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Conspiratorial Corona: Hoaxes and Conspiracy Theories in the Balkans

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Conspiratorial Corona: Hoaxes and Conspiracy Theories in the Balkans

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At first glance, it might appear that the Western Balkans is better equipped to weather the wave of COVID-19 conspiracies.

The region emerged from the initial wave much less affected than some other parts of Europe, such as Italy, France, and Spain.

Furthermore, conventional media in the region continues to have a much bigger reach than social media: 57 and 68 per cent of citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia respectively get their news from television, considerably more than online media content and social media.

A large majority of citizens across the region are aware that misleading and false information is a problem. The reliance on television increased during the pandemic, with TV being the main source of information and by far the most trusted source, dwarfing all other media.

Thats where the good news ends.

High levels of political polarisation, a strong sense of not being able to freely express oneself more half of the population is somewhat or very afraid to express their opinion in Montenegro, Serbia, North Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and low trust in institutions is common.

Consistently, the most trusted institutions are religious organisations, the army, and the police, i.e. the most hierarchical, conservative and least democratic institutions enjoy the most trust.

Low trust and high polarisation provide fertile ground for conspiracies to flourish.

In the Western Balkans, narratives that challenged the prevailing medical explanations could be found in several distinct ways.

One might be the religious-traditionalist rejection of medical advice: different religious leaders rejected medical advice and refused to adjust their traditions to conform to the medical advice.

For example, a spokesperson for the Macedonian Orthodox Church explained the use of the same spoon in communion by stating We arent going to change a centuries-old tradition. While not a conspiracy theory per se, this approach rejected medical evidence and instead placed greater value on tradition.

A second variant could be the outright conspiracy theories that circulated on social media and reflected the aforementioned global conspiracies. They found some prominent supporters, including the Serbian MP Nada Kostic, a medical doctor and briefly minister of health in 2001, who expressed doubt that COVID-19 is a virus at all and accused Bill Gates, 5G, and billionaire philanthropist George Soros of being behind the spread of the disease.

Along similar lines, a leading figure of the Montenegrin opposition, Nebojsa Medojevic of the Democratic Front, claimed in a tweet that Communism originated in England and Germany and took root in Russia and the Orthodox East. Target the Romanovs! Corona originated in China and took root best in the US!! Target Trump. Behind Communism and Corona are the same centres A GLOBAL SATANIST PEDOPHILE DEEP STATE.

While it might be easy to dismiss such statements, they reinforce existing nationalist and far-right conspiracy theories that accuse Soros or other individuals of controlling the world.

The silliest virus, says Serbian lung specialist



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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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