To most people who meet him, Michael Chaves appears an unassuming, married 55-year-old former paramedic who spends his time in the office, at the gym and walking his dogs in the park.
But online, he boasts a significant following peddling ludicrous conspiracy theories about Covid vaccines. On his channel ‘Mad Mix Conspiracies’, thousands of followers tune in to hear Chaves claiming the pandemic is a hoax and that the jabs — which have saved millions of lives globally — are deadly.
In one video, for example, Chaves claimed: ‘The [Covid-19] tests are purely about collecting people’s DNA.’ On Tuesday, Chaves finally reached the national audience he no doubt dreams of when he and a merry band of fellow anti-vaccine protesters filmed themselves marching to the home of BBC Two presenter Jeremy Vine, to serve him a ‘writ’.
Mr Vine’s crime was a comment about the Covid vaccine on his show last week. During a discussion about whether unvaccinated footballers should be banned from playing, Vine said: ‘I guess we either allow this or we end up holding people down and jabbing them by force.’
In context, it was perfectly clear that Mr Vine was not calling for compulsory vaccination — but that didn’t stop anti-vaxxers from splicing the remark and posting it on Twitter and the encrypted messaging app Telegram, where it has been viewed tens of thousands of times.
Within days, a mob was at Mr Vine’s door, handing his shocked wife a ‘Notice of Liability’, a phoney legal document described as ‘clearly nonsense’ by one lawyer. It warned Mr Vine: ‘You are a participant . . . in the deceit/fraud called the ‘Covid pandemic’.’