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Double Check: Is This Anti-Vax Rap Battle OK?

Double Check: Is This Anti-Vax Rap Battle OK?

Last week, I showed a video to a select few of my colleagues. “What did I just watch?” one asked. “Is that a zoomed-in quote from Mike Yeadon?!” another said. I explained to the former colleague that she had just watched an anti-vax rap battle video called Vaxxer vs. Truther, clarifying that this video, which features both misinformation and the backing track from Lose Yourself, is doing the rounds on Facebook. To the latter colleague, I explained that there was indeed a zoomed-in quote from Mike Yeadon – the misinformation-spreading lockdown skeptic who used to work at Pfizer.

I could link to Vaxxer vs. Truther here too, but I won’t. It’s chock-a-block with lies, half-truths, and COVID-19 scaremongering. No one needs to see it. Instead, I will spit a few bars to correct the record.

Vaxxer vs. Truther

Both characters in Vaxxer vs. Truther are played by the same actor. The “truther," called Felicity Freedom, sports a pink T-shirt, maskless face, and sensible hair. The “vaxxer," called Dorothy Righteous, sports a silly wig, a transparent mask, and speaks with a clearly affected Yorkshire accent. In the battle (which our “truther” ultimately wins), the two women debate the efficacy of mask-wearing, COVID-19 survival rates, lockdown restrictions, and whether or not to vaccinate children, all through the power of Eminem.

Except for the fact that Dorothy Righteous looks kind of silly and everything they both say rhymes – my favorite bit is when they rhyme “prick” with “sick” – it is all very familiar fare. Indeed, our “truther” makes a number of claims that we, at Logically, have debunked many times.

DOROTHY RIGHTEOUS: Just look at yourself. You won’t even wear a mask.

You’re utterly selfish. Is it too much to ask 

that you would cover your face, for the sake of all of us?

Oh, but no, you have to make a fuss.

Do you find it too hot? Well the rest of us can cope. 

The masks and the jabs are our only hope. 

FELICITY FREEDOM: For what, the coronavirus that is as deadly as the flu? 

The Beeb have done a right proper job on you….

The purpose of the mask is to sustain the fear. 

Take away the visual cues and this will all disappear. 

We have debunked such anti-masker claims here, here, and here. As my colleague has written, ample evidence shows that mask-wearing can protect against COVID-19 by reducing the spread of respiratory droplets and aerosols. As COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets and aerosols, this is a good idea. 

Admittedly, we have not explicitly debunked the claim that the purpose of masks is “sustaining the fear.” The purpose of masks is to temper the spread of the coronavirus, not to make people scared. That said, it is still hard to know what exactly this woman is on about. Fear of what? Of coronavirus? A thing that it’s wise to be at least wary of?

Most likely, through this line, our “truther” is alleging some sort of conspiracy, one in which COVID-19 is a way in which bad guys do bad things. This is a classically vague, all-encompassing conspiracy that takes the shape of a worldview rather than a set of refutable claims: a problem for fact-checkers everywhere.

As for the claim about coronavirus being as deadly as the flu, this is not the case, as we have written here, here, and here.

FREEDOM: We’ve got safe and effective medicines

to cure and ease the symptoms. Ever heard of ivermectin? 

No, because Big Pharma have been busy protecting

all their profits by sustaining the “emergency.”

Ivermectin, the anti-parasitic drug that is not the dream drug our “truther” alleges it to be, or something that Big Pharma is trying to conceal from you. As the World Health Organization has said, ivermectin should not be used for treating COVID-19 outside clinical trials. As my colleague has written, there is no evidence that ivermectin can treat COVID-19. Indeed, an ivermectin manufacturer, Merck, has stated there is no scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies, and that there is a concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies coming out in support of ivermectin. If the people who make a product are telling you not to buy their product, then maybe you should listen.

Ivermectin comes in forms meant for either livestock or humans. In humans, it’s only actually authorized for the treatment of mites and worms. Self-medicating using livestock-grade ivermectin has led to poisonings in the U.S. No healthcare authority recommends it for COVID-19. Our "truther"’s assertions, then, are potentially very harmful indeed.

Before the video pauses to zoom in on a quote from Mike Yeadon, our truther implores our vaxxer to think of the children. “They’re coming for our kids!” she says. “And that’s a fact. More risk than benefit and that’s a fact.”

This reminds me of Helen Lovejoy in The Simpsons. It also reminds me of anti-COVID-vaxxers everywhere, who love to focus on the innocence connoted by children. For what it’s worth, COVID-19 vaccines are safe for kids. Also, children are not 50 times more likely to die from the vaccine than from the COVID-19. Also, Yeadon isn’t a credible source of information. He is known to spread misinformation about infertility and vaccines and is an all-around factually dubious dude.

FREEDOM: The list of reactions without distortion 

from deep vein thrombosis to spontaneous abortion, 

cardiac arrest, anaphylaxis, blood disorders, 

infection, migraine, headache, eye disorders, 

blindness, deafness, skin disorders, 

vomiting, strokes, psychiatric disorders, 

dizziness, tremors, nervous system disorders, 

seizures, paralysis, respiratory disorders,

vertigo, tinnitus, there’s still more left, 

reproductive damage, and death.

Though the “truther” claims these are COVID-19 vaccine side effects, these are not COVID-19 vaccine side effects. These are vaguely rhyming conditions and symptoms – my favorite bit is when they rhyme “disorders” with “disorders” – that have been lifted from Yellow Card data. As we have written before, side effects listen on the Yellow Card scheme are not proven. Anybody can self-report suspected side effects through Yellow Card.

This is really important. Hence we write about Yellow Card data a lot. And masks. And ivermectin. Indeed, if I so wish, I could quote full and informative paragraphs about COVID-19 survival rates and masks and ivermectin in a sort of weirdly specific party trick that no one has asked for.

FREEDOM: I’m sorry for your pain 

but please let’s not be divided again. 

They’re changing our world to make slaves of us all.  

United we thrive but divided we fall.

RIGHTEOUS and FREEDOM: We’re not enemies. We could be friends.

When we stand together, this whole thing ends.

At the end of their four-minute-long rap battle, for reasons that are neither explained nor clear, the two women decide to put their differences aside and stand right next to each other, the implication being that once everyone abandons science for pseudoscience, COVID-19 will be a thing of the past. While talking to people who have different takes and political views is a good thing, believing in things that are not true is not. Minimizing COVID-19 and/or denying COVID-19 will get us nowhere good. It is probably best to stick to the science, get yourself vaxxed, and mask up.

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