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QAnon Supporter Veronica Wolski Died of COVID-19. But Conspiracies Helped Kill Her...

Rex Huppke, Tribune Content Agency on

Veronica Wolski was a believer in the deeply unhinged QAnon conspiracy theory. When it came to COVID-19, she was anti-vaccine and anti-mask, at one point standing on a pedestrian bridge over Chicago's Kennedy Expressway with a sign that read “Ax the vax.” She became a darling in the dark fringes of the internet for believing ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasitic worms, was a COVID-19 cure-all.

Wolski is now dead. She died early Monday from pneumonia due to COVID-19 infection with hypothyroidism as a contributing factor, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

As Americans lose patience with, and sympathy for, COVID-19 vaccine conspiracists, some will write off Wolski’s death from the virus with a shrug and an offhand remark: Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

But her death should give us all pause. She died of COVID-19, but she was killed in part by opportunistic nonsense-peddlers and their addictive patter of lies. That siren song led the 64-year-old to her grave, while doing harm to others along the way.

The QAnon followers who embraced her flooded the hospital with calls demanding Wolski be given ivermectin. They labeled people at the hospital — doctors and nurses who have spent the past year and a half saving lives on the front lines of this pandemic — murderers, and claimed Wolski was a victim of “medical tyranny.” They leveled threats.

The harassment was ginned up by high-profile national QAnon profiteers like former Donald Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and disgraced pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood. They didn’t see Wolski as a human being. They saw her as a patsy who could help them keep their followers riled up, an easy mark to elevate their perverse brands.

 

Wood announced Wolski’s death on his Telegram account, which has about 815,000 subscribers, and wrote: “Now on Earth, it is our responsibility to ensure that these medical murders stop NOW and the perpetrators be brought to justice.”

The conspiracies that drove Wolski to resist simple measures that could have protected her from the coronavirus are the same ones that gave birth to the hundreds of domestic terrorists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, convinced, without a lick of evidence, that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen. It’s the same pack of conspiracies that is leading thousands of Americans to die from a virus rather than receive a safe and effective vaccine.

And while it’s easy to look at people leaping down rabbit holes and figure natural selection will sort things out, those deceived by opportunists with ill intent often cause collateral damage.

Few of us knew Wolski. She spent years visiting that pedestrian bridge, first hoisting signs in support of former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, then switching to QAnon, which, as described in a recent Public Religion Research Institute study, alleges that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.” According to the study, 15% of Americans believe that nonsense.

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