“There’s a 99.9% chance it’s anthrax.”

A conservative podcaster, telling his audience why a bunch of people are sick after attending an anti-vax conference

Screenshot from the online broadcast of the ReAwaken America event in Dallas, Texas.

His Glory/Facebook

Impact
A bunch of conspiracy theorists got sick after a conference and think it’s anthrax

Are you familiar with Occam’s razor? It’s the theory that says when all things are equal, the simplest solution is typically the best one. The best way to understand a theory like this is through a practical application, so let’s run through a scenario and see how it works:

On Dec. 10, thousands of people poured into the Elevate Life Church in Dallas, Texas, for the ReAwaken America tour, a multi-day conference highlighted by prominent election fraud conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccine activists, and MAGA-world staples like Michael Flynn and Eric Trump. Many in attendance were unvaccinated and spent hours in a small auditorium together without masks. About a week after the event, attendees started to feel sick, claiming to be suffering from fevers, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughs, headaches, and fatigue.

All of those conditions happen to be symptoms of coronavirus. Many of the people experiencing them are unvaccinated and therefore more likely to experience moderate to severe symptoms. And we know COVID spreads via airborne transmission and thus presents an increased risk to people who are in a poorly ventilated space for extended periods of time — like, say, a church auditorium for a weekend-long conference. There is also a new variant of coronavirus, Omicron, that spreads faster than previous iterations of the virus and is rapidly becoming the most common infection in the U.S.

Ready to apply Occam’s razor? Here we go: Given everything that we know, is it more likely that the ReAwaken America event attendees are coming down with COVID, or that they were the victims of a targeted anthrax attack?

Well, if you are the type of person who would attend a conspiracy conference, you would probably pick the latter. And indeed, according to a report from Vice, it appears the likely misguided belief is spreading like, well, a virus among those experiencing symptoms.

Joe Oltmann, a conservative podcaster who was at the Dallas event, started floating the anthrax theory on his show earlier this week. “There’s a 99.9% chance it’s anthrax,” he told his listeners as he coughed and sneezed. Oltmann, along with a dozen other people who shared a green room at the event, are reportedly experiencing similar symptoms — all of which match up perfectly with what someone infected with coronavirus might be experiencing. But obviously, it’s definitely anthrax.

Thus far, no one from the event has tested positive for anthrax poisoning, per Vice. But the anthrax conspiracy has spread far and wide in far-right groups, and a theory has started to form that a fog machine at the event must have been used to spread the bacteria. This theory implicates the event’s organizer, Clay Clark, who has denied the speculation and accusations that he is a part of the Illuminati, because that is the kind of thing that you have to say once the conspiracy mob turns on you.

Anyway, it seems like the conspiracy conference turned into a superspreader event. Though of course, none of the attendees have even entertained the idea that COVID is to blame for their very COVID-like symptoms. But it’s either that, or the event was a setup carried out by the global elite to infect the truth-tellers with a severe flu-like ailment. You know, whichever one seems more plausible to you.