For many of us, 2020 has been one of the most disrupted years to live through. Hardly anyone has escaped the COVID-19 pandemic completely unscathed. But why, during this time, have we seen the internet and social media blow up with COVID-related conspiracy theories? They range from the plausible to the ridiculous, and people are hungry for answers. But, when does a conspiracy theory become more than that? When does it become fact? We take a closer look at some of the conspiracy theories doing the rounds today...
Why are there so many conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19?
According to social psychologist Roland Imhoff, we would expect conspiracy theories to be popular in times of crisis. In a broadcast with German news company, DW, he said, "It has to do with the function such narratives have for people. Because humans are, in general, averse to randomness. We do not like to give up control." He believes that in confusing times, people look for explanations to events. Because with explanations come predictions for the future and the possibility of controlling the next series of events.
Imhoff defines a conspiracy theory as the assumption that a big event - like a pandemic - is causally linked to a secret plan of a few people who seek to benefit at the expense of the public. But, no matter how you define conspiracy theories, you should probably know about the ones circulating today. Decide for yourself if these theories could, in fact, be true.
4 COVID-19 conspiracies you should know about
Feeling tired lately? Struggling with fatigue? It could be because of 5G. In terms of telecommunication, 5G is simply the next generation of cellular and wireless technology. Most companies began deploying 5G networks towards the end of last year. Coincidence? The 5G/COVID-19 conspiracy theory suggests that this technology is responsible for the rapid spread of the virus. Radiation from the masts allegedly compromises the immune system, leaving people vulnerable to coronavirus. Other side-effects of 5G include an increased risk of cancer, increased cellular stress, genetic damages and neurological disorders. If this is true, the effects could be colossal. But, with every argument for comes an argument against. Wi-Fi related allergies have reportedly been around for years. And theorists believe 5G to be bringing the next wave.
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Bill Gates and the deadly vaccine
Billionaire developer and business magnate Bill Gates is at the centre of another serious coronavirus conspiracy. Reports claim that Gates is making money off of the pandemic through the conducting of vaccine trials and tests around the world. Some even say he's behind the release of the virus, in order to have the vaccine deployed. The next level of the theory is that Gates is rolling out a microchip programme to embed chips into vaccinated people's hands to control them and track their data. It's up to you to decide if this sounds too absurd to be true, or if the fact that it's even being talked about is cause enough for concern.
A bio-engineered weapon
Some conspiracy theorists believe that coronavirus was deliberately released from a research lab in a small village in China. And that the ultimate goal is to achieve world order through fear of the virus. The next step is that the virus starts reducing the global population, or that a vaccine is released that could do more harm than good.
It's true that COVID-19 can be traced back to a lab in Wuhan. But these conspiracy theorists believe that the virus was deliberately engineered. And then either accidentally released and then covered up. Or intentionally released to damage the population in places like China and Hong Kong. We've been watching films about bio-engineered weapons for years, so could COVID-19 be the first one?
A numbers game
From the beginning, there have been rumblings that the numbers and statistics we're presented with are being falsified. Initially, people thought the Chinese government was diminishing their numbers to make us think the virus wasn't that serious. Now, people all over the world are questioning the people in power who they believe are increasing the numbers to breed fear and make the public more anxious and easier to control.
This is an incredibly tricky theory to prove, because there are so many moving parts. Are the doctors and nurses falsifying numbers? Are more or less people dying of COVID-19 than we think? In South Africa, there are reports of up to 30% false negative tests. But does that mean there are false positive tests, too? Leaders around the world are basing hugely impactful decisions off of the numbers released. But what if those numbers are wrong? The question gives rise to so many possible theories, it's almost hard to keep track.
So, what's the truth?
At the moment, this is the hardest question to answer. There are so few hard facts about coronavirus, and information is changing all the time. All anyone can do is what they think is best for them. We'll have to wait and see where the world is in 5 years' time.