COVID Conspiracies: It's Funny Until It's Not

Three of today’s biggest coronavirus conspiracy theories make us wonder whether Darwin somehow got it horribly wrong

Ishani Nandi Updated: May 14, 2020 15:31:47 IST
2020-05-14T13:12:39+05:30
2020-05-14T15:31:47+05:30
COVID Conspiracies: It's Funny Until It's Not Photo: Shutterstock

Dust off the tin-foil hats and unlock the underground bunkers, folks—its conspiracy theory time again. From a fake landing on the moon and extraterrestrial reptilian humanoids walking among us to secret societies controlling the world (okay, that seemed pretty convincing at first) and a government-controlled alien hub in Area 51—it seems whenever humanity is confronted with events that boggle the mind, a few among us get back at the world with chilling ideas to explain them.

Our current predicament, a global pandemic, is, of course, no exception, as conspiracy theorists get cracking on answering the big questions of the day—Why is this happening to us? Where did the virus come from? Who do I blame? How can I connect my misery to someone or something I already hate?—while skilfully sidestepping other, irrelevant questions—Where’s the proof? How do you know? And, what are you smoking?

Fun and jokes aside, conspiracy theories have the powerful effect of offering confused and scared people some answers in a world where things don’t make sense and authorities can’t be trusted. The very real and serious downside to this? As more people begin to believe this misinformation, healthcare measures designed to contain a pandemic and organize relief efforts are thwarted, precisely at a time when the smallest setback could cost lives.

The Chinese did it …

Since early January, word began to spread that the novel coronavirus is actually a bioweapon, engineered by humans, and either deliberately released or accidentally let loose by the Chinese to wreak havoc and emerge as a new world-dominating power. This claim was supported by the fact that Wuhan, China, the first known location from which the virus was transmitted from an animal to humans, is close to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, whose labs study the world’s deadliest viruses. The belief became widespread enough to cause many, including certain world leaders, to dub the pathogen as a  “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus”.

Scientists have categorically debunked this claim ever since a study titled The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2 definitively stated that the virus cannot be man-made because the only way humans can create a new virus is from an existing one, and the novel coronavirus bears no similarity to already discovered viruses.

This idea that one country is responsible for the pandemic problem has perhaps gained so much steam because it not only focuses one’s attention to a singular enemy, it also validates a lot of pre-existing prejudices and mystery around a country that hasn’t done itself any favours when it comes to gently explaining to the world its stance on topics like surveillance, information control and unique dietary choices. The fallout on other people and cultures, such as students from North-East India being spat on and called 'Chinese’ and ‘corona’ is just gravy on rice.

Actually, Bill Gates did it

In 2015, billionaire business magnate and philanthropist, Bill Gates delivered a TED talk where he used the example of the Ebola crisis to call for greater preparedness for the next worldwide disease outbreak.  “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next two decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus … We’re not ready for the next epidemic,” he forewarns, leading plenty of people wondering—did he (gasp) know about the COVID pandemic before it hit? How else could he have known?

How? Maybe because Gates, a highly intelligent person with massive wealth and resources, has dedicated his life to working closely with organizations to combat major global problems such as poverty, child mortality and disease eradication … maybe.

Or maybe, he knew because he started the problem in the first place so he could profit from the sale of a vaccine. That’s what the anti-vaccine lobby—a group of people who believe that smallpox, polio and diphtheria can be cured through prayer—has been proposing. And it's not just money that Gates is after. The “antichrist” as one Florida preacher calls Gates in a YouTube video, has even included micro-dot surveillance chips in the vaccines that can monitor our every move, once injected.

Like all the best lies, these theories come from a micro-dot of truth—Gates has pushed for vaccines that can save children and improve lives; the Gates Foundation has funded research to develop invisible ink stamps on kids at the time of vaccination that lasts for five years and records their immunization; contact tracing and population tracking to monitor the spread of disease is real. Adding the Devil’s horns and pitchfork to this picture is just creative licence.

I heard it’s all because of 5G

Cell phone towers and human illness have long gone hand in hand and so it wasn’t long until faster internet speeds through 5G networks began to be blamed for the coronavirus spread. The explanation of how the two are connected is, unsurprisingly, a vague mishmash—the virus spreads through 5G waves, 5G radiowaves warm our bodies and lower our immunity, and the like.

The fact that organizations like the American Cancer Society have stated categorically that the energy levels of mobile radiofrequency waves are too low to cause humans cancer or other physical harm, or that the coronavirus has affected places where 5G hasn’t even been set up and people think it’s the name of a new rapper, has done little to stem the tide.

This theory made a particularly strong impact on people, especially in the UK, where around 50 5G cellphone towers were set on fire, leading to serious outrage that communications systems were being damaged during a time of emergency. But it’s an emotionally trying and frustrating few months—maybe hitting and burning up a big metal thingie just makes one feel better, and that’s all that matters.

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