Houston… we have a problem. I heard—from a reliable source—that the government is using COVID-19 as a test for a future biological weapon.
I researched for a while and found that actually the Constitution doesn’t permit the government to keep us locked up.
Someone else told me that they don’t want us to know the treatment is simply IV Vitamin C.
But you can’t make money off Vitamin C, so they want us to be sick because that’s more profitable.
I hope that after three examples you can tell I’m ranting about my favorite topic—misinformation!
We’re deep into the coronavirus woods. We’ve hit the chain-letter-grade-information-is-completely-true phase of the grieving process.
We lasted longer than I thought we would, but we’re here.
Where’s here? What’s next? What day is it? When can I get a haircut?
Excellent questions. They’ll all be answered today. The one thing you can’t do anymore is complain about my long blogs. Sit back and take this all in, as I intentionally went big with this one. It’s not like you’re going anywhere…
As I was building my thoughts on this rant, I was thinking about what the R0 value for misinformation is. Then I remembered we’ve been down this road. Literally. On this blog. When Ebola was rearing its ugly head, I wrote What Spreads Faster: Ebola or Misinformation?
You know what they say:
We’ve all got a lot of time on our hands these days, and I believe some people are channeling their energies inappropriately. One of the biggest offenders is someone from a family with literal history books written about them. Namely, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. If only he were more like Frank Sinatra Jr…
Anyway, RFK The Sequel proudly posted an anti-vaxx scandal to his Instagram. It had the air of a thought scribbled in crayon by someone hiding under the table wearing a colander as a helmet, but it seems the Kennedy name builds a level of credibility where that can be overlooked.
It basically said that Bill Gates is part of the Illuminati and is developing vaccines with hidden microchips. People receiving the vaccine for COVID-19 will be chipped like puppies and the control over the population will be complete!
No one will leave Bill alone. It seems now his foundation’s email server was infiltrated by the hacker named Anonymous. (I know that’s not a real thing, it’s a joke…) We Americans know the devastation a few emails can bring! The “hackers” group said there was “damning evidence” supporting RFK Part II’s claims, tying Gates and the WHO to a lab in China that made coronavirus!
I love juicy stuff supporting my worldview!
These 5G cell phone towers are silently activating coronavirus, as well. The mechanism is simple: 5G interacts with the fluoride in our water supply and toothpaste, and that blocks the enzyme that metabolizes GMO foods. By the time we’re aware of it, the coronavirus has just walked right into our lungs and set up shop. I see it all the time…
Beyond the obvious, nefarious intentions of evil Bill Gates, we’ve seen angry patriots in protests that have sprung up across the country, decrying the tyrannical actions of the government. These loud voices shout, “Conspiracy! I want a haircut!” How dare Big Brother blockade them from frappuccinos, the new flavor Doritos, and that Marvel movie with the Russian Captain America.
Conspiracy theories exist on a spectrum, it seems. These ‘questionable overreaches’ by our government leave even smart people saying, “Hey, isn’t it weird that the government told us to stay home and we’re all doing it without questioning it?”
After passing out from exhaustion from 3 weeks of screaming that zinc, elderberry, Vitamin C, and even elk-freaking-antlers are not effective at treating COVID19, I awoke to phone calls from smart friends trying to validate something they’ve “heard.” They watched a video with people talking about how the coronavirus is probably synthetic and was more than likely released accidentally from a secret testing facility, not a wet market.
I’ve got a question…
W-T-to the-F is Going On?
Listen, I’m as anti-billionaire as the rest. To get that amount of money, I feel like you need to commit a war crime or two during your reign. Bill Gates wasn’t innocent, by any means.
He’s using his wealth now to eradicate polio globally, and he probably will succeed. He’s given boatloads of money for coronavirus. And in case you weren’t paying attention, he’s been trying to AVOID a pandemic like this for the better part of a decade. He’s spoken on the subject, worked with world leaders, and pretty much has done anything he can to try to avoid this.
Emails? Really? Can we just take a moment and all finally agree that most real illegal stuff isn’t done via Hotmail? I mean there are morons out there that do it that way, but if there were a conspiracy, the real dirt is done way more securely. There are lots of apps and software that will send self-destructing emails, texts, images, and voice recordings. You can program them to delete after being viewed. Almost all of them record if screenshots are taken, so unless you’re using another phone to record the contents, it’s VERY secure. No emails dug up on Bill Gates will ‘prove’ anything.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying that tyranny itself is a conspiracy. Tyranny and oppression are very real, and we must drive them from the world. I think a few upset people are using the word wrong. Advising people to add social distancing to their normal emotional distancing isn’t really a big ask in the face of a deadly virus that would literally cause our healthcare facilities to melt to the ground and our frontline healthcare workers to die needlessly. The government says, “This is bad stuff dude you should stay home.” We’re intelligent, so we say, “Yeah you’re probably right.” That’s all that’s going on here.
Those protestors don’t just want to be able to move freely. They want US to go back to work, too, risk our lives (literally) so they can get some of the conveniences of the before times:
Are they protesting the government or the low-income frontline retail workers that have to staff their favorite chain restaurant?
And sure, we don’t know where this virus really came from. The country of origin is basically The Sopranos without the Bada Bing!, so the presentation of their facts and figures can’t be trusted. We know the virus isn’t synthetic, but even I can’t entirely discredit the possibility that it (or something like it) was being studied somewhere and got loose. But that is a very-much-unvalidated possibility.
These claims are bananas and it feels like things are hitting a fevered pitch!
I want to quote a Reddit user, /u/insight_owner:
“It’s interesting that the quieter the world gets, the louder the crazy becomes.”
What do we do? How can we fix this? I’ve got a solution…
Time For Tough Love
To help people get over conspiracies, the recommended approach is an empathetic one.
Hey man, I’m not just a Negative Neally that likes to shoot stuff down. I’ve used an entirely empathetic approach to misinformation on almost every single blog I’ve written, as Supplement Land is filled with lies and incorrect assumptions.
I think we also need tough love sometimes. I think tough love is justified right now. We need tough love because… I mean, enough is enough!!! This virus doesn’t give a crap about your political leanings or how many likes or shares your post gets.
I understand there’s a lot of uncertainty right now; that’s where the love part comes in, and it will later. But, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now and this misinformation does not help the masses of people who are doing their best to survive. We’re rubbing salt in their wounds, adding to apprehensions, and throwing doubt to the only actions that will save us and our communities.
This next section is meant to check those engaging and spreading misinformation. The empathy I have for them is significantly less than what I have for the people who are tired, anxious, afraid, and just trying to get by without all this BS.
To help those people caught in the crossfire, I remind you that the conspiracy theories and, well, fools who want to re-open our states and businesses now, are the vocal minority. Our connectedness via social media allows us to hear the dribble and opinions that we normally wouldn’t, and our media amplifies anything playing on our emotions to get more attention to their networks.
I do have empathy for the conspiracy believers, as I said, and I hope to not only rebuke them but help them on the right path as well.
I’m getting to a point where I believe empathy is becoming part of the problem. Here’s where my head is at: we’ve normalized abject lies in an attempt to be empathetic.
We have to draw the line. Lies are not valid sources. Before we tie these ideas to emotion, we should validate them and be cool with the fact that our closely held beliefs might be wrong.
I’m not here to debunk these claims with a list of facts. It’s not worth the energy, nor is it effective. I’m here to point out the hypocrisy in these beliefs.
The conspiracy theories that are swirling are not only factually devoid, but they are hypocritical. Let me explain…
Microchipping is Expensive and Unnecessary
The truth is we are all willingly microchipping ourselves. We engage with software giants where we and our behaviors are cataloged, studied, and then manipulated endlessly. “The algorithm” has been proven a stronger manipulative force than any direct neuro-implants they’re “hiding in our vaccines.”
Most of us are reading the conspiracies there, on social media, without understanding how it gets to your eyes in the first place.
You watch a video. Based on your search history and how long you engaged with the video, the algorithm can guess what other videos they could serve you to keep your eyes on the screen. If you leave, they update their algorithm. If you stay, you reinforce the millions of points of data they already have.
And guess what, that can be manipulated too. If you run an oppressive authoritarian government, you can employ thousands of citizens to watch specific videos in order, using VPNs to trick the system into thinking people in your neck of the woods—people like you—are watching. That definitely happens, just like there are thousands of people playing World of Warcraft to manipulate the currency market within a stinking game.
Why, oh why, would Bill Gates spend any money on the technology they use in puppies when he can just buy a seat on the board of Facebook? Social media is more powerful than anything sci-fi you could dream up.
And most of us are falling for and strengthening the social media microchipping willingly.
The Failure to Act on Real Conspiracies
I always find it a bit comical when people get fixated on things that could be National Enquirer headlines but ignore big, really important events.
In supplements, I point out all the articles and studies showing our products are quality, and it goes under the rug. One ‘Big Pharma’ recall and everyone wants off their meds…
Here’s a shortlist of some of the REAL conspiracies that are happening, right now, around coronavirus:
- As many as 30 congresspeople were involved in insider trading before quarantine
- The pandemic response team hasn’t been replaced, and attempts to defund CDC have been rampant
- Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself
- PR groups are responsible for influencing the protests across the country
- How about a Utah pharmacy that bought a bunch of hydroxychloroquine and is trying to sell it to the state, despite it not helping (and potentially harming)?
- Or 43,000 people making more than 1 million annually being able to recoup 1.7 million, on average from previous tax years as part of the CARES act?
- Our frontline healthcare workers don’t have enough PPE
- Finally, the intentional, unconscionable inaction that led to the pandemic in the US
Where’s the outrage? Where’s the action?
If you’re itching to uncover the conspiracy, dig into the real ones. Malicious entities (Russians/foreign governments, PR firms, political groups) are planting FAKE facts on FAKE pages to manipulate you.
Rhetorical question: Can a product review on an online store be faked? The answer is yes, of course it can. If a review can be fake, why is it a stretch to believe that a post can be faked, an account can be faked, a website can be faked? It’s not hard, actually, nor is it a stretch as it’s been literally proven a real thing.
There are no conspiracies. The Illuminati don’t need to hide. They can do their dirt in the light and no one bats an eye.
Our Rebellion Against Control
These conspiracies are spread with the intention of eroding public trust in institutions.
Defund them, cripple them, fuel misinformation about them. Then, when the CDC says we need to take action, a sizable group says, “I’ll pass.”
All of that is excellent if you profit off of a weak government.
We’ve spoken about our trust thresholds, and how in buying into conspiracy theories, we trust a blogger or celebrity with no real credibility or facts. We give them the trust easily, where we are tightly reserved for the real experts.
“I can’t trust the CDC because they just told us not to wear masks, now they’re telling us to wear them!” It’s almost like a situation can change over time! Containment measures do, too.
We don’t trust the institutions, but by ignoring them we’re feeding the beast of oppression. Remove regulations, oversight, and appointed officials and you’ll have a populace that’s almost willing to be controlled. They certainly will be much easier to control without safeguards in place.
Some people see these organizations as self-serving entities of corruption and oppression with hidden agendas. I see them as sometimes flawed groups that aren’t being held accountable as often as they should, but ultimately they are composed of individuals like you and me, committed to doing good work for all of us.
Here’s something you won’t hear from someone else in my position (because they’re smarter than I am and want to actually do something with their “influencing career”): Grow up.
Life isn’t black and white. Some people suck. Things don’t go as planned.
There will be corruption in a game of Monopoly among your closest friends and loved ones, so we’ll assume there will be corruption in larger groups, organizations, and companies.
We take the good with the bad. We don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We realize that most of us are trying. Scientists are people too, so they’re going to be flawed. Just like you and me.
As it pertains to oppression and this threat of ‘tyranny’ around COVID, maybe, we live such privileged lives that a very temporary inconvenience is perceived as a removal of rights. We don’t know what real oppression and tyranny is, showing we’re not as empathetic as we thought to those who are actually suffering from them.
You vs Me? We Both Lose
There will be people who read that last section and get mad at me. Don’t. I really am not trashing you individually. I’m trashing the system that allowed you to get to these conclusions. Pointing out facts isn’t smart, I believe, but maybe showing how our values or beliefs are drastically inconsistent just might.
There’s a bigger lesson here that I’ve touched on before.
Too often we get stuck in this same place. Someone ‘researches’ all the ‘facts’, and then someone else debunks each one of those points with data and evidence. The cycle repeats over and over. What was it that I said about repeating history at the top of the rant?
We need to stop. In reality, it’s not “my view in support of 5G versus your view against 5G.” We are all being manipulated into arguing in the first place, and there’s LOTS of misinformation being fed into the conversation by one or more third parties that benefits while we argue.
If you want to participate in these “discussions,” then you must own the idea that the conversation is likely based on nothing more than the intention to sow dissent.
Some of us are quick to use any singular unverified source and take a claim as fact. If there are multiple, unverified and implausible facts—fuhgeddaboudit!
Stop. Take a step back. Two questions to ask: Whose facts are these? Who benefits if I believe them?
To the person refuting the conspiracy theories, I pose two questions also: What emotions do these lies feed from? What real concern does the theorist have that’s fueling the emotion?
With that, it’s time for the love part of our tough love…
The Mental Health Crisis and COVID
Over the past few weeks I’ve written less and less, instead focusing on helping people with this next stage of the pandemic via a video series.
As that Reddit user aptly put, the crazy does get louder when things get quieter. That’s how our brain works.
So many of us are struggling. Me included, trust that.
I’ve reached out to a number of my mental health professional friends and roped them into a series called Coping with COVID.
The next part of this is dealing with these emotions. There’s nothing more for me to say otherwise. There’s no new news.
We know that the actions we took DID work. We know that a second wave is right behind it. As I said on my Facebook page, we can’t break now and get back to work, because as history has taught us, hundreds of thousands will probably die as a result.
We’re stuck here in this limbo. We have a big question mark of uncertainty we’re all dealing with. It’s creating anxiety and that’s being expressed in a number of unhealthy ways.
Conspiracy theory engagement is an unhealthy way to scratch an itch. I believe those I see sharing this stuff are way smarter than these outrageous, factually devoid claims. I’m not getting annoyed with them, I’m getting worried for them. I know it means they’re hurting too.
There’s too much uncertainty. To best cope, we need to go into survival mode. We can’t focus on a future, but instead should focus on right now.
I’m trying to be like Uma’s dad so I’ll leave you with a Buddhist proverb: “If you have a problem that can be fixed, then there is no use in worrying. If you have a problem that cannot be fixed, then there is no use in worrying.”
The Way Forward
If you want to know what needs to happen to get us back to normal that’s devoid of the BS and polarity, read this.
I’m more worried about us right now, though.
For some of you, I was the first voice of alert. “This is real. This is serious. We need to stay home.” I shouted one simple statement from the rooftops:
Our elected officials aren’t acting quickly or strongly enough, so WE need to act and lead in our own worlds.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but it in fact was just 12 hours ago. Maybe longer. I don’t know—I’ve lost track of time.
Now, I’m going to renew that alarm with this very direct statement: Anyone stating they want to “reopen” now is absolutely, unequivocally wrong and you should ignore every word coming out of their mouth. Here’s the real coronavirus conspiracy: the voices of both inaction and unrest are fueled by the greediest of the wealthy.
That means we must come face-to-face with a truth: this will be a while more.
This also means we’re at another important intersection.
At this fork in the road, the reserves of goodwill and strength start to run dry for many of us. Where we go from here determines the type of world you want to live in.
When we strip away all of the consumerism and busy-ness—all of our escapes and distractions—we’re left with raw emotion. Loudness in the quiet.
We can cope by feeding our fears with lies. We can push outward with anger and frustration. We can sink deep into the cycle of anxiety and depression, listening to the crazy person in your head.
All of those are options. All scratch an itch and make us feel better.
The best choice is to ignore those quick fixes and instead begin the real work. Meditation and mindfulness provide you the tools to be aware of what exactly is itching you and observe your impulses to scratch it.
It’s a practice that retrains your mind to not quickly itch away mindlessly, but instead watch the itch arise, be aware of it, and let it pass.This pandemic can result in a better world—if we allow it.
One where we’re more conscious of our health and how our health can impact others.
One where we make important things important. And one where we disengage from the normal nonsense and systems of control we willingly participate in it.
I say this is an inconvenient, difficult time, but it’s an opportune one. I say it’s time to unplug from the machine.
Spend this time and use this energy for more noble ends. I want you to be a hero. That’s as simple as committing small acts of good for those in your circle. You’ll help others, but you’ll quickly realize that your own mental health “well” will be replenished. The aggregation of these small acts is a great society.
The way forward and out of the dark is helping others.
Just trying to keep it real…
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth