How mass psychosis, PR campaigns, and psychological operations have shaped the pandemic.
Introduction / Coronavirus origins / Wuhan videos / ‘Right wing covid panic’ / Bergamo military trucks / The hammer and the dance / Shock and awe / Twitter bots / Toilet paper panic / Clap for your health service / Mask up / Covid drugs / Build back better / Storming of the German parliament / John Snow Memorandum / Vaccine promotion / Pandemic of the unvaccinated / “Vaccine passport” / Social media / Independent media / Expert interviews / Video annex
Unlike the swine flu “fake pandemic” of 2009, covid has been a real pandemic: global excess mortality since January 2020 currently stands at close to 20 million deaths or about 16% compared to normal global mortality, caused mostly, though not entirely, by the novel coronavirus. In most countries, the median age of covid deaths turned out to be close to average life expectancy.
Yet in addition to a medical pandemic, covid has also been a propaganda pandemic. The following analysis reviews some of the most important pandemic PR and propaganda campaigns run by Western governments, the media, and intelligence agencies.
Coronavirus origins (January 2020)
By late January 2020, after the coronavirus genetic sequence had been published by the Chinese, leading US and European virologists immediately realized that the novel coronavirus had likely emerged from US or Chinese dual-use virological research and was “inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory”, as one virologist put it in a released email.
Yet during a teleconference on February 1 organized by US NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci and British Wellcome Trust CEO Dr. Jeremy Farrar – two of the most important sponsors of research in infectious diseases and virology – they decided to run a cover-up and disinformation operation.
Four of the participating virologists immediately started drafting a letter to Nature Medicine, posted as a preprint on February 20, falsely claiming that their analyses “clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”
Simultaneously, Dr. Peter Daszak, the CEO of the Pentagon-funded “EcoHealth Alliance” that was performing dual-use coronavirus research in China and other parts of the world, secretly coordinated a second letter to The Lancet, published on February 19, that denounced lab-related hypotheses as unfounded “conspiracy theories”.
These two highly misleading letters were then used by many media outlets and social media platforms to stifle or censor debate about a lab-related origin for over a year, despite the fact that robust (phylo-)genetic data supporting a lab-related origin was already publicly available since April/May 2020.
It was not until a Medium piece by science writer Nicholas Wade, published in May 2021, that public debate began to (partially) shift. In particular, Wade quoted former CalTech president and Nobel Prize winner David Baltimore as saying that a highly unusual CGG double arginine codon within the coronavirus furin cleavage site was the “smoking gun for the [lab] origin of the virus”.
In addition, internal emails released in response to several US FOIA requests began to reveal the behind-the-scenes machinations by Fauci, Farrar and Daszak described above, even though large parts of these emails remain classified due to “national security reasons”.
Of note, US biosafety expert Dr. Meryl Nass, one of the leading experts in the field of anthrax biowarfare, stated in June 2021 that in her opinion, four of the five authors of the misleading Nature Medicine letter were “longstanding government agents” who worked – in addition to their academic science jobs – for the US military.
Read more: On the origins of SARS-CoV-2
Image: Participants in the February 1, 2020 conference call (Rixey).
The collapsing people of Wuhan (January 2020)
Also in late January 2020, images and videos started to circulate on social media claiming to show people in Wuhan “keeling over” or lying dead in the streets (see below).
Many Western media outlets promoted these videos and images, using headlines such as “A man lies dead in the street: the image that captures the Wuhan coronavirus crisis” (Guardian) or “Coronavirus horror: Social media footage shows infected Wuhan residents ‘act like zombies’” (Express).
In reality, most or all of this footage was fake, showing drunk people, homeless people (even in other Chinese cities), road accidents, unspecified medical emergencies, and even training exercises.
Many skeptics have assumed that these fake images and videos were distributed by the Chinese government to scare Western countries into lockdowns, but a closer analysis shows that most of this footage was in fact shared by US-funded NGOs critical of the Chinese regime (e.g. by “Voice of Hong Kong” and Taiwan-based TomoNews US), as well as by major Western media outlets.
The most famous photograph of a “dead man lying in the streets of Wuhan” was taken by AFP/Getty war zone photographer Hector Retamal, who later won several awards for this photograph (see below). French Agence France Press (AFP) is one of only three major Western news agencies and was previously involved in various war zone deceptions (e.g. in Syria).
Ironically, while covid caused hardly any sudden cardiac arrests (just a few cases were reported globally), the covid vaccination campaign later caused an unprecedented increase in sudden cardiac arrests that became most visible in professional athletes.
Video compilation of people “keeling over”, produced by TomoNews US in Taiwan:
When covid panic was “right wing” (February 2020)
In January and February 2020, many Western governments and media outlets tried to downplay the coronavirus outbreak in China. At the time, politicians and pundits who demanded swift border closures were denounced as “right-wing nationalists”, “anti-Chinese” or simply cranks.
In a notorious piece broadcast on 30 January 2020 by German state television “Bayerischer Rundfunk”, the presenter openly mocked people demanding swift government action (see screenshot below). On February 3, the WHO urged countries “not to close borders to foreigners from China”. As late as March 5, US health experts were still against border closures (proposed by the then US President), arguing that “the key is dealing with the coronavirus inside the country”.
Figure: German state television mocking people afraid of coronavirus (January 2020).
The military trucks of Bergamo (March 19, 2020)
In late February and early March 2020, the Bergamo region in northern Italy was the first European region to experience a major coronavirus outbreak. On March 19, a notorious video and images of a dozen military trucks “transporting bodies overnight as the local cemetery had been overwhelmed” went around the world (see below).
While the elderly population in parts of the Bergamo region was indeed hit hard by the sudden coronavirus outbreak, the description of the footage showing the thirteen military trucks was highly misleading: at the time, there were not way more deaths in Bergamo than during a strong flu wave, but out of fear of the novel coronavirus it was decided to not bury the bodies – as is customary in Catholic Italy –, but to immediately cremate them (which required out-of-town facilities), and to not transport the bodies by normal undertakers, but by the military.
It is also noteworthy that both in Bergamo and in some US states (e.g. in New York), authorities sent elderly covid patients from hospitals back to nursing homes during the initial outbreaks in the spring of 2020 (to free up hospital beds), a practice that caused additional infections and deaths in nursing homes.
Video: Military trucks in Bergamo (March 19, 2020).
“The Hammer and the Dance” (March 19, 2020)
On the day of the appearance of the Bergamo video, US social media strategist Tomas Pueyo published his highly influential Medium piece titled “Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance”, which was translated into dozens of languages and reached over 100 million people.
The piece essentially popularized and “simplified” the highly flawed model by British professor Neil Ferguson, published three days before, which falsely assumed an unlimited “exponential growth” of infections if restrictions weren’t put in place.
In addition, the piece called for the notorious “two weeks” of total lockdown (the hammer) followed by months of mitigation measures (the dance). Pueyo’s model was in stark contradiction to epidemiological knowledge and, unsurprisingly, turned out to be a complete failure, causing unprecedented damage to both rich and poor countries.
Indeed, in early 2022 a comprehensive meta-analysis found that lockdowns had no significant impact on covid mortality, while the World Bank confirmed that it was lockdowns, not the pandemic itself, that caused an “historically unprecedented increase in global poverty” of close to 100 million people.
Figure: “The Hammer and the Dance” (Tomas Pueyo, March 19, 2020).
“Shock and Awe” (March 2020)
In response to the misleading images from Wuhan and Bergamo and the highly flawed “hammer and dance” model by Ferguson and Pueyo, many Western governments ignited a war-time panic and propaganda campaign to enforce an unprecedented total lockdown of society.
For instance, a leaked strategy paper of the German government, dated March 22, described in detail how to best frighten the population, including children, in order to get them compliant. The Canadian military launched an “unauthorized” war zone “information operation”, the British government activated the notorious 77th Brigade psychological warfare unit, while the Italian military police launched drones to monitor and enforce lockdowns, as did police in parts of Britain and in other countries.
The months of March and April 2020 were also the apex of the “ventilator panic” – the false idea that millions of ventilators would be needed to intubate covid patients. The idea was based on a Chinese SARS-1 protocol to minimize in-hospital aerosol transmission. The protocol later turned out to be highly counterproductive and likely caused thousands of unnecessary deaths in places like New York and elsewhere.
During this early stage of the pandemic, several rather bizarre claims were circulating online, such as the idea that covid deaths were caused not by the coronavirus, but by 5G mobile phone radiation, which reportedly resulted in dozens of telephone masts being set on fire in the UK and elsewhere, and in turn justified the first wave of mass censorship on social media platforms.
While such bizarre claims may have originated spontaneously, they could also have been part of a “77 brigade”-type disinformation operation to “poison the well”, criminalize opposition to lockdowns and enforce mass censorship.
Video: British police using drones during March 2020 lockdown.
Twitter bots promoting lockdowns (March 2020 and onward)
Still in March 2020, a vast multilingual Twitter bot network started demanding and promoting lockdowns in Western countries (see this analysis). Such bots showed up in Europe, the US, South Africa, India and other countries. In Australia, bots lauded the extreme lockdown imposed by Victoria Premier Dan Andrews. In 2021, similar bot networks showed up again and demanded new restrictions.
Independent analysts generally assumed that these were likely Chinese bots, in part because they were praising the Chinese response in Wuhan while criticizing Western governments. While possible, these bots may as well have been part of a covert Western operation.
In early 2022, German researchers exposed another highly influential network of anonymous Twitter accounts that pretended to be emergency and intensive care doctors demanding stricter measures and promoting vaccines. In reality, the Twitter accounts were operated by a German PR agency, funded by pharmaceutical corporations, that was promoting and selling “pandemic products”.
Figure: Twitter bots promoting lockdowns (March 12, 2020)
The toilet paper panic (March 2020)
The panic created by many media outlets and governments led to a widespread mass psychosis and resulted in irrational behavior such as, for instance, the notorious toilet paper shopping frenzy.
Video: Toilet paper panic in a supermarket near Sydney (March 10, 2020)
Clap for your health service (March 2020)
Also still in March, many governments in Europe and beyond organized one or more “clap for your health service” sessions, during which locked-down citizens were asked to open their windows or stand on their balconies and clap for a few minutes.
Ironically, during this time many hospitals were mostly empty as the first coronavirus wave hit only a few places in Europe and generally peaked before lockdowns came into effect, while many other hospital services were already shut down.
In late 2021, government policy suddenly went “from clapping to sacking” as tens of thousands of “unvaccinated” health care workers got fired, regardless of their actual immunity status and regardless of the fact that covid vaccines didn’t prevent transmission.
Video: “Clap for your health service” compilation (AFP, March 19, 2020).
Mask up, wash your hands, social distance
In March and April 2020, an unprecedented global “public health” campaign was launched that told (or rather, forced) citizens to “mask up”, “wash hands” and “social distance” (i.e. keep a distance to each other). Singapore and some other places even deployed advanced “robot dogs” to enforce “social distancing” in public places.
All of these measures turned out to be mostly useless, as the coronavirus primarily (or exclusively) spreads via indoor aerosols. A series of fake studies tried to show that face masks really worked against virus transmission, but they all got debunked. In fact, just a few months before the pandemic, the WHO had published a major review of randomized trials, none of which found face masks to be effective.
In addition, many countries ramped up an enormous “test and trace” program, based on highly sensitive PCR molecular tests and “contact tracing” mobile phone apps, but these very expensive programs had no measurable effect on mortality, either (with the partial exception of places that used them preemptively in support of border controls).
Nevertheless, Apple and Google eventually inserted a “contact tracing” interface into the operating systems of three billion mobile phones. In April 2020, former British Prime Minister and WEF Young Global Leader, Tony Blair, argued that additional technological surveillance was “a price worth paying” to beat coronavirus.
Ironically, many media people and politicians were caught disregarding the mask mandates and other rules they themselves promoted. In one such video, from May 2020, an MSNBC cameraman without a mask was seen filming a masked journalist who pretended to be horrified that people weren’t wearing masks outdoors.
Video: “Have we lost our minds?” (Prof. Freedom, 2 minutes)
Disinformation on covid drugs (May 2020)
During the coronavirus pandemic, several large-scale and very lucrative drug deceptions have been pulled off by some pharmaceutical corporations.
For instance, in 2020 US manufacturer Gilead sold its extremely expensive “anti-viral” drug Remdesivir for billions of dollars to various governments, claiming it reduced hospital stays of covid patients. Independent studies later showed that the drug was useless and toxic, causing liver and kidney damage.
In 2022, US manufacturer Merck sold its anti-viral drug Molnupiravir for billions of dollars to several governments, claiming it was highly effective in early treatment of covid patients. But independent analysts found that the drug was largely ineffective against most variants, might cause DNA damage and drive new virus mutations.
In other cases, existing and inexpensive drugs potentially effective against covid were unfairly or prematurely discredited. The first such case was HCQ, a well-established malaria drug that is also used against various auto-immune diseases and thrombosis and that appeared to show promising results in some early covid studies.
Yet in May 2020, a tiny US shell company named “Surgisphere” managed to get an entirely made-up study published in The Lancet that seemingly showed HCQ increased death rates, resulting in an immediate halt to global HCQ trials. Later, WHO and Oxford University ran HCQ trials using toxic overdoses close to the lethal dose. To this day, both the actors behind “Surgisphere” and the potential benefit of HCQ in the early treatment of high-risk covid patients remain unknown.
In 2020 and 2021, several studies appeared to show that low-cost anti-parasite drug Ivermectin was effective against covid, but most of these studies later turned out to be fraudulent. Yet while high-quality trials were still ongoing, various media outlets falsely decried Ivermectin as a useless “horse dewormer”. As of today, the effectiveness of Ivermectin against covid also remains unclear.
Video: Former French health minister Philippe Douste-Blazy describing how fake studies got published in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine. (May 2020, 2 min.)
“Build Back Better” (July 2020)
In July, the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) started a global campaign called “Build Back Better” (WEF chairman Klaus Schwab called it “The Great Reset”), which claimed that the pandemic was a unique opportunity to transform the global economic and political system. Presidents and Prime Ministers around the world – many of them WEF members or WEF Young Global Leaders – used the phrase “build back better” as part of their political campaigns, and the US Congress even passed a “Build Back Better Act”.
Video: The global Build Back Better campaign (YT, December 2020)
“Storming of the German Parliament” (August 2020)
In response to unprecedented government repression and police violence in the spring of 2020, civil rights and protest movements formed in various countries. By the summer of 2020, Germany had probably the strongest such movement. Predictably, German authorities responded with subversion and additional repression.
In August of that year, protestors organized two large rallies in the capital city, Berlin. The first one drew tens of thousands of participants, while the second one, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as a speaker, may have drawn up to 100,000 participants in total (see photos below).
On the day of the second rally, Berlin authorities approved a parallel rally in front of the nearby German Parliament, organized by a notorious right-wing provocateur who had previously staged several mock “stormings of the Parliament” (i.e. an intelligence asset or a useful idiot). Authorities then deployed undercover operatives, disguised as protestors and marshals, that guided a few unwitting participants from the large official rally to the small fake rally in front of the Parliament.
Authorities then deployed another undercover agent who, using a megaphone, told protestors that US President Trump came to Berlin to “liberate Germany”, police had already switched sides, and they should now enter the Parliament (the agent was leveraging the highly toxic “Q Anon” ideology, itself likely a psychological operation).
Some of the protestors then climbed the stairs in front of the Parliament, where they were met by three policemen who later turned out to be actors playing police in German TV series. The police later claimed to have been surprised by the event, but photographs showed they were monitoring and filming the entire operation from a nearby rooftop.
The protestors did not enter the Parliament, but footage and images of this short episode were used by German and international media to depict the up to 100,000 civil rights protestors as a “threat to democracy”. The three policemen who had “defended democracy” were later honored by the German President, himself a former intelligence coordinator.
The “successful” German operation in August 2020 was, of course, a blueprint for the “storming of the US Capitol”, stage-managed by the FBI just four months later.
Images: The staged “storming of the German Parliament” (August 29, 2020).
The John Snow Memorandum (October 2020)
On October 4, 2020, a group of epidemiologists and public health scientists published the Great Barrington Declaration, demanding an end to total lockdowns and proposing “focused protection” of high-risk groups instead. The declaration ultimately received hundreds of thousands of signatures by leading scientists, public health professionals, and common citizens.
NIH director Dr. Francis Collins was not amused. On October 8, he wrote an email to NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci and complained that “this proposal from three fringe epidemiologists () seems to be getting a lot of attention and even a co-signature from Nobel Prize winner Mike Leavitt at Stanford.” Collins continued: “There needs to be a quick and devastating published take down of its premises.”
Just seven days later, on October 15, the “John Snow Memorandum” was published in The Lancet, titled “Scientific consensus on the COVID-19 pandemic: we need to act now”. The memorandum was authored by various “zero covid” advocates, including Rochelle Walensky (who became CDC director three months later) and Gavin Yamey (US), Devi Sridhar, Deepti Gurdasani and Trisha Greenalgh (UK), Zoë Hyde (Australia), Isabella Eckerle (Switzerland) and Viola Priesemann (Germany).
Image: NIH director Collins demanding a “quick and devastating take down”.
Covid vaccine promotion (2021)
In late 2020 and early 2021, the largest propaganda campaign of the entire pandemic began: the global promotion of experimental covid vaccines.
Previous vaccines against SARS-1 had failed (they made the disease worse); animal coronavirus vaccines had poor effectiveness; the mRNA and DNA technologies had never before been used in vaccines for humans; and the covid vaccine trials were very short and couldn’t monitor long-term safety and effectiveness.
Nevertheless, it was not very difficult to convince high-risk groups, including most senior citizens, to get vaccinated, as the risk-benefit ratio looked promising. Convincing younger people to “get the shot” proved increasingly difficult, however.
To boost vaccination rates, authorities launched major PR campaigns, recruiting various celebrities and “social media influencers”. They also promised various goodies if people get vaccinated, such as free burgers, donuts or cash prizes (see video below).
When this mostly failed, authorities started to “lose patience” and began to put pressure on unvaccinated people, making only them wear masks and test regularly, deny them entry into various public places or public transport, lock them down or even fire them from their jobs.
This entire pressure campaign can only be described as a crime against humanity, as it had already become clear, by June 2021, that covid vaccines didn’t prevent infection and transmission, and even severe disease, for more than three to six months.
In addition, authorities had to downplay or deny increasing reports of severe and fatal vaccine adverse events, including heart attacks and strokes even in young people. Social media platforms like Facebook deleted groups on covid vaccine injuries with over 100,000 members and suppressed personal posts on vaccine injuries as “misinformation”.
Governments once again activated psychological warfare units, like the British “77th Brigade”, to combat “vaccine misinformation” and “anti-vaccine propaganda”. Curiously, during this time period, bizarre stories of vaccines supposedly containing “graphene oxide” and microchips appeared online, making vaccine skeptics look dumb and justifying censorship.
In the UK, leaked documents showed how the British Royal Institution tasked a PR agency specialized in war-zone information operations (Valent Projects) to hire faux-left YouTube influencers (BreadTube) to promote vaccination and attack vaccine skeptics.
When it came to promote covid vaccines to (healthy) children – who essentially face no covid risk but face major vaccine risks, including strokes and heart attacks – US authorities again enlisted some celebrities and even “Sesame Street”.
Video: NYC mayor Bill de Blasio promoting covid vaccines and “free fries” (May 2021).
Video: “No lockdowns anymore” by Ariana Grande and James Corden (June 2021).
“Pandemic of the Unvaccinated” (August 2021)
Among the many vaccine propaganda campaigns, such as the notorious “vaccine envy” PR campaign run by many media outlets in March 2021, a particularly noteworthy propaganda campaign was the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” campaign run in August/September 2021.
By that time, data from vaccination leader Israel had long shown that there was no “pandemic of the unvaccinated”, as vaccine protection collapsed within three to six months. Yet Western authorities and media, in almost every country, ran the campaign anyway, only to see the narrative crash just a few weeks later with the onset of the autumn/winter wave.
In general, it is not easy to come up with a benign medical or epidemiological explanation as to why many authorities were hell-bent on vaccinating the entire population, given that covid vaccines don’t prevent infection and transmission, and young and healthy people have a very low covid hospitalization risk anyway.
Video: “Pandemic of the unvaccinated” (news clip compilation, August 2021).
The covid “vaccine passport” (June 2021 and onward)
Already back in March 2020, the world’s “most powerful doctor” (Politico) and major WHO sponsor, Bill Gates, explained during a TED Talk interview that the coronavirus pandemic “could only be ended” by “vaccinating almost the entire world” and by implementing “digital immunity certificates”. Gates assumed that, through lockdowns and “contact tracing”, the total spread of the coronavirus could be limited to just 1% of the global population.
All of Bill Gates’ expectations and predictions turned out be wrong, but governments around the world continued to follow and enforce this strategy regardless. Thus, from June 2021 onward, numerous European countries and some US states started introducing and promoting a QR-based covid vaccination passport.
The QR passport was often euphemistically called “Green Pass” or “Opportunity Pass”, despite the fact that by June 2021, it was already clear that covid vaccines didn’t prevent infection and transmission, rendering “vaccine passports” epidemiologically useless or even counterproductive.
Nevertheless, governments around the world invested billions in a global infrastructure for “vaccine passports”, which were described as “a precursor to digital ID wallets” by French government and defense industry contractor Thales Group and which might later be expanded into a Chinese-style “social credit” population control system.
Video: The EU digital covid certificate system (June 2021)
Social media, Wikipedia and Google Search
Social media platforms, Wikipedia and Google Search essentially followed official CDC and WHO positions, despite the fact that many of these positions were mistaken, and tried to censor or suppress anything and anyone that contradicted these positions, often relying on “fact checks” of exceedingly dubious quality.
However, non-Google search engines and independent social media and video platforms continued to provide reliable access to the full spectrum of covid information and analysis.
Concerning Wikipedia, it has been shown that some of the most influential Wikipedia administrator and editor accounts are in fact operated by employees or PR consultants of pharmaceutical corporations as well as “former” intelligence informants involved in information operations.
Image: Google: “Why censorship is important” (January 2022, genuine).
The role of independent media
Most independent media outlets realized, at some point, that there was more to the covid pandemic than meets the eye (or the nose, in this case). There were two notable exceptions, though: the World Socialist Website (WSWS) and “Moon of Alabama” (see the SPR Media Navigator).
WSWS, a website known for its anti-imperialist perspective, took the position that the Western capitalist and upper middle class sacrificed the working class and developing countries to “keep the business going”. Thus, WSWS persistently demanded more restrictions while denouncing civil rights protestors as “right-wing agitators” or “big business stooges”. WSWS hailed the response by the Chinese Communist government, but didn’t question civil rights infringements, the social impact of lockdowns especially in developing countries, or the justification of “vaccine passports”. This may have been due to strong ideological bias or, perhaps, some kind of hidden agenda.
“Moon of Alabama”, a website known for its independent geopolitical analysis, is essentially authored by a single analyst who, according to his own description, is about 60 years of age and afflicted by several health conditions. Thus, Moon of Alabama primarily focused on the health impact of covid from the perspective of a high-risk individual, essentially following the official narrative and its many fraudulent claims and false promises, while favoring China’s seemingly more successful approach to coronavirus suppression – much to the dismay of many of its more skeptical readers.
Nevertheless, it is clear that high-quality independent media outlets and skilled independent analysts and authors played a leading role in debunking official propaganda and investigating various key aspects of the coronavirus pandemic.
You have been reading: The Propaganda Pandemic.
An analysis by Swiss Policy Research.
- Covid: A Propaganda Masterpiece (Prof. Mark Crispin Miller, 30 min.)
- Covid as a Global Propaganda Operation (Dr. Piers Robinson, 45 min.)
- Mass Psychosis: How an Entire Population Becomes Mentally Ill (AS, 20 min.)
1) “They Live” – Covid Edition (1 min.)
2) “Brought to you by Pfizer” (1 min.)
3) Bats, filmed upside down (1 min.)
- On Corona, the Media, and Propaganda (March 2020)
- Wikipedia: A Disinformation Operation?
- Advanced Online Media Use