The Plandemic Spectacle: a Viral Loop of Emotional Control?
Due to the substantial risk of misreading here, please note:
The following analysis is extremely careful to stay out of ad hominem territory. I am not saying that Mikki Willis is intentionally emotionally controlling viewers. I don’t know him and only he can have insight into his intentions. It’s totally possible that he’s acting in good faith and with sincere desire to help. If that’s so, I hope the following feedback on his media output is helpful. My argument is not about Willis or Mikovits. My argument is that the spectacle generated by and surrounding Willis’s film can function in an emotionally controlling way.
There’s already been a lot of time and effort put into exposing the misinformation of Mikki Willis’s “Plandemic”. It’s a necessary start. Next up is considering the spectacle generated by and surrounding the film as a form of viral emotional control.
On the misinformation front: Snopes has this to say about star interviewee Judy Mikovits’s work and criminal controversy, and Dr. David Gorski, does a thorough breakdown of the film’s distortions. Dr. Jennifer Kasten focuses on Mikovits’s claims about masks and her denial that SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19. Someone has anonymously compiled a timeline of the available journalism here, and Derek Beres also offers a good untangling. Reddit is pretty rich as well.
Any one of these rebuttals renders Willis’s film an incoherent mess. So how does it have such a hold on so many? Psychology Today posted a good rundown on some clinical mechanisms. Experts in conspiracism, educational deficits, the paranoid style in American politics, the backfire effect (in which arguing facts actually provokes a retrenchment of fictions) and social media filter bubbles will all have useful data and frames for understanding it.
My survivor and independent research history is in the field of emotional manipulation networked around charismatic male leaders in neo-spiritual groups, so that’s how I’ll contribute. It’s not a complete view, and it’s only one of many.
From my perspective, the shape of the Willis/Plandemic spectacle becomes clearer when his film is juxtaposed with his post-film-release FB selfie video. (You can scroll to it below.)
Plandemic provokes panic, terror, and outrage.
But the selfie video — a hypnotic but also menacing sermon released less than 24 hours after the film — offers emotional oversharing, intrusive caregiving, and soft apocalypticism.
The film provokes hypervigilance, but then the sermon soothes, quasi-explains, and entrances, positioning Willis as a spiritual guide. This rhythm and confusing contrast can create a bond in which viewers run for comfort to the person who terrified them.
This is a feedback loop unlikely to be disrupted by facts.
We also know that the film is a trailer only: the terror arc of the cycle will return, though we don’t know when. The uncertainly itself elevates the stakes, and likely the cortisol.
In the field of cultic studies, such a rhythm is understood as one driver of disorganized attachment and trauma bonding. The cult member is actively confused by the proximity of danger and care. The leader’s main impact is not to communicate content, but to forge an exploitative relationship through that confusion, which can only be resolved by staying.
In an internet spectacle such as this, the reward is emotional attention. (It’s beyond my scope to speculate on the ramifications: for instance, how much this slice of emotional exploitation will impact public health communications.)
Essential to this framework is the idea that the Willis/Plandemic spectacle is not mainly about Mikovits, Big Pharma, or COVID-19. Willis isn’t a scientist or a science journalist. He’s from the entertainment industry and produces wellness and spirituality media content.
This means, unfortunately, that there may be little ground on which to debate the epidemiology with Willis and those who are deceived by the film, because that’s not the subject matter at hand. The spectacle parasitizes the complexity and stress of the pandemic, and uses it as a front. The Willis sermon makes this clear, as it contains almost no reference to the claims made in the film.
Another angle: the film engages with COVID-19 in the mode of what philosopher Henry Frankfurt calls “bullshit”, in which the speaker is less invested in the truth of what they are saying than in the attention they win for saying it. In this paradigm, even negative attention (think debunking) can constitute a win for the bullshitter, because it reinforces the visibility and importance of the bullshit.
Bottom line? With Willis/Plandemic, we’re not just dealing with misinformation, but with intense relational feedback loops that colonize emotional attention and centre male charismatic leadership so it can offer an antidote to the same anxiety it provokes.
I don’t personally believe the cycle can be broken by evidence-based refutations that on some level humiliate the person under this spell. You can’t help a person in a trauma bond by telling them they are stupid.
But perhaps you can model what consistent and secure love and care actually look like. Neither begin with misinformation.
Here’s the sermon. Below I’ll make a few observations on the charismatic mechanics, aesthetics, and innuendo of Willis’s sermon before the transcript.
oo:oo: The framing and ring-lighting is near Renaissance-quality in terms of definition and radiance. The head-tilt is saintly/iconic, as is the transfixing gaze.
00:02: If the viewer notes that the speaker’s eyes aren’t actually red, what will they do with the dissonance?
00:17: By this point we have instantaneous, presumed, intrusive intimacy. The sermon does not present as a media event: it is a private and personal conversation. In my research on charismatic leadership, many interview subjects report the paradoxical phenomena of the speaker speaking to countless people, while seeming to forge a private connection. Some of this is amplified by the webcam medium, but it’s also played up with direct 2nd-person address. As the sermon finds its ultimate/totalistic theme, the diction shifts to first-person plural. The viewer is invited to merge with the speaker. The sermon is about something ultimately important, communicated in close intimacy.
01:38: Note the meta-narrative, which positions the sermon as distinct from media manipulation, and makes it seem as though Plandemic is not itself terrifying content.
3:30: Here, one of the most traumatic narratives in popular culture [Epstein] is co-opted, incoherently, to connect the pandemic and public health responses to it with organized pedophilia. This recalls the innuendo made by an anti-vax group comparing vaccinating children with raping them.
5:25: The speech reaches its high-stakes peak with a messianic/sacrificial promise, followed by very long intrusive eye contact and then a dare to join in self-sacrifice, followed by a pacifying walkback. The rhythm of intensity and relaxation provides a microcosm of the terror/care superstructure. The incoherence here is rising to the level of confusion induction, through which the viewer may experience a collapse of critical thinking.
7:12: “Your fear of losing is what’s causing the loss that we’re all experiencing right now” may as well be a line out of The Secret, which Willis’s production company promoted. The conclusion swells, quietly, towards full apocalyticism.
My eyes are puffy and red because I just had a really fantastic quarantine cry. If you haven’t done that yet. I highly recommend it. Very purifying, very clarifying.
So much so that I’m compelled to say something to you. Just to you. So if you’re scrolling, a lot on your mind, multitasking and doing that thing we do, I ask that you stop just for a moment, take a pause and if you can’t, maybe pause this video and get back to it later.
What I want to talk to you about in this moment is the cheerful subject of death about our fear of death, your fear of death, my fear of death and the way that it stops us from doing the things that most need doing right now in this time and this incredibly critical, precious moment. The window of opportunity is open in a way that it never has been before. We have technology at our fingertips that we’ve never had before. We have the world’s attention in a way that we’ve never had before and the entire human organism is awakened, aware enough to know one thing, something’s not right.
We all have our own different ideas and opinions of who to blame. What’s the blame? But we know that something’s not right. But what stops us from speaking out is this fear that’s been wired into our psyches, generations of media manipulation, just wiring the brain to be so fearful, so controllable, and it’s through fear, the weapon of fear that we are controllable.
We can be fully antiwar, but all they have to do is to convince us to some foreign leader is threatening our existence and we suddenly say, strike. Fear is one of the only things that has us completely drop our morals, our standards, what we know to be right and wrong. But this fear of death has gotta be addressed. We have to really take a deep look at our fear of our own mortality. What I saw this morning was that we love this life so much. The intrinsic impulse to be alive is so fierce and intense that we avoid everything that threatens our life, which we should, but we sometimes extend that to allowing our voices to be silenced, to allow us to be stopped from holding accountable those who are the real threat to our survival.
There are people, let’s get beyond conspiracy theory and beyond all the conditioning that we’ve had to just accept the idea that there are people on this planet that are so greedy, they will destroy millions of lives for their gain, for their gain of money, of control, of power. We’ve seen them through our lifetimes. We know they exist. We know the Jeffrey Epsteins of the world exists, that that forcing children to engage in sexual, devious sexual acts and have their lives and their hearts and spirits ripped out all for a little bit of profit and control. These people exist and they exist on all sides.
This imaginary sides thing that we’ve created, they’re men, they’re women, the Republican, the Democrat, they’re everything. They’re out there and what I see online so much of is good hearted citizens who care, unwittingly fighting for these wicked forces and that’s part of the mind control. We actually fight for big pharma. I see so many messages from obviously from mothers and fathers who care and they have no idea that they’re fighting for the profit. Here is a big pharma and the only way that kind of insanity can occur is through fear.
And so the declaration that I’m making in this moment right now to you, to the world is that I love this life so much that I am willing to die for it. Are you?
And no. I have never and will never be suicidal. This is about being willing to let go of all things. For the doctors out there that are listening to this who are on the fence, knowing in your heart what has been happening in your industry, knowing that your oath to do no harm has been violated and you’ve been forced to violate that off and you’re on the fence afraid to be criticized by your peers, afraid to lose your job, afraid to lose your status, your license, your house, your car, whatever it might be. It is time to rise above that fear. Two years ago, my family experienced the biggest gift we’ve ever been given and that was, we lost everything, everything in the California fires, and that was the greatest gift we ever had. Letting go of everything so that we could focus on what matters. And that is each other, our families, our lives, every human cell. And this organism matters.
So what are you willing to lose? Because you’re, you’re holding on. Your fear of losing is what’s causing the loss that we’re all experiencing right now. The loss of our health, the loss of our freedoms, the loss of our voice, our ability to speak truth into the world. So I stand here right now making a declaration that I’m willing to die for this life, for life itself, for you. And when we all stand up, unlike the all the holistic doctors who have suddenly been suicided because they spoke up one at a time or maybe three at a time. But when we speak up as a mass together, there’s no stopping us.
So I invite you to do what I did this morning, which is to take some time to yourself. Pray if you pray, meditate. If you meditate, think if you think whatever it takes to get to that deepest core of that fear of dying and find the strength, that warrior strength in your heart to rise above that, to understand that life isn’t worth living if it’s not lived with freedom and good health and happiness and love and connection. They have divided us mentally for decades. This latest move has now divided us physically. We are socially distanced, dividing us from each other and from ourselves, from our nature. We’re shipping synthetic drugs and things that addict our family members and kill the organism that gives us life, a very organism that gives us life and to deny all the incredible intelligence and food and medicine that comes from the ground itself, from this incredibly beautiful planet that allows us to this day, despite our mistakes, our errors to live here on her, for the love of her, for the love of life. I’m willing to die.