Organizations of the EDMO’s fact-checking network that contributed to this analysis: Pagella Politica – Facta.news, AFP, Delfi, Demagog.pl, Eesti Päevaleht, Ellinika Hoaxes, Faktabaari, Faktisk, Lakmusz, Maldita, Mimikama, Nieuwscheckers, Re:Baltica, Science Feedback, The Journal – FactCheck, TjekDet, Verificat.
On November 21st, 2022, a “documentary” titled “Died suddenly” about alleged Covid-19 vaccines’ side effects was released on the niche video-sharing platform Rumble, and began to spread online.
By the end of November, many organizations that are part of the EDMO’s fact-checking network detected and reported in their own countries a wide circulation of this video. From Spain to the Baltic States, from Scandinavia to Greece, passing through France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Ireland and many others, basically all of Europe was interested by this disinformation content.
Various fact-checking organizations have published, or plan to publish in the next few days, their analyses of the false news spread by the video. Here we summarize the most relevant information about who published “Died suddenly,” which are the main allegations and thesis of the “documentary,” and why they are false or misleading.
The “Died Suddenly” film
The so-called documentary was produced by the Stew Peters Network (SPN), a media production company managed by Stew Peters, a widely popular U.S. based disinformation spreader. In February 2022, Peters’ personal podcast show was removed from Spotify for violating the platform’s guidelines about Covid-19 disinformation (but it’s still available on Google and Apple Podcast), and in April SPN produced the documentary “Watch the Water,” which claimed that coronavirus is not a virus, but a synthetic version of snake venom (needless to say, this was immediately debunked.
“Died Suddenly” was «written, produced, directed, filmed, and edited,» as the end credits state, by Matthew Miller Skow and Nicholas Stumphauzer. The two filmmakers had previously released “These Little Ones”, a Stew Peters Network’s documentary about child trafficking which supports, among other things, conspiracy theories about abortions and satanic rituals.
In “Died Suddenly”, which lasts about 1 hour and 10 minutes, «the filmmakers not only lie, but also try to create a feeling of anxiety and insecurity through manipulative language, music and visuals», Latvian fact-checkers from Re:Baltica stated in their analysis. The documentary, in fact, quotes several disinformation narratives about Covid-19 vaccines that have been circulating widely over the last couple of months and years.
Debunking old hoaxes
The film starts by claiming that embalmers and funeral directors have been finding unusually long blood clots in the bodies of vaccinated people. Images and vidoes of these supposed blood clots are profusely shown in the film. As explained by the French fact-checking outlet Health Feedback, part of the EDMO network, «without a pathological analysis that takes into account the clinical history of the person, images of blood clots alone don’t provide sufficient evidence of an association between these clots and Covid-19 vaccines.» Furthermore, the AFP fact-checking team stated that «experts have offered multiple other possibilities [for blood clots], including obesity, smoking or infection with Covid-19.» AFP also noticed that a video used in “Died Suddenly” to show a blood clot being removed actually comes from a YouTube video, uploaded in 2019 (therefore before the Covid-19 pandemic), showing a pulmonary embolism being removed from a living patient.
“Died Suddenly” goes on stating that Covid-19 vaccines often cause sever illnesses, such as cancer, and can lead to pregnacy problems such as miscarriages, abortions, or stillbirths. However, as highligted among others by AFP, experts have consistently said pregnant people should get vaccinated, and national and international health authorities, such as the CDC and the EMA, recommend Covid-19 vaccination to protect against severe illness and hospitalization. Fact-checkers at Re:Baltica also noted that several scientific studies concluded that neither Pfizer nor Moderna increased the risk of miscarriage or premature birth. Dutch fact-checkers from NieuwsCheckers dug deeper and proved that the images of babies with deformities that are shown in the film have nothing to do with Covid-19 vaccines.
Alleged connections with cancer have also widely been debunked, and NieuwsCheckers noted that the documentary uses data from the U.S. Department of Defense which turned out to contain an error and were later corrected. «There is no link between vaccination and cancer or neurological diseases,» NieuwsCheckers concluded in its analysis, which debunked the 12 core claims (all false) spread by “Died Suddenly.”
The film also shows several headlines and disturbing videos of people suddenly collapsing on the ground, allegedly because of the Covid-19 vaccine. Fact-checkers from Health Feeedback, however, noted that while the images are real, many of them are not related with Covid-19 vaccines, and some of the people are actually still alive. For instance, “Died Suddenly” shows «the Argentinian nutritionist Teresa Coccaro, who fainted during a TV show. Coccaro, who is well and alive, later explained that she fainted due to a fall in blood pressure», Health Feedback reported.
Overall, “Died Suddenly” claims that Covid-19 vaccines are «bioweapons» whose main goal is to depopulate the world. The film quotes several well-known conspiracy theories, such as the Great Reset; makes reference to the «global élite agenda»; and presentes in a misleading way Event 201, a virtual exercise hosted in October 2019 by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which simulated a potential global pandemic.
In order to support these baseless theories, the documentary exploits common disinformation narratives: the film claims, for instance, that Covid-19 vaccines haven’t been properly tested, or it uses data in a misleading manner in order to convey the idea that the vaccines might do more harm than good.
For example, as explained by the Greek fact-checking outlet Ellinika Hoaxes, part of the EDMO network, «the video refers to a previously debunked conspiracy that claims vaccine manufacturers are hiding information about vaccine side effects,» because the information leaflet contained in the boxes is left «intentionally blank.» Ellinika Hoaxes explained that, according to Reuters news agency, «it’s true that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine package insert was left mostly blank,» but «the company used the flyer to direct readers, via a QR code, to an online newsletter that can be updated and reflects any FDA revisions.»
The documentary also claims that the general public is kept in the dark about the composition of vaccines, but our Greek colleagues noted that «after their approval at the end of 2020, the composition of the vaccines was never hidden.» Quite the contrary: «The EMA had made public a related document of 140 pages, which summarized and explained every part of the experimental, non-clinical and clinical data, which supported the approval of the vaccine as safe and effective.»
The documentary also uses the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)’s data to state that in the United States about 15,000 people died because of Covid-19 vaccines, and the number is «probably underreported.» Polish fact-checkers from Demagog clarified that VAERS data show the number of people who died and were vaccinated, but it does not imply a causal relationship between the two elements: «Vaccinated people can die for completely different reasons, unrelated to vaccines, just like unvaccinated people,» Demagog claimed in a debunking article about the “Died Suddenly” film.
“Died Suddenly” fits into a growing list of so-called “documentaries” that support misleading and distorted perspectives about the Covid-19 pandemic. The group already features films spreading false news, such as “Hold Up” and “Plandemic,” which circulated online during the last couple of months and years.
The Stew Peters Network’s documentary mixes correct information, manipulated interpretations of data, and popular conspiracy theories to provide a skewed view of Covid-19 vaccines which is not supported by scientific evidence. Beware of it and, if you happen to see it online, please help us curb disinformation and do not share it.
Laura Loguercio, Pagella Politica
Tommaso Canetta, Pagella Politica / Facta news