The Covid-19 cure exists, but communist operatives are hiding it from us. At least that is what some Q-anon folks appear to believe. While I don’t normally rub shoulders with conspiracy theorists, I had the unfortunate luck of encountering a number of so called “Q-Anon” followers a few days ago. What I learned about them in my brief interaction was disturbing and terrifying.
It began when I saw the phrase “6%” as a trending topic on Twitter. Apparently, the CDC had recently updated its Covid-19 death statistics to include the fact that 94% of people who died from Covid-19 had underlying medical conditions. In other words, only 6% of the roughly 180,000 deaths in the United States were solely due to Covid-19.
This data lit up the Q-Anon community on Twitter, whom I could identify because many of them used the letter “Q” in their Twitter bios (though I must admit that there was a great deal of overlap with MAGA supporter as well). These are some real quotes from a number of the Q-Anon commentators that I saw, I have edited the grammar and spelling for clarity:
“The CDC cooked the books for this shutdown…”
“Who’s behind all of this and what are they afraid of?”
“I have said this from the very beginning…show me the patients!”
“I have been awake thru this whole thing.”
“Yes!! I’ve known it all along too…the numbers are bs.”
The fact that 94% of Covid-19 deaths were tied to other health issues is not surprising at all. Doctors have been saying for many months that people with preexisting conditions were more likely to succumb to the virus. Comorbidities include relatively common ailments like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and depression. The majority of Americans are likely to have one or more of these ailments, especially if they are older. The fact that the vast majority of those who died had underlying medical conditions does not change the fact that they died from Covid-19. Yet somehow, the Q-Anon folks and their followers have used the CDC’s data to suggest that the death count is “faked” by padding the numbers with 170k people who died of other causes.
Observation 1) Many of these folks appear to be scientifically illiterate. One Twitter user proudly accused Fauci of scientific fraud, but admitted, in the very same tweet, that she was not sure what the difference between Covid-19 and Coronavirus was. None of the conspiracy theorists seemed to catch the irony of both accusing the CDC of faking Covid-19 death counts but also accepting the 94% figure that they claim vindicated them…when both sets of data came from the CDC itself. None seemed the notice that it was the CDC that “exposed” the CDC’s own alleged“fraud.”
Observation 2) They love Trump. Virtually all of the commentators to these threads had a Trump2020 or MAGA hashtag in their bios in addition to the “Q” signal. Some of them had hashtags signifying their hatred of “fake news.”
Observation 3) Some think Covid-19 is a weapon. I saw references to Covid-19 as a “bio-weapon,” but again failed to see the contradiction in simultaneously holding the view that Covid-19 is a “bio-weapon” but also not a serious health threat.
Observation 4) Some believe that “communist operatives” are blocking doctors from talking about Hydroxycloroquin, the “cure” for Covid-19. Hydroxycloroquin initially showed anecdotal promise in early studies as a treatment (not cure) for Covid-19, but most countries around the world discontinued recommending it when peer reviewed double blind testing showed it to be ineffective against Covid-19. Donald Trump has continued, bizarrely, to push this drug for some reason, even though two other treatments exist for Covid-19 (and are proven to work).
Observation 5) Many are convinced that the lock-down to prevent Covid-19 was unnecessary. Some accused Bill Gates, Dr. Fauci, and others “the Democrats” of faking the CDC data to support a lock-down. When I pressed some to explain how the CDC and Democrats got ~180 other countries to also lock-down in response to the virus…they told me it was a global conspiracy. The “facts” of who orchestrated the “fraud” changed and got bigger the more that I questioned.
Observation 6) Many aren’t reading what they retweet. One of the responses to the 6% discussion was “supported” by a Forbes article entitled “Why The WHO Faked A Pandemic.” Though everyone took this article as proof that they were “right all along,” none apparently read the article…which was written in 2010, a decade prior to the Covid-19 pandemic (leaving aside the fact that the WHO and CDC are different organizations as well.)
I was also amused to notice that many Q-Anon followers “liked” my Tweet refuting their claims of CDC fraud. I can only surmise that they hadn’t actually read my tweet, but saw “CDC” and “fraud” and instinctively “liked” in agreement. This further bolstered my belief that many weren’t reading what they were sharing.
Observation 7) Some of them could be violent. I saw more than one post calling for the “execution” of those involved in this “fraud.”
While I believe that we should always have a healthy level of skepticism of the media and authority, it is clear that too many skeptics are not equipped with sufficient critical thinking skills. Social media has provided an outlet where like-minded individuals can reinforce each others’ false beliefs. They support each other as they slip deeper and deeper into rabbit holes of their own construction. The deeper they fall, the more they perceive those outside this dark sanctuary to be a threat.
No-matter what your political leanings, I think we can all agree that we should not be encouraging the spread of false information. And yet, I later learned, the reason that the “6%” phrase trended on Twitter at all, that which led me on this discovery…was because the President of the United States retweeted the Q-Anon account that misrepresented the CDC data. The tacit support, by the President, of radical and unfounded beliefs is dangerous to the democracy at its core.