Did you do a double take when you saw Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin trending on social media? After all, Hamlin, who had suffered a cardiac arrest during a January 2 Monday Night Football game, has seemed to be on the road to recovery. He’s already left the hospital and was even seen attending the Bills playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, right? Well, there are now claims that the person who appeared at that game wasn’t even Hamlin. Instead, it was, drum roll please, a body double. Yes, a body double.
Talk about doubling down on conspiracy theories. Soon after Hamlin had collapsed on the football field, anti-vaccination accounts on social media had started asserting that the Covid-19 vaccine had somehow led to his cardiac arrest. That’s despite the fact that they offered no real evidence to support such a theory, as I explained for Forbes back then. And now, the latest anti-vaccination conspiracy theory around Hamlin is that “they”—whoever “they” may be— have found a body double for Hamlin to conceal the so-called true nature of what had happened to him.
Renée DiResta, the technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, summarized what the rest of us were observing on social media on Tuesday:
As you can see, she first noted, “Oh, Damar Hamlin is trending. Maybe there’s some health update.” Then she indicated, “Oh…it’s paidchecks tweeting ab how he’s actually dead, there’s a ‘body double; & his fam is ‘in on it.’” By “paidchecks” she was referring to the Twitter accounts that had managed to find $8 to pay Elon Musk and Twitter in order to get blue verified check marks.
While some directly pushed this body double conspiracy theory, others asked some more indirect questions that made it seem like something was amiss. For example, Stew Peters, the former bounty hunter behind the conspiracy theory-laden film Died Suddenly, tweeted out a video where you couldn’t clearly see Hamlin’s face and said, “It sure seems odd that Damar Hamlin won’t show his face.” And Emerald Robinson, who used to be a Newsmax correspondent until she claimed that Covid-19 vaccines contain a bioluminescent marker used to track you, posted on Twitter the following question, “When do we get to see Damar Hamlin again?”
Then there was that anonymous Twitter account that’s been regularly spreading anti-vaccination messages yet somehow has a blue Twitter-verified check mark, that claimed, “I’m sorry, but this Damar Hamlin episode at the Bills stadium is beyond suspect. Why wasn’t his family with him in the box and why did he never take his ski mask off? WTF is going on here? #bodydouble? #damarhamlim #conspiracytheory #VaccineDeaths” Yeah, a response to this tweet could be simply, “I’m sorry, WTF.”
Hmm, wonder what Hamlin’s teammates who were, you know, actually at the game and actually met with that guy known as Hamlin thought about these questions and conspiracy theories. Were they seeing double as well? Well, on Kyle Brandt’s Basement Podcast, Bills quarterback Josh Allen didn’t josh anyone about what he had seen at the Bills stadium. When Brandt told Allen about these body double conspiracy theories, Allen responded, “Yeah, that’s stupid.” Allen went on to say, “There’s absolutely zero chance. He’s Damar Hamlin. That’s our guy. That’s our brother.” He added, “People need to stop it, stop this [bleep].” You can see Allen’s response on the video shared by Niagara Action here:
Now, just wait for the conspiracy theorists to say, “Oh, that was a body double of Josh Allen on the show” or “Allen is a paid shill of the pharmaceutical companies, the Deep State, the body double making company, and the makers of those candy-coated chocolate pieces who shall go nameless.”
Many people have been besides themselves during this latest edition of the clone wars. Baseball writer Stacey Gotsulias exclaimed on Twitter, “So people think Damar Hamlin didn’t make it and a clone is walking around? You know what? I want the earth to stop spinning. I cannot take this anymore. I cannot live among these people anymore”:
And Howard P. Forman, MD, MBA, a professor of radiology, economics, public health, and management at Yale University, echoed the sentiments of Cenk Uygur, the creator of The Young Turks progressive news and commentary program:
It wasn’t an exact copy of what Uygur had said. But it was in the same vein. And, no, that was not a secret signal to “them” to inject something into someone’s vein.
Such continuing conspiracy theories appear to be pushing the idea that there is some kind of massive cover-up around the Covid-19 vaccines. The repeated assertion is that if you debunk these conspiracy theories, you actually in on it, the cover-up, that is. What’s the overall goal of these conspiracy theories? One possibility is to sow so much doubt in the government, regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the medical and scientific communities, and other legitimate institutions and communities so that regulation and oversight are pulled back. This would then allow people and companies to even more easily sell all kinds of unscientific and potentially dangerous bleep like quack treatments, cockamanie diets, and other not-so-fine-feathered stuff. Another possibility is foreign influence trying to tear down trust in America’s institutions and create some anarchy. A third possibility is distraction, where personalities, politicians, and others are trying to distract you from what they are doing or not doing.
While these may sound like conspiracies theory about conspiracy theories to some, the spread of conspiracy theories has now become too regular, too organized for them to simply originate from that uncle who doesn’t seem quite right or that neighbor who wears the tin foil hat a little too often. Regardless, the conspiracy theories that have spread on social media and been amplified by some politicians and TV/radio/podcast personalities often have pushed unscientific information that has gone against evidence-based health recommendations. This could put a lot of people in very unsafe situations and end up in human suffering and costing lives. In other words, if you start believing these conspiracy theories that really don’t offer any real evidence, you’ve got another thing coming. And, no, that is not referring to a clone.