Conspiracy: The Coronavirus Case
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, information about the virus spreads like wildfire. In a previous article I had written about how the current system of information sharing would affect the perception of the Coronavirus pandemic. Now, months later conspiracy theories have spread which make differing claims about the origin, objective and intentions of the virus itself and those involved in the effort to eradicate it.
This is not the first time that such theories have been circulated in the midst of public health disasters and it certainly won’t be the last. What is interesting in this particular case is that, the sheer spread of the virus and its effects have opened new markets for conspiracy theorists who are seeing their videos, documents, websites and articles reaching audiences at the edges of the world.
In India for example, we are seeing one of the first waves of anti-science rhetoric, which has only achieved a boost due to the already ongoing Whatsapp network of hoaxes and rumours. Family groups, co-worker circles, even class groups have been exposed to these conspiracy theories. India, previously has dabbled in pseudoscience, this however, is the first time that the Indian diaspora has consumed this volume of usually America-centric or Euro-centric conspiracy material.
The dangers of conspiracy theories aside, we must first see whether there’s a shred of truth to many of these theories and whether they can be debunked first hand.
Lab Created Coronavirus:
As the virus began to spread outside China, anti-China sentiment led to the conception of the Lab Created Coronavirus theory. The theory essentially postulates that China created the virus as a biological weapon, which accidently or intentionally leaked in Wuhan. Some believe that the spread of the virus outside China was done intentionally by the Chinese government in an attempt to destabilise the world and take advantage of the havoc which would follow.
The conspiracy theorists had a big claim but also had the statement of Luc Montagnier, a Nobel laureate who quite assertively claimed that Wuhan’s Virology institute had a specialisation in Coronaviruses and that this particular strand was bio-engineered in that same institute.
The backing of a Nobel laureate scientist is definitely serious evidence, until one realises that in science peer review is an important aspect. The majority of the scientific community, international organisations and even the US National Intelligence office have debunked this claim. This in direct contradiction to the statements of US President Donald Trump and Indian Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, both obviously extremely well educated in the matter.
Regardless it is important to review why the majority of the scientific community does not support the Lab theory. This research paper uses the genetic coding of the virus, the ineffectiveness of Beta-coronaviruses (reverse engineered Coronaviruses) and the binding pattern the virus follows in terms of Humans to show that lab creation is improbable. In fact, the paper presents two different theories for the mutation and emergence of the virus.
Coronavirus through the 5G network:
There are several theories that link the spread of the Covid-19 virus with the spread of the 5G network. The evidence for their claims is thin at best, mostly revolving around the “waves” that emanate from 5G network poles which cause diseases which include Covid-19, cancer etc.
Some concerned citizens decided to take action, burning upwards of 50 such poles throughout the UK and with other similar cases in Germany, the Netherlands etc. This disrupted the communications network that was being used by authorities to coordinate between medical workers, hospitals and the police.
The claim has been debunked multiple times by experts, and such fears surrounding communication networks isn’t new with similar hoaxes spread before relating cancer and tumours to sim cards, some even claiming that homosexuality was causes by government radio towers.
Regardless the claim is weak, the contrary evidence outstanding. Unfortunately, as misinformation spreads in a volatile manner, logic and rationale flies out the window, replaced by paranoia and delusions.
Vaccine Selling Scheme:
The big bad villain in this theory is Bill Gates, a billionaire with a reputation for philanthropy. Bill Gates has been the villain for a long time amidst the anti-vax movement, many claiming that he was the Anti-Christ.
There are claims that he has several interests in pharmaceutical companies which manufacture or research vaccines. This means in the instance of one of Gates’ companies developing the vaccine he would stand to gain a lot.
This is Bill Gates’ portfolio list, in which we see that he has holdings in only one company involved in healthcare, Schrodinger Inc. The company however does not develop drugs, instead it creates software used in research and developmental processes. The company has absolutely no hand in the development of medicines therefore the money trails seems to have run dry.
Regardless it is imperative that we understand that vaccines are indeed created by private pharma companies for profit, that much is clear. This does not however become an argument against vaccines. It is possible that vaccines could be the only manner in which the Covid-19 virus is eradicated, it is also possible that alternative drugs could be developed. Regardless a vaccine is good however, those who are averse to science tend to view vaccines as evil products.
There are many who think that vaccines cause autism, are the cells of aborted foetus cells and that they are the ‘mark of the devil’. This is pseudoscientific, fundamentalist and factually wrong. Vaccine injuries are negligible and usually occur on the mishandling of vaccines rather than through their design. Vaccines are not the devil’s creation. They are however excellent methods of eradicating diseases that until now ravaged humanity, killed innocents daily and left many with debilitating life-long disabilities.
“Plandemic”, The Planned Epidemic:
This theory become more vocal after the release of a clip featuring a scene from a soon to be released documentary on the Coronavirus called Plandemic. The clip features Dr Judy Mikovits claiming that her work was suppressed by a group that has Dr Fauci and Bill Gates at its center.
She claims that Dr Fauci has vested interests in the virus and its vaccine, cites the Bayh-Dole act which gave the government workers involved in the development of drugs the right to patent their creation as a bad influence etc etc.
Here’s a few facts, Dr Fauci has nothing invested in the development of a vaccine. He does head the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease who is involved in one of potentially seventy plus vaccine trials. Dr Fauci however will not earn from this trial regardless of the result.
The Bayh-Dole act will not be applicable on Fauci and is not used in the manner described by Mikovits, instead the Bayh-Dole act, a bipartisan legislative piece uniformly permits non-profit organizations and small business firm contractors to retain ownership of inventions made under contract and which they have acquired, provided that each invention is timely disclosed and the contractor elects to retain ownership in that invention.
Mikovits then says “wearing the mask literally activates your own virus” which is obviously a laughable idea. The documentary then goes on to talk about other instances such as how Italy was susceptible due to inflammation from the flu vaccine etc. All of this along with a transcript is given in this article.
Why Disinformation is Dangerous:
Though there is the risk of sounding like a broken record I must reiterate my words in the article about the information of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Information is not based on the pedestal of fact but is rather founded by the principle of awareness and bias."
In an unaware society, one plagued by biases, misinformation takes deep roots and often leads to violence (take the Palghar lynching as an example). The exposure that Indian civil society now has towards the west’s conspiracy theorists represents an extremely alarming possibility, one of a misinformed, angry public which will take bad decisions in its blind flurry of anger.
Bad information can only be countered with good information and therefore it is important to engage with the people in our lives who have chosen to believe in such theories, to help understand where they have rooted their beliefs and then to show them why they are not aware of the whole truth.
This is not the moment to cling to far-flung conspiracy theories rather this is the time to rally behind the leaders in this fight against a pandemic that has shown the cracks in our systems. It is important to realise that our scepticism must not fall prey or be co-opted by the anti-science rhetoric of uninformed, internet morons. Otherwise the quality of discourse, action and research will fall considerably and we will see our society sink towards a paranoid, irrational mindset. Use the Socratic method, use fact checks and confront the stream of incomprehensible babble called conspiracy theories.