Crackpot Conspiracy Theories Have Consequences

On Wednesday evening, I received a telephone call from an acquaintence. Having asked how I was, she proceeded to relate how she’d watched a video which explained that COVID-19 (the Corona Virus) is a hoax and is, in point of fact caused by radiation generated from mobile telephone masts.

I responded that the persons promulgating such theories are “nutters” and conspiracy theorists and that such ideas are highly dangerous as they mislead people into believing fraudulent claims and by so doing actually help to spread not only the Corona Virus, but also the virus of misinformation. Eventually the conversation ended leaving me seething inwardly.

Lies/conspiracy theories have consequences as exemplified by the attacks which have taken place not only on mobile telephone masts but also on engineers tasked with maintaining them. See, for example this article in “Wired”, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/5g-coronavirus-conspiracy-theory-attacks.

One of the instances sighted in the “Wired” article concerns an engineer who was spat upon by a conspiracy theorist. The engineer subsequently developed Corona as a consequence of the incident.

I am not, of course arguing that all followers of the (wholly eroneous) theory that 5G is responsible for Corona destroy masts or attack individuals. Most people holding such crackpot views do not engage in criminal activity. However anyone who perpetuates such myths is helping to spread untruths and thereby contributing to a climate of unreason in which attacks on masts (and individuals) are made more likely.

The conspiracy theory that 5G is the cause of the current epidemic (rather than the Corona Virus), lies in a long line of dangerous ideas. Back in medieval times it was believed that Jews poisoned wells and horrific acts of cruelty where committed against them owing to this wholly irrational belief, (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well_poisoning#Medieval_accusations_against_Jews).

Antisemitic conspiracy theories manifested themselves in their most extreme form in the Nazi “Final Solution” (the Third Reich’s attempt to exterminate European jewry, (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_Solution).

I am not suggesting that those who believe the present conspiracy theory regarding 5G are antisemitic (although some of them may well be). Rather I am arguing that (as with antisemitism) the present crackpot theory is based on unreason and is highly dangerous. So next time you receive a message on Watsap (or via some other form of social media) regarding an outlandish theory, please think very carefully before forwarding it on to others.

Kevin

16 thoughts on “Crackpot Conspiracy Theories Have Consequences

  1. acflory

    Well said. I’ve seen otherwise intelligent people spouting the same, irrational nonsense on social media, and there is inevitably a Greek Chorus of the misinformed who all nod wisely and go, ‘yes, yes’. I think part of it is that we’ve become conditioned to agree/like those we admire…without even reading what it is that they’re advocating. But that’s not all of it. We’ve also become conditioned to think that our beliefs are as ‘valid’ as scientific facts. I think that scares me more than anything else because we’ve never needed solid, scientific facts more than we do now.
    Stay well.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comments.

      I am sure you are right that part of the reason for people subscribing to such theories relates to a desire within them to be part of a group and/or to relate to the individual promulgating such opinions.

      I also suspect that some very lonely individuals want to belong/find purpose in their lives and by subscribing to conspiracy theories they find such purpose. This is what sometimes draws individuals towards Islamic extremism, the far-right or left, and I’m sure it can likewise cause people to embrace conspiracy theories.

      I agree with you that we need scientific fact. I think that part of the problem is that not all scientists agree on how best to combat the pandemic. Whilst many scientists support lockdowns as part of a solution, others are sympathetic towards the voluntary measures advocated by Sweden’s chief virologist, believing that voluntary (rather than mandatory) social distancing is the answer.

      Obviously we must be guided by the science, but we must also acknowledge that not all scientists are singing from the same hymn sheet. I am not a scientist. However, as a layman I want to know that science is subject to rigorous peer review so as to ensure (so far as is humanly possible) that we are basing decisions on scientific fact rather than on scientific theory.

      You to, stay well.

      Best, Kevin

      Reply
      1. acflory

        Yes, I agree completely re the psychological factors, and no, differing opinions advocated by scientists doesn’t help either. To be honest, I don’t understand the Swedish approach and haven’t seen any stats about how the country is going, but both the UK and the US delayed the lockdowns and both countries are now experiencing a terrible death toll.
        Science can tell us about viruses, but in this instance, it can’t tell us how best to survive this virus.

        I fear that the most logical strategy – i.e. let it rip through the whole world and pick up the pieces afterward, would destroy everything that’s still good about the human race. I honestly don’t think the species would be worth saving if we took that path.
        Take care. 🙂

      2. K Morris Poet Post author

        Social Darwinism is indeed an extreme approach.

        Although this is a terrible situation, looking back at the Spanish Flue helps to put it into some kind of historical perspective. After “The Great War”, closely followed by the flu, many people did, no doubt think that the end of the world was nigh. Yet humanity survived, and I’m sure it will outlast this pandemic also. You to, take care. Kevin

      3. acflory

        -grin- yes, humanity did survive but back then it took months to travel from say Great Britain to Australia. 100 on it takes 24 hours. This virus is a frequent flyer. 😀 Sorry, gallows humour.

      4. K Morris Poet Post author

        You made me smile. I do, however remain cautiously optimistic. It may well get worse before it gets better. But it will, eventually get better.

      5. K Morris Poet Post author

        I meant to add, in 1918 science was (to state the obvious) not as advanced as it is today. This also gives us an advantage over those who battled against the Spanish Flue pandemic.

  2. blindzanygirl

    Well said Kevin. I have often wondered why people who normally display intelligence become obsessed with such rubbish. And dangerous rubbish at that.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comment Lorraine. I agree with you. I think (as I said in response to a previous comment) that part of the answer lies in the desire of people to belong to a group. Also lonely people/outsiders can find “meaning” (admittedly of a very twisted and wholly illogical kind) by embracing comspiracy theories. Its the same state of mind which often leads people to embrace extremism of the left or right, or the Islamic variety. All the best, Kevin

      Reply
      1. blindzanygirl

        I know Kevin. I have a friend on Facebook who is a lovely person, a great mum, and very intellugent who has become rabid about conspiracy theories involving Covid 19. She spouts all sorts of stuff about it not really existing, but says it has been made up by the Aystralian government, to then control the people. Like Buig Brother. She tells people not to social distance, tells them to go to the park and let their kids go on the swings, etc. Dangerous stuff.

      2. K Morris Poet Post author

        Well that does, I suppose make a change from saying that “it was developed in a Chinese lab”, “by the US government”, or its all down to 5G! I hope your friend and her children stay safe Lorraine. Its strange that she should think that all those scientists are telling untruths, along with the media etc, but some people will always believe a theory, however outlandish it is.

      3. blindzanygirl

        I know Kevin. I don’t understand where she is coming from, as she loves her children dearly. But there you go!

  3. Victoria Zigler (@VictoriaZigler)

    Well said. I had a similar conversation with someone recently regarding a different theory. I won’t bother sharing what the theory was, but the conversation left me feeling much the same as yours seems to have left you. Spreading rumours is dangerous sometimes even with the milder ones. Spreading these kinds of conspiracy theories is so much more so, or has the potential to be. Just because you heard it somewhere, read it on some news site, or saw your friends talking about it on social media, that doesn’t make it true. Check your facts, and even then be cautious about pointing fingers and placing blame.

    Reply

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