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Contagious Falsehoods

Scientist Judy Mikovits, featured in the COVID-19 conspiracy video Plandemic, works at a Reno lab in 2011.
Associated Press

Scientist Judy Mikovits, featured in the COVID-19 conspiracy video Plandemic, works at a Reno lab in 2011.

The viral video Plandemic might have been debunked, but its coronavirus conspiracy theories offer something that science can't: An explanation.

While medical experts admit much remains unknown about the virus, which first emerged late last year, peddlers of bogus information have no such constraints.

Over the course of 26 minutes in Plandemic, former Reno-area scientist Judy Mikovits points fingers at pharmaceutical companies, vaccines, and federal infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Mikovits has a controversial past that includes the failure of research claims to withstand scrutiny and allegations of theft. Yet Plandemic had more than 7 million views on YouTube before it was pulled.

"There are a lot of features that make conspiracy theories and videos like Plandemic quite compelling," UNLV Professor Emma Frances Bloomfield, an expert on science skepticism, told State of Nevada.

"Conspiracy theories, in general, are very persuasive because they give us answers," she said. "They fill in gaps and provide a sense of comfort when we don't have a full explanation of what's going on."

Bloomfield is an assistant professor of Communication Studies at UNLV, where she studies science skepticism, how misinformation is spread, and what can be done to fight it.

Emma Frances Bloomfield, assistant professor of Communication Studies, UNLV

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Bert is a reporter and producer based in Reno, where he covers the state legislature and stories that resonate across Nevada. He began his career in journalism after studying abroad during the summer of 2011 in Egypt, during the Arab Spring. Before he joined Nevada Public Radio and Capital Public Radio, Bert was a contributor at KQED and the Sacramento News & Review. He was also a photographer, video editor and digital producer at the East Bay Express.