F Rosa Rubicondior: Anti-Vaxxer Conspiracists News - How Trumpanzee Cult Conspiracists Are Risking People's Lives For Money While Feeding Populist Extremism

Monday 4 March 2024

Anti-Vaxxer Conspiracists News - How Trumpanzee Cult Conspiracists Are Risking People's Lives For Money While Feeding Populist Extremism

Anti-vaccine conspiracies fuel divisive political discourse | The University of Tokyo
According to a news item carried today by Agence France-Presse (AFP), US antivaxx conspiracists are deliberately spreading fear and disinformation to sell quack medical kits to gullible fools and in doing so are risking the lives of anyone foolish enough to believe them. And a recent paper published by a Japanese research group has shown how extremist parties are trading on growing antivaxx paranoia, originating in Trump-supporting conspiracists in the USA, by incorporating it into the political platforms.

This team of researchers recall how Donald Trump first of all tried to take credit for developing the mRNA vaccines against Covid-19, as though he had personally directed the research and invented the science behind mRNA vaccines, then switched to curry favour with the antivaxxers by casting doubt on the need for boosters. And of course, antivaxxer conspiracy theories became a central theme of the rabidly pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theorists.

Firstly, the AFP report:
US conspiracy theorists monetize 'Disease X' misinformation

Rob Lever and Anuj Chopra, with Tommy Wang in Hong Kong Mon, 4 March 2024 at 2:04 am GMT

Fast-spreading 'Disease X' conspiracy theories pose a threat to public health, researchers say (SERGIO FLORES)
Coined by the World Health Organization to denote a hypothetical future pandemic, "Disease X" is at the center of a blizzard of misinformation that American conspiracy theorists are amplifying -- and profiting from.

The falsehoods, including that the unknown pathogen indicates an elitist plot to depopulate the earth, appeared to originate in the United States but spilled to Asia in multiple regional languages, AFP fact-checkers found.

The fast-spreading misinformation, which experts say illustrates the perils of reduced content moderation on social media sites, threatens to fuel vaccine hesitancy and jeopardize preparation for public health emergencies four years after the outbreak of Covid-19.

Stoking fears about Disease X, right-wing influencers in the United States are also cashing in on the falsehoods by hawking medical kits which contain what health experts call an unproven Covid-19 treatment.

Misinformation mongers are trying to exploit this conspiracy theory to sell products. This is often their primary mode of income. The conflict is profound. Without the evidence-free fearmongering about vaccines and government conspiracies, they'd have little or no income.

Timothy Caulfield, University of Alberta in Canada.

The conspiracy theories particularly took off after the World Economic Forum -- a magnet for misinformation -- convened a "Preparing for Disease X" panel in January focused on a possible future pandemic.

- Selling products -

Alex Jones, the founder of the website InfoWars who has made millions spreading conspiracy theories about mass shootings and Covid-19, falsely claimed on social media that there was a globalist plan to deploy Disease X as a "genocidal kill weapon."

As the conspiracy spread to China, posts shared on TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) claimed the Chinese government was rolling out mobile cremation ovens to cope with "mass deaths."

But using reverse image searches, AFP fact-checkers found the videos in the posts actually showed pet cremation services.

Last October, AFP fact-checkers debunked online posts in Malaysia that claimed nurses were being forced to take a nonexistent vaccine for Disease X.

US cardiologist Peter McCullough, known for spreading Covid-19 misinformation, claimed without evidence that Disease X was "expected to be engineered in a biolab."

He made the claim on the website of The Wellness Company, a US-based supplements supplier where he serves as the chief scientific officer.

Urging people to "be ready" for Disease X, the website offers a "medical emergency kit" for around $300, which contains drugs including ivermectin, an unproven Covid-19 treatment.

The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing website notorious for conspiracy theories, also promoted the kits in a sponsored message titled "'DISEASE X' -- Are The Globalists Planning Another Pandemic?"

"Don't be caught unprepared," the message said, leading readers to a link to order the kits.

- Misinformation goes unchallenged -

Spreading conspiracy theories in order to make money is a grift long established on the right. The ones most likely to be spreading conspiracy theories [about topics such as Disease X] are also looking for a way to take advantage of their audience to profit from it.

Julie Millican, vice president of the left-leaning watchdog Media Matters.

The Wellness Company and Gateway Pundit did not respond to AFP requests for comment.

Much of the misinformation appears to go unchallenged as platforms such as X scale back content moderation in a climate of cost-cutting that has gutted trust and safety teams.

The conspiracy theories build on growing vaccine hesitancy since Covid-19, which is likely to have "far-reaching" public health effects, said Jennifer Reich, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver.

Since Covid, we have seen declining support for childhood vaccines and more support on surveys for parents' rights to reject vaccines for their children.

Jennifer Reich, sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver.

Some believers of Disease X conspiracies vowed to reject future vaccines, according to social media posts tracked by AFP, a stance that could limit the response to real health emergencies.

Disinformation can also lead to some segments of the population taking up either ineffective or even harmful measures during an epidemic. It can become a major barrier for a society to be proactive in preparing and preventing an emerging contagious disease.

Professor Chunhuei Chi, professor of global health at Oregon State University.


Now four researchers from Tokyo University, Waseda University and the University of Tsukuba, Japan, have shown a link between conspiracy theorists and political groups. Their work is described in a paper in the Journal of Computational Social Science and is explained in a news release from Tokyo University:

Heightened use of social media during the coronavirus pandemic brought with it an unprecedented surge in the spread of misinformation. Of particular significance were conspiracy theories surrounding the virus and vaccines made to combat it. Though conspiracy theories about vaccines are not a new phenomenon, this was the first time they were observed becoming elevated to the level of national political discourse. A new study led by researchers from the University of Tokyo shows that online political engagement, conspiracy theories and spirituality played crucial roles in shaping the anti-vaccine beliefs of different groups.

The pandemic was a world-changing event that will likely be studied from many different perspectives for a long time to come. Researchers around the world explore the impacts it had on people, institutions, health, and even the environment. Professor Fujio Toriumi from the Department of Systems Innovation studies how public opinion forms by analyzing communications data such as news media or social networking. His group examined the phenomena of anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, focusing on Japanese Twitter records, and drew some conclusions about the impacts and causes of such beliefs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a rise in anti-vaccine sentiments on social media, and our study aimed to understand the triggers that led individuals to adopt anti-vaccine attitudes. We found anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists, so-called anti-vaxxers, exhibited stronger political engagement compared to vaccine supporters. Although some Japanese users express right-wing tendencies, a majority lean toward more left-wing ideologies, in contrast to what was observed in the West.

Professor Fujio Toriumi, co-first author
Department of Systems Innovation
School of Engineering
The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Long-term anti-vaxxers showed strong political engagement, often aligning with liberal parties; however, those brought into the fold of anti-vaxxers due to the pandemic exhibited weaker political interest overall, but there were strong and frequent occurrences of terms related to conspiracy theories and spirituality in their Twitter profile descriptions. While the study doesn't establish causation, it highlights the potential role of conspiracy theories and spirituality as gateways leading individuals to support more divisive politicians and political parties.

Spirituality, naturalism, alternative health practices and anti-vaccine sentiments all have something in common: their indifference or even disdain for scientific evidence. Individuals interested in these topics tend to pick what scientific facts suit their opinions. Also, they exhibit strong resistance to the incorporation of artificial substances into their bodies under the guise of naturalism. It is believed that these similarities serve as gateways to anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.

Professor Fujio Toriumi.
It might be tempting to think that the views and opinions of fringe groups online don’t have any real-world consequences, but there have been some high-profile cases of conspiracy theories breaking the confines of the online realm; for example, in the U.S., the so-called Capitol insurrection and far-right conspiracy group QAnon’s obstruction of vaccine efforts, and in Japan, the rise of controversial political party Sanseito, which is built on a variety of conspiracy theories and anti-immigration rhetoric, amongst other things, but also environmentalism. And while the spread and impact of conspiracy theories is a global issue, there are some instances that are particular to Japan.

The uniqueness of conspiracy theorists leaning left in Japan may be attributed to the impact of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. While anti-nuclear sentiments have long been associated with leftist ideologies, the addition of the fear stemming from radioactive contamination has led to the proliferation of conspiracy theories predominantly within the leftist spectrum, believed to be related to fear surrounding the incorporation of foreign substances into the human body. This might have heightened fear, hesitancy and mistrust in vaccines during the pandemic and was likely reinforced by increased representation online.

Professor Fujio Toriumi.
All over the world, not just in Japan, social media is considered a major vector for spreading misinformation. The prominent factors for this include the rapid dissemination of information and the wide scope of its reach, as well as the influence of the echo chamber, the nature of social media platforms to present users with things that likely support — and reinforce — their biases. These unique characteristics of social media make it more susceptible to the spread of misinformation compared to traditional media, which are more likely to have editorial oversight or even legal regulation regarding content, and which social media usually lacks. Social media platforms also contain a vast sea of data, which make them far more difficult to observe and analyze.

The most challenging aspect of conducting this research was applying machine learning and data analysis techniques to vast feeds of Twitter data that were constantly changing. This was done to classify patterns of people's attitude changes toward the COVID-19 vaccine, distinguishing between persistent anti-vaxxers and pandemic-induced new anti-vaxxers. In the future, we intend to explore the effectiveness of different communication strategies in addressing vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. Additionally, we plan to investigate the role of social media platforms and their algorithms in amplifying or mitigating the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for developing effective interventions to promote public health and combat misinformation.

Professor Fujio Toriumi.
And in their research paper the four researchers say:

Anti-vaccine attitudes pose a threat to public health by impeding the development of herd immunity. However, the proliferation and politicization of anti-vaccine discourse, exacerbated by the pandemic and the rise of social media, have not been fully elucidated. This study, using Japanese Twitter data, revealed that (a) anti-vaxxers are characterized by high political interest, (b) persistent anti-vaxxers were more ideologically left-leaning and had stronger ties to existing political parties, and (c) pandemic-induced new anti-vaxxers displayed low political engagement but a greater affinity for conspiracy theories, spirituality, naturalism, and alternative health practices, which served as gateways to anti-vaccination views. Furthermore, those who turned anti-vaccine after the pandemic also exhibited an increased tendency to follow the newly emerged anti-vaccine party, potentially contributing to their political representation at the national level. These analyses show that the anti-vaccine discourse has expanded and reached a politically representative scale, strengthening its discursive network with conspiracy theories, spirituality, naturalism, and alternative health practices.


The global spread of COVID-19 has highlighted the challenge posed by anti-vaccine attitudes. Despite scientific evidence that supports the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing the severity and mortality rates of COVID-19 infections, a significant segment of the population remains hesitant about or completely resistant to vaccination. This vocal minority presents a significant obstacle to public health efforts to achieve herd immunity [1, 2]. Although anti-vaccine attitudes are not new [3], social media has amplified their scale and velocity, making containment efforts increasingly difficult [4]. The onset of COVID-19 in early 2020 coincided with an era of heightened social media use, further increasing the prevalence and relevance of anti-vaccine narratives.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-vaccine attitudes have become further complicated by their politicization. The most notable example is the relationship between anti-vax beliefs and former US President Donald Trump. Despite boasting about his administration’s support for vaccine development, Trump expressed reluctance to take a booster shot. These mixed messages have resulted in Trump supporters, who often harbor distrust toward government and experts, displaying a tendency to eschew preventive measures like vaccination and mask-wearing, in contrast to liberal citizens. In Europe, anti-vaccine sentiments have been linked to support for populist parties that express skepticism toward elites and experts [5, 6]. The intersection of anti-vaccine attitudes with support for specific political parties and their influence on policymaking can have profound implications for public health.

Hence, there is an urgent need to elucidate the mechanisms of the spread of anti-vaccine narratives on social media and their political ramifications. Nonetheless, the existing literature suffers from two critical limitations. First, the prevailing research has focused on describing the characteristics of individuals holding anti-vaccine attitudes, utilizing cross-sectional data (e.g., ref. [7]), whereas there is a dearth of research on the mechanisms behind the transformation of individuals into anti-vaxxers (however, see ref. [8]). A static analysis of demographic and psychological features of anti-vaxxers will not reveal the underlying triggers of the development of such attitudes. Second, while the existing literature has demonstrated how established political parties, particularly populist parties, have utilized anti-vaccine sentiments to garner support in the US and Europe, analysis of the political forces that have emerged due to anti-vaccine sentiments is lacking. The proliferation of anti-vaccine attitudes through social media has enabled emerging political forces to attract voters who feel alienated by established parties by making opposition to vaccines a primary agenda.

The primary objective of this study is to address the abovementioned gaps in the literature by examining Twitter data from Japan during the pandemic. First, we aim to describe the characteristics of individuals who hold anti-vaccine attitudes on Twitter. We then investigate the triggers of anti-vaccine attitudes by analyzing the social influences they encounter on Twitter. Second, we aim to shed light on the political consequences of anti-vaccine attitudes by examining the emergence of the Sanseito party, which has gained momentum by advocating anti-vaccine policies. Sanseito, formed in March 2020, has attracted individuals who believe in anti-vaccine narratives, conspiracy theories, and spiritual discourses while espousing right-wing, revisionist historical views. Despite being a newcomer, Sanseito won one seat in the July 2020 House of Councillors election with over 2% of the popular vote. We aim to articulate the link between the rise of Sanseito and anti-vaccine attitudes to demonstrate that the anti-vaccine segment of the public can quickly gain a foothold in national politics.

Social media and anti-vaccination

Previous studies found that while pro-vaccine sites draw on scientific research and statistical evidence provided by experts, anti-vaccine sites tend to reject scientific knowledge and instead employ postmodern narratives that relativize scientific truth [9, 10]. Anti-vaccine websites also promote health behaviors lacking medical evidence, such as alternative medicine and homeopathy [9]. These anti-vaccine discourses have persisted into the COVID-19 pandemic, with the rapid spread of anti-vaccine sentiments through social media having significant political consequences [4].

Anti-vaxxers create insular online communities on Facebook [11] and are more closely connected to those with moderate views on vaccines than to pro-vaccine communities. This facilitates their recruitment of new members [12]. On Twitter, Germani and Biller-Andorno [7] identified pro- and anti-vaccine users by analyzing hashtags. They found that anti-vaccine users are less active in sending messages but more engaged in retweeting and replying to them, particularly to those from a small number of influencers, including Donald Trump. Mitra et al. [8] collected over three million tweets from 2012 to 2016 and categorized users into three groups: those with long-standing pro-vaccination attitudes, those with long-standing anti-vaccination attitudes, and those who had recently adopted anti-vaccination attitudes. Individuals with entrenched anti-vaccination attitudes tend to exhibit high degrees of conspiratorial thinking in relation to the government, including references to the “Deep State.” Conversely, those who developed anti-vaccine attitudes after August 2014 did so in response to the widely publicized “vaccine fraud” incident, without initially holding broad conspiracy beliefs. However, once an anti-vaccine attitude is adopted, it tends to reinforce other conspiratorial beliefs, as individuals who subscribe to one conspiracy theory are more likely to embrace others [13].

Anti-vaccine beliefs are not isolated but rather closely linked to alternative medical practices, conspiracy theories, spiritual discourses, naturalism, and other beliefs [14,15,16,17,18,19,20]. Survey data from multiple countries also confirm the association between anti-vaccine attitudes and conspiratorial thinking [21]. These associations suggest that individuals may adopt anti-vaccine beliefs via various gateways, such as health consciousness, conspiracy theories, spirituality, and naturalism.

Political consequences of anti-vaccination attitudes

As anti-vaccine attitudes became prevalent on social media, their link with political affiliation grew more prominent. In the United States, conservative Republicans exhibit stronger anti-vaccine attitudes than liberal Democrats [22,23,24] owing to their more prevalent anti-expert sentiment. Among conservatives, support for Donald Trump is associated with particularly strong anti-vaccine attitudes, primarily owing to the prevalence of conspiratorial thinking rather than to political conservatism [25]. Communities coalesce around political leaders who perpetuate conspiratorial thinking and uphold conservative values, shaping the identity of those with anti-vaccine attitudes [26]. Anti-vaccine attitudes in Europe have become politicized and are closely linked to populism, which pits “the people” against “corrupt elites.” Consequently, those who advocate for vaccination from a public health perspective, including governments, politicians, scientists, and experts, are often viewed as “enemies” of the people. As a result, individuals who distrust these groups are more likely to support populist parties [5, 6, 27].

An analysis of anti-vaccine and political attitudes suggests that populist parties, framing their message as “the people vs. corrupt elites,” exploit antipathy toward experts who advocate for vaccines to co-opt those with anti-vaccine views. However, COVID-19 is unique in that the number of individuals with anti-vaccine attitudes has reached unprecedented levels owing to the vaccine’s availability to all. The significant distrust of and aversion to COVID-19 vaccines has made it easier for new organizations to seek political representation by promoting conspiratorial anti-vaccine campaigns. While Donald Trump and European populist parties were already influential political actors prior to the pandemic, their attempts to expand their power through anti-vaccine sentiment have been well documented. However, few studies have examined the parties that enter national politics during a pandemic to represent anti-vaxxers by exploiting anti-vaccine attitudes as a single issue. This study addresses this gap in the literature.
What's clear from this AFP report and the paper in the Journal of Computational Social Science is that ludicrously lurid anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories are being promulgated in America for money as a lucrative spinoff from extremist support for Donald Trump and the Repugnican Party who are leading the charge toward authoritarianism because they can't win democratically.

It is also clear that populist politicians wth little regard for truth, will exploit the fears these conspiracy theorists produce in society. And of course, it almost goes without saying that evangelical Christians who feel entitled to privileged positions in American politics, are solidly behind these anti-democratic forces and have scant regard for the health and welfare of the victims of their greed and avarice, in pursuit of which no lie is too big and no life too precious.

Ten Reasons To Lose Faith: And Why You Are Better Off Without It

This book explains why faith is a fallacy and serves no useful purpose other than providing an excuse for pretending to know things that are unknown. It also explains how losing faith liberates former sufferers from fear, delusion and the control of others, freeing them to see the world in a different light, to recognise the injustices that religions cause and to accept people for who they are, not which group they happened to be born in. A society based on atheist, Humanist principles would be a less divided, more inclusive, more peaceful society and one more appreciative of the one opportunity that life gives us to enjoy and wonder at the world we live in.

Available in Hardcover, Paperback or ebook for Kindle


Thank you for sharing!

submit to reddit

No comments :

Post a Comment

Obscene, threatening or obnoxious messages, preaching, abuse and spam will be removed, as will anything by known Internet trolls and stalkers, by known sock-puppet accounts and anything not connected with the post,

A claim made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Remember: your opinion is not an established fact unless corroborated.

Web Analytics