Russian Origins of the Vaccine Microchip Conspiracy Theory

I recently read an article which suggested that the conspiracy theory that vaccines contain microchips emerged following a March 18, 2020 Reddit AMA with Bill Gates [1]. In response to the AMA, biohackers began to write positively about the potential for chip-based medical devices to combat epidemics and deliver vaccines.

Within several days of the Reddit AMA, a Baptist pastor from Jacksonville Florida named Adam Fannin – known best for his anti-Semitic conflicts with comedian Sarah Silverman in 2019 – found one of these biohacking blog posts online. Fannin then developed it into his own interpretation of apocalyptic prophecy largely based on his “deep distrust of Gates”. Fannin made a 9-minute YouTube sermon which went viral and accumulated nearly 2 million views before it was taken down.  “The pastor titled the post, “Bill Gates – Microchip Vaccine Implants to fight Coronavirus,” adding one pivotal word to the biohackers’ title: vaccine.”[1]

Looking more deeply into the origin of the vaccines and microchips story, I think it is important to observe how it may emerge from and complement Russian Orthodox nationalist geopolitics and information warfare.

By mid-April 2020, the conspiracy theory hit the mainstream with the help of figures like Roger Stone who claimed of coronavirus vaccines that “[Gates] and other globalists are definitely using it in a drive for mandatory vaccinations and microchipping people.” The conservative-leaning New York Post carried Stone’s claim and “soon, the Post story and the pastor’s video each had over a million interactions on Facebook.” [1]

Despite the story acknowledging that the conspiracy theory received much help from Roger Stone – one of the central prosecuted figures in the 2016 Russian election interference investigations – the article did not mention Russia. Maybe it should have.

The false belief linking childhood vaccines and autism emerged from Soviet propaganda of the 1980’s [2].  Russia has been consistently involved in online conspiracy theories and divide and conquer information campaigns involving vaccines long before the coronavirus pandemic [3]. Now, Russia is waging a concentrated campaign of vaccine nationalism to undermine confidence in Western vaccines [4].

There is a strong basis to suspect Russian responsibility for 1990’s online conspiracy theories which linked Bill Gates to the number of the Beast [5]. There is a documented history of nationalist sentiment within the post-Soviet Russian Orthodox world which manifests in apocalyptic conspiracy theories about technology as well [6, 14].

Indeed, searching for ‘vaccine’ and ‘microchip’ terms in Russian, strong supporting connections of high relevance can be found to Russia’s strategic disinformation apparatus which parallel and may predate the timeline of this story’s emergence in the English language.

For example, a top Russian ‘mainstream’ news Google result comes from the “Business Gazette” website, dated March 26, 2020 [7]. In the article titled “Professor Katasonov: Bill Gates’ shadow looms behind COVID-19, or be afraid of vaccines!”, Valentin Katasonov cites earlier sources which include:

  • A 2009 (heavily anti-NSA) article from the English-language website ‘preventdisease . com’ [8]
  • Population statistics by Peter Koenig, an analyst from Canada’s Centre for Research on Globalization
  • The ‘famous book’ : “When Power is Not from God: algorithms of geopolitics and strategies of secret wars of the world behind the scenes” (2010) by Tatiana Vasilevna Gracheva (Татьяна Васильевна Грачева)

Note that Valentin Katasonov (via association with the Strategic Culture Foundation) and the Centre for Research on Globalization have been linked by the US Department of State to the activities of Russian intelligence agencies [9].

Tatiana Gracheva

Tatiana Gracheva’s profile on the Katehon think tank website describes her as “political scientist, candidate of pedagogical sciences, associate professor, head of the department of the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. For a number of years she was a leading researcher at the Center for Military-Strategic Research of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces. Graduated from the Higher Courses of the Military Academy of the General Staff with a degree in National Security. Author of numerous articles and books on the national security of Russia.” [10]

In addition to the 2010 book “When Power is Not from God”, Gracheva seems to be frequently associated with the vaccine and microchip idea in references to her authorship of the 2010 article “Chipping through vaccination”. She claimed that vaccination against a global influenza pandemic (like Swine Flu) would provide the rationale for  the ‘chipping’ using nanotechnology [11].

Despite her impressive military-academic background, Colonel Gracheva is perhaps more well known for her staunch Orthodox views and controversial publications, which promote ideas of the antichrist as well as anti-Semitic, and anti-globalist financial conspiracies (that seemingly parallel The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and also the legacy of Metropolitan Ioann (Snychev)). [12]

Tatiana Gracheva

Like The Protocols and the work of Snychev, Gracheva’s anti-Semitic conspiracy books could be found for sale in Russian Orthodox churches, and she appears to have strong Church support [13].

While there is considerably more to explore here, it seems clear that the vaccine-microchip conspiracy theory does have semiotic aspects which make it very similar to historical Russian Orthodox nationalist disinformation which has both anticapitalistic and anti-Semitic features (eg. The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion). In addition, there is an anti-technology component to the conspiracy, which seems referential to prior ROC controversies such as “The Beast Computer of Belgium” or “INN Jihad” (led by Tikhon (Shevkunov)) [14].

While the potential for organic “convergent evolution” of disinformation is always possible, it seems that there are too many links to strategic Russian information warfare and Orthodox-nationalist ideologies behind the idea of vaccines and microchips to consider that Fannin and Stone were primarily responsible for the viral phenomenon.

I’d bet Fannin and Stone had some help from little green men, or trolls, or shoe-making elves or whatever to go viral – whether they knew it or not.

References

[1] Ike Sriskandarajah , “WHERE DID THE MICROCHIP VACCINE CONSPIRACY THEORY COME FROM ANYWAY?: How an innocuous Reddit thread mutated into a dangerous, viral lie”, Jun 5, 2021; https://www.theverge.com/22516823/covid-vaccine-microchip-conspiracy-theory-explained-reddit

[2] Laurie Garrett, “Donald Trump and the Anti-Vaxxer Conspiracy Theorists” ,Jan 11, 2017; https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/11/donald-trump-and-the-anti-vaxxer-conspiracy-theorists/

[3] BBC, “Russia trolls ‘spreading vaccination misinformation’ to create discord” Aug 24, 2018;  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45294192

[4] Michael Gordon and Dustin Volz, “Russian Disinformation Campaign Aims to Undermine Confidence in Pfizer, Other Covid-19 Vaccines, U.S. Officials Say”, Mar 7, 2021;  https://www.wsj.com/articles/russian-disinformation-campaign-aims-to-undermine-confidence-in-pfizer-other-covid-19-vaccines-u-s-officials-say-11615129200

[5] Michael Hotchkiss, “Bill Gates 666 Disinformation: Russian Fingerprints of a Mind Metavirus?”, Nov 6, 2018; https://n01r.com/bill-gates-666-disinformation-russian-fingerprints-mind-metavirus/

[6] Michael Hotchkiss, “The 666 Mindvirus Part II: A Russian Orthodox Connection”,  Nov 11, 2018; https://n01r.com/the-666-mindvirus-part-ii-a-russian-orthodox-connection/

[7] {disinformation}  Valentin Katasonov, “Профессор Катасонов: «За СOVID-19 маячит тень Билла Гейтса, или Бойтесь вакцин!»” (Professor Katasonov: Bill Gates’ shadow looms behind COVID-19, or be afraid of vaccines!), Mar 26, 2020; https://www.business-gazeta.ru/article/462708

[8] {disinformation} Prevent Disease . com “Are Populations Being Primed For Nano-Microchips Inside Vaccines?”, Oct 5, 2009;  https://www.preventdisease.com/news/09/100509_injectable_nano_microchips.shtml?no_redirect=tru

[9] U.S. Department of State Global Engagement Center, “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem”, Aug 2020; https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Pillars-of-Russia%E2%80%99s-Disinformation-and-Propaganda-Ecosystem_08-04-20.pdf

[10] Katehon think tank profile for Tatiana Gracheva; https://katehon.com/ru/person/tatyana-gracheva

[11] {disinformation} Tatiana Gracheva, “Россиян ожидает массовое чипирование через вакцинацию — Татьяна Грачева” (Russians expect mass chipping through vaccination – Tatyana Gracheva), Dec 23, 2010; https://penzanews.ru/worldnews/22097-2010

[12] {disinformation} Tatiana Gracheva, “Память русской души” (Memory of the Russian Soul), Feb 18, 2011; https://ruskline .ru/ monitoring_smi/2011/02/19/pamyat_russkoj_dushi

[13] {disinformation}  Ashot Kayrapetyan, “Есть ли антисемитизм в России?” (Is there Anti-Semitism in Russia?), 2009; http://www.interethnic.org/novosti-tsentra/est-li-antisemitizm-v-rossii.html

[14] Aleksandr Verkhovsky. “The Role of the Russian Orthodox Church in Nationalist, Xenophobic and Antiwestern Tendencies in Russia Today: Not Nationalism, but Fundamentalism“. Religion, State & Society, Vol. 30, No. 4, 2002.

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