By Alison Campbell 11/05/2020 1


In the last couple of days I’ve seen a lot of individuals and pages share links to a trailer for “Plandemic”. And I’ve had friends ask me what I think of it. They’ve commented that it looks and sounds pretty ‘sciencey’ but wanted another opinion. So, I had a look, and here goes.

The “Plandemic” trailer focuses on statements by Dr Judy Mikovits. (My blog buddy Grant Jacobs wrote several posts on her research back in 2011, when a paper in published two years earlier in the journal Science started to attract a lot of attention; see here, & here, for example) In the video she’s described as being “the most accomplished scientist in her generation”, which is a pretty sweeping claim and should be easily substantiated if correct.

But the source of this statement appears to be from a website run by R.F.Kennedy, Jnr, a site which actively opposes vaccination. However, I searched more widely using Google Scholar, which helpfully includes the number of citations for scientific articles in addition to all the usual details. Between gaining her PhD thesis in 1993 and publishing in Science in 2009, Mikovits published other 40 papers (many with a small number of citations), which is not a huge output for someone described in the terms Kennedy used. Nor has she published anything since 2012. The 2009 paper was her only one in that prestigious journal, and as you’ll see from the link, it was subsequently retracted.

The 2009 paper attracted a huge amount of attention when it came out, as it claimed to have discovered a cause for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in the form of a murine (mouse) retrovirus.  That’s it. Contrary to the claim in the trailer, the paper did not reveal “that the common use of animal and human fetal tissues was unleashing devastating plagues of chronic diseases.” The paper is still available, albeit with that ‘retracted’ label, so anyone can read it and check this.

Things started to turn to custard when other scientists tried to replicate the findings by Mikovits and her team. Eventually multiple labs – including Mikovits’ own team – were sent blinded samples used in the original study (that is, the samples weren’t identified as controls or experimental samples). The result: the conclusions in that 2009 paper couldn’t be substantiated, and ultimately this led to its full retraction in 2011 (which followed the retraction of two figures from the paper). A subsequent further analysis, published in 2012, reached the same conclusions (Mikovits was involved in this, and publicly agreed with the findings.)

Dr Mikovits lost her job with the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI), a privately-funded organisation that had hired her in 2007. Litigation followed rather rapidly, when the WPI filed suit against her for removing lab notebooks and a computer (both the property of the Institute). At one point Mikovits was arrested and briefly jailed, but the WPI later withdrew from legal proceedings. While the film trailer uses video of a SWAT team at this point in its narrative, it seems highly unlikely that such force would have been used for an arrest in a civil suit. (While in the movie trailer she claims to have been arrested without a warrant, this appears to be incorrect. Nor was she jailed because of the nature of her research; Snopes has looked into this one.)

So far, this trailer is not doing well when measured against the CRAAP test that my first-year students use to assess the value and reliability of sources of information. It’s current, I suppose, and tangentially relevant given its claims about Covid-19, but at this point many of the statements it contains don’t appear to be particularly accurate. Nor does Dr Mikovits appear to be a leading authority in the subjects she’s discussing (and she hasn’t published since 2012).

The video then goes on to make a number of statements about Dr Fauci, which the Science reporting team address here, before Dr Mikovits goes on to make several claims about viruses that are … somewhat unusual for a virologist. For example, “they’ll kill millions, as they already have with their vaccines. There is no vaccine currently on the schedule for any RNA virus that works.”

That definitely fails on the accuracy criterion. Measles, mumps, rubella, rabies, polio and yellow fever are all RNA viruses. and the vaccines against them have had a huge positive impact on public health. In fact, it made me wonder if Dr Mikovits is opposed to vaccination, despite her subsequent statement in the video that she is not. Those who speak at anti-vaccination conferences usually don’t do so to promote the use of vaccines.

Another example: the claim that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, was produced in a lab, as for it to happen naturally would take in the order of 800 years. However, as the Science reporters point out, “Scientific estimates suggest the closest virus to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a bat coronavirus identified by the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Its “distance” in evolutionary time to SARS-CoV-2 is about 20 to 80 years.” That is, the genomic analyses do not bear out Dr Mikovits’ claim.

And so on.

Coming to the final item on that list of criteria that my students use when assessing sources, what is the purpose of the trailer? Aside from trying to attract an audience for the full-length film, I have to say (given its lack of accuracy on a variety of subjects) that it appears to be to paint its protagonist as a brave maverick scientist who has been silenced by ‘the man’ (despite any evidence to support this). It certainly doesn’t provide evidence in support of any of the claims it makes, and so can’t be said to have the purpose of promoting a scientific perspective. The ‘silencing’ part is given the lie by the video’s existence, and by the existence of various books that Dr Mikovits has written. Genuine science isn’t first brought to our attention by youtube videos, and scientists don’t make statements about telling the ‘truth’.

So, friends, thank you for asking for my opinion and advice on this one. Given its nature, please don’t share links to the “Plandemic” trailer on social media, and please call out anyone who does.

 

You’ll find other , very thorough, coverage of this story in the links below:
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/fact-checking-judy-mikovits-controversial-virologist-attacking-anthony-fauci-viral

https://respectfulinsolence.com/2020/05/06/judy-mikovits-pandemic – as Orac points out, the blurb for the movie is totally over-the-top-bonkers. I mean, “globally mandated vaccines”? We’re to be “injected with experimental poisons”?

https://factcheck.org/2020/05/the-falsehoods’of-the-plandemic-video

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