Early in 2011, Judy Mikovits was arrested in the city of Reno, Nevada. A scene in Plandemic, a new online documentary about Covid-19, shows a SWAT team descending on a suburban house at night. Mikovits, a research biologist, had recently published a “blockbuster paper” that, the documentary says, “sent shockwaves through the scientific community”. It “revealed that the common use of animal and human foetal tissues [in vaccines] were unleashing devastating plagues of chronic diseases”. Shortly after, Mikovits’s career lay in ruins.
Fast-forward nine years. Plandemic reached the internet on May 4, three weeks ago. According to its promotional material: “Humanity is imprisoned by a killer pandemic. People are being arrested for surfing in the ocean and meditating in nature. Nations are collapsing. Hungry citizens are rioting for food.
“The media has generated so much confusion and fear that people are begging for salvation in a syringe. Billionaire patent owners are pushing for globally mandated vaccines. Anyone who refuses to be injected with experimental poisons will be prohibited from travel, education and work. No, this is not a synopsis for a new horror movie. This is our current reality.”
In the documentary, Mikovits says that her research was blacklisted and her job taken away; that she was arrested and silenced; and that she knows that the spread of Covid-19 is deliberate. By May 11, Plandemic had garnered over eight million views; the spread was aided by a re-share from Christiane Northrup, a celebrity physician and regular Oprah guest, who posted it to nearly half a million Facebook followers on May 5. Later on May 11, Facebook and YouTube began to take Plandemic down, saying that it violated copyright and community guidelines. (“Going viral”, these days, is not the innocent joy it was.)
Mikovits was wrong in 2011. Her results were never replicated; her samples were likely contaminated. Her study was retracted by the journal Science. She was arrested, unrelatedly, because she was suspected of stealing notebooks that did not belong to her from the lab from which she had already been fired, and spent five days in prison. (The criminal charges were later dropped). The SWAT raid in Plandemic is unrelated too; the footage was filmed this spring in California. The story begins to seem flaccid; wasn’t it more exciting the way we began?
What’s fascinating about Plandemic is not its claims, which have been contested and disproved by experts in public health, but how so many people got hooked. It’s a case-study in how these documentaries work. The aim isn’t to convince you by argument, but to seduce you with their clubby atmosphere, then drip-feed you their nonsense of choice.
Plandemic is notionally “part one” of a longer film; the section that you can watch, if you rummage around the web, is therefore an extract. It’s an interview between Mikki Willis, a former model and independent documentary-maker, and Mikovits, whom Willis calls “one of the most accomplished scientists of her generation”. (She hasn’t published a paper since 2012.) Ahead of the film’s release, Willis wrote in a Facebook post that it would “blast the light of truth into the darkest corners of our corrupt healthcare system.”
Mikovits’s argument is confused, but, roughly, it goes like this. Covid-19 is real, but it was enhanced by a lab in Wuhan – “I wouldn’t use the word ‘created’, but you can’t say ‘naturally occurring’”. (This has been widely rejected by scientists and public-health experts, who, in February, wrote in the Lancet that “scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of… SARS-CoV-2, and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.”)
Mikovits also believes that face masks are part of the conspiracy (“[a face mask] literally activates your own virus”) and that the virus is being allowed to run wild, for Big Pharma’s benefit. “The game,” Mikovits tells us, “is to prevent the therapies until everyone is infected, then push the vaccines.”
The shadowy figures behind this alleged global conspiracy include Anthony Fauci: Mikovits’s nemesis. Fauci now leads the American response to Covid-19 (and is therefore the face of the Trump administration’s response to the crisis) and has run the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for 36 years. Mikovits worked next door to him at the National Cancer Institute in the 1980s. She claims that he held up publication of a paper that she had written on HIV, which (again, she claims) led to another researcher Robert Gallo taking credit for it while lives were, in the meantime, lost.
Neither of these claims are true, according to Science. Fauci appears in Plandemic several times, in archive TV clips. Underneath these clips is a rolling, ominous sound-effect, to, I assume, connote malevolence. (While Fauci has not yet addressed Mikovits’s specific claims, he said at a White House briefing in April: “You will always have conspiracy theories when you have a very challenging public health crisis. They are nothing but distractions.”)
Plandemic, like most conspiracy stuff, is an exercise in critical thinking. The style is hammy throughout; it’s like watching two-dimensional chess. For instance, Mikovits’s message to Donald Trump – “repeal the Bayh-Dolh Act”, which allows universities to profit from government-sponsored research – is framed in a sudden close-up shot. (Still, she knows how to snag the President: put your message on TV.) And we see Willis nodding thoughtfully while Mikovits talks, because he is a clever man who is being convinced.
Even less subtle is the script. In the first few minutes, you’re told that “the minions of Big Pharma” had Mikovits in their sights, and the end of her career, a decade ago, was part of “a plague of corruption”. This is the language of Scripture, or video-games; one hero against the world. Some of the biggest Facebook groups sharing Plandemic in the run-up to May 8 include “Chemtrails Global Skywatch”, “The Great Awakening”, “Fall of the Cabal” and, inevitably, “Drain the Swamp”.
Another is “Collective Action Against Bill Gates. We Won’t Be Vaccinated!!” There’s a moment in Plandemic, at around the five-minute mark, when you realise: oh, vaccinations again. Gates turns up several times, the suggestion being that he’s in cahoots with Fauci. (There’s no evidence for the backing, nor the plot.) Willis, doing his interviewer impression, asks Mikovits whether she’s anti-vaccination; “oh, absolutely not,” she replies.
She doesn’t mention that she has spoken at Autism One, a conference that serves as a soapbox for the vaccine-autism belief. One of her slides was titled: “The best scientist-in-jail story since Galileo.” At the risk of stating the obvious, there’s no evidence to suggest that vaccinations cause adverse effects, other than, in rare cases, an allergic reaction. In a YouTube video now also removed (and separate to Plandemic), Mikovits says: “We don’t need a vaccine. All you have to do is have a healthy immune system.”
Plandemic is a good example of how conspiratorial stories work: they avoid doing exactly what they promise they will. Not much of this “theory” coheres, but it sounds like you need to pick a side, and who wants to stand by The Man? To garnish this pressure, there are lines from the pulpit to stir your soul: things like “I have no constitutional freedoms or rights”, or “no dissenting voices are allowed any more in this free country”, both of which mean nothing but ring loud, hearty and true.
And Plandemic doesn’t aim to convert you; conspiracy theories rarely do. They’re there to deepen a faith that exists, not instil it in the heathens (for whom they only pretend to care). There are two ways to benefit from watching Plandemic. One is to learn how these documentaries work, and see how they exert an influence on you. The other is to be Judy Mikovits. At one point, Willis asks Mikovits a question that, as usual, seems reasonable until you realise that there’s never a follow-up. It’s the one you’d ask yourself: “Why come forward now?” Her reply: “Because if we don’t stop this now… we’ll be killed by this agenda.”
That covers the “why”, but not the “now”. For that, I suggest the answer might be found on Amazon, where you’ll see that Mikovits has a new book out, Plague of Corruption: Restoring Faith in the Promise of Science. In Amazon’s US store, Plague of Corruption has an orange “bestseller” mark. That’s what conspiracy theories are for: they help you to feel special again.