It was day three of my self-imposed Rona virus (shout out to Black Twitter) quarantine and it was clear that sitting in my underwear scrolling through Facebook was quickly becoming my life. Between the apocalyptic posts about how woefully unprepared the US healthcare system is on any given day, let alone for a pandemic, and the ones highlighting the sheer incompetence of our idiot in chief, I kept seeing outlandish claims about the Coronavirus being fake—a government conspiracy to get us all vaccinated as well as to bring in martial law, FEMA camps and depopulation.
It began with friends sending me videos of people in stores reading the back of Lysol cans which states that the chemical eliminated the Human Coronavirus. For many this is proof of something sinister afoot. “You see, they knew about Coronavirus before all of this,” one friend said after sharing the video. What he and others failed to realize is the Human Coronavirus is a group of viruses that have been around for sometime. What makes this one so dangerous is that it’s a new strain. This hysteria was quickly followed up with the myth that Black people were immune to the virus; evidenced by the fact that the virus was not present in Africa. This was quickly dispelled once it was proven that several East African countries were seeing their first cases of the virus. Disproving these theories and battling it out with people on social media led me deeper into the vortex of nonsense swirling around the Coronavirus.
That’s when I came across what is perhaps the most difficult conspiracy theory to combat—the Agenda 21/30 Theory. According to the numerous conspiracy theory pages on Facebook, Agenda 21/30 is a WHO/UN depopulation plan carried out by both 5G wireless cell phone waves created with the sole purpose of giving us all cancer. These same conspirators have faked the Coronavirus. That’s right, according to Agenda 21/30 conspiracy believers, the global pandemic ravaging the earth is not even real. The only reason this myth was created and spread was so that the government could forcefully vaccinate us all, in order to reach its ultimate goal of depopulation – because obviously all vaccines were created to inject us with diseases in order to kill us off. According to the Agenda 21/30 conspiracy theory, airborne contagious viruses do not even exist. Germs, bacteria and “virus proteins” are created inside our bodies and are not contagious. The theory claims the only way to contract any virus from another person or animal is through injection. Hence, the government wants to vaccinate us.
How may ask: mass vaccinations for this virus haven’t occurred, so how would it be possible for people to have symptoms of the virus when we haven’t been injected by anything? Well, the conspiracy theorists have an answer for that too. This is where the 5G technology comes in. According to the proponents of the Agenda 21/30 conspiracy theory, 5G technology uses radiation waves that cause the same symptoms attributed to the Coronavirus. So really we don’t have the Cornoavirus yet. People who have symptoms are merely reacting to 5G radio waves. When they get tested they’re told they have the virus, in order to eventually be vaccinated and killed off by the vaccine’s dangerous toxins and “foreign human and animal hybrid viral proteins.”
According to those who believe this theory, it’s very simple—if you don’t want the Coronavirus, don’t get the vaccine. The second part of the theory states that if you are seen as a dissident or a protestor, you will be locked up in a quarantine camp never to be heard from again. Initially I assumed this conspiracy theory was only found in the US but was quickly proven wrong by the number of French videos I saw touting the same information.
Whether it’s flat-Earthers, anti-vaxxers, or the age old Illuminati conspiracy theories, one thing that’s striking is the sheer number of people who subscribe to these beliefs. They are so pervasive that people on seemingly opposite sides of the political spectrum hold them in common. From Libertarians to Black Nationalists to the far right, these theories abound and have found an audience on social media.
Is it that the human race just gets dumber by the day? There is some evidence for the decline in intelligence of people in industrialized nations as recently reported by NBC News. According to them, IQ rates in the West are dropping. While IQ generally measures cognitive skills like short-term memory and how quickly we can problem solve; evidence of our inability to think critically seems to abound. Whether we are talking about a significant portion of our population voting for—and still supporting—a complete ignoramus who offers up statements like “A lot of people are dying who have never died before,” or if we look at the public response to the Coronavirus outbreak, which was to fight each other at Costco in an battle to hoard all the toilet paper; it would seem that something is seriously wrong with our population’s ability to think critically.
Perhaps a lack of intelligence is the wrong way to look at it. Perhaps the question is more about ideology than intelligence. A recent article I read in Scientific Americandiscussed the negative correlation between religious beliefs and analytic thinking. That is to say that the more religious a person was, the lower their ability to think analytically. I would posit that this has less to do with religion and perhaps more to do with ideology. I define ideological thinking as thinking with a particular framework. For example, for the far right neo-Nazis, their ideological beliefs tell them that their “race” and culture are superior to all others, therefore any time they come across a person of a different race, they automatically evaluate that person within the framework of their ideology, instead of on their merit as an individual.
The same can be said for some segments of the left who also make ridiculous claims based on the ideological perspectives that abound in their echo chambers. For example, “body positivity” seems to be one area where the left has lost all ability to think critically. Admittedly, mainstream media and society as a whole have pushed skinny bitches as the standard we should all be aspiring to, which has had some very obvious negative effects of generations of young women. In an attempt to combat this, the left has taken up the cause of body positivity, which in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, what started out as a noble attempt has turned into a shit show where people rage on social media if you suggest that being overweight is perhaps not healthy.
Again, here we see an inability to think critically. Of course, you shouldn’t set up unhealthy and unattainable standards regarding body image and, of course, a healthy weight is not a one size fits all calculation. But being overweight for your frame can and often does lead to serious health complications, and being fat should not be encouraged. But, here again we see ideology at work. If your framework tells you that because being skinny was pushed on people for so long that the only way to remedy that is to do the opposite, then any pushback against what is deemed as being body positive or fat positive is vilified.
So what does this have to do with the conspiracy theorists? Well, they’re also working from a particular ideology or framework, which is that the government and the people in power cannot be trusted. There is ample historical evidence for this. How many times have the millionaires and billionaires who run this country actually fought for the interests of the rest of us? Except for Uncle Bernie, they have been few and far between. The neoliberal turn of the 1970s intensified the grip the rich had on the rest of us, ushering in economic policies that stripped any semblance of a welfare state and created even more pro-business policies. With the social safety net gone, the majority of Americans are on our own when it comes to surviving this Celebrity Deathmatch world we live in.
This mistrust of the government extends to the healthcare system as well, which is what much of the anti-vaxxer movement is rooted in. How does one trust a for-profit health system where the motive is money? In a world of kickbacks from Big Pharma, how do you trust what your healthcare provider is telling you? You can’t, and this fact, coupled with an inability to think critically, is a recipe for disaster. Instead of being cautious about the healthcare system, many people’s justifiable distrust turns into the belief that everything is one big conspiracy. Add to this the historical fact of the Tuskegee Experiment, where for forty years the US Public Health Service left Black men in Alabama with no treatment for syphilis—even when Penicillin became widely available—just to see what the effects would be, and it’s easy to see why people would have no faith in anything they’re being told.
When this framework is applied to a global pandemic it is nothing short of disastrous, because instead of taking precautions against spreading the disease, people are openly denying its existence. Their fears are not unfounded, as we are already seeing our government use this as a way for big business to make a profit by offering bailouts for industries and banks. The DOJ’s attempt at expanding its powers to detain people indefinitely without a trial just adds fuel to the conspiracists’ fire. But this is the reality of capitalism: it requires authoritarianism to keep going and that is exactly what will be unleashed on the population. Unfortunately too many of us don’t understand that the culprit is capitalism, not a conspiracy.
Over the next days and weeks we hope to continue publishing stories about daily life amid the Coronavirus. We are looking for testimonials from everyday people about workplace safety, unemployment and housing issues, struggles with paying bills and taking care of their loved ones as well as any acts of solidarity and collective action in these very difficult times. We want to hear from you! If you have a story that you want to share with us, please email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.