The Republican anti-vaxx campaign was remarkably “successful” at targeting their own supporters, and it’s not going to end with Covid:
Not long after Randy Watt died of Covid-19, his daughter Danielle sat down at her computer, searching for clues as to why the smart and thoughtful man she knew had refused to get vaccinated. She pulled up Google, typed in a screen name he had used in the past and discovered a secret that stunned her.
Her father, she learned, had a hidden, virtual life on Gab, a far-right social media platform that traffics in Covid misinformation. And there was another surprise as well: As he fought the coronavirus, he told his followers that he was taking ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasitic infections that experts say has no benefit — and in fact can be dangerous — for patients with Covid-19.
“On two occasions I coughed so hard that larynx went into spasm and closed my airway,” he wrote in a post on Gab a few days before Christmas last year. “Frightening, yes, but relaxing instead of panicking allowed the airway to open in 15 to 20 seconds. Took second dose of ivermectin, along with ibuprofen for fever and my usual vitamin regimen. Rest, fluids, and prayer.”
Mr. Watt, a passionate songwriter and musician who loved the outdoors and had retired from an energy company in Ohio, died on Jan. 7. He was 64. His wife and two daughters are still struggling to understand what led him to a site like Gab, which his widow, Victoria Stefan Watt, blames for what she called his “senseless death.”
Experts say the spread of health misinformation — particularly on fringe social media platforms like Gab — is likely to be a lasting legacy of the coronavirus pandemic. And there are no easy solutions.
“There has been such an incredible focus on developing vaccines quickly,” said Tara Kirk Sell, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, adding: “But from my perspective, there’s a missing piece there — a missing social behavioral piece. You can get a vaccine out to people in 100 days but they think it’s poison? You’ve still got a big problem.”
Musk letting people like Alex Berenson back on Twitter is just as dangerous as his letting Nazis back on.