During the crises provoked by pandemics, the combination of fear and lack of information make a man more prone to believe in various theories.
Since the Chinese authorities issued a press release at the end of December 2019 stating that the mysterious disease is spreading over Wuhan (it will turn out later that the mentioned virus is SARS-Cov 2, known as coronavirus), many theories emerged about the onset of this pandemic and its consequences for society.
Even though the whole world stopped due to COVID-19, as the pandemic is progressing, not only the number of infected people is increasing, but also the number of those trying to diminish the severity of this situation.
Therefore, the news and posts are emerging every day on social media and they usually easily become viral due to a simple and fake remedy for the virus that they are offering. However, in comparison to the lemonade with sodium bicarbonate and garlic, the posts encompassing the facts, lies and half-truths are more dangerous since they confuse or even mislead the citizens, especially if announced by doctors.
Corona is not more dangerous than the flu
One of these videos entitled Epidemic which was never there, became very popular in the virtual world of Facebook. Dr. Claus Köhnlein, an internist, claims that he does not see a new disease in SARS-Cov 2 virus, stating that life would be the same as before if the testing was not performed and the mortality would not be higher. Also, Köhnlein claims that coronavirus tests are meaningless.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is wrongly programmed to give positive results, half of which are false. There is nothing to see here, he concludes.
In Montenegrin (Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian) – speaking area, the video in German with subtitle appeared on YouTube on March 27 on Joshua Bobi channel, where numerous conspiracy theories are usually posted – NASA is a satanic organization, the Vatican is the temple of Lucifer, Earth is flat, etc. On that channel, video with Dr. Köhnlein has more than 110k of views.
That number is not a significant result in terms of regional, or let alone the world YouTube standards. However, if we take into consideration that this channel has only 157 subscribers with 150 views per video on average, than the sum of 110k views becomes significant. The logical explanation for that effect, known as mushroom effect, is the fact that the video has spread on social media overnight.
The whole interview with a doctor from Kiel (Germany), also subtitled, was posted two days later on Fes TV YouTube channel, where it had more than 680k views. The creator of that channel is calling himself the skeptic from Balkans in the 21st century and is openly admitting that this is a place for all conspiracy theory lovers.
The spreading of the mentioned videos over Facebook started with these two channels. They are shared on more than 42k profiles and 110 open groups and pages. Some of the groups that reached the highest number of users on this social media are the following: Službena stranica Vedrane Rudan, GRIGORI GRABOVOI – Nova zavest na Zemlji, Grupa podrške Ivana Pernara, Ruske vesti , Glavna grupa stranke Ivana Pernara and Društvo oca Gojka.
Köhnlein and Russia Today
Interview with dr. Köhnlein was primarily broadcasted on Der Fehlende Part (The Missing Part) TV show, on RT Deutsch, and then it was posted on March 20 on their official YouTube channel. As stated in the description on its official account, the show does alternative coverages, questioning standing views of the German media. This corresponds extensively to the RT’s editing policy, which is owned by Russia, and since 2005 it provides the Russian view on global news, which is their motto.
During previous appearances on RT, dr. Köhnlein stated several times that allegedly, infectious viruses are actually tiny parts, which human cells produce due to different factors that cause stress, and often even medicaments. Köhnlein has confirmed his claims in a book entitled Virus Mania, along with the main thesis that a medical industry makes up viruses all the time, earning billions of dollars at the cost of citizens.
Three doctors, same thesis
A video entitled Coronavirus – not worse than severe influenza – dr. Wolfgang Wodarg – fact-checking, is trending on Facebook and certain alternative websites. The actors of the video are doctors: Wolfgang Wodarg, a former member of Social Democratic Party in Bundestag, Tom Jefferson from the Danish Cochrane Nordic Institute, as well as dr. Michael Kench. In the video, which subtitled version adopted for our language region was posted by Danak u krvi u Srbiji (Tribute in blood in Serbia) page, Wodarg claims that COVID-19 does not pose a bigger threat than seasonal influenza, that it does not require isolation measures, and that people are unnecessarily placed in quarantine. He also concludes that an unnecessary panic was created and that there is not a logical medical explanation for all the events.
The video was posted on that page a five days ago, had around 240,000 views and more than 850 shares.
Even Wodarg appeared on RT before, when in 2010 he initiated an investigation on a swine flu epidemic, as chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Health Committee. The same year, he claimed that the epidemic enabled pharmaceutical companies to make a huge profit, even though H1N1 virus is less deadly than seasonal influenza.
When it comes to mortality rate, the thesis is partly true. According to the estimates of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a number of people who died during the first year of swine flu pandemic (H1N1 virus) around the world ranges from 151.7 to 575 thousand. It is estimated that 290 to 650 thousand people die every year in the world of different types of seasonal influenza. However, H1N1 virus has a more dangerous component than seasonal influenza – more than 80 per cent of the dead were below age 65, while seasonal influenza-associated deaths, in 70 out of 90 percent of cases, refer to the age above that.
Because of many similar posts, which are also registered by the Digital Forensic Center’s team on a daily basis, the World Health Organization stated many times that we are not fighting only the epidemic, but the infodemic. Fatal outcome of any disinformation or conspiracy theory at the moment is relativizing the problem that the whole planet is fighting, and by that discrediting the relevant institutions, which may have devastating consequences