Deconstructing the Logic of “Plandemic”
And why it’s so hard to talk logically about COVID-19 in general.
Ping! A message on Whatsapp. Ping! A Facebook message. Ping! Ping! Ping! It’s Thursday and it’s early in the morning — 6am early — and my phone is pinging with messages from east coast friends, donors, and my volunteers. I was sent link after link of video clips and articles about a sensationalized video vignette of a soon-to-be released documentary called “Plandemic.” I was told that the material kept getting censored and taken down on Facebook, Youtube, Vimeo, and at the time — even the website itself. So I went to a video streaming platform and found a recently uploaded copy. The subtitle below the video said “they delete, we repeat.”
Because the Plandemic website itself gave permission to endlessly upload copies to fight its censorship, I ripped the video and uploaded a permanent copy to an archive, so we could start safely analyzing the content.
In a Facebook message from someone who volunteered for me in the past, I was asked what the Society Library would do about it.
The Society Library is a non-profit organization which extracts arguments, claims, and evidence from various forms of media (TV, news, academia, social media, etc.) to construct a database that houses all the argumentation from all points of view on social and political issues. We take no sides — we just map the logical argumentation and catalogue evidence in a digital library.
By now there are dozens of websites and videos ‘debunking’ and ‘fact-checking’ Plandemic, and I believe that some of the people who sent me Plandemic wanted me to do the same. Some probably wanted me to instead ‘confirm’ that some of these claims are true, maybe some wanted me to preserve and protect the content, and others probably just wanted my opinion in general.
However like I said, the Society Library takes no sides, and it’s pretty much my job not to have personal opinions on social and political issues, but I said the Society Library would impartially deconstruct the logic of the film’s transcript and I would write something up about it. So we did, and with our methods we extracted 448 claims from Plandemic (in the 26 minute duration of the Plandemic vignette), and this article contains what I personally have to say about that.
First, let’s be precise about what I mean when I use the word “claim” and revisit a little history of logic.
A Historical Refresher on Logical Inquiry
Remember Socrates? He is regarded as the ancient Greek philosopher who supposedly never wrote down his thoughts, but is immortalized in the writings of others, such as Plato. It is said that he resigned himself to poverty and took no money for his teachings. An Athenian jury sentenced him to death, arguably, for the impact of his “philosophizing.”
Many would say that Socrates’ legacy is his contribution to the foundations of philosophy and logical inquiry. His methods have been described as asking endless questions of people in conversation. He asked question after question until he reached some fundamental assumption, hypocrisy, or inconsistency in the thinking of the person he was speaking to.
This method is a very powerful debate technique, mentioned by Benjamin Franklin in his autobiography and taught in law schools across the country. It is a method that’s well known for being deeply penetrating and uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of. Young Benjamin Franklin mostly gave up the method, since his boss at the time stopped wanting to engage with him in conversation at all, and law schools preface that the method is not the only thing they teach students these days — “day[s] of the relentless Socratic professor who ended every sentence with a question mark is over.”
However the method endures as an incredibly useful philosophical tool in the pursuit of truth.
Just like Socrates supposedly began doing thousands of years ago, the Society Library indifferently questions every claim it catalogues on social and political issues so we can walk the path of discovering what the underlying assumptions are for social and political claims, or what the extent is to which we can know anything at all.
So what is a claim?
A claim is some assertion of truth. Whether or not the claim is actually true is debatable. A claim can be a fact or an opinion; it can be wrong or right. Generally, they’re constructed as if declaring a truth.
- Coffee is awesome (an opinion, but also a claim)
- I didn’t spill coffee on the floor today (a statement of fact, but also a claim)
- I didn’t spill coffee on the floor today (JK, that’s a lie, but also a claim)
- I spilled coffee on the floor today (that’s correct, and a claim)
In the process of debating to find the truth, whenever someone makes a claim, they have a burden to provide proof for it. This means it is their responsibility to supply either evidence or reasoning to support their claim.
To make it easy to debate a claim, just turn it into a question.
- Is coffee awesome?
- Did I spill coffee on the floor today?
Often, at least two positions are implied: yes or no, true or false, for or against. To defend either position, someone should provide evidence or further reasoning.
“Reasoning” comes in the form of additional claims and arguments. Arguments are actually made of claims. When a claim is used as a part of an argument, it’s called a premise.
Here’s a famous example:
- Socrates is mortal (by itself, this is a claim)
You can support that claim with reasoning that cites evidence, like: “Here’s a historical record indicating that Socrates died, so this is proof he’s mortal”
Or you can support the claim by making it into an argument:
- Socrates was a man (a premise, though by itself it would be a claim)
- All men are mortal (a premise, though by itself it would be a claim)
- Therefore, Socrates is mortal (the conclusion, justified by the premises)
All those claims together make one argument.
We extracted 448 claims from Plandemic. So essentially, we identified 448 teeny, tiny little debatable units of logic that are used as reason to support other claims and arguments in the film, which in turn rely on other claims and arguments to support them. Plandemic essentially implies that there are 448 questions that could be asked, and at least twice as many positions to be defended.
Plandemic’s claims fall into these general categories:
- Claims about the credibility of Dr. Mikovits
- Claims about the victimization of Dr. Mikovits
- Claims about the bravery of Dr. Judy Mikovits
- Claims detailing a cover-up scheme by Dr. Tony Fauci, later identified for the purpose of gaining competitive edge: via obtaining patents and power
- Additional claims to defame Dr. Tony Fauci’s character
- Claims of mass murder through medical negligence
- Appeals to justice
- Claims about a conspiracy regarding the virus’ development
- Claims about a conspiracy regarding justification of vaccine use
- Corruption of healthcare systems
- Discussion of rival treatments to vaccines and treatment conspiracy
- Claims of professional naivety in healthcare
- Other, miscellaneous claims
If an individual unpacked the debate around all the claims in Plandemic, that person would probably be researching for months or even a year. For every claim they would find, there would likely be arguments for and against, and each of those arguments are claims that have further arguments for and against, and on, and on, and on; eventually being pulled into debates within a handful of related but different topics.
Some people have probably felt like they have “researched it,” but really what they’ve probably done is come to a decision by outsourcing their critical thinking.
This brings me to my point of why it’s so difficult to debate and talk logically about COVID-19 subjects, including vaccines and Plandemic.
By “outsourcing critical thinking,” I really don’t mean anything demeaning. I think this is frankly necessary for most people most of the time so we can operate in the world without infinite “analysis paralysis” on every possible decision we could make.
We outsource our critical thinking because there are not many people on Earth who will take the time to identify all the claims in Plandemic and sincerely research each one to see if it’s true or not. Instead, we rely on the arguments of our friends, of experts, and of sources. The problem with this is not just that we have different friends and sources, but that this habit of outsourcing our critical thinking can lead us to logical fallacies.
Arguing Against Plandemic
After I watched Plandemic, I logged onto Facebook. Facebook dutifully selected the post I’d most like to see and presented it at the top of my feed. It was a Plandemic-related post from a beloved friend of mine. I expanded the comment section, and saw that multiple people were drawing their arguments from sources they had outsourced their thinking to, and many people were arguing with logical fallacies.
A logical fallacy is a faulty way of reasoning. Logical fallacies play a kind of trick on the mind, where something seems to make sense, and seems reasonable, but really it’s not the most valid way to argue that something is true or false. It’s weak or misleading reasoning. Therefore, it’s a pitfall that may lead you to a logical dead end or falsehood, instead of the truth.
Here are some of the examples of fallacious reasoning I have seen by people outsourcing their critical thinking.
Scenario 1: Outsourcing to the crowd:
Let’s say that I start seeing friends post about Plandemic online. It seems to me that more of my friends are saying it’s false propaganda rather than it being truthful. So I decide it must be false propaganda and I don’t watch it.
How this can be fallacious: This is called Ad Populum logical fallacy, which means that “because the majority of people think it’s true, it’s true.” In this case, because most of my friends said it is false propaganda, I believe its false propaganda. When I assume a claim is true because the majority says so, I’m taking a shortcut in logic. I’m making a substitute for more valid reasoning or more serious inquiry.
Scenario 2: Outsourcing to experts, generally:
Time goes by, and more and more people post about Plandemic. Now that the majority of people I’m seeing are saying I should watch it, I change my mind, and I watch Plandemic. However, I don’t know what to think about it, so I send it to my favorite Youtube thought leader who is a medical expert and ask him to fact-check it. He releases a ~3 minute video saying it’s stupid, the claims are false, and that none of his viewers should waste their time watching it. I figure he’s a medical expert, so he must know what he’s talking about. I therefore believe Plandemic is stupid and its claims are false.
How this can be fallacious: This is called Appeal to Authority logical fallacy, which means that “because an expert said something is true, it’s true” — but it’s actually not necessarily true. It’s not true just because an expert said so; it’s true because it’s true (or it’s false because it’s false). You can establish that by debating the evidence and reason which support one view or another. An expert may be most equipped to deliver that evidence and reasoning, but believing something just because an expert “said so” when they do not supply further evidence or reasoning is just another shortcut.
How this can be logical: Just because someone is an expert, it doesn’t mean they’re right, but they may be more likely to be right about something because they’re an expert, which is why some people outsource their critical thinking to experts. Maybe they’ve increased their odds of being right, but just because experts “say so” is not valid reasoning. Sometimes, a synthesized view of a field is only perceivable by an expert, and in that case — an expert opinion is valid. However, when it comes to discrete claims — the evidence (or lack of it) is accountable, and therefore must be examined as opposed to just believing an expert’s opinion.
Scenario 3: Outsourcing to Topic-Specific Forums
Because that Youtube thought leader said it’s stupid and not to watch it, I figured that’s a good idea. He said Dr. Judy Mikovits (interviewed in Plandemic) isn’t credible, and we should care about the credibility of the people making these claims. I decide that’s valid, and I go to Reddit to see a “Plandemic Debunked” thread. I find that the entire thread is mostly focused on discrediting Dr. Judy Mikovits. The original post in the thread lists arguments and cites evidence to prove that she is lying about her arrest record and other details about her life. It includes links to news articles, and supposedly signed affidavits as evidence that she got her tenant to steal lab property. The thread ends with the generalized sentiment “if she can’t be honest about her record and that she’s a criminal, why should she be believed about anything else?”
How this can be logically fallacious: This is an Ad Hominem logical fallacy. Which means you attack the person delivering the arguments instead of the arguments itself.
How this can be logical: Sometimes the credibility of the person matters in argumentation, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s just like in a court case, when there is no video footage of a theft, but there is a witness. In this case, the credibility of the witness is important to consider, because that’s the best evidence you’ve got. However if a court has been given video footage of a theft, and the defendant says the video footage shouldn’t be trusted because the CEO of the closed circuit camera company cheated on his wife, that’s illogical. Maybe the video footage can’t be trusted because the video footage shows signs of being tampered with — which is a direct engagement with the actual claim debated, not attacking the reputation of who is responsible for the footage existing. In this case, for some claims where we would simply have to take Dr. Judy Mikovits’ word for it, her reputation does matter. For other claims, it doesn’t — the evidence which supports it is what should be most seriously considered.
Scenario 4: Outsourcing to Fact-Checkers on Topic-Specific Forums (Part Two)
I really appreciated the Reddit thread which debunked Plandemic by discrediting Dr. Judy Mikovits. I’m convinced that Dr. Judy Mikovits can’t be trusted. I go back to Reddit the following day and see that the post has been updated with more information. The person who wrote the thread had started doing some serious fact-checking. They started gathering evidence and arguing against other claims from Plandemic. They don’t address all the claims, but they point out some big claims about Hydroxychloroquine, and presents counter-evidence. All in all, it looks like this Reddit thread has fact-checked and debunked a lot, so now I’m convinced Plandemic as a whole is false.
How this can be logically fallacious: As much as I love fact-checking on Reddit, a lot of the fact-checking is really just a kind of cherry-picking. Cherry Picking is a fallacy in which you specifically look for evidence to prove a point, while ignoring evidence to the contrary, in order to be persuasive or right. You’re not sincerely inquiring into all possibilities, you’re just picking the reasoning and evidence which support something you already believe. So, as much as fact-checkers are awesome, and in general they probably care about “the truth,” many may not realize that they already have an idea of what “the truth” is, so they specifically look for evidence to to support their own arguments.
How this can be logical: Just because a fact-checker is cherry-picking evidence, it doesn’t mean that the evidence they’ve chosen isn’t the strongest. Just like me believing the crowd, believing experts, or believing that the reputation of the person matters, I could end up believing what is ultimately the truth. However, it may not be the truth, and this way of inquiring into what true is fallacious, because it’s a shortcut which may make me believe something is true, when it actually could be false, because I haven’t used valid reasoning.
Scenario 5: Outsourcing to professional fact-checkers
I’m still looking at the Reddit thread, and I see a link to a fact-checking article as evidence to refute a claim that Dr. Mikovits made. I click on it, because I am the type of person who checks my sources. It’s an official fact-checking institute, and it lists 8 claims from Plandemic that it fact-checks. One of the eight claims is one that Dr. Judy Mikovits makes herself: “Hydroxychloroquine is ‘effective against these families of viruses’” — which could imply that it’d be effective at treating COVID-19.
The fact-checking site says this claim is “unproven.” It says it’s “too soon” to claim if Hydroxychloroquine is a viable treatment, then follows that statement with this claim: “The most recent study, a large-scale study of nearly 1,400 New York-area patients with moderate to severe COVID-19, found that patients fared no better by taking Hydroxychloroquine.”
Unlike the cherry-picked Reddit thread, this news article seems to present evidence from both sides. Well done! Well, in the sincere spirit of inquiring into truth, I suppose I could turn that quote (technically a claim) into a question, and follow the evidence that was provided by clicking on the study.
Scenario 6: Outsourcing to educational institutions
Turns out, the link didn’t bring me to the study, but a webpage for the Medical Center a part of an Ivy League University. It seems as though researchers from that University were some of the authors in the study. And on the page was a similar quote to the one on the fact-checking page.
But I decide to keep reading. There is a subtitle that says “What the study means” and underneath it says: “Hospitalized patients with COVID-19 illness should not be routinely treated with Hydroxychloroquine,” [emphasis added].
I could have stopped there, but I decided to keep reading. Right after the above quote, the webpage directly quotes one of the authors of the study, it says:
“Given the observational design of the study, our results cannot completely exclude the possibility of either modest benefit or harm of Hydroxychloroquine treatment, but the findings do not support its use outside of randomized clinical trials…”
Wait a minute….does the statement “findings do not support its use outside of randomized clinical trials” mean the same thing as “hospitalized patients with COVID-19 illness should not be routinely treated with Hydroxychloroquine?”
Maybe? Maybe “does not support use” (which to me implied a lack of support) actually means “should not use” (which is support against). Maybe I stop here, and maybe just take the University’s word for it.
How this can be fallacious: Appeal to Authority (we’ve seen this before)
…..but maybe I’m curious, so I go one more degree of depth.
Scenario 7: Getting to original sources
I start reading the original scholarly article. I confirm that the quote on the University Medical Center webpage is basically the same as what was written in the actual scholarly article’s “Discussion” section.
So, because of the observational design of the study, and the relatively wide confidence interval, the study itself says that it “should not be taken to rule out either benefit or harm of Hydroxychloroquine treatment.”
So I start looking into the design of the study.
It goes like this: 1376 COVID-19 patients (who did not die, or were intubated or discharged, within 24hrs of arriving at the emergency department) were selected to either receive Hydroxychloroquine or not. The study goes on to say that “Hydroxychloroquine-treated patients were more severely ill at baseline than those who did not receive Hydroxychloroquine.”
The study didn’t randomly choose the recipients of Hydroxychloroquine. Those who received it were more ill than those who didn’t. I wonder if it’s possible that they didn’t fair better because the people who were chosen were too ill for it to make a difference. Is it possible it may have made a difference to those who are less sick?
The study itself says, “Randomized, controlled trials of Hydroxychloroquine in patients with Covid-19 are needed.”
I’m still confused if the study either “does not support” the routine use, or confirms that there “should not” be routine use. I wonder if the University webpage and the fact-checking website are precisely representing the conclusion of the study. I’m not sure I can be the judge of that, so what can I do?
I can write to each one of the researchers, and ask them if their statement is being conflated with the Medical Center’s webpage statement, which is also being cited on the fact-checking site.
The ambiguity of the language has led to a temporary standstill, and all we can do is ask for clarification.
I’ll update this article if/when I hear back.
And that’s how many, many of these paths end: with more questions that need to be answered, and this was just one path in one direction…
Scenario 8: Getting to original sources (Part Two)
I remember that Plandemic cited some evidence about Hydroxychloroquine being rated as “most effective therapy” by doctors in 30 countries. I decide that instead of believing it outright and outsourcing my critical thinking to the documentary itself, I should do some digging. There is no reference to the specific study in Plandemic’s narration, but there is a news article that appears on-screen when it’s being discussed. I look up the title that’s shown. The news article does link to a report about a survey, and it appears to just be that — a survey. A survey that asks doctors which treatment they believe is most effective on their COVID-19 patients. The methodology section cites that the questionnaire took 22 minutes to complete and is just “physicians’ attitudes about the various survey topics.”
How this can be fallacious: These are two fallacies we’ve seen before: Ad Populum (majority rule) and Appeal to Authority (outsourcing to experts). Logical fallacies can seem so logical, but just because the majority of experts are reporting their belief about something, it doesn’t mean that belief is correct. This is just a poll of opinions.
Scenario 9: Relying on ones-self
So what can you do? People argue based on preferred sources, and often resort to logical fallacies to make their points.
If you don’t outsource, perhaps you’ve just got to rely on yourself.
Let’s do that, and look at this argument from Plandemic:
Of the 448 claims in Plandemic, Dr. Judy Mikovits uses a few to make an argument (this is refined to be more succinct)
- Hydroxychloroquine effectively treats coronaviruses
- SARS-CoV2 is a coronavirus
- Therefore, Hydroxychloroquine effectively treat SARS-CoV2.
These are three claims of the 448.
What are these claims used to support in Plandemic?
In Plandemic, the argument is seemingly made that Hydroxychloroquine is being discouraged from use in the U.S. because it’s actually a viable COVID-19 treatment, but minions of Big Pharma want to gain power and money by instead selling a vaccine. They do this by driving up COVID-19 death tolls by incentivizing hospitals with money, establishing “liberal approaches” to COVID-19 causes of death, and by doing so cause widespread fear.
There wouldn’t be an economic demand for a vaccine if Hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment that already exists. This claim is supported by alluding to the claim that such a scheme has happened before under Dr. Tony Fauci’s watch with HIV. Also, the vaccine may cause millions of people to die because it’ll either be the wrong treatment or it may have toxins in them, just like vaccines have done in the past.
By now some of you may be thinking, “See? Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Use your common sense!” And this is another way people outsource their thinking — to their own gut feelings.
Surprise, that’s another logical fallacy. It’s called “argument from incredulity.”
About Plandemic’s Logic
In the Plandemic vignette, there were a lot of claims that offered no evidence. Some claims didn’t offer any reasoning, neither, but some did.
In my opinion, literally everything is debatable in Plandemic. That’s just because I am looking at it from a logical perspective. I do think there are plenty of holes in the logic of the Plandemic video I was sent, because a lot of the logical reasoning is implied, and not explicitly stated, but frankly I don’t expect it to be a strong logical proof.
I don’t expect it to be for two reasons:
- 1.) It is a vignette, not a full documentary. The full documentary (according to the website) is coming out in the Summer. So this is kind of like a movie trailer. I don’t expect the plot in a movie trailer to make a lot of sense. There are a lot of holes because the film is literally shown as incomplete.
- 2.) When people speak freely — in interviews or unscripted video — I find it’s often pretty illogical (which is one of the reasons I’m not a huge fan of speaking on camera). In my line of work, extracting logic from TV clips and extracting logic from a news article is like working with two completely different languages. In writing, people are compelled to be precise. Dr. Judy Mikovits wrote a book on this story, so I assume the book might be more logically sound, but that’s a mighty assumption (and not an endorsement for it to be purchased nor anything in Plandemic to be believed).
Being truly logical is incredibly laborious, and pursuing the truth is a rigorous process. Debating every claim without making assumptions — based on your gut or outsourcing your thinking — is an immense amount of work.
There is so much information and argumentation being generated every day, it’s almost too much to ask anyone to be sincerely logical (which is why have a whole suite of tools to computationally assist in our logical deconstruction of content).
So what can you do?
- When you see a claim that you’re passionate about defending, turn it into a question and explore the other side.
- Stop calling people stupid; you’re probably outsourcing your thinking too.
- Ask questions like “How do I know that’s true?” Keep asking questions until you hit the bottom of what you or the person you’re talking with “knows,” then you’ll be left with a useful question.
- Accept uncertainty. It’s really hard to know anything is true with a sincere epistemological rigor.
- Choose your assumptions wisely, just know they’re assumptions.
- When you make an argument, take care to provide non-fallacious reasoning or evidence (and maybe consider deconstructing it first)
- Support a debate mapping project. There are a handful of projects (like the Society Library) that recognize we have this massive social challenge on our hands. There is so much information relevant to critical, complex society-wide decisions, and people are looking at different sources and coming to different conclusions. We need a way to simulate debate on a societal scale, so we can collectively pursue the truth. Why use a debate structure? Sometimes the strength of an argument can only be assessed in the context of other arguments (we likely don’t have all the evidence we need in all contexts to deduce that something is definitively true when it comes to political and social issues). So pick a debate project, and donate. In my opinion, the use of technology to structure debate at scale is the next logical step for humanity to become more rational as a whole. If you have any questions about the Society Library, which is a 501(c)3 fledgling non-profit, see our links below. We’re actively working on a COVID project. See more about our values here.
What happens now to Plandemic?
These 448 claims have already been catalogued, and right now the Society Library is “mapping” the debate about COVID-19 related issues (See COVIDConvo.org). Plandemic will not stay as one cohesive narrative, instead the collection of claims will be ripped apart and reorganized into COVID-19 related debates about vaccines, treatments, death rates, lockdown ethics, SARS-CoV2’s origin, etc. Essentially its arguments will be combined with those that support it, and mapped up against those that refute it. That’s what leads to a “map” of a debate.
So what has Plandemic given us? Just more questions and an opportunity to discuss why asking questions matters by writing this article.
If you feel a great sense of urgency to answer these questions, you can volunteer for the Society Library, and we’ll train you in extracting claims so we can structure them in our maps; just go to: https://www.societylibrary.org/volunteer-with-us
Or, you can buy us a cup of coffee (I won’t spill this one)
And to learn more about our methods: go here.
Thank you so much for reading, please feel free to write us with any questions. And again, remember that the Society Library takes no sides, we just sincerely inquire into the truth of things.
Special thanks to our volunteer, Trevor Barrow, who helped extract and categorize Plandemic claims.