Church of Conspiracy: the Fauci Patents

As many have experienced, the COVID disinformation engine has jumped the shark. It has become nearly impossible to talk to friends and relatives about medicine and science. Those categories have been replaced with the mislabeling of “politics,” which is bizarre when the state of scientific knowledge remains unchanged whether we are standing among Democrats and Republicans in the US, or in a completely different political landscape in Europe or Asia. I’ve tried to engage and generally met with failure. The experience has been oddly similar to interfacing with young-earth creationists. The disinformation crowd has gone full fundamentalist, mingling misunderstanding with belligerence and brimstone.

This article is an adaptation from an email I sent to some of the anti-vaxxers I know. That dialogue has been long and unhappy, and it has since lapsed. But I was encouraged by others to post some of the content (of which there is a great deal), in the hopes that it might help a reader or two. I’m not sure how much energy I will assign to this effort, but at the least, I’ll put forward this installment…

The Claim

I was recently talking to someone who said that Fauci owned one or more COVID vaccine patents, and that he was directly profiting from the COVID vaccines. They went on with fervor to say that Fauci is a bad person; he is a fraud; and he should be in prison. Thus, the overall story included both fact assertions and character judgments.

The Online Rumor

As a rule, conspiracy generators are unoriginal and procedurally lazy. They do not typically engage in serious study or data collection. I found that different rumors of this sort have been circulating since 2020; it is a fairly well-worn trope of the anti-vax and conspiracy-theory crowds. It changes shape and attaches itself to one pharmaceutical product and then another, but the major lines are generally the same.

This Newsweek article includes a more recent mention related to RFK Jr., who has been advancing the patent related rumor.

Key Question

Stories can garner widespread support among readers for various reasons. The popularity of any tale always indicates something. This story about Fauci exists and has spread fairly well. But why does this story exist and spread?

For any conspiracy theory, we can minimally ask the following two-part question:

  • Is there real evidence that this story is true, such that people should believe it?
  • Or do people want to believe it, whether they have evidence or not?

Two Paths

There are two ways that any story can be evaluated. The first is to “outsource” the checking to a third party. Referring to the fact checkers is generally a good first step and can give readers a basic sense of the various claims. But make no mistake: fact checkers are a secondary source. The original article we want to evaluate is itself usually a secondary source too.

This can lead to “your source” vs “my source” claims in discussions. Some folks despair of the apparent subjectivity; others relish in claiming false equivalence for their favored tales. But as will become apparent later, there are real, objective ways out of this sand trap – by doing more work and going to primary sources.

Checking with the Fact Checkers

Nonetheless, I’ll start with consumer-oriented fact checks. The Newsweek article discusses responses from Fauci and the NIH:

…while the National Institute of Health has said that it is seeking patents related to work done by its scientists that contributed to the development of the Moderna vaccine, any resulting patents would belong to the agency—not Fauci… 

The situation NIH describes would be normal, because Fauci is an employee of the government. Government employees ritually sign over their intellectual property rights. Here is another, blunt fact check of the claim from The Dispatch. And this one from Reuters has even more information.

Primary Sources

While these articles were easy to find, I personally did not settle for anyone else’s commentary. As mentioned, such articles are secondary sources. Instead, I went to the primary source. I looked up the patents with Fauci’s name using the publicly available US Patent Office website.

These are the patents that mention Anthony Fauci:

The entries look like this:

Many of these pertain to AIDS. Some mention mRNA. It is not clear to me whether any of them could/would be used in the current vaccines; subject matter expertise would be required to answer that question. It is possible that the current vaccine patents are still pending and not actually finalized, since none of these date to 2020/21. But here is the material point: the assignee (i.e., the owner) of all these patents is the US government, not a private individual or company:  

The United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services

Here is an example:

Speaking from personal experience, I am listed as an inventor on multiple patents. But I do not make money off of those patents, because I am not the assignee. Those patents belong to the people who paid for the development efforts. Likewise, we would not expect Fauci to make money from these patents, because he does not own them. He is merely an inventor. This is exactly per expectation for a federal employee, and per the statement of the Newsweek piece. Employers almost always own the rights to any inventions and patents that employees generate.

The failure to understand the difference between the inventor and the assignee is a classic category error. Perhaps the people who are circulating this rumor don’t know the difference. Perhaps they simply relish conspiracies more than they want facts. 

Bottom Line

This story about Fauci appears to be a rumor.

Perhaps one day we will find out that Fauci really was corrupt. That there really were back room deals and ill-gotten gains. That he was willing to trade his entire legacy for riches, at the age of 80, when he could not hope to spend them. Perhaps.

But given the actual information we have in hand today, there does not appear to be any real evidence for this rumor. I wish people did not buy into mere tales so easily, and that they would make the small obligatory effort to fact-check what they read. If they did so, they would be wrong far less often. At a cognitive level, belief in rumors points to gullibility – a weak mental filter for vetting information. But we must go beyond the thought dimension and get down to the emotions involved.

Believing and broadcasting such tales says something about the believer. They want it to be true. They want to believe it in the absence of any compelling evidence. They take the story on faith. Faith means believing and asserting things as true without supporting evidence. The unevidenced assertions about Fauci in this case are faith claims in the Church of Conspiracy. As in other faith communities, various beliefs are asserted well ahead of the evidence. And good luck to anyone attempting to reason against articles of faith.

Comments

  1. Dear Matt,

    There are far too many Covidiotic Maskholes in the Disunited States of America!

    In short, such Covidiots are no longer concerned with objective reality and impartial truth, nor reachable with verifiable facts, argumentation and fair reasoning.

    I can understand your frustrations, as I myself have to deal with Covidiots.

    Here is one example, and the blog post is centred around the highly misguided premise and erroneous belief that “Most Vaccinated People Will Die In Few Short Years” constituting gross misinformation or disinformation:

    http://therushhour.net/2021/07/26/covid-true-or-false/

    The blogger did not even approve of all of my nearly 20 comments in spite of my patience, edification and good intention. The blogger’s penultimate reply to me is as follows:

    LOL! I don’t know if I am totally ignorant or humble to God. I cannot imagine you having a real concern to care for me or any of us, blogging or otherwise. So what real concern would you have about our blogging, acceptance, interpretation or non acceptance of misinformation? Jack! That’s what I thought. I truly apologize if I or any of my colleagues have presented ourselves as overly tolerant but we do it for God. Know this, there is another side to midnight but we prefer to stay blessed and wish you God’s peace and blessings as well. 💗☀️

    I replied to the blogger with my following comment, which is not showing up at the blog post as it has not been approved, and the blogger has not owned up to any mistakes and irresponsibility, plus using various tactics to deny and deflect issues:

    How dismissive, inane and callous you can be!

    If I truly don’t care a hoot about you, I or anybody as you just (pro)claim, would I go to enormous lengths of commenting as I have on your blog and other people’s blogs, of composing posts and pages of value on my blogs and on the websites of some societies and organizations, and so on?

    The best and most dedicated amongst the likes of us are also inveterate teachers of everlasting, transcendental wisdom to save humans from themselves, their self-interests and their destructive ways. I often even have to coin new words to do so. The latest examples are my three neologisms “Misquotation Pandemic“, “Disinformation Polemic” and “Viral Falsity“, which you can see in my extensive and analytical post entitled “💬 Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic: 🧠 Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity 🦠“, which has so far garnered about 170 comments and 360 likes.

    Such Covidiots are no longer concerned with objective reality and impartial truth, nor reachable with verifiable facts, argumentation and fair reasoning.

    Happy September to you soon!

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Such Covidiots are no longer concerned with objective reality and impartial truth, nor reachable with verifiable facts, argumentation and fair reasoning.”

      Fundamentalists… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As an observer looking in, it is desperately sad to see the truly stupid blossom so vigorously in the US.

    Like

    • The stupids in America are a bit like Marty McFly in Back to the Future. All it took to get Marty to do something regrettable was to call him “chicken”. Here, all you have to do to get people to reject good, sound information in favor of nonsense is to suggest that someone is trying to trick them. That the government or some corporation is trying to con or control them. They are so eager to not be counted a sucker, that they will embrace any amount of nonsense just to be contrarian.

      Liked by 1 person

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SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ

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Michael Seidel, writer

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