Until last month, Martha, a 32-year-old western lowland gorilla, lived at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. According to a slew of COVID truther articles, newsletters, and social media posts, she was a happy, healthy mother—until zoo staff senselessly injected her with a COVID-19 vaccine. Then she died suddenly and unexpectedly of multiple organ failure, stemming from an undetected fibrosing heart disease. Which, to anti-vax eyes, was clearly caused by the jab. (It wasn’t).
This is a compelling narrative for many in the truther crowd. It seems to signal a new level or type of so-called COVID tyranny, and involves a uniquely tragic victim—a sweet, endangered animal. Yet for all its novel elements, this tale still appears to be grounded in long-standing truther tropes about the risks that vaccines supposedly—but in fact do not—pose to heart health and current or expectant mothers in particular. Accordingly, it’s triggered a fresh round of digital outrage as it’s spread across fringe corners of social media.
“TOTALLY UNNECESSARY TO GIVE THE ANIMALS THE VACCINE FOR COVID. FAUCI’S NA?I [Nazi] SCIENCE KILL HER,” one account on Twitter blared in a tweet posted on May 7. The tweet ultimately linked back to a conspiratorial Substack newsletter post about Martha’s death that has circulated widely in vaccine-skeptic circles.