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The Matrix: how conspiracy theorists hijacked the ‘red pill’ philosophy

The image of the red and blue pills is central to the movie’s narrative but has been co-opted by hate groups who want adherents to think only they know the ‘truth’.

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The Matrix is among the most influential science fiction films of all time. Nearly 20 years since the third film in the series premiered, a fourth chapter, The Matrix Resurrections, was released in December to great excitement.

But one of The Matrix’s most enduring cultural contributions has been to conspiracy theories. Motifs from the film have been adopted by online groups to reinforce their messages, which are often hateful and violent. Incels, or involuntary celibates, are particularly engaged with Matrix-style “philosophy”. A mass shooter in the UK, for example, was found, after his death, to have been using Matrix imagery in online discussion forums before committing his crimes.

The problem is so widespread that the new Matrix film is being taken by some as a rejection of the trend. Ahead of the film’s release, two of its writers described themselves as approaching the movie with the intent of reclaiming the “red pill” trope from its hijackers.

Red pill, blue pill

The idea of the red pill is a key example. In the original Matrix, the protagonist is invited to choose between a red and blue pill. The red reveals the world for what it truly is; an artificial construct of machines which have enslaved humanity. The blue allows the protagonist to remain in a comfortable delusion; spared from facing the horrors beyond. This cultural motif is now a cornerstone of conspiratorial thinking.

Red pill conspiracy theories follow the same basic logic. A nefarious enemy is working behind the scenes, having concealed their harmful activities from the population. By “taking the red pill” believers “wake up” to this truth.

It is perhaps ironic that in the film the red pill reveals reality for what it truly is while in conspiracy theories it allows adherents to construct their own reality – one which tends to reinforce and rationalise their own preconceptions.

To demonstrate, take the online “manosphere”, a loosely affiliated network of misogynistic groups united by a shared red pill conspiracy theory. They see feminism as having corrupted socio-political institutions and established a society structured to the advantage of women and the detriment of men. Feminism, or the myth of female oppression, is a means to trick men into accepting exploitation and ceding ever more power. In “taking the red pill” manosphere adherents believe they are awake to this inequitable world order. They see themselves as a resistance movement against it.

A hand holding a red pill and another hand holding a blue pill against a black backround.
The choice between the red pill and blue pill is a central theme to many conspiracy theories. Shutterstock

The danger of red pill narratives is the type of thinking it imparts. Within these narratives “truth” is presupposed rather than tested. Facts must conform to this truth to be legitimate, and all contrary evidence is dismissed. Inevitably such communities become insular, seeing the outside world as brainwashed and themselves as uniquely virtuous for having the strength of character to face reality.

Red pill narratives naturally encourage echo chambers, which are an ideal environment for radicalisation. Shared narratives can quickly diverge from reality when left unchallenged. Eventually the positions and beliefs of the community only make sense in the worlds which adherents have constructed for themselves.

Recycling old tropes

There are many other examples beyond incel culture, and they should strike a foreboding chord. In worlds corrupted by unseen forces, radical action is easily justified. Conspiracy theories paved the way for last year’s attack on the US Capitol, and continue to inflame tensions a year on. The idea of being duped by the mainstream is evident in much anti-vax thinking. In the often competing worlds of conspiracy theorists, drinking urine or injecting bleach are variously presented as the real cures for COVID-19 rather than the vaccines developed by governments in a bid to control their populations.

But is The Matrix to blame for modern conspiratorial thinking? No. Narratives of malevolent hands pulling strings behind the scenes are far older, and deeply tied to antisemitism. In early-1900s conspiracy theories, which would later fuel the the rise of Nazism, it was claimed a cabal of Jewish elders were infiltrating and corrupting social institutions in a plot for global dominion. Central to Nazi ideology was the theory of “Jewish-Bolshevism”, which held Jews invented communism as a means of world conquest. Hitler even believed the British people would become his staunch allies if only they destroyed the “Judaic forces” controlling them. Echoes of contemporary red pill narratives underpinned all these beliefs; for this type of thinking long predates the specific motif.

It would be more accurate to say The Matrix has popularised a superficially similar metaphor. It simplified, if not standardised, the way in which these theories could be communicated to modern audiences. These days, conspiracy theorists can simply point to The Matrix as a framework rather than explain their worldview in their own words. The red pill is essentially a way of saying “it’s just like The Matrix,” but the real enemy is [x]. This is of course an unintended consequence. But after 20 years, the genie is probably not going back in the bottle.


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Charlie Tye receives funding from the Morrell Centre for Legal and Political Philosophy.

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Spread & Containment

Don’t believe the claim that only 17,371 people have died from COVID in England and Wales

A freedom of information request is only useful if you know how to read the data.

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There is no doubt that the pandemic has led to many deaths; however, in the past week, new claims have emerged that the true number of people who have died from COVID in England and Wales is much lower than previously thought. These claims have been widely shared on social media and even amplified by a senior MP. Can it really be true that new data shows that COVID has killed far fewer people than we previously thought?

To arrive at an answer, we first need to delve into the various ways that COVID deaths are counted in England and Wales. There are two main sources of this data: the first, published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and featured prominently on the government’s coronavirus dashboard, is a simple count of all deaths that occur within 28 days of a positive COVID test.

The second, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is based on death certificates that list COVID as a cause of death. Being based on a medical assessment of the circumstances of each individual death, the ONS figures represent the gold standard.

The UKHSA figures will include some deaths that are clearly unrelated to COVID – for example, somebody who has a mild case of COVID and is involved in a car accident three weeks later – and exclude some COVID deaths where someone is in hospital for more than 28 days. The UKHSA data gives us a picture of what is happening now – albeit an imperfect one – while the ONS data takes several weeks to process.

We also need to understand how death certificates work in England and Wales. When somebody passes away, a medical professional completes a death certificate. This includes a field for the “disease or condition directly leading to death” – often called the “underlying cause”. It also includes the option to list one or two diseases or conditions that were not the underlying cause, but which contributed to the death (“contributory causes”).

The data that the ONS publishes shows that, in 2020 and 2021 combined, 157,889 deaths were registered where COVID was mentioned on the death certificate. Of these, 139,839 listed COVID as the underlying cause. In almost 90% of cases where COVID was a factor in somebody’s death, it was considered by medical professionals to be the primary reason they died. So where does the figure of 17,371 COVID deaths come from?

Freedom of information request

This figure originates from a freedom of information request to the Office for National Statistics that asked for the number of deaths where COVID was the only cause of death recorded. This is complicated by the fact that often COVID itself can cause complications, such as severe respiratory difficulties or organ failure, which will then be listed alongside COVID on the death certificate.

To exclude these deaths, the ONS responded by giving the number of deaths where no “pre-existing conditions” were listed on the death certificate. Which comes to 17,371 for the period up to the end of September 2021. But what is a “pre-existing condition”?

Pre-existing conditions and their International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes

Office for National Statistics

This list is extensive, including high blood pressure, asthma, COPD, diabetes and a wide range of other common conditions. The argument being made by some is that 17,371 is the true number of COVID deaths, because people with these pre-existing conditions, who make up the vast majority of deaths that list COVID on the death certificate, were already sick. But even a cursory glance at the list makes it clear that this will be incorrect for a great many people.

Over a quarter of adults have high blood pressure, 4 million people in England have diabetes and a similar number have asthma. Having one of these conditions is neither a death sentence nor a sign of being in poor health. You almost certainly know several people with one or more of them, or are living with one yourself.

The idea that people with a pre-existing condition are at death’s door is simply untrue. Over half of people aged 50 and over have at least one long-term health condition. But if someone with one of these conditions is unlucky enough to catch COVID and subsequently die, all it takes is for the condition to have some impact for it to end up being listed as a contributory cause on the death certificate.

Let’s take asthma as an example. COVID frequently attacks victims’ lungs, leading them to require ventilation. As a respiratory condition, asthma may well exacerbate these difficulties and will therefore be listed on the death certificate if the person dies. It would be bizarre to claim that the person died of asthma on this basis. Perhaps they would not have died if they didn’t have asthma, but they certainly wouldn’t have died if they hadn’t got COVID.

The vast majority of people who get seriously ill with COVID were living full, independent lives before they were hospitalised. And reasonable estimates suggest that the average number of years of life lost per COVID death is around ten. The idea that people who died from COVID are all extremely ill and would have died soon anyway is not borne out by the facts.

To argue that the deaths from COVID of people with pre-existing conditions don’t count as true COVID deaths is to say that people with pre-existing conditions don’t matter; that their lives are expendable and shouldn’t be considered when assessing the impact of the pandemic. Over 140,000 people with pre-existing conditions have died of COVID in the last two years. We should be mourning this tragic loss of life, not minimising it.

Colin Angus does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Spread & Containment

As Omicron-specific boosters are in the news, BioNTech to expand German site workforce by 200 employees

BioNTech has added about 200 jobs to its Marburg, Germany manufacturing site since it took it over from Novartis in 2020. This year, it will add another 250, as demand for Covid-19 boosters has led to calls for an omicron-specific vaccine in adults.
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BioNTech has added about 200 jobs to its Marburg, Germany manufacturing site since it took it over from Novartis in 2020. This year, it will add another 250, as demand for Covid-19 boosters has led to calls for an omicron-specific vaccine in adults.

Currently, there are around 500 employees at the site, which is north of Frankfurt. The boost is expected to cost around €50 million, or $56.5 million, and will include the addition of office spaces in anticipation of future growth, the company said. The Marburg site has supplied 1.2 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to the world so far, and a total of 4 billion doses are expected to be doled out by the end of this year.

The news came out of an interview with Bloomberg, a spokesperson for the company confirmed. The $56 million expansion is planned for just the Marburg site alone, the spokesperson confirmed. Before the sale to BioNTech, Novartis invested in the site heavily since 2016, equipping it with capabilities for cell and gene therapy, recombinant proteins, cell culture and viral vector production. In the future, once the need for Covid-19 boosters dies down, BioNTech has said it will other mRNA vaccines, antibody and C&G therapy candidates, as well as its cancer and infectious disease pipeline.

Testing for the vaccine tailored to the pesky variant — which has been deemed more transmissible with less severe symptoms for those that are vaccinated — began this week, BioNTech said along with Pfizer. The trial will test 1,420 healthy adults under the age of 55. Three groups of people, representing different levels of immunity,

In March 2021, Marburg began producing Covid-19 vaccines. It started with the production of mRNA, the active pharmaceutical ingredient for the vaccine. The first batch of doses shipped out in April.

Uğur Şahin

The site has become an example for further growth. BioNTech made waves in the summer of 2021 when it announced plans to collaborate with the African Union to manufacture doses for the continent amid a severe shortage, and in October, the company said that its Rwandan site, which construction is set to begin in the middle of this year, will be modeled after Marburg. Capacity for that one will start at 50 million doses a year, then increase with added manufacturing lines and sites as the project progresses.

CEO Uğur Şahin has already said that the Rwandan site will spin its production into malaria and tuberculosis vaccines once there is a less desperate need for Covid-19 manufacturing.

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Commodities

Metallum Resources to Present at the Sequire Metals & Mining Conference on January 27, 2022

(TheNewswire) January 26, 2022 TheNewswire – Vancouver, British Columbia – Metallum Resources Inc. (TSXV:MZN) ("Metallum" or the Company") is pleased to announce that it will be presenting virtually at the upcoming Sequire Metals & Mining Conference.

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(TheNewswire)



January 26, 2022 TheNewswire - Vancouver, British Columbia - Metallum Resources Inc. (TSXV:MZN) ("Metallum" or the Company") is pleased to announce that it will be presenting virtually at the upcoming Sequire Metals & Mining Conference on Thursday, January 27th, at 10:30 AM EST (Track 4).  Kerem Usenmez, President and CEO of Metallum Resources, will be giving the presentation and taking 1x1 meetings.

" I am excited to present at the Sequire Metals and Mining Conference as our first event of the year!  I look forward to telling our story and updating our plans for 2022 as we move forward toward developing the Superior Lake Project and taking steps to re-open the mine.  Zinc and Copper prices have been going up, and Metallum is very well positioned to fast track towards production to supply high quality Zinc and Copper concentrate," stated Metallum's President and CEO, Kerem Usenmez.

Event: Metallum Resources Presentation at the Sequire Metals & Mining Conference

Date: Thursday, January 27th, 2022

Time: 10:30 AM EST

Register to watch the presentation HERE . Investors can also request 1x1 meetings with Metallum Resources CEO on the event website.

Summary of Sequire Metals & Mining Conference

With a massive uptick in the mining industry and electric vehicles on the rise, Sequire is spending the entire day with public mining companies and industry experts exploring possibilities, opportunities, and the latest news.

Qualified Person

The technical information in this news release has been reviewed and approved by Andrew Tims, P.Geo., Exploration Manager of the Company, and a Qualified Person as defined by NI 43-101.

About Metallum

Metallum Resources (TSXV:MZN) is developing its Superior Lake Zinc and Copper Project located in Ontario, Canada.  Superior Lake Project is one of the highest grade zinc Projects in North America (2.35Mt at 17.9% Zn, 0.9% Cu, 0.4 g/t Au and 34 g/t Ag – Equivalent to 1Moz of 13 g/t Au), with a 9 year mine life and After Tax NVP 8% of $253M and IRR at 35% (Zn at US$1.55, Cu at $3.31) .  Metallum is a member of the Gold Group of companies, led by Simon Ridgway.

For further details about the Company and the Superior Lake Project, please visit the Company's website at metallumzinc.com .

ON BEHALF OF THE BOARD

Kerem Usenmez,

President & Chief Executive Officer

Metallum Resources Inc.

Symbol: TSXV-MZN

For further information, contact:

Kerem Usenmez, President & CEO

Tel: 604-688-5288;  Fax: 604-682-1514

Email: info@metallumzinc.com

Website: metallumzinc.com

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

Certain statements contained in this news release constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of Canadian securities legislation. All statements included herein, other than statements of historical fact, are forward-looking statements and include, without limitation, statements about the Company's corporate property exploration and development activities. Often, but not always, these forward looking statements can be identified by the use of words such as "estimate", "estimates", "estimated", "potential", "open", "future", "assumed", "projected", "used", "detailed", "has been", "gain", "upgraded", "offset", "limited", "contained", "reflecting", "containing", "remaining", "to be", "periodically", or statements that events, "could" or "should" occur or be achieved and similar expressions, including negative variations.

Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of the Company to be materially different from any results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by forward-looking statements. Such uncertainties and factors include, among others, whether exploration and development of the Company's properties will proceed as planned; changes in general economic conditions and financial markets; the Company or any joint venture partner not having the financial ability to meet its exploration and development goals; risks associated with the results of exploration and development activities, estimation of mineral resources and the geology, grade and continuity of mineral deposits; unanticipated costs and expenses; risks associated with COVID-19 including adverse impacts on the world economy, exploration efforts and the availability of personnel; and such other risks detailed from time to time in the Company's quarterly and annual filings with securities regulators and available under the Company's profile on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual actions, events or results to differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements, there may be other factors that cause actions, events or results to differ from those anticipated, estimated or intended.

Forward-looking statements contained herein are based on the assumptions, beliefs, expectations and opinions of management, including but not limited to: that the Company's stated goals and planned exploration and development activities will be achieved; that there will be no material adverse change affecting the Company or its properties; and such other assumptions as set out herein. Forward-looking statements are made as of the date hereof and the Company disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or results or otherwise, except as required by law. There can be no assurance that forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, investors should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements.

Copyright (c) 2022 TheNewswire - All rights reserved.

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