Coronavirus And Conspiracy Theories: A Match Made In Heaven

Not heaven. Hell. I meant to write “A Match Made In HELL.”

Welp, I got “unfriended” on Facebook again this week. I’m sure you are SHOCKED to discover that this is not all that uncommon for me. I’ve actually calmed down quite a bit compared to what I used to be like. I used to come at people, guns blazing, way more often… But I still get worked up every now and then. And the thing that is raising my blood pressure these days is when people — during this crazy time in world history — are passing along conspiracy theories about this virus. It’s ESPECIALLY infuriating when those things are passed along by people I respect. For example, there is an article going around that I keep running into. It’s titled “Epidemiologist: Coronavirus could be ‘exterminated’ if lockdowns were lifted,” and it was posted on a far-right website called “collegefix.com” that masquerades as “news.” If you’re not interested in clicking on the article, believe me: I understand. It basically says that what we need to do is just go about our daily lives and let people contract this virus to develop herd immunity, and the person saying this has a “PhD” behind his name, so that gives it an air of credibility.

At least four people I know in real life shared that article. They were ALL people I like. On one post, I explained that there is about 99% consensus from the the scientific & medical communities that employing a strategy like this would end up killing more people than the holocaust. I told her, “I know this is not your heart for people.” Next thing you know, I’m blocked. No discussion… Just blocked.

It is fascinating to me that there are so many people in the world who are willing to completely ignore the expert opinions of 99% of the world’s virologists and epidemiologists and scientists — as if scientific consensus is not real or important — and THEN have the nerve to cling to the debunked theories of a discredited outlier who happens to have a PhD. People act like the letters behind his name MEAN something to them, or like they respect the concepts of expertise or the scientific method… Like THAT’S the reason they’re listening, and NOT because they are so desperately searching for someone, ANYONE, to quench their thirsty confirmation bias.

With the article I mentioned above, people are choosing to stay willfully & stubbornly ignorant of the opinions of 10s of thousands of PhDs, just to cling to the interview of one man (who is willing to let millions and MILLIONS die to let this virus take its “natural course”), and they act like they respect his doctorate. If this is you, I’ve got news for you:

YOU DON’T.

You don’t respect a doctorate, or the rigorous process people go through to achieve those letters. If you did, you would respect the opinion of the 99% of scientists who are actually interested in LESSENING the harm this virus is inflicting on millions, while it grows exponentially every day. And the most disrespectful part is the conspiracy-soaked idea that the 99% — The ones forming scientific CONSENSUS — are either dumber than you about their LIFE’S WORK, or they are somehow “all in on it,” and they are trying to lie to us all, rather than working to keep us safe. They are “hiding the truth.” Just like they did with vaccines… Right? “YES!” yells a generation who has never seen the ravaging effects of polio, or watched kids die of measles & smallpox. There is a TON of crossover between coronavirus conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers. I think the anti-vaxxers believe this is all a conspiracy to force them into getting a vaccine… But then these folks somehow have the gall to even utter the words “herd immunity,” while rejecting that idea when doctors explain why the world needs vaccines.

These “let it work its way through the population” theories reek of eugenics. There were many German doctors in the 30s who would probably have agreed with this PhD… The one who spoke with the vigorously vetted and world-respected medical journal “TheCollegeFixDotCom.” This dangerous, HARMFUL, willful ignorance & distain for expertise would be so much easier to stomach if people would just be honest and admit that they have NO respect for people who spent 12 full years of their lives or more focused on learning about science & medicine, and in reality they think they know more than them because they have Google on their phone. And we end up with millions of people like the dad from “So I Married An Axe Murderer.”

One of these conspiracies that has gotten some footing is the idea that 5G cell phone towers are what is causing this. And though most of you read that sentence and thought “WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?” there are some who were like, “Wait, you know, there might actually be something TO that.” Just to clear things up, 5G towers are NOT causing COVID-19. The signal that 5G uses is the signal that brought TVs their picture for 40 years.  Remember when TVs all had to go digital? They were making room on that old signal for cell phones & data and whatnot. It’s radio. It has been tested & tested, and it is completely safe. HERE IS AN ARTICLE showing why this theory is nonsense, but in addition to the info in the article, it should be noted that 5G is only a few places, but this virus is everywhere. Places like Iran, India, & Japan have NO 5G towers, but they have been ravaged by COVID-19.

That article is harsher than it needs to be. There is a temptation to call people names when they believe things that clearly (to you) don’t make any sense. I’m convinced this does absolutely NOTHING to help them understand (even though it might help you feel better). Part of a conspiracy theorist’s mindset is anti-intellectualism and an antipathy toward expertise… So if you know more than them about something, they are already not really liking the way you are making them feel. Mocking them plays right into the conspiratorial mindset. And calling them an “idiot” or a “moron” is just going to make them plug their ears even harder. So I’ve been trying to ask more questions — A good question is way more powerful than a good answer — and I’ve been trying to provide links to facts about the issue being discussed. The PROBLEM is that if people are full-on conspiracy theorist, then EVERYONE is in on it… Including all the “experts” writing all those “facts” on all those “reputable sites.”

So yeah, 5G is not behind this. These sorts of viruses happen every so often in world history, regardless of technological advances. The TRUTH is that this is what viruses do… They mutate. And they ESPECIALLY mutate when they are passed between humans and animals and back and forth. That is what we have here: A novel version of the SARS virus that was contained in the early 2000s. Whenever tragedies & hardships appear, it’s human nature to think “There must be some REASON for this.” For many in the past (as well as an older, more conservative generation), the “reason” for a plague must have been “God is angry” or “We are being punished for something we have done wrong.” Kind of like Pat Robertson blaming every earthquake and tornado on “the gays.” Right now, many people (especially younger folks, who are not as easily swayed into religious explanations for things) are desperate for a reason for this new, strange, scary thing… And many have been seduced by conspiracy theories that involve an IRRATIONAL amount of the world’s specialists to be in on the hoax, and actively lying to people. But listen: If you believe in something that would require more people to be “in on it” than those who aren’t, you are believing something foolish. You are being DECEIVED.

A lot of people are staying in because they are scared, but they are also desperate for something to explain this. Folks who used to swear by the healing powers of essential oils are suddenly buying a lot of Lysol. But being scared & ignorant/misinformed at the same time is a dangerous combination. A lot of folks just don’t know what to believe. Is this all a government plot? Ironically, many of those who think that some “Deep State” is controlling everything are ALSO the same people who believe that government is too inept to get anything done. Y’all, there are 12 MILLION PEOPLE in the United States who believe that Lizard People control politics. But again, don’t call people idiots… Don’t call people idiots… DON’T call people idiots… 

Sings

I don’t think you’re and idiot, but I do think you are wrong. Here are some fact-based reasons why…

 

It’s very sad for me to watch once reasonable friends slowly inch their way toward full-on embracing of a conspiracy theory mindset… mostly because the majority of people don’t come back from it. They start by posting articles from sites that aren’t even CLOSE to being reputable sources. They express frustration at being called out on their false & misleading stories, and they start feeling resentful toward expertise & people who “think they’re better than me” because they post links to fact-checking sites. They insist they are just posting another point of view, and encourage people to “do their own research.” Before long, they are sharing stories detailing how the major news outlets are all “in on it.” Next thing you know, they are putting the words “reputable sources” in quotation marks, and by then, it’s all over… Snopes is run by George Soros, vaccines cause autism, 9/11 was an inside job, Sandy Hook was faked, Coronavirus came from cell phone towers, and this whole “pandemic” and all these “deaths” and “mass graves” are all an elaborate liberal hoax designed to get people believing in nationalized healthcare & addicted to suckling at the government’s teat. Before you know it, PizzaGate is real… Obama was born in Kenya… Global Warming is a hoax… The moon landing was faked… The Earth is actually flat… THERE IS NO TRUTH!

Like millions of Americans, I lost my job because of this virus, and with it, my feeling of safety and self-reliance. If this goes on too long, I have no idea how I’ll be able to pay my bills or provide for my family. And that makes me feel afraid… So, like most people, I would very much like for things to “get back to normal.” I ALSO happen to love people who are at high risk for having this virus end their lives. And I care absolutely NOTHING about a job or an economy (or the hurt feelings of friends on Facebook) compared to the love I feel for those vulnerable folks, and my desire to keep them safe from this very REAL threat. The fear and anxiety I feel while staying home or making the occasional trip to the store does not even come close to comparing with the deep love I have for the these people in my life. I have people I love who are doctors & nurses, and they are AFFECTED by the spreading of these lies. These lies cause harm. They are not “in on the conspiracy.” They are scared too, and they want you to take this seriously & stay home so they can be with their loved ones again.

Honestly, it makes me sick to my stomach when I see people trying to talk others into distrusting the very people who are working to try to keep us safe and healthy. Believe me, I know it is NOT fun getting into it with conspiracy theorists… Many of them are too far gone to have any hope of changing their minds. But other people are listening in. And they need to be reminded of rational arguments. It’s important for everyone that we challenge the folks who are working to make it seem like you can’t believe anything, and everything is “fake news,” and everyone is “in on it.” That belief is dangerous. As we have seen in this administration’s incompetent, deadly response to this crisis, a suspicious, paranoid, conspiracy theorist’s mindset can end up costing people their lives.

 

Here’s something that’s not a conspiracy theory: I’m happy  you read this. If this blog is special to you, and you’d like to help support me & my writing, please consider BECOMING A PATRON. A person named Thom just did, and I can’t tell you how encouraging that is. If signing up to give a couple bucks a month is not your thing, and you’d rather leave a tip on PayPal, you can do that RIGHT HERE. Or you can Venmo your generosity to “chris-boeskool.” Also, make sure to follow me ON TWITTER, and like MY FACEBOOK PAGE. Now, go forth and show the world how to identify a reputable source!

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4 Responses to Coronavirus And Conspiracy Theories: A Match Made In Heaven

  1. Veronica Bobo says:

    Unfortunately Chris, the people who read your column are people who agree with you. You’re preaching to the choir. It’s just so frustrating to hear otherwise intelligent people embrace these idiotic conspiracy theories. Mankind needs a predator, and now it seems we have one.

    • theboeskool says:

      I figured maybe some can reply to CTs with this post, and maybe be encouraged to talk to folks who are sliding towards a conspiratorial mindset? In online conversations, there are always other people watching… And forming opinions. Those are the folks that are still saveable.

  2. mike says:

    Especially like your admonitions to not call people idiots, and to ask questions rather than scream answers. In the last 3 weeks I’ve spoken to three 2016 Trumpsters who now, like Peter, disavow 45 in spades & want him gone. This is a good sign methinks. I never challenged any of them aggressively – always said this is still America & you are entitled to your opinion & your vote. Sometimes you have to let the train crash to make a difference.

  3. Pingback: Anti-Maskers: It’s Not Freedom You’re Fighting For… It’s Selfishness | The Boeskool

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