ANDERSON – The subject line of the email telegraphed what was coming. “It’s a hoax!!!” it said.

The writer didn’t hide his lack of credentials. “Listen, I’m no doctor or expert or the like,” he wrote, “but, BUT, I’ve read five books on this medical corruption in western civilization and two on masks. Masks are not at all safe. Period!”

My reader was doing his own research. He was in the process of reading a sixth book, this one by vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “The title sez it all: ‘The Real Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health,’” he wrote. “WOW!!! Read it!!!”

I was tempted to ask how many books this fellow thought Fauci had read during his long career in public health, but I decided it would be a wasted effort. I’m sure we could have gone back and forth discussing the man’s so-called experts. He mentioned Dr. Robert Malone, who claims to be the inventor of the mRNA vaccine, and Kary Mullis, a Nobel Prize winner and developer of the test used to determine whether a patient has contracted COVID-19.

He also mentioned Dr. Michael Yeadon, the former Pfizer executive turned anti-vax hero. Malone really did make some early contributions to the research that led to development of the vaccines, but he was only one of many scientists involved in the effort. He has now been banned from Twitter for spreading lies about the vaccines and the pandemic.

In a story about that ban, the website PolitiFact noted Malone’s June tweet on a study purporting to show that for every three lives the vaccines saved, they caused two deaths. The journal that published that study has since retracted it.

Malone has also made false claims about spike proteins causing irreparable damage to children’s vital organs, and he has suggested that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines might actually be making the coronavirus more dangerous. He also claimed on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio show that the vaccines “created a whole huge bunch of super spreaders. So the truth is, it’s the unvaccinated that are at risk from the vaccinated.”

He most recently compared the current vaccination efforts to what happened in Nazi Germany in the years leading up to World War II. And none of it is true.

Mullis, on the other hand, has not been spreading falsehoods. He died in August of 2019. He is, however, featured in a viral post on social media. The post begins, “COVID-19 TEST a FRAUD?” And it offers a quote attributed to Mullis. A fact check by Reuters found the quote actually came from a December 1996 article by John Lauritsen. The article does not say the tests don’t work, the fact check concludes. It says the test detects genetic sequences of viruses, not the viruses themselves. More to the point, the article is about HIV and AIDS, not COVID-19.

Yeadon has been the subject of many fact checks, including this one by Reuters in November. “Contrary to a claim made by ex-Pfizer scientist Michael Yeadon,” it says, “there’s no evidence to say COVID-19 vaccines are ‘50 times more likely’ to kill children than COVID-19 itself.”

Kennedy, meanwhile, was kicked off of Instagram nearly a year ago for repeatedly posting misinformation about vaccine safety and COVID-19. Perhaps not surprisingly, he was unrepentant. In an email to The Associated Press, Kennedy wrote, “This kind of censorship is counterproductive if our objective is a safe and effective vaccine supply.”

Even as social media platforms struggle to stop the spread of misinformation, the authors of this deceit cast themselves as victims of censorship. True believers rally to their defense, and the lies proliferate. It’s a game of whack-a-mole that never ends. 

Hawes is an editor with CNHI.