The ripple effect of misinformation is more than an unfortunate happenstance. It's deadly.
Of the thousand or so Americans who perished last week from Covid-19, Marcus Lamb stands out, for he fought long and loud against the evils of vaccination, choosing instead to hawk unproven cures like Famotidine, hydroxychloroquine, and ivermectin, to name a few. Lamb was 64. Adopting that specific anti-science position was his choice, and if we pro-science folks want to bask in the momentary schadenfreude, I suppose that's our prerogative. Still, such short-sightedness misses the more substantial and eminently more depressing and deadly problem. Marcus Lamb was not just an anti-vaxxer; he was a televangelist with a global Christian network. In fact, upon Lamb's death, all the evangelist luminaries expressed their sadness: Franklin Graham noted that Lamb was now "experiencing heaven." One wonders how many other average people are sharing that same experience after following Lamb's advice or whether God—as the old Depeche Mode song goes—has a sick sense of humor. If, on the other hand, God holds us responsible for the good of others and has only contempt for overweening pride and arrogance, that whole experiencing heaven deal may be a bit presumptuous. And all those others who fell ill and died due to the ongoing fusillade of misinformation—what are the thoughts of their surviving families? And it gets worse. Lamb's Daystar Network has hosted conspiracy theorists for months, many of whom have characterized vaccines and vaccine mandates as evidence of the devil trying to attack followers of a true God. In addition, Lamb's son Jonathan claimed that his father's Covid-19 case was "a spiritual attack from the enemy." This sort of thing would be funny in some Faustian tale by Washington Irving but a lot less amusing in real life. Lamb's network is global, as is his web of falsehoods and pseudoscience. And yes, as is the pandemic. Lately much has been made of the Omicron variant and its seeming emergence in South Africa. Admittedly, Western Countries have been lax in sharing the vaccine with poorer nations, but the existence of a strong-anti-vaccine movement on the African continent is undeniable, buttressed by hucksters and quacks—supported and encouraged by Daystar and others. If Africa has become a breeding ground for variants, reckless entities like Daystar have served as the catalyst. It's possible that Marcus Lamb ended each day with prayerful reflection and a firm belief in his own righteousness, and it's even possible that when his end drew near, he was comfortable with what was happening, his faith unshaken. There is no record of a deathbed reawakening. But it's also possible that for months he looked at the raw data from the pandemic, read the facts of how the vaccine was saving lives, and still chose to ignore them—still chose to lead his followers along a path he knew was wrong. No one can say for sure that, had Lamb received the vaccine, he would have survived, though empirical data supports that idea. And faith in some higher power is not the issue here. But it seems whenever people start believing they have some special hotline to God's intentions, things tend to end badly. Marcus Lamb may have convinced himself—or even believed— he was interceding for God on earth, but that belief probably contributed to his own demise. Even sadder, his influence will continue beyond the grave: we may never be able to assess the damage done by him and people like him.