it to peer review. Other people try to replicate it, and if they cannot, then the original further study is scrutinized for errors. Then, additional studies are done to specifically test those possible errors.
This is what happened and Mikovits has been trying to salvage her reputation ever since. So, despite the fact that she only has one discredited study to back her up, in 2017, she resurrected her findings in a book she published, Plague: One Scientist’s Intrepid Search for the Truth about Human Retroviruses and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), Autism, and Other Diseases in which she makes the astonishing (and completely false) claim that 30% of vaccines are contaminated with retroviruses.
The book is an embarassing litany of unsubstantiated claims based on debunked and retracted studies. Most alarmingly (and tellingly) it furthers the widely discredited myth that vaccines are linked to Autism, a myth that was based on a discredited and retracted 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield in the The Lancet. Not only was this study discredited, it turned out Wakefield took payouts to fabricate his results and he was stripped of his medical license as a result. And it would appear that Wakefield is serving as an advisor and mentor to Mikovits. For someone who seems to be so concerned about corruption in science, it is shocking indeed to learn that Mikovits is in cahoots with Andrew Wakefield, the poster boy for research corruption.
The shameful and fraudulent Wakefield study is sadly just another example of “the lie that never dies.” People to this day still cite it as the primary source of evidence falsely linking the MMR vaccine to Autism. Indeed, with the growing popularity of the anti-vax movement which, not surprisingly, runs in parallel with the breakdown of trust in established science, expertise, and institutions that has also given rise to the modern Flat Earther movement, Andrew Wakefield has somehow reemerged as a “persecuted hero” and doubled down his original lie, even going as far as to release a documentary in 2016 titled Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. After being savagely debunked and discredited, eventually it’s distributor, Amazon, had to remove it from their library.
I could go on forever about the complete lack of merit of the arguments made by anti-vaxers. Spoiler alert: I am currently working on a script for a video doing just that is a response to a recently released anti-vax YouTube video foolishly titled A Shot In The Dark (A Shot In The Dark was the title of a 1985 book falsely claiming a link between pertussis vaccine and neurological damage that has been thoroughly discredited).
The TL/DR is simply this: Vaccines have proven to be the single greatest life-saving medical innovation short of public sanitation and are directly responsible for saving millions of lives. Not a single shred of credible evidence has ever been produced in a peer reviewed study successfully linking vaccines to the adverse health effects claimed by anti-vaxers. Indeed, the most prominent studies attempting to do so have been demonstrated to be seriously flawed or downright fraudulent. To the contrary, decades of research and countless studies have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of vaccines including providing irrefutable support for the safety of the advised vaccine schedule – the latest fallback position of anti-vaxers crying “too many too soon” for reasons not supported by any medical science.
Vaccine science is incredibly complicated. The confusion created by the anti-vax movement is extremely messy. I have spent years studying the subject and I still don’t have enough familiarity with it to speak intelligently about it without consulting my notes. Any lay person can be forgiven for believing the anti-vax propaganda or even becoming a fervent anti-vax advocate. However, it is completely inexcusable for a medical doctor, especially one trained in virology such as Judy Mikovits, to promote anti-vax propaganda. To put it plainly, she knows better. It reflects a complete and willful disregard for human life and could be easily considered an egregious violation of the Hippocratic Oath, were she an actual medical doctor.
The fact that that Judy Mikovits has fallen in with this movement, to the point of attempting to be one of it’s heroes, seriously calls into question her scruples. Sadly, this is perfectly in line with her doubling down on her discredited CFS/XMRV claims and only reinforces reason to doubt her moral fiber or (dare I say it?) even her sanity. In short, she is either a crackpot or a quack. Or both. Just so we’re clear, a “quack” is an actual official term used in the Skeptical / Science & Evidence-Based Medicine circles to label charlatan practitioners of medicine who knowingly make false claims for the purpose of profit and/or notoriety. A quick look at her activities over the last decade reveal that Judy Mikovits seems to have fully fallen into the dangerous group of anti-vaxers-for-profit who count Andrew Wakefield among their ranks.
What Really Happened
And Judy Mikovits did not fall from grace gracefully. Far from it. After the original CFS/XMRV paper was debunked and retracted, she was fired from the Wittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) when evidence emerged that she had intentionally manipulated the data in the retracted study. In what appears to be an attempted coverup, Judy Mikovits stole notebooks, a computer, and other materials from the lab and retreated to California. WPI was granted an injunction to prevent her from destroying evidence and she was arrested in California to be extradited back to Nevada.
In a surprising twist, the criminal charges against her were dropped without prejudice (meaning they could be refiled in the future). She claims, however, that she was a whistleblower (even though she never actually blew the whistle on anything) and was being persecuted. Indeed, Mikovits’ recounting of the whole ordeal is refuted by the mounts of reporting done at the time on what was really happening.
And somehow, Mikovits has conconcted this fantasy where Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is in no way connected to any of this, was somehow calling all the shots – confiscating her computers, extorting her family, and planting evidence. Seriously? Is there any evidence of this? No. Can anyone corroborate this? No. Is this beginning to sound like the paranoid ravings of a mad woman? Yes.
In my opinion, looking over the facts of the matter, this only further cements Mikovits’ “crackpot” status. If you would like to do a deep dive into Judy Mikovits and her discredited research (with a litany of links to independent sources detailing everything) these are going to be your best resources:
Why bad science won’t ever die
Who is Judy Mikovits?
Who is Judy Mikovits? – Retraction Watch
(Seriously? Original titles, please!)
When evaluating the information provided by characters such as Judy Mikovits, the safest bet seems to be to take whatever she says and assume that the exact opposite is closest to the truth. At least, that is a reasonable starting point and will hopefully motivate one to really dig deep into the veracity of anything she claims.
Unfortunately, rather than own up to her mistakes, or worse yet, her possible fraud, Mikovits seems to have chosen to play the victim. She has concocted an elaborate fantasy in which the entire scientific and medical establishment is against her and working together in a vast conspiracy for the purposes of some kind of “corruption” (for which there is no evidence). She has fallen in with other disreputable characters, such as the disgraced Andrew Wakefield, and she has found a new sense of purpose and importance as a hero to the victims of deadly anti-science propaganda.
It should, therefore, be no surprise that the most prominent detractor and critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the mild-mannered doctor with an untarnished lifetime of public service who had the audacity to contradict The Leader, would turn out to be the wanna-be-leader of another cult, the Cult of Anti-science, which finds its interests and and its members perfectly aligned with the Cult of Trumpism. Birds of a feather tend to stick together, and charlatans are no exception.
Hopefully, this first slice of the sword can clear up some of the little smudges that lie just on the edges of the perimeter of ignorance. I have provided plenty of links for you to double check my work and come to your own conclusions. Just don’t forget The Wizard’s First Rule.
Now, let’s remove the linchpin from he yoke on some of Mikovits’ wild claims.
Part 4: Unraveled
In her 32-minute interview Mikovits makes a number of unverifiable claims and many others that are simply bogus. I want to focus on just a few of the interesting gems and demonstrate that most of the time Mikovits seems to have no idea what she is even talking about. She is tossing a giant word salad of scientific sounding information with tiny croutons of truth mixed in.
I must warn you. This is the Gordian Knot. It is going to get really complicated really fast. So stay with me. Let’s try to untangle this together, shall we?
One of the little fibs that Judy Mikovits made in her litany of claims was that she “co-founded and developed from the ground up” a private institute for CFS research. She is most certainly referring to the Whittemore Peterson Institute. But, she didn’t co-found it. It was co-founded by Annette Whittemore, Harvey Whittemore, and Daniel Peterson in 2005. That’s why their names are on it and not hers. Judy Mikovits was hired in 2006 as the research director after meeting a friend of Annette Whittemore’s while she was tending bar at a yacht club. Yes, you heard that right. She left the NCI in 2001, moved to California and briefly worked for a drug development company that went belly up. And then, somehow she ended up as the director of research at WPI. We all know how that ended.
This is a small detail, but it is a telling one and it will shed light on the other claims Mikovits has made that I will deal with in the rest of this article. Judy Mikovits seems to have no problem with exaggerating the truth and fabricating lies in order to promote her sense of self-importance. This is an easily verifiable fact, but like so many others of Mikovits’ claims, she relies on people listening to her to gloss over the details and never check them out to expose her because they are mesmerized by her fantastical narrative that is preying upon their vulnerability to the Wizard’s First and Third Rules. I find this downright dispicable.
AIDS research, what!?
First, Mikovits begins her tale of persecution by inserting herself into one of the greatest AIDS scandals in history, of which there is zero evidence she ever played a part. This is a complicated scandal, but let me try to simplify it:
Robert Gallo, a groundbreaking researcher on retroviruses, falsely took credit for discovering the AIDS virus in 1984 when it turned out that it was actually discovered at the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1983 and Gallo had simply received samples of their discovery. Apparently, Mikovits has confused herself with the Pasteur Institute and is trying to make herself the victim or the scandal that they were the victims of. What??
Now, it is true that Gallo did work with Bernard Poiesz and Frank Ruscetti at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and made some groundbreaking discoveries of the first retroviruses, HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 in 1980. But that was the same year that Mikovits was just receiving her B.S. in Chemistry at the University of Virginia. Are we to believe that somehow, fresh out of college, sometime between 1980 and 1983 she was at the forefront of groundbreaking work to isolate and confirm HIV, and that she actually discovered it, then Gallo stole the credit from her, but he also simultaneously stole the credit from the Pasteur Institute where he obtained his sample, that he didn’t actually have, because Mikovits had it. What the what??
Is she saying Gallo didn’t actually commit the fraud, she is the one who did?
And what does any of this have to do with Dr. Fauci? He was Chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation at the National Institute of Health from 1980-84, but in 1984, he was appointed as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a completely separate entity. This whole tale makes absolutely no sense and dragging Dr. Fauci into it seems to be something that was only recently fabricated just to support Mikovits’ larger narrative of victimhood and close ties to Dr. Fauci.
And none of this has anything to do with Mikovits’ larger claim that “millions died worldwide while they fought over who owned the patents.” Patents for what? Died why? The first known treatment for HIV using azidothymidine (AZT) was discovered at Burroughs Wellcome. They sent samples of the drug to Dr. Samuel Broder at the NCI and he helped pressure the FDA to fast track the approval process to get a treatment approved for Burroughs Wellcome in a record 20 months on March 19, 1987. What does any of this have to do with Mikovits’ and her wild claims of a patent dispute over the discovery of HIV? It does not make any sense.
Furthermore, to claim that “millions died worldwide” due to a delay in a treatment for HIV/AIDS (a delay for which there is zero evidence) is an astounding claim considering that by 1987, the number of total reported cases in the United States, where AZT was first made available, was 50,378 and worldwide there were 38,401 reported cases to date. Millions died? Talk about over exaggerating.
But this is just the beginning of Mikovits’ habit of casually turning “thousands” into “millions” to suit her narrative.
$3.7 million, what!?
Judy Mikovits also made an astoundingly false accusation that Dr. Anthony Fauci “circumvented U.S. law” to funnel $3.7 million to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to coordinate some kind of nefarious cooperative research between Harvard and Wuhan or something. It was honestly very hard to follow, because she was jumping all over the place.
Well, apparently Mikovits didn’t get the memo that this entire wild tale was already completely debunked when it was originally brought up to throw shade on President Obama back in April by the Daily Mail.
Here is what really happened. The U.S. National Institutes of Health has consistently funded the EcoHealth Alliance as far back as 2002. They were awarded a grant in 2014, a legal 5-year grant, to conduct research in “Understanding the Risks of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.” They received $666,442 (2014), $630,445 (2015), $611,090 (2016), $597,112 (2017), and $581,646 in (2018). Then, they applied to have the grant renewed and it was approved, so they continued to receive payments in 2018 and 2019, coming to a total of $3.7 million. This money was distributed to a large number of labs around the world because this kind of research is always a global cooperative effort. Wuhan only received a total of $133,000 from the first disbursement and $66,000 last year.
No laws were broken or circumvented. Wuhan Institute of Virology didn’t receive anywhere close to $3.7 million and did not receive any money directly from the NIH for that matter. And there is no evidence or reason to believe that Dr. Fauci was personally involved in this particular grant. That seems to be a “fact” that Mikovits just completely made up. And how would she know? She is on the outside looking in and has no more inside knowledge than we do. According to their website, The NIH distributes about $3.5 billion in research funding “through 50,000 competitive grants to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research institutes.”
This entire falsehood that Mikovits’ is telling, as if she somehow has personal knowledge of it even though she couldn’t possibly, is nothing more than a recycled and repurposed lie designed to support the unsubstantiated insinuation that somehow Wuhan Institute of Virology is involved in some kind of vast conspiracy to manufacture and release SARS-CoV2 and that somehow the Obama Administration was involved. Apparently Mikovits heard about this third-hand, probably like she heard about the Gallo/ Pasteur Institute scandal, and somehow decided to insert herself into the narrative with little knowledge of the actual facts involved and for no other reason than to discredit Dr. Fauci.
Contageous cancer, what!?
Another sort of jaw-dropping claim that Judy Mikovits made in her trainwreck of an interview was that animal viruses are being injected into humans by way of a live viral vaccine that is causing cancer. And not just any cancer: contagious cancer!
Just take a moment and let that claim sink in.
Now, this opens up a whole can of worms that plays into pretty typical anti-vax propaganda, so I’m not going to dig into all of it here. For the average lay person who has no idea about all the science behind how vaccines are developed and cultured this can sound pretty scary. To quote the interviewer, Christina Aguayo, “This is incredible, explosive, and kind of scary!”
Exactly. The Wizard’s First and Third Rules are in full play here.
I’m only going to deal with one of her claims and that is of contagious cancer. I’ll let the American Cancer Society handle this one:
Is Cancer Contagious?
Cancer is NOT contagious.
A healthy person cannot “catch” cancer from someone who has it. There is no evidence that close contact or things like sex, kissing, touching, sharing meals, or breathing the same air can spread cancer from one person to another.
Cancer cells from one person are generally unable to live in the body of another healthy person. A healthy person’s immune system recognizes foreign cells and destroys them, including cancer cells from another person.
It is important to note that there is some brand new research that shows evidence of transmissible “parasitic” forms of cancer in a few animal species. However, this does not affect humans, and it has nothing to do with the outlandish and unsubstantiated claims that Mikovits was making. The only cases of cancer being transmitted from one human to another involve two dozen cases of mother to child transmission during pregnancy.
This is just a wildly irresponsible and easily refutable lie. But it is only the tip of the iceberg of Mikovits’ medical misinformation.
Coronavirus caused by what!?
Let’s get to the heart of the matter, and the reason that Judy Mikovits is drawing attention right now. She has made several incendiary claims about what “causes” the Coronavirus, somehow all involving Dr. Fauci, and wants us to believe that we are all being lied to in some kind of vast global conspiracy.
About 9 minutes into the interview, Mikovits said that coronavirus must be injected into the bloodstream because “coronaviruses can’t infect human cells without killing them or must go through another animal.” She said this to refute the idea that SARS-CoV-2 crossed over to humans because someone ate a bat.
This is a mixture of half-truths and bullshit. First, no one in the scientific community is claiming that SARS-CoV-2 crossed over to humans directly from a bat without an intermediary animal species. Currently, it is believed to have been a pangolin. But what does that have to do with injecting coronavirus into the bloodstream? It beats me. But it certainly sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Second, to make the general statement that “coronaviruses cannot infect human cells” is just utterly confusing nonsense. There are multiple strains of common human coronaviruses that have existed in the human population for years. Among them are the common cold.
I get it though. Terms can be used interchangeably and it can all get very confusing. Maybe she was just specifically referring to that specific strain of coronavirus that is endemic among bat populations. Okay, let’s dig a little deeper then.
Other claims that Mikovits’ tossed around was the claim that this particular coronavirus that we are currently dealing with has been in the human population for years and the influenza vaccine caused a 36% increase in coronavirus infections between 2013 and 2015. Hang on a minute, I thought she was earlier claiming that it was created in Wuhan from grants by the NIH that didn’t start until 2014 by injecting live virus into the bloodstream. Can she even get her conflicting conspiracy theories straight? I’ll circle back to this one, just hang tight.
She said you can get the influenza from the influenza vaccine (you can’t, that’s medically impossible), stating “In every case, in every study, the vaccine drives the death by literally exploding the fire of the overreaction of the immune system – if you are re-exposed it could lead to rapid death.” This is just a bunch of utter nonsense and not backed up by any evidence.
She also said, “Clearly all the data shows that Coronavirus is just a mild flu.” Actually, all the data shows that it is absolutely not just a mild flu. It is much worse. By now, even idiots living under rocks should know this comparison is completely false. Coronavirus and influenza aren’t even the same thing. A more convincing lie would at least have said, “some data” rather than “all the data” when that is easily debunked by doing a Google search.
To really wrap your head around all these claims, I need to draw your attention to another video featuring Mikovits that made the rounds before this one. I first came across it in a VICE News article. In their article, they state:
These campaigners frequently reject the idea that there’s anything society can do, collectively, to slow the spread of any disease. In the same video, Mikovits rejected the notion of wearing a mask, since, she claimed, the coronavirus is actually secretly caused by a bad strain of flu shot that was circulating between 2013 and 2015. Masks will help “activate” the virus and reinfect a mask-wearer over and over, she claimed.
“Wearing a mask will kill more people than—this virus is not coughed through the air from healthy people, who are almost certainly immune, as they’ve almost certainly been infected over the last four or five years,” Mikovits said.
I’m not even going to touch on this mask nonsense. How on earth does a piece of cloth “activate” a virus? That’s not how viruses work. Please don’t insult our intelligence, Mikovits.
The original video the VICE News article referenced was removed from YouTube for violating their terms of service (probably for making false and harmful medical claims), but I found an article on Maldita that provided some direct quotes:
“It is possible and likely that [the coronavirus] has been in all influenza vaccines from 2013 to 2015,” Mikovits says in this video. She argues that flu vaccines “are driving this infection [the coronavirus].”
Mikovits cites a scientific study by the US Army in which the “viral interference” of the flu vaccine increased the chances of contracting a coronavirus infection by 36%. In Maldita Science we have already spoken of this study, published in October 2019.
What is this study that Mikovits keeps bringing up and claiming infected people with COVID-19 years ago? Well, according to Maldita:
…the overall study results showed little or no evidence supporting the association of virus interference and influenza vaccination. Results for individual respiratory viruses were mixed, and some contested virus interference.”
Viral interference is when a one virus influences your risk of another virus, often called a “supervirus” or a separate virus in a family of viruses. So, for example, if you contract one specific version of the flu, your body can develop a resistance (interference) to other strains of the flu as well.
Now, this particular study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense on 6,120 individuals, was specifically to study if the flu vaccine caused virus interference. The study was designed to test a specific phenomenon, and it is incorrect to take the data out of context to draw other conclusions that the study was not designed to test. What’s more is that it disconfirmed their hypothesis.
The study did find that individuals who received the flu vaccine did have increased infection rates of human coronaviruses (i.e. the common cold, not the same thing as SARS-CoV-2 which came from bats and didn’t exist prior to 2019) and metapnemoviruses along with no increased rates for other respiratory viruses. However, this simply showed a lack of virus interference. It in no way shape or form can be implied that the vaccine caused those individuals to contract a coronavirus or metapneumovirus, it simply did not protect them from one.
And the authors of the study were very clear about this. Again, from Maldita:
Furthermore, the study itself assumes that a cause-effect relationship cannot be established between influenza vaccination and the increased risk of testing positive for other respiratory viruses, among other limitations.
So basically, they did a study to see if the flu vaccine could protect against other viruses and found that it does not. From that, Mikovits concluded that that the study showed the flu vaccine caused other viruses even though it very clearly said it did not. Furthermore, she went on to speculate, based on absolutely no evidence, that coronavirus was in all influenza vaccines between 2013 and 2015. Which is quite the ridiculous statement now that you see how she what she is basing it on, wouldn’t you agree?
What makes that statement even more ridiculous is that it betrays either a complete and utter wilful ignorance about the influenza vaccine or blatant dishonesty about it. A new influenza vaccine is redeveloped on an annual basis based on the three (trivalent) or four (quadrivalent) most common strains of the flu currently thriving in other parts of the world. This is a globally coordinated effort by more than 100 different countries.
So, to imply that somehow something tainted the influenza vaccine and it affected four years of completely different vaccines (2013-2015) (and again, without any evidence) with a virus that wasn’t discovered until late 2019 is ludicrous.
Also, there isn’t just one universal influenza vaccine. In the United States alone, there are two different trivalent vaccines and three different quadrivalent flu vaccines. Each has a different manufacturing process and are designed to treat different populations based on their age and medical conditions. Other parts of the world are developing their own completely different sets of influenza vaccines to release for their flu seasons, so in effect, there are actually two completely different sets of vaccines being developed and deployed annually based on bi-annual recommendations by the WHO in consultation with over 100 regulatory laboratories and the results of surveillance, laboratory, and clinical studies.
This makes Mikovits’ unfounded speculation on “coronavirus being in the influenza vaccine” even more ludicrous, nevermind the fact that she plucked the idea out of the white spaces of a study that in no way implied it.
The sad fact is, that this is completely unsurprising behavior on the part of Judy Mikovits. As I already demonstrated earlier, Mikovits does not seem to be playing with a full deck (at best) or her integrity is horrifically compromised (at worst). This, unfortunately, is what you will find to be the case for any medical professional who has signed onto the anti-vax movement.
So, what is COVID-19?
First, it is important to understand that “coronavirus” is not a single virus. It is a family of respiratory illnesses. SARS and MERS were coronaviruses. The “common cold” is a type of coronavirus. It is important to note that influenza is not a coronavirus nor is it related to coronaviruses. However, an immune system compromised by influenza (or anything else) can make one’s body more vulnerable to a coronavirus and the effects of it worse. Fun fact: measles can compromise a child’s immune system for up to three years, making them more vulnerable to other viruses and diseases. So, if the measles doesn’t get ’em, something else now has a better chance of finishing the job.
The official name for the novel coronavirus related to this pandemic is SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 is the name of the resulting disease. The distinction is functional and a bit strange. A virus is a malicious DNA or RNA code that can only survive inside a host cell where it makes copies of itself, mutates, and spreads. Viruses are therefore not “alive” in the conventional sense like a bacteria is. A disease is a disorder of structure or function of a living organism. Therefore, to be technically pedantic, viruses cause diseases but aren’t actually diseases. Hence the naming distinction that is being used interchangeably and somewhat confusingly.
You can’t technically “catch” COVID-19. You can catch SARS-CoV-2 and the result of that means you have COVID-19. Confusing, right?
Viruses are constantly mutating and virologists and epidemiologists are constantly studying various strains of them in human and animal populations to understand them, track them and analyze risks. Through DNA based clues, scientists can very confidently track a virus’ family lineage and figure out where came from and whether it has changed into a novel strain for which humans have no immunity. This is how and why the influenza vaccine is constantly being reformulated – to keep up with the latest strains and versions of influenza making the rounds against which our bodies have no defense.
A strain is a genetic variation or subtype of a microorganism. There are various “strains” of viruses that we often give names to based on what animal they primarily infect such as “swine flu” or “bird flu.” Side note: This has nothing to do with mad cow disease – that is a prion (proteinaceous infectious particle), or misfolded protein, that can transmit it’s misfolded shape onto normal variants of the same protein causing transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), a rare progressive neurodegenerative disorder.
SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus that originated from a strain of coronavirus found in bats. Scientists have wisely been tracking that particular strain for years. Sometimes it mutates and jumps to another animal. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, DNA evidence indicates that it jumped to a pangolin before transmitting to humans. This most likely happened sometime in late 2019 just before the first cases were detected in Wuhan. Prior to this, SARS-CoV-2, and the resulting COVID-19 did not exist. Coronaviruses existed. Humans have been catching them and fighting them off forever. But COVID-19 did not exist. So, just like the influenza, even if you have been infected with a coronavirus in the past, you body has no immune defense to SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19.
How is she a virologist!?
For Judy Mikovits to somehow imply that the current pandemic we are dealing with right now could somehow possibly be related to or the same thing as a coronavirus that was around between 2013 and 2015 is beyond ridiculous. She has claimed (in the previously mentioned video), contrary to established medical knowledge, that somehow most of us have already had COVID-19 sometime in the last four to five years and therefore most of the population is already immune to it. This is not only impossible based on what we already know about how the virus mutated, it is contradicted quite simply by how rapidly the virus is currently spreading, demonstrating a lack of herd immunity.
Herd immunity is what happens when enough of a population is immune to a virus or infection that statistically speaking, it cannot successfully spread through a population because nearly every potential host it encounters immediately destroys it before it can jump to another host and by the time the infected host originally carrying it develops immunity and destroys it it was unable to spread to an average of 1 or more hosts (called an N factor of less than 1). An N factor of more than one, say 1.7, means the virus is growing in population and can potentially become an epidemic. An N factor of less than 1 means the virus is dying out and will fizzle out if it does not mutate again.
No doubt, many people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 without knowing it – sometime in the last several months, but certainly not in the last four years. It currently has an N factor of somewhere around 2. That can’t happen if most of the population already developed immunity to it over the last few months or years.
There are a lot of things we do not know about this particular strain of the coronavirus. What we do know is that humans have not been exposed to it before 2019 and therefore we have no immunity. We don’t know if this strain will continue to mutate fast enough to become an endemic virus in the human population. Endemic means it never dies out and will continue to mutate and spread among the human population just like the influenza or other coronavirus strains such as the “common cold” do.
We know it is endemic among bats which is why we have been studying it for so long already, but we don’t know if it will be endemic among humans. We don’t know, if it becomes endemic, if it will have the same severe symptoms and mortality rate that it currently has. Perhaps it will behave like the influenza: Some years it is really bad, other years it is not. We don’t even really know what the exact mortality rate is right now.
We do know that it has mutated within the human population already, possibly multiple times, but we don’t know if those mutations were severe enough to be able to reinfect people who already built an immunity to an earlier version (this involves whether or not the mutations changed the binding receptors that allow it to infect our bodies in the first place – like when it jumped from the bats to the pangolins to humans).
Why, Judy, why?
There are a lot of things we don’t know right now.
But one thing we do know with near certainty: Judy Mikovits is spreading a lot of dastardly misinformation that has severely confused a vulnerable and uneducated public, misinformation that is so insidiously false that it poses a very clear and present danger to public health. Which is probably why her first viral cell phone video was removed from YouTube; And why nothing she says can be ever be trusted. Why, oh why, has Mikovits suddenly popped up again? Why now?
Oh wait, didn’t she just release a new book in on April 14, 2020? How could I forget? She name dropped the title of the book about a dozen times in her interview and even the America’s Voice interviewer, Christina Aguayo, plugged it for her. That seems odd. What exactly is this book?
Well, it appears to be nothing more than an updated and repackaged version of her 2014 book. It is filled with the same anti-vax nonsense that has long ago been debunked, and it is nothing more than an attempt to resurrect her tarnished reputation by promoting all the wild claims that I have already debunked and discredited throughout this article.
This may just be speculation, but Mikovits seems to be taking advantage of this current pandemic and people’s fears by inserting herself into it and manufacturing a decades long relationship with Dr. Fauci, someone famously all over the news right now, that has him popping up as a central player in all of her life’s major disgraces. Is Judy Mikovits riding Dr. Fauci’s coat-tails to achieve notoriety and sell books? Say it ain’t so!
It never ceases to amaze me that anti-vaxers are willing to speculate without any evidence that millions of scientists and doctors are involved in a worldwide cover-up of “the truth” in order to line their pockets, yet they can’t seem see that their own heroes are busy quite blatantly lining their pockets through the movement and spreading of misinformation. Maximum Cognitive Dissonance Achievement: Unlocked.
Hopefully, that answers all the questions that you might have had about this viral video. Only a few questions remain:
Considering how little Judy Mikovits seems to know about actual virology how in God’s name is she a virologist? Has her entire life and career just been one long con? If not, how on globe Earth did she fall so far and so hard from grace?
It is truly a sad and cautionary tale.
Part 5: Who Tied This Knot?
I would be remiss if I did not address the role that the Fake News Media has played in all this. I think I can speak for everyone, when I say that all we want is accurate and thorough reporting of factual information. We want the media to not hide important facts from us, to give us the whole story and trust us just a little to be able to put two and two together and figure things out for ourselves.
That is why I have to call out America’s Voice News for doing an absolutely terrible job of covering this. With everything we now know about Judy Mikovits, it is absolutely shameful that AVN did not provide any context and did absolutely no fact checking of the claims she made in her interview. They even introduced her as:
“[A] brilliant researcher who has been studying viruses for 40 years, a former researcher who conducted groundbreaking research on HIV.”
What a joke. What an absolute disgrace.
The fact of the matter is AVN should not be considered a real news network. They are an advocacy group. They don’t do journalism. They do propaganda. They were founded by Paul Weyrich, who, back in 1998, Multichannel called “a man far enough to the right to make Newt Gingrich look moderate.”
With so many untrustworthy sources of information out there that, on the surface, appear to be perfectly reasonable and objective, it can be very confusing to know who to trust. It gets even more complicated when these sources are appealing to our prior beliefs or tendencies toward conspiratorial thinking. I think that Professor Dave said it best, when he said:
The notion of conspiracy has to be dealt with in a delicate manner, because we don’t want to lose our sentivity to skepticism in general. Sometimes, conspiratorial thought uncovers legitimate government misconduct.
We should be skeptical. We should seek the truth. But people have a tendency to get addicted to this mentality and project it onto everything they see which is why there are media outlets that manufacture content that appeals to these viewers, as they will consume this type of news voraciously, whether or not it is true.
There is a huge subset of the population that lives and breathes conspiratorial narratives and will exercise confirmation bias like crazy, which is a problem, because any reality you want to believe will be there somewhere on the internet for you to find it. Just because you saw a YouTube documentary or read a blog post that says something, it doesn’t necessarily make it true, no matter how professional the source seems.
There is a broader danger here. People who arbitrarily skew towards conspiracy are easy to control, because some power, whether political or corporate can feed them a narrative that appeals to this predisposition, and get them to act against their own best interest.
Easy to control and act against their own best interests, indeed.
Part 6: The Seedy Motel
I want to close by addressing some very legitimate concerns that friends of mine have raised about censorship. When YouTube takes down a video or Facebook removes your post sharing Mikovits’ stuff, it can feel like “the powers that be” are hiding something from us, like they are scared of us having access to information and sharing it with others.
This is a perfectly legitimate concern, and information being censored should be monitored and motives questioned. However, there is another way to look at it that is important to keep in mind.
Misinformation is dangerous. It can have a known, measurable, harmful effect. If this weren’t the case, then countries wouldn’t spend millions of dollars in their national defense budgets on disinformation campaigns. Medical misinformation can be deadly. It is important to not confuse “freedom of speech” with “freedom to lie.” If something is a known lie, and a dangerous lie, we have a moral responsibility to not spread that lie. Period.
Social media platforms also share in this moral responsibility. They are not exempt from standard ethics and morals.
A crude example of this is if I own a motel. Guests may think, “Hey I rented a room here, so I have a right to do whatever I want in my room.” But, if guests are engaging in child prostitution in my motel rooms and I am aware that this is happening, then I have a moral obligation to kick them out of the room and report them to law enforcement.
Wouldn’t it be rich if these criminals responded to me doing this by saying, “You’re just scared of us!”
Well, yeah, sort of. But not in the way you think. I’m scared of the harm you are causing and my own guilty conscience for facilitating it.
When someone is using your resources to do harm, then you have a moral obligation to deprive them of those resources. Whether it be using your property to commit crimes or using your social media platform to spread harmful lies, your moral obligation is equally clear. But the responsibility doesn’t just stop with social media platforms removing harmful misinformation. It is also on you.
Do your research and fact-checking before you share something you happened to see on social media or someone forwarded to you in an email. Don’t simply look for confirming evidence, this is folly and a trap, but rather seek out as much disconfirming evidence as possible. Don’t dismiss disconfirming evidence just because you don’t like the source or the disconfirmation. Evaluate the evidence on its merits.
The Wizard’s Sixth Rule states:
“The only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason.”
Exercise your reason. Don’t be made the fool by your hopes, fears, and passions.
If you don’t have the time to check things out, then you really shouldn’t be sharing these things, should you? Don’t become the charlatans’ patsy. You very well could be causing serious harm.
Background photo by kamila kawa on Unsplash