The COVID-19 pandemic was caused by a novel coronavirus, first isolated in January 2020. But a viral video has been spreading a conspiracy theory that the pandemic has actually been a plot to poison people with snake venom.
A video that draws on several major COVID-19 conspiracy theories — and introduces a new plot to tie them together — has garnered millions of views on Rumble, a social media platform popular among conservatives.
The video, which is billed as a “documentary,” consists of a single, roughly hour-long interview with Bryan Ardis, a retired chiropractor who sells purported acne cures online and, now, is selling a line of supplements called “Anti-V” — perhaps a reference to antivenom, although the website doesn’t explain. We’ve written about him before.
The video is peppered with screenshots of scientific papers and news articles that Ardis cites to lend credence to his false claims. But none of them actually provides any evidence to support his conspiracy theory.
Ardis, for example, recites some of the claims that he’s made before about remdesivir, falsely claiming that it’s a “toxic, deadly drug” being used to purposely poison people. As if to prove this point, the video misleadingly shows a table from a paper in which 53% of patients treated with remdesivir died. But that comes from a trial of patients with Ebola virus disease and does not show that those patients died because of the drug.
In fact, contrary to his claim that research papers show remdesivir is dangerous, studies have found that serious adverse events aren’t more common in COVID-19 patients treated with the drug compared with those who aren’t. No drug is 100% safe, but there is zero evidence that remdesivir is being used by physicians across the country to kill patients.
Using maneuvers like that throughout the video, Ardis presents a wide-ranging conspiracy theory, in which he suggests that the pandemic has actually been a plot carried out by the Catholic Church and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to poison people with snake venom.
“I am convinced that COVID-19 is not a respiratory virus of any kind,” he says. “It is actually venom poisoning, and they’re using, I believe, synthesized peptides and proteins from venoms of snakes, and they’re administering them and targeting them to certain people.”
But, as we’ve explained before, scientists in China first isolated the virus that causes COVID-19 on Jan. 7, 2020. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. then isolated the virus later that month, from a patient who was diagnosed with the disease in Washington state. And scientists in other countries have also isolated the virus. The World Health Organization announced the official name of the virus — SARS-CoV-2 — on Feb. 11, 2020.
So, it’s been clear for a long time that COVID-19 is caused by a virus. (And snake venom isn’t made of viruses. It’s a secretion that contains toxins.)
Also, several competing pharmaceutical companies have developed vaccines that effectively prevent severe illness from the virus.
Ardis cast doubt on the vaccines, though, by alluding to a conspiracy theory that claims the vaccines have made people magnetic. We debunked that theory when it first became popular, as the vaccines began rolling out widely in the U.S. in the spring of 2021.
But the linchpin for his whole nonsensical theory is a 2017 episode of a network TV drama called “The Blacklist.”
After laying the groundwork for about half-an-hour, the video shows a clip from an episode of NBC’s “The Blacklist” in which the main character is poisoned with snake venom in a beverage.
“When I saw this, I knew,” Ardis says of watching the show, which originally aired in 2017 — almost three years before the outbreak of COVID-19. It’s now available on Netflix. “I knew I was right, I knew I was supposed to see that, because it was confirmation to me that other people knew this was planned all along, which, we’ve known this was a plan.”
One of the well-worn conspiracy theories that Ardis relies on here claims that the pandemic was planned in advance by nefarious actors — one of the most viral versions of this theory was presented in a pair of videos from 2020 called “Plandemic,” each of which we’ve written about.
Ardis goes on to explain that, when he saw the main character in the show being poisoned through a beverage, “I realized something — I realized how they’ve been spreading this.” (Read our SciCheck item “How is COVID-19 transmitted?” for the facts about transmission.)
The video then shows a hand placing a rapid COVID-19 test under tap water. As sinister music plays in the background, text reading “WATCH THE WATER” appears on screen.
The name of the video is also, “Watch The Water,” which is an apparent reference to another conspiracy theory, QAnon, which has flourished during the pandemic.
That phrase was used in a February 2018 post from “Q,” the pseudonym used by the person or people who post cryptic messages on internet message boards that are the basis for the QAnon conspiracy theory. That phrase has been used to support a number of false claims over the years, including that ballots in the 2020 election had secret watermarks and that “Q” had predicted a back-up of container ships in the Suez Canal in 2021.
Here, the phrase is used to buttress Ardis’ theory that public drinking water is being poisoned with snake venom.
“They are using krait venom and cobra venom, calling it COVID-19, you’re drinking it, it’s getting into your brain stem, and it’s paralyzing your diaphragm’s ability to breath,” Ardis says.
He later explains that “the CDC is in on it” and suggests that the plot may have ultimately come from “the Catholic Church or whoever.”
As he explains that he believes that the CDC is involved because it monitors wastewater in some locations, Ardis says, it’s “Just like in the show Blacklist.”
But it’s not.
That show wasn’t meant to suggest that there was a plot to poison swaths of the public with snake venom under the guise of a viral pandemic, Blacklist creator Jon Bokenkamp told us in a phone interview.
That episode was not written to foreshadow the pandemic, he said. Rather, it was meant to show an unconventional criminal using an unusual method to poison someone as entertainment.
The snake venom “was a great way to have a far-fetched, but slightly grounded version of bad guy,” Bokenkamp said. “It was a story.”
He noted that the show is in its ninth season and, like any long-running show, it has sometimes coincidentally reflected things to come, like one episode from 2015 called “The Troll Farmer,” in which a disinformation campaign manipulated real-world events.
So, there’s no reason to believe that this fictional show has somehow revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic is actually a plot to poison people with snake venom.
The underlying notion that COVID-19 is caused by snake venom is simply untrue. Scientists across the globe have been studying SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — for more than two years, and there is no question that the disease is caused by a virus.
Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.
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