Vancouver has been the site of several rallies and protests regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, mask mandates, vaccines, and the BC Vaccine Card or "vaccine passport."
While sometimes the catchphrases and spelling errors can read as amusing — or bemusing — other times proponents of the so-called "health freedom" movement display signs making serious claims about science, medicine, and epidemiology, or draw dangerous parallels between the anti-vax movement and other periods in history — and these folks aren't joking around.
So we figured: If you're going to go to the trouble to make the sign and carry it at a rally, you should know when what you're standing behind is junk.
And if you're looking at photos of people's signs from a protest and wondering if there's a grain of truth in those claims, or just what the heck some of those phrases and symbols mean, this might help you go toe-to-toe with a friend or relative who has you on their "I just thought you should know" or "Please watch this YouTube video of a doctor no one will listen to" email lists.
We decided to break down some of the slogans, ideas and conspiracy theories represented on signs spotted Sept. 8 at a small rally held in Vancouver. This was the turf for alt-right conspiracy theorists and many a person whose degree in medicine came from the University of Google. We're not sure if they "did the research" but we did ours.
Starting with the most basic idea, some participants are still convinced the entire pandemic is a hoax. With 4.6 million deaths worldwide directly related to it, dozens of labs working on the issue, thousands of academic papers written and its genetic sequence mapped, one has to ignore absolutely overwhelming evidence and believe a conspiracy involving millions of people to think it's a hoax.
Globally around 2 per cent of COVID-19 cases are fatal, while in Canada it's closer to 1.8 per cent. If the survival rate was at 99.97 per cent in Canada, with the 1.53 million cases so far there should have been only a few hundred deaths. So far over 27,100 have occurred.
While mRNA vaccines are relatively new they've been tested for years and don't show long-term side effects. The COVID-19 ones are new (as the virus is new) but it's more akin to a new flavour of pop than a whole new product. The speed at which these ones were developed is in a big part due to the sudden global need and massive amount of resources that went into them.
Maybe now is also a good time to note we don't know the long-term effects of COVID-19.
Also, some of the COVID-19 vaccines (like AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson) are viral vector vaccine, which works in a different way to the more common (in Canada) mRNA vaccines.
First, COVID-19 is caused by a virus and whether a virus is alive is up for debate; most evolutionary biologists say no, since they're chunks of DNA or RNA without the ability to self-replicate. So the premise that it can be killed is not solid.
Ivermectin does kill things, but it's used for parasites like lice, mites and worms; these are tiny insects, essentially. Commercially it's commonly sold for use on horses and cows. Medical authorities around the world have warned people against using it to fight COVID-19 as it can be dangerous to humans, and so have companies that make it, like Merck.
Ivermectin is used in humans to fight some parasitic infections, so it is approved by medical authorities in lots of countries for that — in correct, measured, prescribed doses.
Specifically, in the UK there is a study taking place to see if medications developed for other issues may be repurposed, and Ivermectin is part of that, but nothing has been released from that study. It's been shown that large amounts of Ivermectin can kill the virus, but so do bleach and fire, so...yeah.
Hydroxychloroquine was a drug President Donald Trump popularized. It has since been debunked.
"However, multiple high-quality studies subsequently showed no benefit of hydroxychloroquine use as post-exposure prophylaxis or as a COVID-19 treatment," states an article in the Lancet, one of the most respected medical journals.
Artemisinin has been used to fight malaria, and a related drug (Artesunate) is being tested to see if it will help people who're fighting COVID-19. Both originate from a plant but are then refined; some are claiming other things made out of the plant can fight COVID-19.
Essentially, with all three of these drugs, there are trials that have touched on them, but nothing has been proven and in some cases dangers exist. The medical industry is trying a lot of different methods to treat and fight COVID, these are just a handful which, while either debunked or unproven, have become popular.
It's important to also remember that just because a drug may help deal with COVID-19, it's still better to prevent the issue in the first place. You can recover from a car accident where you weren't wearing a seat belt, but if you're wearing one it can prevent severe injuries.
There's been no evidence of this.
A reference to Alice in Wonderland (following the rabbit down the hole), this is a QAnon reference. QAnon is essentially a collection of conspiracy theories at this point, which centres around Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles. It's widely debunked.
A reference to Alex Jones' idea that frogs are being turned gay. Jones linked it to a conspiracy to make more people gay via chemicals in water.
The Infowars website, which Jones started, has long been the home of conspiracy theories and these days hosts plenty of misinformation about the pandemic and vaccine.
A variety of signs have compared the vaccine and vaccine passport to the Holocaust, which saw millions of Jewish people killed in a genocide (along with thousands of others, like disabled people, LGBTQ and other racial groups). The Anti-Defamation League has asked them to stop.
"The utilization of this type of Holocaust imagery wrongly compares the antisemitic, racist, misogynist, xenophobic and homophobic Nazi-regime and its genocidal acts to current government measures to contain the pandemic," they write in one statement.
As have others.
"Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, strongly encourages individuals and public organizations to refrain from using the Holocaust and images associated with it to further their agendas and causes that are totally unrelated to the Holocaust," states Yad Vashem. "Manipulating the Holocaust in this way trivializes the horrific atrocities that were perpetrated and denigrates the memory of victims and survivors."
While the virus did start its spread in China and there are still questions about its precise origin, there's no evidence it was released as a biological weapon for the Chinese Government.
The New Federal State of China is a movement started in part by Steve Bannon, one of Trump's former chiefs of staff and a former leader of Breitbart, a far-right website.
A photo of Nazis checking the ID papers of a Jewish person in the streets of Krakow appears on a sign comparing the BC Vaccine Card to Jewish persecution.
The sign lists some of the recent times diseases have caused outbreaks, suggesting some individual or group is doing it to create fear, but also suggesting censorship is playing a role in it, and there's no evidence of any of this. The website listed shares more conspiracy theories, like that Bill Gates is spreading polio in an effort to reduce the global population.
The Gadsden Flag has become a symbol for a few groups, including libertarians, the Tea Party and the far-right, mostly in the USA. It originated as a part of the American Revolution. You might recognize it from clips of the Jan. 6 raid on the US Capitol building, where it was a common sight.
Sherri Tenpenny has been dubbed one of the Disinformation Dozen for spreading false or misleading medical information. The dozen are connected to around two-thirds of the anti-vaccine content shared at the beginning of 2021.
Meanwhile Carrie Madej has made false claims about what the vaccine does and that they will change a person's DNA.
Slavery is when one person owns another person as if they were property. A vaccine passport is a certificate of sorts to show who has been vaccinated against a contagious disease that has claimed millions of lives. These are not the same.
Also, the hammer and sickle used for the 'Cs' in vaccine are a communism reference, again.
Chris Elston, who's known for his anti-transgender views, has shown up at both events. At protests for other causes he's been chased away.
It's spelled graphene oxide and it's not in vaccines.