The internet is full of conspiracy theories. Some of these include theories like NASA faking the moon landing and the government hiding aliens at Area 51. Maybe you heard rumors that the Earth is flat, and scientists are covering up the “truth.” Most theories floating around are benign, but in this Age of Information, some of these ideas can become dangerous when left unchecked. Currently, the world is wrestling with the COVID-19 virus pandemic and conspiracy theories about the situation have flooded social media timelines for months. Misinformation is its own form of pandemic.
Some of the theories are funny and who doesn’t need a laugh during this time of social distancing and isolation? The funniest ideas I read were Disney+ releasing just in time to capitalize on the virus (they may be on to something though), and that you can use vodka as hand sanitizer. I also saw rumors that garlic can cure COVID-19 and the virus possibly arrived from space. On my timelines I even saw memes and posts saying that African Americans were immune to the virus which is ludicrous. Have you heard the one that 5G towers are causing the spread of the virus? More on that one later.
Initially, Americans didn’t take the virus seriously, and some still don’t. Movies about pandemics like 28 Days Later and Contagion were trending that first week of “social distancing” and countless Coronavirus memes were being shared across the country. There is an inherent danger of entertainment becoming reality when consuming unchecked information nonstop the way we do in 2020. I’m reminded of an autumn night in 1938 when the War of the Worlds broadcast caused a brief panic to the few people who missed the segment of the broadcast which stated it was meant to be entertainment. Memes, social media and many of the conspiracy theories out there should provide such disclaimers.
Unchecked conspiracy theories can have consequences. There were over 980 cases of measles in the United States in 2019. Measles, a disease declared eradicated in the country had a sudden resurgence. This resurgence was caused partly by so-called “anti-vaxxers” who embraced the theory that vaccines cause autism. The movement grew and parents started to withhold or avoid the MMR vaccinations that prevent measles. In this case, unverified information led to the spread of a disease Americans believed to be a thing of the past.
In the month of April, over fifty 5G towers were attacked and set on fire by vandals in the United Kingdom. One attack forced the evacuation of a housing development near the tower forcing the quarantined citizens into the street. The theory that COVID-19 doesn’t exist and the newly built 5G towers are linked to the spread of COVID-19 motivated these attacks. The theories insist that people are becoming sick from the radiation these towers emit. There is no science to support this, but the idea has been propagated by radical social media groups and even a few celebrities on their quest to #staywoke. It is amazing to see how many people believe information on radio waves, frequencies and advanced science from people who barely understand the workings of their iPhones. Conspiracy theories aren’t going anywhere and some even will have nuggets of truth but before you embrace their ideas, research and think for yourself. Ensure you’re truly awake.