Some think COVID19 is a hoax

The inconvenient truth of COVID-19 is that it’s going to infect millions and hundreds of thousands will die. That reality is slowing dawning on a majority of Canadian as the virus moves closer to home. However a small minority see it as a hoax, a government plot to invade our daily lives. I’ll call this group the “Illuminati faction.”

A larger minority have politicized what is a health crisis. This group votes for the Conservative Party but I’m reluctant to label them as such. Let’s call them the “political partisans.”

Four million Canadians say the whole crisis is overblown, extrapolating from a poll conducted by Angus Reid on March 30. Twelve per cent of respondents agreed that “the threat of a coronavirus outbreak in Canada is overblown.”

Two-thirds of them voted Conservative in the 2019 federal election.

Other than politics, I can think of no other reason why Conservative voters would regard a health crisis differently than anyone else. The coronavirus does not select victims based on how they vote. Regardless of what they tell pollsters, I suspect that this group is as worried as anyone else.

The official stance Conservation Party is sensible. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said: “There really isn’t much philosophical difference when it comes to fighting a virus or keeping Canadians healthy and safe (CP, March 22, 2020).”

The motive of the political partisans seems obvious. They are reluctant to give the prime minister any kind of advantage. During a health crisis the prime minister appears statesman-like.

That bump in popularity has certainly worked for Prime Minister Trudeau and to slightly lesser extent for U.S. President Trump. Two-thirds of Canadians think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is doing a good job handling the COVID-19 crisis. Some provincial leaders have seen even more of a bump. The highest score came for Premier François Legault of Quebec with an approval rating of 93 per cent.

However, the Illuminati faction has more of a populist inclination. They distrust anything that the Mainstream Media (MSM) has to offer which they regard as fake news. The truth is revealed through the blogosphere.

I found two examples of the Illuminati faction on the Facebook page of a Kamloops user.

Henry Makow is the author of Illuminati: The Cult that Hijacked the World. On his website he proposes that governments are part of a sinister plot. His April 3 post warns:

“Flu Psyop — Pretext to Impose Orwellian Dictatorship?” ‘The Depression [resulting from the pandemic] will deepen and an oppressive political regime will be instituted.” “Their goal is take away our freedoms. Then if we want them back, we’ll be forced to receive vaccines to gain a digital certificate of movement which allows us to be tracked on 5G control grids.”

And a YouTube video with 508,068 views as of March 31, 2020, is titled “CoronaHoax Pandemic Proven Fake… Yet The Lockdowns Continue… Here’s Why.”

Like climate change deniers, COVID-19 deniers would prefer to believe some guy blogging from his basement. Unlike climate change, the effects of the virus are not glacial –they are immediate and deadly. And when not deadly, it’s extremely painful with possible permanent damage to the lungs.

Who says irony is dead?

Sometimes it’s not easy being a pro-vaxxer

Despite the fact that vaccines have saved uncountable lives and virtually wiped out smallpox, polio, tetanus and rabies, vaccine risks exist. When those risks result in death, people lose trust in all vaccines.

image: Skeptical Raptor

Look at what happened in the Philippines. In 2015 they purchased three million doses of a new dengue vaccine.

Dengue is not as deadly as it might seem. Three-quarters of people infected by the mosquito-borne virus don’t notice anything. The remainder fall into three groups – symptoms similar to the common cold; or a fever accompanied by headache, pain behind the eyes, aching joints and bones that sometimes leads to internal bleeding; or the most deadly, dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome where plasma seeps out of capillaries, liquid pools around organs, massive internal bleeding ensues. The brain, kidneys and liver begin to fail (Scientific American, April, 2018).

In the Philippines with a population of 105,000, dengue kills an average of 750 people a year. Any death is one too many but that number doesn’t even put dengue-deaths in the top ten list of killers. Of infectious diseases, many more die from pneumonia and tuberculosis.

The dengue vaccine wasn’t cheap. Made by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, Dengvaxia cost more than the entire national vaccination program for 2015, which covered pneumonia, tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella. And it would reach less than one percent of the population.

Some wondered if the vaccine Dengvaxia had been oversold to the Philippine government in a panic mode.

Here’s where the nightmare for pro-vaxxers comes in.

Internist Antonio Dans and paediatrician Leonila Dans at the University of the Philippines Manila College of Medicine discovered some startling results: young children who were vaccinated were more like likely to suffer from dengue that those who weren’t vaccinated.

They found this out by studying publications by the makers of the vaccine, Sanofi Pasteur. While it worked for older children, for younger ones, the vaccine made things worse.

The two Dans warned the Philippine secretary of health in 2016 of their findings but in the meantime, the World Health Organization said that there was no problem.

“It was either believe us or believe the WHO,” said Antonio Dans. “If I were them, I’d believe the WHO. I mean, who were we? We were just teachers in a small medical school.”

The Philippine secretary of health responded with her own warning: doctors who engaged in “misinformation” on the vaccine would be responsible for every death from dengue that could have been prevented.

Then Eva Harris, a dengue expert at the University of California, Berkeley, found strong evidence in 2017 to support the Dans:

Harris’s evidence made the world take notice. Now Sanofi Pasteur and the WHO don’t recommend Dengvaxia for young children who have not been previously infected.

The reasons why Dengvaxia makes matters worse for children who have not been infected and better for those who have is puzzling. There are a few theories but it’s debatable.

The confusion has led to lack of confidence in vaccinations. In 2015, 93 per cent of Filipinos strongly agreed that vaccines are important.  In 2018, less than a third thought so.

Now, Filipinos suspicious of vaccines aren’t getting kids vaccinated and several outbreaks of measles have occurred.

Vaccines save lives but in a rush to save lives at any cost, the rollout of Dengvaxia was too soon and the cost was a loss of confidence of all vaccines.

How Russia uses social media to stir conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed an army of trolls and bots. His bad intentions go beyond revenge and interference in U.S. elections. Recently, postings from his motley crew have resulted in deaths due to a measles outbreak in Europe.

image: Rantt

Putin never forgave Hillary Clinton for the mass protests against his government in 2011. He was convinced that Clinton was seeking a “regime change” in Russia. Hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s email server threw the Clinton campaign into disarray. Michael McFaul, U.S. ambassador to Moscow until early 2014, commented: “One could speculate that this is his moment for payback.”

Canada is not immune. Putin doesn’t like Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. As a reporter, she called him an authoritarian, an autocrat and “really dangerous.” Months after she became minister, Putin banned her from Russia. Canadians have been targeted through Facebook. Russian trolls befriend unsuspecting users to spread their propaganda.

To be clear, I like Facebook and use it daily but I’m very careful about friend requests. I personally know most of my contacts and others are friends of people I trust. But Facebook admits that hundreds of millions of others have been sucked into the Russian vortex. If you’re not sure, check your Facebook account here for any Russian agents. If the box is empty, it doesn’t mean that you weren’t exposed, it just means that you didn’t engage them.

The motive of Russian trolls is to agitate and divide countries with the hope that governments will be thrown into chaos. That’s easily done in the U.S. with a president that refuses to admit what everyone knows: the Russians interfered in his election.

Russian trolls are responsible for the public health misinformation that led to a measles outbreak in Europe this summer where cases doubled over 2017 and 37 people died.

Heidi Larson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told CBC Radio’s The Current about her research. Here’s the exchange between CBC host Piya Chattopadhyay and Dr. Larson:

Piya: “And specifically I want to ask you about Facebook because as you know Facebook has been accused of contributing to misinformation — in other arenas, in other contexts. How has Facebook contributed to misinformation about vaccines?

Heidi: Oh I think it has contributed significantly. But these new tools: social media, Facebook, they are organizational tools, they’re not just about spreading information — they’re empowering groups of people not even geographically local across different locations to organize into groups. And that kind of organizational power that these tools have given some of these anti-sentiments is I think as concerning as the negative sentiments.”

The malicious posts have been traced back to the Russian troll farm, Internet Research Agency.

Researchers found that trolls were 22 more likely to tweet using a hashtag referencing vaccines than the average user. Echo chambers embolden Facebook users into thinking their bizarre thoughts are valid. It turns out that when just 25 per cent of people in your social media network are against vaccination, it can delay or prevent vaccination –even for those who previously were ready to vaccinate their children.

Facebook and Twitter are working remove agents who want to undermine democracy. Meanwhile, we need to be vigilant.