Recently I have become aware of several conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19. Conspiracy theories are “attempts to explain events by identifying a group of actors working in secret to benefit themselves at the expense of others.” (American Conspiracy Theories”, 32)
“They rely on three basic premises: nothing happens by accident, nothing is as it seems, and everything is connected.” (“A Culture of Conspiracy”, 3-4)
I am perplexed by some of these theories, probably because I don't see what secret groups they benefit and I don't particularly agree with the absolutist premises, but I'm sure people who do could enlighten me . . .
The first one I heard maintains there isn't really a pandemic. Haven't you seen those empty hospital waiting rooms and parking lots? They prove that there are no patients in there. I guess in normal times, those rooms and lots are empty at 10 p.m. because all of the patients and visitors went home for the night.
And of course, for this theory to be true, all those doctors and health-care workers would have to be perpetuating the cover-up. They're in there partying all day, wearing all that stylish PPE to mislead us.
A different theory doesn't deny the pandemic. Instead, it maintains that 5G towers are spreading it. You know--those towers that provide “the next generation of mobile broadband.” The ones that provide the faster downloading and uploading speeds we all demand.
They predate the virus, but I guess they've been modified to spread it, thereby justifying vandalizing them. You'd have to ask someone who believes this how “they're” getting the virus to the towers and what the point is for spreading it this way, since it seems to be doing pretty well on its own on the ground . . .
A third theory comes from Dean Koontz's book, “The Eyes of Darkness.” This maintains that Koontz “predicted” the pandemic in his 1981 thriller. This theory shows a page from the book where a human-made virus called “Wuhan-400,” with a four hour incubation period, has a 100% fatality rate.
This analogy sort of indicates that Wuhan failed miserably in 2020, with a fatality rate of about 2% and a 2-14 day incubation period.
However, in the original book, the city was “Gorki-400.” In 1981, we were still in the Cold War. By 1989, when the town was changed, relations with Russia were considerably warmer, so the location wasn't appropriate. No one is sure if the publisher or the author did this, but Wuhan appears to be a random choice.
The second part of this theory comes from another page posted that supposedly describes this pandemic. Unfortunately for the Koontz believers, this passage is from a book written in 2008 by Sylvia Browne.
Anti-vaxxers also have a conspiracy theory. They maintain that Bill Gates is behind the drive to find a vaccine (and yes, he donated a sizable amount to these efforts) so that he can surreptitiously embed a micro-chip into our arms to track our whereabouts. I don't know about you, but I find it hard to believe that Bill Gates cares about where I am or what I'm doing.
And anyway, doesn't my phone's GPS already do that? As well as security cameras all over the place to tell you what I'm doing or not doing.
Conspiracy theories and theorists didn't suddenly surface with COVID-19. The fact that the pandemic has spawned them probably shouldn't be surprising, since they basically reflect ways of thinking about the world around us. What they all share, though, is that you can't argue with them.
Whatever evidence you put forth, they will maintain that 1) nothing happens by accident, 2) evidence is fabricated to distract you from the truth, and 3) they know the truth, and you have been duped.
Ultimately, “belief in a conspiracy theory becomes a matter of faith” that encourages the listener to “wake up and see that the government, scientists, and media are lying . . .” ( Jackson, 3-4)
Ironically, a current study reported in “Business Insider” found that people who rely on YouTube and social media for most of their information are more susceptible to these theorists and more likely to break quarantine and lock-down rules.
By extension, less likely to seek outside verification. Doing that might have helped the Ohio man who called the pandemic a “political ploy” and railed against stay-at-home orders. He died from COVID-19.
We don't like our freedom of movement curtailed. We don't like to be told we must wear a mask (though we don't seem inclined to protest against “No shirt, no shoes, no service” rules). Maybe it's not strange, then, that people look for alternate justifications. Using conspiracy theories to do that, though, seems a little extreme. And possibly dangerous.
Note: I am indebted for some information in this article to my good friend, Doctor Greg Moore, for sharing materials that he uses in his Terrorism class.