People want to feel like their concerns are heard. Being dismissed can lead to loss of trust, which can send people looking for empathy in the wrong places.
Members of the anti-vaccination movement and of its media arm excel at portraying themselves as “those who care.” The rest of us—scientists, doctors, politicians, journalists—are represented as either apathetic or simply evil. The latest “documentary” to emerge from this movement, Died Suddenly, is an exercise in reframing compassion. It also represents the apogee of conspiritualist ideas, where grand conspiracy theories surrounding vaccines are painted on a canvas so large, they involve a Biblical war between the forces of absolute good and those of pure evil.
Who are portrayed as ringing the alarm for Armageddon in Died Suddenly? Embalmers.
A tale made out of whole clot
The documentary’s smoking gun is the alleged discovery of long, white, fibrous clots in the deceased bodies of people who, we are told, got vaccinated against COVID-19. Sometimes, their blood also looks dirty, like it contains coffee grounds. This claim seems to have originated from Richard Hirschman, an embalmer in Alabama, who spoke about it to The Epoch Times, a frequent vehicle for misinformation and grand conspiracy theories. Hirschman and a few other embalmers testify to their findings in Died Suddenly, with some being blurred out, their voices altered, like they are sharing secrets so damning they’re about to be shipped to their local witness protection program.
Every conspiracy demands its whistleblower, and Hirschman serves as one of many for this documentary. He can boldly speak out while his colleagues self-censor, he tells us, because he doesn’t work for a funeral home. The movie cozies up to the body horror genre by repeatedly showing us images and clips of these lengthy strings of organic matter being pulled out of post-mortem incisions. The power of these alien, rubbery artefacts grows in the telling: in the Epoch Times piece, a cardiologist says these clots have “nearly the strength of steel.” Given the shock that these visuals can give to the untrained eye, it’s no wonder these supposed “vaccine clots” are making the rounds on TikTok.
The problem is that embalmers and funeral directors are not medical professionals. Don’t take it from me, but from the National Funeral Directors Association in the United States, whose representative told me as much, and from Ben Schmidt, a funeral director and embalmer with a bachelor’s degree in natural science. Schmidt wrote a detailed explanation of what is happening here. Clots can easily form after death, as the liquid and solid parts of blood separate and as formaldehyde and calcium-containing water used in the embalming process catalyze clotting. Refrigeration can also be to blame, especially when a rapid influx of bodies due to COVID necessitates longer stays in the cooler as embalmers make their way through their backlog.
Then there are the clots that happen prior to death. Embalmers do not typically know that someone who died was “in normal health,” as is often claimed in the documentary, nor do they reliably know someone’s vaccination status. Blood clots do happen in life, for a variety of reasons. The COVID-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson were indeed associated with rare—and I must repeat, rare—cases of blood clots, but risk factors for blood clots in general include obesity, cancer, a sedentary lifestyle, pregnancy, family history, and smoking. Oh, and COVID-19 itself, which you won’t learn from Died Suddenly. This may surprise you, but an American dies of a blood clot every six minutes. Clots, either before or after death, are common.
As anatomical pathology specialist Irene Sansano told a fact-checking website, the clots shown by Hirschman do not look different from the ones pathologists regularly see in blood clot autopsies at the hospital. To know if there really was an uptick in clots seen during embalming, we can’t rely on a scattering of anecdotes. We would need a database to monitor trends, and as Schmidt points out, this database does not exist.
But if the sight of strings of clotted material isn’t scary enough, Died Suddenly is willing to make its title even more manifest by showing us rapid-fire montages of people fainting and seemingly dropping dead. Out of context, these videos are distressing. However, The Real Truther account on Twitter has demonstrated that many of them are not what they seem. The woman who passes out and falls into a moving train? Her name is Candela. She fainted because of low blood pressure and survived with a fractured skull. That young basketball player who collapses on the court? His name is Keyontae Johnson, and his fainting took place on December 12, 2020, before the COVID-19 vaccines were readily available. He has since been medically cleared to play and recently signed with Kansas State. These people are not dead. To borrow a phrase from the conspiracy playbook, we have been lied to.
Given that syncope, the medical term for a temporary loss of consciousness brought about by a drop in blood pressure, affects one in five over their lifetime, and given the ubiquity of cameras in our world, that’s a lot of fainting episodes captured on video that can be used to bolster a narrative that “something’s not right.”
Outside of the documentary, its Twitter account and many more in the anti-vaccination space have used “died suddenly” as a rallying cry. One of the producers of the movie, Stew Peters, interviewed a woman who claimed that Canadian physicians were dropping like flies in the prime of their lives. Peters didn’t mince words: “We absolutely know 100% what is going on. They want to cover it up. The doctors are dying, and they’re dying from these stupid shots.” Their evidence comes from the Canadian Medical Association’s In Memoriam webpage. I had a look. Peters’ interview was released on August 22nd of this year. I looked at the last ten doctors who had been memorialized at this point. For most, the cause of death is not mentioned. For the others, it’s Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, COVID-19, and a two-year spell with brain cancer. The average age at which these ten physicians died? 82. The youngest was 64. Hardly in the prime of their lives. That same woman making the claim goes on to hypothesize that Alberta was sent the most toxic batch of the vaccines because its residents don’t typically vote for Justin Trudeau. How else to explain its high mortality during the pandemic?
The Died Suddenly Twitter account, which boasts an authoritative blue check mark it received after paying $8 a month, memorializes a long list of people who, we are led to believe, died of the vaccine, including the voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy, who very recently passed away from intestinal cancer. Except that scrolling through these names, it becomes apparent the list includes anyone who died suddenly, who died after a short illness, who died after a long illness, who died of cancer or of an immune condition or of a viral infection. Their vaccination status is often not even known. Basically, everybody dying after the vaccines were rolled out has now been killed by the jab
One of the funeral directors interviewed in Died Suddenly, who now identifies as an anti-vaxxer, tells us to go on Google and type in “died suddenly.” I listened to him and did the exercise.
Disturbingly, I found a 13-year-old boy who died suddenly after collapsing while playing in a schoolyard; a 38-year-old publisher who died suddenly at home, with no known health issues; even actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s brother who died suddenly at 36. What I didn’t tell you is that I did the search for the year 2010. Sudden deaths are not new. I even found a particularly distressing example. Her name was Kalina and she had shown no sign of illness before suddenly falling ill and dying that very evening. She was only 25 years old and was the third adult to die from her place of work in a four-month period.
Scary stuff, isn’t it? Except that Kalina was a killer whale who died at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010.
What Died Suddenly does is akin to grave-robbing. It raids online obituaries, with complete disregard for consent or basic journalistic integrity, and stitches a pseudoscientific horror story with the faces of the deceased.
The makers of Died Suddenly don’t want you to think; they want you to feel. For all of the anti-vaccination movement’s admonitions to “do your own research,” the thing that consistently sinks their arguments is doing your own research. It’s fact-checking if what they are telling you is correct.
None of this is new, though the conspiracy they are selling is growing to epic proportions.
Cut from the same clot
Died Suddenly can serve as a teachable moment for those of us who study the post-COVID-19 anti-vaccination movement, to help us recognize its traits and see its progression.
We witness motivated reasoning: starting from the conclusion that the vaccines cannot be safe and looking for evidence that matches the conclusion. We see a thick coating of “after the fact, therefore because of it,” as anybody dying from 2021 onwards is said to be the victim of a vaccine that can kill you instantly, with a delay, or simply worsen a pre-existing condition. The “VAERS scare” tactic is also briefly adopted, as the database of “bad things that happened after getting a vaccine” is easily trawled for hits.
Died Suddenly also features fake experts, a characteristic of science denial. The VAERS scare itself is brought up in the documentary by entrepreneur Steve Kirsch, who is seen stopped by police after repeated, uninvited visits to the private residence of Dr. Grace Lee, the chair of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. He tells the cops he’s “a journalist for Substack,” a fancy term for “blogger” if there ever was one. In the documentary, he confidently asserts that no one wants to know what’s in the vaccines and that no journalist has ever asked, “What’s in the vials?” Funny how there was so much worry about what was in the COVID-19 vaccines, their manufacturers released a list of their ingredients at the beginning of the roll-out, which was covered by the mainstream press. But this is the kind of accuracy you can expect from a grown man who literally called me a chicken on his blog for refusing to debate him.
Meanwhile, a military whistleblower tells us that deaths are up 40% in the 18-to-64 age group, pointing the finger at the vaccines. Except that it’s not the vaccines; it’s the COVID-19 pandemic itself. From blood clots to excess mortality, everything caused by the virus is blamed on the vaccines.
Died Suddenly premiered on both Twitter and Rumble, the alternative video platform favoured by conservatives who loudly proclaim their right to free speech, to a combined 8 million views as of this writing. The text box below the documentary is filled with sponsor links that echo the concerns of the people living outside the mainstream: survival food, “manly” supplements, and precious metal investments. There’s also a link to Mike Lindell’s MyPillow company. The subtleties of the anti-vaccination movement have been shed: the box asks viewers to “support anti-vax activism.” The masks are off.
Meanwhile, the movie throws everything onto the conspiracy cork board, with Jeffrey Epstein, Anthony Fauci, Justin Trudeau, Greta Thunberg, and Bill Gates flashing before our eyes, next to mentions of MKUltra and a clip from that infamous Sasquatch hoax video.
A clip of Tom Hanks explaining Malthusian theory during a press tour is borrowed, which introduces us to the ultimate thesis of the documentary: the COVID-19 pandemic was apparently an excuse to roll out a deadly vaccine engineered to decimate our military forces, affect pregnant women, and kill as many people as possible. As Thomas Malthus once wrote, our population will someday exceed in numbers our ability to provide for everyone. The Powers That Be thus had to come up with a solution: an injectable bioweapon.
And this is where conspirituality comes in. As Died Suddenly ramps up to its climax, religious beliefs are made clear and the full scope of the conspiracy is laid out. This is spiritual war, we are told. The depopulation agenda was written by the forces of Evil and it is our God-given role to fight back.
The anti-vaccination movement no longer sees itself as merely opposing an industry; its vociferations are a clarion call for divine salvation.
Those who care
I have already read superficial denunciations of the movie by media outlets that do not address the core claims the movie makes. I get it. The escalation of the anti-vaccine rhetoric into a mad fever pitch is so pronounced, it can leave us speechless. We resort to dismissal, anger, and accusations of widespread idiocy.
I worry that this sort of drive-by skepticism—quick, often smug—, excusable though it may be, plays right into the hand of a movie like Died Suddenly. Its brave “truthtellers” are shown as people who care. They want to prevent deaths. They are tearing through the wall of passivity and the thicket of wickedness they see in order to save human lives. Propped up by the shallow depth of field of the camera, the professional lighting, the unnerving music, and the storytelling power of a good edit, it makes for convincing fodder.
Our casual dismissal of these propaganda pieces doesn’t help, in my opinion. If we want to persuade the people caught in their wake—not the die-hard believers, who can hardly be swayed, but those who are scared yet still willing to listen to reason—we must fact-check with empathy. We must show how easy it is to topple the scarecrows of anti-vaccine propaganda.
We need patience, as hard as it can be to find these days.
- The anti-vaccine “documentary” Died Suddenly alleges that the COVID-19 vaccines are bioweapons meant to depopulate the world by creating clots that kill people suddenly
- The clots shown by the embalmers in the movie seem to medical experts to be no different than the clots that commonly occur in life and also after death
- Many of the people the movie wants us to believe suddenly died are not actually dead