Two weeks ago, COVID-19 conspiracy theorist Stew Peters released an antivaccine pseudodocumentary on Rumble titled Died Suddenly. The central premise of the film is the old antivax claim that vaccines are a tool to promote “global depopulation,” with the film’s main narrative being that COVID-19 vaccines have over the last two years caused huge numbers of otherwise young and healthy people to “die suddenly” from massive clotting caused by the spike protein produced by mRNA vaccines. Key to supporting this narrative are several embalmers featured in the film— most prominently Richard Hirschman—who claim that they are seeing more and different clots of a highly unusual nature in the recently deceased than ever before, a claim bolstered by a renegade pathologist named Ryan Cole, who has been claiming that the vaccines are causing severe clotting disorders and cancer. I reviewed the film right before Thanksgiving at my not-so-super-secret other blog and left it at that, but one thing has bothered me since. While I was pretty sure at the time that the clots featured in the film—of which there were many images clearly designed to shock and disgust the lay audience for whom this movie was intended—were postmortem clots and nothing unusual, I didn’t have the expertise to be absolutely sure. So, over the last two weeks I’ve wanted to follow up on this post.
Enter Benjamin Schmidt, a licensed funeral director and embalmer who had also watched the film and emailed me about it because of my review over at my not-so-secret other blog. He informed me that he had watched the parts of the movie featuring clots being removed from the recently deceased and was amazed that any embalmer would portray them as anything other than common and normal postmortem clots that an embalmer entirely expects to see when preparing a body. Sensing an opportunity to publish a perspective on this viral propaganda film that I had not been able to find anywhere before except in snippets on Twitter and to educate our audience (and myself) in the process, I immediately tried to recruit him to write a review the parts of the movie featuring these clots from the perspective of an experienced and expert embalmer. To my delight, he readily agreed, and his guest post will be published later today.
But what about the rest of the film?
I decided that it would be of interest to our readers to make this a “two-fer” Monday and crosspost a revised and updated version of my pre-Thanksgiving Day review first, followed by Schmidt’s discussion. My review is more general review of the movie and its conspiracy theories about “depopulation“—complete with Bill Gates, of course—although there is overlap in discussion of the clots with Schmidt’s review, which can be found here.
In the meantime, let’s get started with my review.
“Depopulation” by vaccines: Everything old is new again
I realize that I sometimes repeat this to the point of annoyance, but it really does need to be repeated over and over: In the age of the pandemic, everything old is new again with respect to antivaccine disinformation. The most recent example is the claims that, thanks to COVID-19 vaccines, huge numbers of people have “died suddenly”, because the vaccines are designed to result in “depopulation” (which the “global elites” apparently want for reasons that are never made coherent). This particular conspiracy theory that’s trending now about COVID-19 vaccines is an echo—hell, a rehash—of old antivax conspiracy theories. The problem is that most people, who hadn’t been paying attention in years past, don’t realize this. Coming out in a couple of weeks is a book pushing a similar conspiracy theory, “Cause Unknown”: The Epidemic of Sudden Deaths in 2021 & 2022. It’s written by Ed Dowd, described as a “former Wall Street analyst and BlackRock portfolio manager”—because that’s who should be believed when he does amateur epidemiology, right?—who supposedly:
…examines the epidemic of sudden deaths in America. Throughout his stock picking career, he utilized pattern recognition to get ahead of his peers and the street before his bullish or bearish thesis became consensus. Early in 2021, he noticed a rise of news anecdotes about sudden deaths among very fit athletes and other seemingly healthy young people across the country. His question was simple: What changed in 2021?
I don’t know. What could possibly have changed in 2021, besides the amplification of Mr. Dowd’s confirmation bias? (Unsurprisingly, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his antivax group Children’s Health Defense were involved in writing this book.) Also, when I want someone to analyze complex epidemiological data, my first pick would be a stock portfolio manager who thinks that “pattern recognition” in picking stocks translates to anything other than being misled in epidemiology. This book might require a more detailed post in the future if I can get a hold of a copy without actually having to see money go into the pockets of Dowd and RFK Jr. In the meantime, let’s move on to some historical background about antivax claims relevant to Died Suddenly.
Back in the day, when I was learning how to counter antivax disinformation, the “depopulation” claim often took the form of antivaxxers claiming that childhood vaccinations were killing children and causing a wave of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and that HPV vaccines (particularly Gardasil) were killing girls and young women. Nor are antivax “documentaries” making such claims new either. For example, I once described such a film entitled Sacrificial Virgins—antivaxxers aren’t subtle with their penchant for comparing vaccines to religion—that blamed Gardasil for killing young women, and the very first times I ever wrote about the antivax conspiracy theory that vaccines are causing “depopulation” was in reference to claims that Bill Gates wanted to use them for that purpose and when Jon Rappoport made the “depopulation” claim over a decade ago, linking it with germ theory denial. Other times, “depopulation” took the form of claims that vaccines—particularly Gardasil again, but also vaccines like the tetanus vaccine—are causing infertility (especially in women) and premature ovarian insufficiency, which would lead to a slower version of “depopulation”. Do any of these claims sound familiar in the age of COVID-19?
I’ve discussed variations the false idea that vaccines are part of a “depopulation agenda,” be it through mass death or causing infertility (or both). Perhaps the most ridiculous version of this conspiracy theory came from—who else?—Mike Adams, who before the pandemic had claimed that vaccines were bioweapons designed to depopulate the planet so that the global elite and aliens—yes, aliens!—could rule. Adams then renamed his “vaccine holocaust” as the Oblivion Agenda, in which COVID-19 vaccines took on the role of a bioweapon that will kill 90% of the global population and leave the survivors to be used by the global elite and their alien overlords as workers to exploit the earth’s resources. I kid you not. There are actual aliens in Adams’ antivax “depopulation” conspiracy theory!
With that background, let’s get to Died Suddenly, which very much approaches Mike Adams territory. Arguably, the only thing it lacks is aliens orchestrating the carnage.
Died Suddenly? More like “fainted suddenly”
Showing how Twitter has changed for the worse since Elon Musk took it over, the filmmakers were allowed to post the entire hour-plus video directly onto Twitter:
— DiedSuddenly (@DiedSuddenly_) November 21, 2022
And, of course, the documentary is on Rumble, for those who wish to subject themselves to it and/or verify anything (or everything) I describe:
Perhaps the best retort to the movie was this:
This is a typical selection of the comments I'm receiving in my DMs. I've been here since 2013 and this is the wildest response to anything I've ever tweeted. You're all unhinged – have a Snickers. pic.twitter.com/qx7Te8xIXk
— Megs (@the_meghaning) November 22, 2022
However unhinged its fans might or might not be, though, this movie promptly went viral, with links to the Rumble version of it being shared hither, thither, and yon, with several million shares on major social media platforms and Twitter users thinking that it was some sort of retort to me. I would also argue that it is worth looking at this movie in detail, because you need to understand that this is absolutely nothing new for antivaxxers. The idea that vaccines are deadly to the point of causing a new “holocaust” or “global depopulation” is a longstanding antivax conspiracy theory. The only people who should be surprised that it has been so effectively repurposed to produce a film like Died Suddenly are those who weren’t paying attention to the antivaccine movement. It’s understandable that most people were unaware of these sorts of antivax conspiracy theories, but unforgivable that apparently our public health leadership either was not or didn’t have messaging ready. In this post, I’ll discuss Died Suddenly and try to relate it to similar prepandemic antivax conspiracy theories.
Before that, however, I feel that I should mention that Stew Peters is a radio host and podcaster who runs the Stew Peters Network, a network of conspiracy blogs that promote conspiracy theories about COVID-19, vaccines, public health, politics, religion, and just about everything else. I first encountered him when he promoted claims by a nurse practitioner named Jane Ruby that COVID-19 vaccines were causing massive clots (that kill people), although she was—and still is—a regular on his network with standard COVID-19 disinformation, such as the false claim that COVID-19 vaccines “permanently alter your DNA”. His last film, Watch the Water, posited that COVID-19 vaccines are a synthetic version of “snake venom” and that evil forces are spreading via the vaccines, remdesivir, and drinking water to “make you a hybrid of Satan”. (I kid you not, and maybe invoking Satan is Peters’ version of Adams invoking aliens.) It’s almost as bonkers as anything Mike Adams has produced. Almost. (Think of Stew Peters as Del Bigtree with a wider range of conspiracy topics that he likes to fear monger about.)
From the advertising materials, it was very obvious right from the start that the conspiracy theory about COVID-19 vaccines supposedly causing fatal blood clots features prominently in Died Suddenly:
Prelude: The misinformation didn’t wait for the full movie to flow
Before Died Suddenly was even released, it was obvious just how bad it would be just from the social media promotional campaign that launched about a month before it hit Rumble. Indeed, the trailer alone was full of out-and-out misrepresentations, as noted in this story, which is worth discussing here because it shows that even the clips chosen for the trailer released in October made obviously false claims:
In the film’s trailer, footage of a basketball star collapsing on the court is cited as proof of the vaccine’s dangers. In reality, the footage is from 2020, long before the vaccine became available to the entire public.
As blog friend The Real Truther noted:
Another shot is a woman from Argentina passing out & falling into a moving train.
She fainted due to low blood pressure from not eating all day.
And she survived without any major injuries.
— The Real Truther (@thereal_truther) October 29, 2022
Here are a couple of more examples from just the trailer alone:
Another shot shows comedian Heather McDonald fainting on stage, which she believed was from lack of eating & drinking that day.
— The Real Truther (@thereal_truther) October 29, 2022
You get the idea. It’s an old antivax technique: Blame sudden deaths on vaccines, even if there was no sudden death or, as was often the case in the past, there was not even good evidence of correlation, much less causation. There had been a long run-up to Died Suddenly in the form of conspiracy theories about healthy younger doctors supposedly “dying suddenly” (because of the vaccine) and young people suffering Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, in which antivaxxers attributed a different name to the acronym SADS, which before the pandemic described a known but uncommon syndrome in which cardiac conduction abnormalities lead to Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome. It’s a condition that I first started encountering papers describing nearly 20 years ago that was first described over 50 years ago, and 34 years ago the CDC dubbed it a “sudden unexplained death syndrome“. As antivaxxers used to blame SIDS on vaccines before the pandemic and exploit such tragic infant deaths to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about vaccines, in the age of the pandemic sudden tragic and unexpected cardiac arrests and deaths of young people have been exploited by antivaxxers, who falsely blame them on vaccines, and Died Suddenly does that in spades.
As I was looking at the trailer before the movie was even released to Rumble, I was thinking: If just the trailer contains so many obvious, easily refuted lies, what the heck is the movie like? I was afraid, very afraid. Still, I decided that I had to subject myself to this movie, which seemed much longer than its 68-minute runtime.
The things I do for you, my readers.
As I watched this, I was grateful that I had written posts about nearly every conspiracy theory that popped up in this movie as this post would have been close to book length if I had to deconstruct every single one of them in one blog post. Instead, I can just briefly discuss each one and then link to my much longer discussions published either here or at my not-so-super-secret other blog for interested readers who want more information.
Died Suddenly: Let the conspiracies flow!
It’s been a long time since I’ve subjected myself to such concentrated antivaccine propaganda as Died Suddenly. Even so, in making Died Suddenly, Stew Peters not-infrequently approaches Mike Adams territory. Don’t believe me? Just watch the first few minutes of the movie, which begins with warning in small white letters over a black background that the film is “not suitable for children”—actually, it’s not suitable for anyone with two neurons to rub together—set to the ominous tones of the Pink Floyd song Sheep. (Again, this film is not subtle.) The warning is then followed by a narrator intoning that there has been an “overwhelming and unexplainable increase in all-cause mortality” and deaths among 18-49 year olds, along with an increase in miscarriages and Bell’s palsy. (Again, antivaxxers are not known for their subtlety.)
Then the film cuts to an aerial shot of an SUV driving through the countryside and then zeros in on the middle-aged goateed man with glasses driving the truck filmed in extreme close-up from the side or behind as he pontificates about how there have been “anomalies” and “abnormalities” in the blood in people who died. As he drives, the man goes on to say that he feels as though he is seeing something that could be causing their deaths and that “no one will see what I see” (which is, of course, what all conspiracy theorists say). He then speculates that he first thought that perhaps COVID-19 had caused this; that is, until he claims to have realized that many of these people had never had COVID-19 but that—of course!—they had been vaccinated. My first guess was that this was Richard Hirschman, perhaps the most famous of the embalmers and funeral directors who have made misleading claims about finding huge clots in vaccinated people who died, his claims that they are “unnatural” having led people like Mike Adams and Jane Ruby to speculate wildly that the clots are “self-assembling nanostructures.”
Sure enough, later in the movie, the man reappears and is identified as Richard Hirschman. He’s portrayed looking at vials containing clots on a table with an odd statue of skeletons arrayed in “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” poses as he intones about carotid artery clots and clots from veins. I’m not going to discuss the segment featuring Hirschmann much, given that I’ve written about Hirschman’s conspiracy theories in depth and his inability to tell the difference between postmortem and antemortem clots. (Also, I don’t want to steal too much of Benjamin Schmidt’s thunder, although I do have to discuss these clots some.) That a series of other embalmers echo Hirschman’s conspiracy theories doesn’t persuade me in the least, the images of embalmers pulling clots out of corpses notwithstanding. One wonders if any of these embalmers had permission from the loved ones of the deceased portrayed in the movie to take video of the embalming process. I suspect not. Yet, at around 50:30 in the movie, there’s extensive video of an embalmer working on a body.
That diversion to further into the movie aside, next the film cuts to the opening credits just as the music swells and Roger Waters vocals kick in. As the credits roll, we’re treated to a montage of images ranging from Big Foot to UFOs, to Jeffrey Epstein, to President George Bush claiming “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, interspersed with images from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as children undergoing nasal swabs and recent news, such as an image of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The montage even includes the killing of President John F. Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby while he was in police custody—more subtlety!—along with an image of Elvis Presley getting vaccinated against polio juxtaposed with President Joe Biden getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Amusingly, a shaky graphic of the words “conspiracy theory” precedes an image of Alex Jones followed by images of the World Trade Center Towers falling and astronauts driving the lunar rover on the Moon. (Truly, Peters checks all the conspiracy boxes.) I will, however, admit to some surprise at seeing a clip of Tom Hanks being interviewed on The Today Show about his movie Inferno and discussing Malthusian theory, triage, and overpopulation, which, as you might recall if you’ve seen the movie, feature prominently as part of the plot.
And the was just the first four minutes of the film!
Truly, Peters knows his audience, especially given that the Dan Brown novels whose movie adaptations star Hanks are some of the most amazing fictional conspiracy-fests I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately Peters can’t seem to tell the difference between fiction and reality.
Here come the clots, here come the clots!
What follows is a discussion of Malthusian theory about what happens when there are more people on the planet than the earth can support, including famines, plagues, and shortages. This segment is all very ominous, with frequent references to dire consequences of overpopulation portrayed through video clips of people ranging from Bill Maher to Bill Gates discussing the problem. Of course the clip of Gates featured is the (in)famous clip in which Gates points out that population growth can be slowed by providing better healthcare to developing poor countries, including vaccines. It’s a clip that antivaxxers love because they misrepresent it as Gates “confessing” in a TED Talk that vaccines are part of a global “depopulation” plot when in reality it’s just Gates repeating what has been obvious to public health scientists for decades, namely that populations with access to better health care—including vaccines—and more wealth tend to delay childbearing, not produce as many children, and therefore have populations that do not grow as fast, as is the case in older, more established wealthy countries such as the US and those in Europe.
Enter a funeral director named Chad Whisnat, whom, oddly enough, I had never heard of before this movie, going on about, “What does that mean?” with respect to decreasing the rate of population growth by 15% “using vaccines,” saying:
Well, common sense would tell you, if you have a man standing in front of you say … he’s going to reduce the world’s population by 10 or 15% using vaccines. What does that mean to you? It means somebody’s gonna die because you put a vaccine in them. It doesn’t mean you’re going to save people. That’s pretty much common sense in my brain.
Let’s just say that Whisnat’s “common sense” is not really “sense.” After all, it could also mean that the birthrate declines. I gathered right away that he must be one of those conspiracy mongering morticians who have been claiming that vaccines are killing people based on his anecdotal experience as a funeral home director.
Hilariously, Whisnat then invokes an “argument by Google” by voicing over a montage of Google searches how Googling “died suddenly” brings up a list of stories and web pages about people who—surprise! surprise!—died suddenly! (Google is nothing if not literal that way when you enter words into its search engine box.) There’s even what looks to me like a shot of Hank Aaron getting the vaccine. Of course, Aaron was 86 when he died; so his death two weeks after being vaccinated was almost certainly coincidence, and, indeed, was ultimately attributed to natural causes. That’s part of the conspiracy in these narratives, of course. “They” have to cover up the True Cause of Aaron’s death—and of all the deaths referenced in the film.
However, as Lead Stories noted over in October while discussing the trailer:
The montage flashes an article from October 16, 2022, headlined “Dad of two, 46, dies suddenly in his sleep.”
But the article makes no mention of a COVID vaccine. “Edward died in his sleep in the early hours of September 27, having spent some time in hospital while struggling with his mental health,” the article states.
Another article in the montage is headlined: “Actor’s sudden death aged 33,” but the piece itself explains that the actor died as a result of a “tragic fall” and does not mention vaccination.
Another article, the first-person essay of a mother who lost a son, is about his death in a car crash.
This segment then leads into Hirschman and his claims, repeated by several conspiracy mongering embalmers and funeral directors. Some shots obscure the faces and voices of these embalmers, because, of course, they are “afraid” to identify themselves. Personally, I myself could tell that most of the clots shown look like postmortem clots, and indeed Schmidt thinks the same thing, as he will explain in his followup to this post.
The whole segment starts around 8:10 and continues for several minutes, with several close-up images shown at around 14:20, with embalmer after embalmer saying that these clots can’t be normal. Of note, none of these embalmers could say whether the decedents whom they had embalmed had ever been vaccinated against COVID-19 or had had case of COVID-19, symptomatic, asymptomatic, or even fatal. In any event, Again, Schmidt will discuss this in more detail in his guest post.
Besides Schmidt however, there were people debunking this nonsense on Twitter:
Here's a larger version of the chicken fat and current jelly photo so you can really appreciate what they look like: pic.twitter.com/9voiMciUeF
— That Autopsy Suite Life (@MorteSuiteVita) November 22, 2022
Chicken fat clots are made of plasma (the liquid part of blood), clotting factors, platelets, white blood cells- all parts of blood besides red blood cells, which are seen in current jelly clots. These components congeal & take on the shapes of the vessels- like Jello in a mold! pic.twitter.com/NcVQ1b0Avt
— That Autopsy Suite Life (@MorteSuiteVita) November 22, 2022
100% of dead bodies have clots (not necessarily everywhere) but the video advances a hypothesis that this is not normal. White clots contain more vWF, collagen, and platelets than red blood cells (https://t.co/ZnjciNn0d5) .
— Frank Han MD 🇺🇦Pediatric/ACHD/GUCH Cardiologist (@han_francis) November 22, 2022
Seriously, I see only two possibilities. Either these embalmers and some of the doctors parroting these claims about clots don’t understand the difference between postmortem and antemortem clots, or they do and are either deluded or lying—or even both. My take is that, depending on the specific person and specific clot being described, one or the other can be true.
In any event, by around 17:30, the film shifts to stories of young people who supposedly “died suddenly,” the film’s narrative being, of course, that it must have been the COVID-19 vaccines that caused these deaths. Again, almost none of these stories mention whether any of these people had actually ever been vaccinated, and this entire segment consists of, in essence, an appeal to personal incredulity. Just because these people are unaware that, for example, young people sometimes suffer sudden cardiac arrest with no prior warning, to the point that the syndrome was described in the 1970s and 1980s, does not mean that these people “died suddenly” because of COVID-19 vaccines.
During a montage of various “whistleblowers” testifying about people who “died suddenly”, there was a recounting of the claim that a military database had shown a huge increase in cancers since the vaccines had started being required for military personnel. I won’t discuss that one in much detail, given that I did so in great detail before in February other than to say this. It is biologically implausible in the extreme that we would see a huge increase in cancers less than two years after the vaccines rolled out because even after exposure to large doses of ionizing radiation from the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the earliest that cancers started appearing was two years later, and that was just leukemias. Solid cancers like colon and breast cancers, didn’t show up until ten years later. Of course, Dr. Ryan Cole, whose claims about COVID-19 vaccines and cancer I’ve discussed before, makes an appearance blathering about oncogenes and cancer biology that he clearly doesn’t understand while appealing to “nefarious actors” behind this plot, including, of course, Bill Gates. (I swear, Bill Gates is everywhere and does everything!)
Unsurprisingly, the film also invokes Event 201, an October 2019 exercise simulating a pandemic, to imply—no, to claim outright—that the subsequent coronavirus crisis was all part of a plan. It’s a conspiracy theory that dates back to the days of Plandemic and Plandemic 2, two conspiracy movies claiming that the pandemic was a plot to cause depopulation and impose absolute authoritarian rule. To bolster this claim, there’s a montage of provaccine messages and songs from podcasters and TV personalities like Stephen Colbert, followed by people claiming that they will “destroy your life” if you don’t take the vaccine and that we are in a “war,” followed by a montage of conspiracy images of glaciers melting, the World Trade Center collapsing, Sean Penn with Volodymyr Zelenskyy—what’s with the pro-Russian propaganda slipped in?—and more.
Then comes Steve Kirsch at about the halfway point, and I nearly had to stop watching. Kirsch is about as “out there” a COVID-19 conspiracy theorist and antivaxxer as there is, as evidenced by his claims in Died Suddenly that “no one wants to know what’s in the vaccines” and that “no mainstream media” reporter has ever asked “what’s in the vial,” which is nonsense so pure that I really, really questioned whether I could make it through the rest of the movie. You might remember Kirsch as the tech bro who went from somewhat reasonable to full-on COVID-19 conspiracy theorist who likes to challenge his critics and the critics of any of the cranks whose ideas he amplifies to five hour “debates,” to be recorded and posted to YouTube and Rumble. As antivax cranks have done for as long as I can remember, when real scientists ignore him or politely decline his offers, he portrays them as being too “cowardly” to “debate” him and his minions.
What follows is a montage of arguments by package insert, with the risible claim that there are still pages in the package inserts intentionally left blank. If that’s true, I couldn’t find them. Kirsch even invokes VAERS and his “promise” to pay any scientist $1 million to come on his show for a debate. Hilariously, he expresses anger that the CDC is ignoring him. Personally, given his history I’d ignore him too if I were a high-ranking CDC official or the chair of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Indeed, Kirsch clearly provided smartphone video to the filmmakers in a segment that portrays a police officer instructing him to leave the property of the chair of ACIP. It apparently never occurred to Peters or Kirsch that this footage of a police officer telling him to leave makes him look far more like a deranged stalker than a “citizen investigator” seeking accurate information. It really does! If you don’t believe me, watch it for yourself at around the 33:45 mark! Kirsch is even proud that he’s been labeled the “#1 superspreader” of COVID-19 misinformation, to the point where that’s how he’s identified in one shot!
It’s at about this point at the 45:00 mark that there’s the montage debunked above of security camera and smartphone videos showing people fainting, the implication being that they had all “died suddenly,” even though most had not. There were images of some people fainting near moving subway trains and falling into the trains or onto the tracks. Even if there were any fatalities in these images, these could just be cases of tragically bad timing and locations for people to be fainting. The montage goes on and on, with some people appearing to have seizures and some just fainting and falling. For none of these people is it demonstrated that they had had a COVID-19 vaccine anytime soon before the incident, and almost none of them actually died.
In fact, as this article shows, most of the people shown fainting in the montage collapsed for reasons unrelated to the vaccine; for example, some suffered syncope after not having eaten and drunk anything for a long time. Even more deceptive, at least two of the clips date to before COVID-19 vaccines were even available; for example, Florida Gators basketball star Keyontae Johnson, who fainted in the middle of a game on December 12, 2020, before the vaccines were even available. One clip even dates back to 2019, before the first cases of the novel coronavirus disease had even been reported in Wuhan, China, specifically Austrian journalist Rosa Lyon, who collapsed on her show. Apparently, the vaccine is so powerful that it can go back in time to kill people—or at least make them faint.
Then there’s this example, which is even worse, as it shows Peters and crew blatantly misrepresenting the cause of a child’s death to promote their ghoulish message:
— The Real Truther (@thereal_truther) November 28, 2022
Unfortunately, it’s long been known that 13-year-olds do sometimes “die suddenly” of no apparent cause. Such deaths almost always turn out to have been due to an undetected conduction abnormality of the heart. Now antivaxxers are ghoulishly weaponizing every such death they can find, regardless of whether there’s even any plausible link to COVID-19 vaccines or not.
The film also briefly features a number of speculative stories about people who died within days of being vaccinated—or even of people who just plain died, with no reference to whether they had been recently vaccinated or not—followed by a segment at 50:30 of embalmers working on actual cadavers, again, likely without permission from the family to feature their deceased loved ones in a movie. At one point, they claimed that they weren’t getting “any drainage” over a scene of a clot measuring a few inches (at most) in length being pulled out of a vein. Once the clot is out, fluid literally squirted out of the hole in the vein rather belying the claim that the clot was so extensive. I won’t say any more about this scene, because in his guest post our embalming expert Benjamin Schmidt discusses why this squirt of fluid was actually a good thing and indicated a good embalming.
At another point in this montage, there’s a clip of a beating heart, followed by a picture of the heart stopped and a surgeon incising the pulmonary artery to remove a clot. This is an operation called a saddle embolectomy, a seldom-required surgery to remove a pulmonary embolus (a blood clot that goes to the blood vessels of the lung and that can be fatal) that’s so large that it’s blocking the main pulmonary artery right where it divides into the right and left pulmonary arteries and compromising the heart’s function by blocking blood outflow to the lungs, hence the name “saddle embolus.” No mention is made of whether this patient had been vaccinated, nor is anything else said about him.
In fact, the video in that segment looked suspiciously familiar to several docs on Twitter, including Dr. Eric Burnett, who posted this brief video to Tik Tok and Twitter, in which he not only compares the images of clots from Died Suddenly to images of postmortem clots but also shows a clip from the YouTube video of a saddle embolectomy that the filmmakers appear to have misappropriated for their film and misrepresented as a clot caused by the vaccines:
For reference they have done autopsy studies on the very rare cases of vaccine induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) which causes blood clots https://t.co/ttRO5MWALh
— Eric Burnett, MD (@Doctor_Eric_B) November 24, 2022
In case you’re curious, I found a YouTube video of a saddle embolectomy that appears to have been used by Peters and company. At first glance the video appeared to me to be at the very least incredibly similar to the video in Died Suddenly. (Unfortunately, the video’s settings don’t allow me to embed it here; so here’s the link.)
Later, it turned out that you can scratch “at the very least incredibly similar” and just say it’s the same video. The Real Truther did us all a solid and made it very clear that the Died Suddenly director appears almost certainly to have his footage of the clot removal directly from this YouTube video:
— The Real Truther (@thereal_truther) November 26, 2022
As an aside, it’s also amusing to point out that one of the “experts” in Died Suddenly, Dr. Ryan Cole, was very unhappy at Dr. Burnett’s debunking of his conspiracy theory about the vaccines causing clots and voiced his unhappiness on Steve Kirsch’s Substack. His “rebuttal” just boiled down to an appeal to authority—his own—coupled with, “Trust me, I’m an expert.” Certainly there was no evidence there. Moreover, Dr. Jonathan Laxton even points out a reason why embalmers might have been seeing more postmortem clots than they did normally prepandemic:
— Jonathan Laxton MD, FRCPC (@dr_jon_l) November 25, 2022
Why might there be more postmortem clots? The longer you store bodies, the more extensive the postmortem clotting of their blood. When the funeral industry was overwhelmed by COVID-19 death, bodies were stored longer before embalming and funeral.
I have to mention another segment with someone named Dr. Gene Posca, an internal medicine specialist, who is shown seeing someone named John, who is stated to have been “injured” by two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. His complaint was leg swelling from a deep venous thrombosis, which is described as “extremely rare.” (Hint: DVTs are not rare.) Dr. Posca did thermography on this patient to claim to show “heat” in the neck lymph node chains and in the involved leg, leading Dr. Posca to recommend bilateral Doppler ultrasounds. Here’s a hint for this quack: If you suspect DVT, just order the Doppler ultrasound. The thermography is completely unnecessary, as I wrote about when I once described another quack who advocates thermography for “clotting” from COVID-19 vaccines. It also turns out that Dr. Posca is an antivax conspiracy theorist who is based at the Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital in Florida who has testified before that the vaccines are a “dangerous and experimental drug” being imposed by “fascists from D.C.” and that their: “blitzkrieg against our freedom will continue.”
WTF, Cleveland Clinic? (Yes, Dr. Posca is based at a Cleveland Clinic hospital in Florida.)
By the time I reached the end of Died Suddenly, I was exhausted, as it’s basically a repository of every conspiracy theory out there about COVID-19 vaccines causing clots, miscarriages, still births, and “sudden deaths.” It’s all anecdotes with no data. For instance, near the end of the movie, a nurse named Michelle Gershon claims that she is seeing more intrauterine fetal demises than ever before since the vaccines. Her statement is followed by video in which one of the embalmers claims that he had a “run of that” (still births) at his funeral home, with five of the six mothers having been vaccinated and the other having had remdesivir. (Cherry picking and confirmation bias, anyone?) Another of these embalmers notes—rather disgustingly to the lay person—that he has more “fetuses in the refrigerator” than he’s ever seen before. Then an OB/GYN named Dr. James A. Thorp claims that he’s seeing more “death and destruction”—no, I’m not misquoting—than he’s ever seen before on ultrasound.
This sequence is then followed by a highly deceptive graph:
Does anyone see the problem with this graph, even if the numbers on it accurate? (And I can’t find any evidence for a phenomenon like this elsewhere.) Look at where the uptick in still births begins! It starts in 2020. Note that COVID-19 vaccines did not even win an EUA, much less start rolling out, until December 2020, and they weren’t recommended for pregnant people until well into 2021. This graph is far more consistent with COVID-19 itself causing still births, not the vaccine. (Of course, this graph just looks made-up to me. So who knows what it actually shows?) The data that exist show that there is no detectable association between COVID-19 vaccination and still birth. In fact, if anything, COVID-19 vaccines reduce, not increase, the risk of still birth, with a meta-analysis finding that vaccination reduces the risk by 15%, likely due to the decreased risk of the vaccinated catching COVID-19. It also turns out that the story of the “whistleblower” nurse’s story originated in The Epoch Times, an antivax conspiracy site. It also turns out that Dr. Thorp is full of crap. If you doubt me on this, just look at this one claim by him:
‘Are you saying babies are having heart attacks in the womb?’
— Janey (@_Janey_J) November 22, 2022
Let’s just say that fetuses having intrauterine heart attacks is not a thing.
None of this stops another interviewee from describing COVID-19 vaccines as this “evil that is destroying” infants and still another describing the vaccines as a “pure evil in this world”.
The grand finale of the movie features conspiracy theorists portraying the vaccine as a “bioweapon” being used to depopulate and control the world. This is followed by a stirring call to arms to fight back and a warning that if you don’t resist you are complicit in the atrocities and a counter of how many billions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered and more images of political leaders, entertainers, and celebrities urging people to get vaccinated and making fun of the unvaccinated, as Howard Stern once did.
Everything old is new again
The idea that vaccines are causing “depopulation” and killing young people is not new at all. I like to refer again to the antivax movie about Gardasil, Sacrificial Virgins. Oddly enough, though, the unfortunate young women who “died suddenly” whose deaths the filmmakers blamed on Gardasil presented more convincing anecdotal evidence than anything in Died Suddenly, and their stories were not all that convincing, given that their deaths all occurred weeks after the last of a series of three doses of Gardasil and only appeared related to the vaccine in the filmmakers’ imagination. Similarly, The Greater Good promoted, among other conspiracy theories, the same narrative, just for infants and children. Indeed, there are more examples of antivaxxers blaming vaccines for sudden death of infants, children, and young adults than I can easily recount, given that I’ve been at this for over two decades.
The odd thing is, as these films tend to go Died Suddenly is actually remarkably data-free. Don’t get me wrong. There aren’t good data to support the narrative of “depopulation” due to the vaccinated “dying suddenly,” but usually conspiracy theorists can find data that they can torture until there is a “confession”. That’s why I had expected way more graphs and appeals to “excess mortality” than I got. What this movie is turns out to feature are pretty much just interviews with conspiracy theorists, who cited cherry-picked anecdotes and their own selective memory to make their cases. Unfortunately, the moviemaking is pretty slick, and if you don’t recognize the blatantly fallacious arguments I can see how it might be persuasive to those predisposed to believe COVID-19 vaccines are harmful or even deadly.
After subjecting myself to Died Suddenly and the tsunami of firehosed misleading anecdotes and imagery it contains, I don’t know if I have the wherewithal to read Cause Unknown, although I hope that someone with some critical thinking skills will if it turns out that I can’t. What I do know is that this movie is pure disinformation in the way that it portrays COVID-19 vaccines as pure evil. What I can’t decide is whether it’s so over-the-top in its misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies that most people will recognize it for what it is or if its sheer level of bonkers will be a selling point, feature that attracts and persuades people. Certainly the fact that it’s been shared and viewed many millions of times suggests that it is having an effect.
NOTE: Please check out Benjamin Schmidt’s discussion of the segments of the film in which embalmers extract disgusting looking clots from recently deceased persons whom they are embalming. I learned some things from his discussion, and I think that you will too, in particular how what is shown in Died Suddenly is nothing unusual and entirely expected during typical embalmings. Also, enjoy this video deconstruction of Died Suddenly by Dr. Susan Oliver.