A conspiratorial group of extreme Brexit lobbyists mounted an extraordinary campaign against one of the world’s most prestigious science journals – part of a series of joint investigations between Byline Times and Computer Weekly
One of the world’s most prestigious general science journals, Nature, was the target of a two-year-long sustained and virulent secret attack by a conspiratorial group of extreme Brexit lobbyists with high-level political, commercial and intelligence connections, according to documents and correspondence examined by Computer Weekly and Byline Times.
Anyone interested in the infodemic that swirled around the COVID pandemic knows how passionate and ill-informed some groups have been. They have harassed and targeted scientists, scientific journalists and scientific publications. The story recounted by this piece published by ComputerWeekly in October 2023 will not be a surprise, but it still reads like a plot for the great Slow Horses TV show. If you are interested in how to talk to people with strongly held conspiracy theories watch this TED Talk.
When their campaign flopped and a Covid vaccine promoted by the group failed to reach any form of clinical testing, the group arranged for unfounded accusations against Nature magazines and staff to be published by the Daily Telegraph and on other right wing news sites. They called themselves the “Covid Hunters”. Their allegations against science reporting helped fuel an explosion in “lab leak” claims on right-wing conspiracy sites.
Pushing their “extraordinary, true story” to a top Hollywood producer in 2020, the group wrote self-adulatory biographies and explained how fate had brought them together (see box: Covid Hunter heroes who became victims). The movie proposal portrayed them as victims of imagined Chinese-led information operations, aided and abetted by an imagined network of communist fellow travellers in the west. The movie idea “has all the ingredients of a major hit”, they blagged.