Fact check: 'Rockefeller Playbook' and 'Operation Lockstep' are hoaxes

Chelsey Cox

The claim: COVID-19 is part of 'Operation Lockstep' from 'The Rockefeller Playbook'

Recent posts to Facebook about "Operation Lockstep," a COVID-19 conspiracy theory, have gone viral.

The posts feature a page that was allegedly scanned from "The Rockefeller Playbook" that outlines the three phases of public response to the pandemic.

Phase 1 includes "mild cold/flu" that the "media" will exaggerate to induce "mass paranoia and fear" and inflation of COVID-19 case numbers. Phases 2 and 3 are marked by weakened immune systems due to masks, social distancing, exposure to 5G radiation and the weaponization of a deadlier virus because of widespread refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The latter will result in "anarchy from all sides" between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The claim was posted to the Facebook page for Exposing Satanic World Government, the social media arm of Global Watchmen News. In response to a request for comment from the page, Laurie Swan sent USA TODAY a copy of a 2010 report published by the Rockefeller Foundation, a private foundation founded by the prominent Rockefeller family in 1913. The page's post has since been removed.

Additional copies of the claim appeared on Facebook on Jan. 2 and Jan. 9. Several posts — these from Jan. 4, Jan. 6, Jan. 9 and a Jan. 11 post from user Travis Aaron — include a picture of the cover of a 1989 book, "The New World Order," written by conspiracy theorist A. Ralph Epperson.

Epperson mentions former New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller several times throughout the book, but there is no reference to COVID-19, "Operation Lockstep," or a playbook, according to a scanned copy of "The New World Order" posted to Internet Archive.

USA TODAY has contacted the other Facebook users for comment.

"The Rockefeller Playbook" dates back to July, when rumors began to circulate on social media about a pandemic constructed by "global elites," to install a police state, according to Snopes. Local CBS News affiliate WUSA9 also published an article dismantling "Operation Lockstep."

USA TODAY has debunked prior claims labeling COVID-19 a "fraud." 

More:Fact check: Vaccination helped eradicate smallpox

What is 'Operation Lockstep'?

While "The Rockefeller Playbook" does not exist, the planning report released by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2010, "Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development," includes a section called "Lock Step."

The report describes a series of scenarios — including a pandemic — in which technology could be used to help to restore humanity. 

"The Rockefeller Foundation believes that in order to understand the many ways in which technology will impact international development in the future, we must first broaden and deepen our individual and collective understanding of the range of possibilities. This report, and the project upon which it is based, is one attempt to do that," reads an excerpt from the report.

The "Lock Step" section outlines a scenario of authoritarian control in the wake of a hypothetical novel influenza pandemic similar to COVID-19.

"Lock Step" envisions "a world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback," according to the report. In this world, 20% of the global population was infected with the novel virus and 8 million people were killed in seven months.

One excerpt is eerily reminiscent of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic: "The pandemic blanketed the planet — though disproportionate numbers died in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America, where the virus spread like wildfire in the absence of official containment protocols."

In reality, disproportionate numbers of deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in North America (United States), Brazil (South America) and India (South Asia), according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. More than 720,000 of over 1.9 million deaths happened in these countries. 

Another excerpt on the "mandatory wearing of face masks" and "body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets" parallels ongoing practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

But the novel coronavirus is not mentioned anywhere in the Rockefeller Foundation's report.

While the "Lock Step" scenario describes a continuation of authoritarian policies after the pandemic "fades," there is no reference to a plot to introduce a new virus into the population if a majority of people resist getting vaccinated against COVID-19, as the claims stated.

"Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development" does not present evidence of an elite conspiracy to incite worldwide anarchy through COVID-19.

Our rating: False

We rate these claims as FALSE, based on our research. "The Rockefeller Playbook" and "Operation Lockstep" do not exist. The claim borrows scenarios from "Lock Step," a section of "Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development," a report published by the Rockefeller Foundation. The report makes no reference to COVID-19, a vaccine against the disease or plans to introduce a police state during a pandemic.

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