Among the groups that oppose COVID-19 mitigating measures like masks, vaccines, and lockdowns, HART stands out by maintaining a relative veneer of respectability and reasonability. This is intentional. HART’s carefully curated front-facing membership includes physicians, scientists, economists, and psychologists with a broad range of expertise and decades of experience in their respective fields.
While other groups with similar aims come across as desperate and unhinged, HART seems professional and calm. Its full name—Health Advisory & Recovery Team—is comfortingly bland. Even its mission statement is milquetoast: “Our aim is to provide relevant scientific evidence in accessible forms, for a variety of audiences.” To wit, the United Kingdom-based group offers consultation to members of Parliament (MPs), the media, and the public. It promises to provide “evidence-based articles … based on the latest available data.”
But beneath this slickly sensible façade, leaked messages show that HART is not quite the moderate group of skeptical professionals with reservations about mask mandates, vaccines, and lockdown restrictions that it purports to be.
Inside its group chat, some members share conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic and world affairs. They talk about the “cabal” and “elites,” Bill Gates and George Soros, the Great “Reset,” whether the pandemic was planned and by whom, and hypothesize that vaccines might actually be a weapon to sterilize, infect, or even kill you—all fixations common among QAnon conspiracy theorists. One co-founder, Graham Hutchinson, whose name was scrubbed from the website weeks after HART’s Jan. 25 launch, has reportedly publicly spread QAnon theories.
While not every member in HART’s chats was seen espousing QAnon-type theories, Hart and Hutchinson did not respond to a request for comment to rebut the conspiratorial views that festered within their messages.
The Daily Dot reviewed thousands of messages from HART’s Rocket.Chat group obtained by DDoSecrets. The messages were downloaded by a person who obtained access after discovering a public link to the chat on HART’s website, according to Logically, which first reported on the leaked messages. The dates of the messages from Rocket.Chat, an alternative to Slack, range from weeks before HART launched to July 26.
HART took off the moment it launched last winter. Since creating accounts last December and January, respectively, the group has amassed more than 30,000 Twitter and 5,000 Facebook followers. Chats show that its success is due, at least partly, to a highly organized structure with clearly delineated roles for members, and how it strategically curated its public persona. “Vanilla,” is a term used in discussions about how it should appear to the public.
To many, particularly those underinformed or skeptical about COVID-19, HART comes across as a middle-of-the-road group of esteemed professionals concerned that our understanding of the pandemic and the restrictions implemented to minimize the virus’ spread were based more on hysteria than evidence. Behind the scenes in the group chat, a much different picture emerges. There, members openly traffic in conspiracies and outright falsehoods, many popular among QAnon followers.
QAnon is a conspiracy theory that the planet is controlled by a cabal of Satan worshippers who rape and eat children. Adherents believe that former President Donald Trump was fighting this cabal.
Some members openly talk about the cabal on HART’s group chat. In the same breath, they are nakedly ambitious about their aim to influence the British government.
In February, a member in the chats, whom HART describes as a retired doctor, wondered whether HART could get an audience with “Boris,” an apparent reference to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “Feel that he is the weakest link in the cabal,” she added.
A few months later, an extremely active member—who Logically reports formerly described herself as a homeopath specializing in treating autism and “vaccine damage”—wondered how the “CCP & the central banking ‘elite’ fit together.” Another member replied, “Some people claim that the CCP was formed by the cabal. The old families after the second world war.” The CCP refers to China’s Communist Party.
On another day, she wondered why Gates would work with China, knowing that they “won’t care about” him “except as a way of bringing down the US.” This, she said, “makes them allies in an axis of slave class evil.”
“Great interview and article,” she commented.
When discussing the vaccine, a member commented that human DNA has largely remained unchanged for centuries. Another person responded “[N]ot if Gates has his way…human DNA could be a right mess by the time he’s done his worst!” She’s apparently referring to the false claim that COVID-19 vaccines alter DNA.
Other members have opined that the pandemic was part of Gates’ plan to build a massive surveillance state by implanting tracking devices in vaccines, and uncritically shared links to articles with insidious theories, such as that Gates, Soros, and a Rockefeller (it’s not clear which) created COVID-19.
The claims mimic QAnon thinking, which has metastasized over the pandemic, becoming a grand conspiracy of everything.
While claims espoused by QAnon believers have been proven false, only rarely does anyone appear to push back against even the boldest assertions in HART’s chat. On the contrary, an extremely active member thanked the other for sharing the article about Gates, Soros, and Rockefeller creating COVID-19.
Also like QAnon, there are comments that some may take as antisemitic. When a member in the group took issue with the company’s Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla saying they were licensed to vaccinate people aged 16 and up (they only have emergency use authorization, he complained), another member replied, “He’s far too busy counting his shekels … to give a toss.”
From the beginning, HART has been extremely careful about maintaining its public image. Many members from the above discussion are not mentioned on its website—and neither are many other members who share among the more extreme statements in the group chat.
Hutchinson, one of the group’s co-founders, is another person whom HART has appeared to distance itself from. On Jan. 9, weeks before launch, Hutchinson tweeted that he was “coordinating easy actions daily” for the group. When HART launched, Hutchinson’s name appeared on the website. Within weeks, he’d been removed. But Hutchinson, a former biomedical scientist, remained active behind the scenes for months afterward. The Daily Dot found him in the group chat until at least the end of April.
It’s not clear why HART and Hutchinson may have parted ways, if in fact they really have. He has become something of a polarizing figure who traffics in some wild theories online, but this isn’t a new development. Hutchinson was tweeting conspiracy theories about the “unnecessary COVID vaccine,” Bill Gates, pedophiles, and Trump long before HART launched.
“Yesterday I considered the source, now “The Fear of The Covid”
Agenda-ists Fascism, Communism, Globalism, Climatism, Eugenics
The Anti-Trump – as above plus Democrats, Armouries, world leaders, UN, WEF, WHO, Monarchy, Paedo..”@GRHutchinson wrote on Twitter.
In the group chat in March, Hutchinson shared his theory that COVID-19 “was designed to remove Trump from power by everyone being locked down and having to use mail-in ballots.” He opined that the speed of the spread surprised “them.” (It’s not clear which “them” he’s referring to.)
“That led to the BLM riots scaring people into not going out,” Hutchinson continued. “The ‘mask’ thing seemed also to be aimed at Trump … In the end they succeeded. I do think the apparent global co-ordination of the latest ‘new fear’ is beyond coincidence.”
You won’t find references to China, Bill Gates, Trump, or sinister plots by the cabal on HART’s front-facing image. But the chats show that these views lie just beneath the surface of its efforts to influence the conversation about COVID-19, vaccines, and masks.