WASHINGTON – Not long after Mr Randy Watt died of Covid-19, his daughter Danielle sat down at her computer, searching for clues as to why the smart and thoughtful man she knew refused to get vaccinated.
She pulled up Google, typed in a screen name he used in the past and discovered a secret that stunned her. Her father, she learned, had a hidden, virtual life on Gab, a far-right social media platform that traffics in Covid-19 misinformation.
And there was another surprise: As he fought the coronavirus, he told his followers that he was taking ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasitic infections that experts say has no benefit – and in fact can be dangerous – for patients with Covid-19.
“On two occasions, I coughed so hard that larynx went into spasm and closed my airway,” he wrote in a post on Gab a few days before Christmas 2021. “Frightening, yes, but relaxing instead of panicking allowed the airway to open in 15 to 20 seconds. Took second dose of ivermectin, along with ibuprofen for fever and my usual vitamin regimen. Rest, fluids, and prayer.”
Mr Watt, a passionate songwriter and musician who loved the outdoors and had retired from an energy company in Ohio, died on Jan 7. He was 64. His wife and two daughters are still struggling to understand what led him to a site like Gab, which his widow, Ms Victoria Stefan Watt, blames for what she called his “senseless death”.
Around the United States, countless Americans are suffering a very particular type of Covid-19 grief – a mixture of anger, sorrow and shame that comes with losing a loved one who has consumed social media falsehoods.
On Tuesday, in what was likely his last appearance in the White House briefing room before he retires from government service at the end of the year, Dr Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, pleaded with Americans to speak out against scientific misinformation.
“The people who have correct information, who take science seriously, who don’t have strange, way-out theories about things but who base what they say on evidence and data, need t...