Coping with Death Threats and Violence

Once, at the age of 19, as I was driving through a city that shall remain nameless, I was side swiped by a delivery van. Thinking this was simply an accident and assuming it was my fault, I pulled over. The van driver jumped out, came over and breathlessly asked if I was from (place name redacted). I nodded, so he replied “We don’t like your kind here”, then turned, jumped back in his van, and promptly drove off leaved me utterly shocked. It had not been an accident, he had spotted the plate on my car, had decided that everybody from there was a nefarious evil bastard up to no good, so decided to run me off the road because he felt that he needed to send a message.

This posting is not about myself or that incident, but rather is about the chilling impact that unjustified violence, threats, and intimidation can have.

There are today people who believe things about COVID that are simply not factual. You know the deal, claims that it is all a hoax, and that the vaccine will kill billions, is perhaps the craziest, but there are lots of variations that fly under the banner of “I’m just asking questions”. In this deeply charged political atmosphere some of these people are lashing out against the scientific community.

Nature (Oct 13, 2021): ‘I hope you die’: how the COVID pandemic unleashed attacks on scientists

The prestigious science journal, Nature, conducted a survey of 321 scientists who have given media interviews about COVID-19. The results are quite astonishing. These scientists are people who simply did their job. They work with data and facts, so they used the best available evidence to articulate what was known. For this “crime” they are being targeted by deeply delusional fanatics …

Infectious-diseases physician Krutika Kuppalli had been in her new job for barely a week in September 2020, when someone phoned her at home and threatened to kill her.

Kuppalli, who had just moved from California to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, had been dealing with online abuse for months after she’d given high-profile media interviews on COVID-19, and had recently testified to a US congressional committee on how to hold safe elections during the pandemic. But the phone call was a scary escalation. “It made me very anxious, nervous and upset,” says Kuppalli, who now works at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

She called the police, but didn’t hear that they took any action. The threatening e-mails, calls and online comments continued. The police officer who visited Kuppalli after a second death-threat call suggested she should get herself a gun.

What about the others in their survey?

Here are some of the results reported …

15% of them received death threats.

Anthony Fauci, not one of those in this survey, is the very visible face of this. It is no surprise to learn that the death threats he faces are deemed credible, so he has been assigned personal security guards.

For fracks sake, (yes, I wanted to write something else there), these people are not politicians and are not spouting opinions, but rather are relaying the best available evidence-based guidance. Their adversaries are literally at war with reality and are attempting to play the role of king Cnut who famously had his throne placed on the shoreline so that he could command the rising tide to halt.

Side Note: Cnut was not actually that stupid. Historia Anglorum records that did this as a lesson for his sycophants. He needed to send a very clear message that his regal authority was limited. Meanwhile some of the anti-vax folks today are indeed this deeply in denial of reality and would fit right in with some of Cnut’s loyal followers.

This is not just a US phenomena. In the UK, the chief scientific adviser Chris Whitty has been physically attached in the street.

This is not New

Scientists who have presented the facts regarding politically hot button topics in the past have faced a similar degree of harassment and threats. For example climate change researchers, or gun violence researchers.

This is not US Politics

This really is global and not simply a US political thing.

Australia …

… Epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz at the University of Wollongong in Australia, who has gained a following on Twitter for his detailed dissection of research papers, says that two major triggers are vaccines and the anti-parasite drug ivermectin — controversially promoted as a potential COVID-19 treatment without evidence it was effective. “Any time you write about vaccines — anyone in the vaccine world can tell you the same story — you get vague death threats, or even sometimes more specific death threats and endless hatred,” he says. But he’s found the passionate defence of ivermectin surprising. “I think I’ve received more death threats due to ivermectin, in fact, than anything I’ve done before,” he says. “It’s anonymous people e-mailing me from weird accounts saying ‘I hope you die’ or ‘if you were near me I would shoot you’.”…

UK …

…Andrew Hill, a pharmacologist at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Translational Medicine, received vitriolic abuse after he and his colleagues published a meta-analysis in July. It suggested ivermectin showed a benefit, but Hill and his co-authors then decided to retract and revise the analysis when one of the largest studies they included was withdrawn because of ethical concerns about its data (A. Hill et al. Open Forum Inf. Dis. 8, ofab394; 2021). After that, Hill was besieged with images of hanged people and coffins, with attackers saying he would be subject to ‘Nuremberg trials’, and that he and his children would ‘burn in hell’. He has since closed his Twitter account….


…In Brazil, microbiologist-turned-science-communicator Natalia Pasternak also noticed online attacks against her increasing when she spoke about the unproven COVID-19 treatments being promoted by the Brazilian government, which include ivermectin, the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin…

How do researchers cope with stuff like this?

Some try to cope on their own and go as far as making their social media presence secure and secret. If it is already known, then some have gone as far as shutting down their social media presence.

The best guidance however is not to “cope” and move on, but to instead turn to their administrators, security officers, and others within their institutions for help.

The Nature article covers some of this …

In response to an increase in attacks on scientists and public-health officials, the Royal Society of Canada set up a working group on ‘protecting public advice’ in May. It is set to release a policy briefing before the end of the year. “Our fundamental concern is what do we do to make sure that expertise can still reach the public and it’s not silenced by this kind of activity,”

…Wright says some universities have formal policies on how to handle attacks on staff, which range from ensuring that person has access to support from counselling and security services, to making public statements of support of their academics and of academic freedom. 

Why is it like this, what is going on?

You do have to wonder what on earth is going on inside the heads of those that do this. We can grasp that some do indeed embrace whacky ideas, but this takes it all to an entirely different level – whacky activism.

The answer to what is going on resides within human psychology.

People have a need to feel special, important, and unique. To meet that social need some embrace crazy beliefs and then justify it to themselves by viewing it as a deep “truth” that the sheeple are blind to and only they and a few others have seen. Researchers who are interviewed by the media are deemed to be part of a nefarious evil plot, a conspiracy, to keep the masses blinded and so these “truth” activists strike out and attempt to intimidate and manipulate. Doing this adds to their own feelings of importance and relevance.

They see themselves as the good guy, the resistance, a light fighting against the supposedly prevailing darkness. In their minds they are the loan hero. They feel that they are special and unique because they have seen the “truth”.

This was well articulated within a 2017 paper “I Know Things that They Don’t Know” …

We found that the tendency to believe in conspiracy theories was associated with the feeling of possessing scarce information about the situations explained by the conspiracy theories (Study 1) and higher need for uniqueness (Study 2). Further two studies using two different manipulations of need for uniqueness (Studies 3 and 4) showed that people in a high need for uniqueness condition displayed higher conspiracy belief than people in a low need for uniqueness condition. This conclusion is strengthened by a small-scale meta-analysis. These studies suggest that conspiracy theories may serve people’s desire to be unique, highlighting a motivational underpinning of conspiracy belief.

I had one “conspiracy Theorist” who contacted me a few days ago to explain this …

Do you not realise that the reason why every mainstream source spoon-feeds the exact same wording to the brainwashed masses (word-for-word across hundreds of global media organisations) is because the script isn’t written by the media. It’s written by their controllers. You need to look behind the curtain.

His “evidence” consisted of YouTube clips, postings on Facebook, and of course the obligatory reference to that well-known grifter, the king of disinformation, Dr Mercola. (I wrote about him last Aug)

Since his stance was one in which the CIA was supposedly controlling everything and propagating disinformation, I asked how he could possibly rely upon the “CIA Controlled” YouTube and Facebook, how did he actually determine what was fact and what was just the wizard behind the curtain. He did not answer, but instead ducked and ran.

From his viewpoint, I’m a paid agent. This psychological dismissal of critics enables people to retain their feelings of importance, relevance, and uniqueness. The dilemma is that the alternative, the way things really are, is simply unthinkable. He has no easy way of letting go of this and getting out of this psychological trap.

Meanwhile, yes, he really did claim this …

So I ask myself, are you a paid asset?

I did ask him, who a “paid asset” such as myself should complain to, because I’ve not received my cheque yet.

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