How Russia Joined With Anti-Vaxxers to Wage Biological Warfare by Proxy Against the West
Heidi Siegmund Cuda explores how the carpet-bombing of anti-science disinformation turns sick people into biological weapons
A year into the global pandemic, during April of 2021, I began a macabre Twitter thread titled ‘presenting this thread without comment’.
In it, I documented death after death of people from the coronavirus, who were also avowed anti-vaxxers. Some who died of the disease were right-wing talk show hosts – spreading anti-science talking points and suggesting immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci was the anti-christ. Others were Republican lawmakers who caught the virus while attending anti-vaxx rallies. Parents who had gone down conspiracy theory rabbit holes and refused the vaccination, perished from the disease, leaving their children orphaned.
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The thread documents unvaccinated church members dying en masse; a fitness instructor who died after refusing the vaccine; a UK nurse who watched her mother die after first falling prey to anti-vaxx hysteria; a 14-year-old girl who died after her anti-vaxx parents refused to give hospital staff permission to intubate. Not to mention the founder of a Christian TV network, who promoted anti-vaccine skeptics and unproven alternative treatments, who then died from Covid after trying the bogus alternative medicines his network promoted.
An Alabama man’s dying words were “this is not a hoax”. He first succumbed to online conspiracies, then he succumbed to the virus – after spending 51 days on a ventilator.
So what was former President Donald Trump doing during the pandemic’s peak? Downplaying the virus, mocking those wearing masks, promoting unproven alternative treatments, politicizing public health, assaulting the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), throwing a large-scale rally after which one former GOP presidential candidate died, promoting quack doctors, trumping his own response – now seen as a travesty that led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Let’s also revisit 2018, when his administration disbanded the White House pandemic response team. In 2019, the Trump administration eliminated funding for the CDC epidemiologist embedded in China’s disease control agency, and slashed American CDC staff mostly in Beijing by more than two-thirds since Trump took office in 2017.
And what was then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson doing while UK citizens were abiding by lockdown regulations, which included watching loved ones die from afar? Attending parties, which ultimately led to his ousting as PM.
The bigger question is what was ex-KGB spy Vladimir Putin doing during the coronavirus pandemic? He was engaging in cyberwarfare against the West, while body bags piled up in Russia. Leaked video showed people dying in hallways of decrepit hospitals and multiple doctors who spoke out about the medieval conditions suddenly found themselves falling out of windows – another medieval condition.
A sinister infection of disinformation was spreading at the same time as the virus.
A Russian disinformation campaign was spreading on far-right discussion forums targeting vaccines and the Biden administration. The 2021 campaign aimed to spread skepticism and fear of vaccines, while also implying that the Biden-Harris administration was forcing vaccinations as some sort of an evil plot, rather than a life-saving solution to a raging pandemic.
As we wrote recently in The Rolling Insurrection: How Putin is Waging a Covert War Against the West Russia is engaged in active measures against the West to cause chaos and destabilization. In particular, Russia emphasizes cognitive warfare, where the human mind is the battlefield.
“They know that they can't go to war overtly,” said Keir Giles, author of Russia’s War On Everybody. “And that’s where all of these covert, sub-threshold, grey zone, so-called hybrid attacks come in. Because that is how Russia has been reaching out to harm the West. It knows that if it is in open warfare, the result is a foregone conclusion that it will be disastrous for Russia.
“In every single other possible domain of waging war, Russia has already been convinced for a long time that it is in a state of conflict with the West, and it's behaving accordingly. So all of the different levers of power that it can use to attack us, it has been using,” he said. “That's the part which I think has not been sufficiently recognized even after this war on Ukraine started — whether it's economic or cyber or disinformation warfare, or public health campaigns of subversion… it's all been ongoing.”
As Giles noted, “The classic example is funding and coordinating anti-vaccination movements worldwide before we were hit by a global pandemic, because it suited Russia for other countries to be having public health crises. And then, of course, in the Coronavirus pandemic – just stepping up those efforts and pushing more and more anti-vaccination propaganda… it’s pure malice.”
Academic Brent Allpress, an open source intelligence researcher whose work on the impact of data mining of military personnel and churchgoers was featured in the documentary film People You May Know, and who gave testimony to the January 6 Committee, applied an Occam’s Razor analysis.
He told Byline Supplement that the disinformation deluge of the past few years has one constant motivation: to obstruct the transition from a carbon economy to renewables.
“I would argue that the motivation for downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic and obstructing lockdown measures was driven by a concern that any reduction in mobility would lower the demand for petrol and diesel, depressing the crude oil price,” said Allpress, whose open source research revealed the members of the extremist dark money group, Council for National Policy.
“I sourced a letter from former Vice President Mike Pence to the Council for National Policy, dated March 30, 2020, and provided it to the Centre for Media and Democracy,” he said. “In the letter Pence thanked the CNP for their support and ‘for consistently amplifying the agenda of President Trump and our administration’ on the ‘coronavirus pandemic’. We know from Bob Woodward's interview with Trump on March 19, 2020, featured in his book Rage, that Trump's agenda at the time was to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic.”
The quote from Rage is as follows: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Coronavirus disinformation campaigns served vested US and Russian oil interests, Allpress told Byline Supplement.
It is also important to recall that Mike Pence was charged with leading the pandemic task force. His role appeared to be to play Pollyanna as hundreds of thousands of people in America were dying. In June 2020, he painted a rosy picture – writing an infamous op-ed denying a second wave while cases were surging in 18 states.
In addition, he tweeted then deleted the following.
The tweet – which stated “Trump shut down the entire economy to put the health of America first” – was quickly criticized for misleading Americans. The Trump administration downplayed the virus for months and abjectly failed in its response.
The staggering amount of harm caused by the Trump-Pence administration is still with us today, as untold millions of deaths occurred due to anti-science digital propaganda and, lest we forget, people are still dying.
At the time of this writing, cases in southern states like Alabama and Louisiana, are spiking, with 3,000 people dying of Covid weekly in the US.
In another thread during May of 2020 that I pieced together, it was revealed that among those funding anti-science protests during Covid lockdowns was Robert Mercer, who had also financed disinformation portals Parler, Cambridge Analytica, and Breitbart. One group behind at least three of the rallies is the State Policy Network (SPN), which received more than four million from the Mercer Family Foundation to finance climate deniers.
The Mercer Family Foundation was also a major donor to Jobs Creators Network JCN, a dark money group that supported Trump advisor, Dr. Scott Atlas, as an anti-Fauci doctor. JCN is also the same group that promoted the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to Trump – who then went on to promote the unproven treatment for Covid-19.
Another sinister subplot to biological warfare by proxy is the profiteering that occurred during the Covid crisis.
America’s Frontline Doctors – a group whose leader, Dr Simone Gold, went to prison for her role in the January 6 Insurrection – was accused by the Congressional subcommittee for “predatory” profiteering by promoting anti-vaccine rhetoric and then offering online paid consultations for prescriptions to such unproven drugs as ivermectin – a horse dewormer – and hydroxychloroquine.
In a letter to Gold written October 29 2021, the subcommittee’s Chairman Rep James Clyburn (Democratic Representative for South Carolina) wrote:
“Attempts to monetize coronavirus misinformation have eroded public confidence in proven treatments and prevention measures and hindered efforts to control the pandemic… By encouraging the use of questionable treatments, advocates for these substances have put American lives at risk and prolonged the pandemic.
“Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that unvaccinated Americans are more than six times as likely to test positive for the coronavirus and more than 11 times as likely to die of the coronavirus compared to fully vaccinated persons.”
In an investigation into America’s Frontline Doctors – which has been linked to the extremist rightwing dark money group, the Council for National Policy – data revealed 72,000 people paid at least $6.7 million for Covid-19 telehealth visits prescribing bogus cures in just a two-month period.
When zooming out and viewing all of this with a wide lens, the cynicism, profiteering, mayhem, and pure malice is staggering. The loss of lives – more than one million in America – is staggering. How many could have been saved?
It is worth noting that the connections between the Kremlin disinformation campaigns and the American disinformation campaigns have ties to a network that unites them, as noted in this Byline Times report, The Network - The American & Russian Moralists Behind the January Insurrection.
It is as if the people of the West are merely experiments in devious plots by billionaires.
Byline Times co-founder Peter Jukes wrote in a recent Byline Times print edition editorial: “Facts matter. They underpin our world. Without the accuracy and precision of tested facts, I probably would not be around at all to write this, lacking modern medicine, sanitation, vaccines and antibiotics – and I certainly would not be writing this on a computer, the words sent via copper and fibre optic cables, to be delivered to your door or inbox. A cavalier attitude to facts would also, given litigious oligarchs and England’s libel laws, have probably closed this newspaper by now.
“These attempts to manipulate reality are not new. Elon Musk was photographed at last month’s US Super Bowl sitting next to Rupert Murdoch and, despite the changes in technology, the message of the Big Tech giants isn’t really that different to the old analogue press barons and media moguls. From Pravda to News of the World to Twitter, rich men want to monopolise the conversation, often by stealth and under the guise of populism, to add cultural and political capital to their substantial business assets.
“Journalists shouldn’t struggle to take sides against that.”
It is the duty of investigative journalists to spot these manipulations, and to defend truth. Penetrating the minds of those who have been stolen by fringe websites and nightly propaganda networks filled with vitriol and rage is a daunting mission, but one that is worth the effort.
In this undeclared cognitive warfare – where the human mind is the battlefield – a global pandemic becomes weaponized and too many people have no inoculations against disinformation.
Western leaders must unite against disinformation, just like former leaders united people against long ago threats.
In 1946, President Harry Truman declared polio a threat to the United States and he called on Americans to do everything they could to unite to combat it:
"The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war. It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war."
The West needs that type of leadership once again if we ever hope to win any war – whether in our minds or on the battlefield.