How conspiracy theories distract us from what is really important and why that might be their main purpose.
Now is not the time for conspiracy theories (herein after referred to as CTs)...ignore the nonsense, the irrelevant and the noise, it's easy to say but sadly, they flourish at times of crisis and turmoil. In fact, they often serve to further cloud the issues and enrage the populace thereby compounding the situation.
In recent weeks, we have been infested with wave after wave of.....no, not just viruses, but virus related nonsense. This is dangerous and disappointing on a number of fronts.
One would be the necessity to understand the origins of the outbreak: cue the flurry of stories regarding the work of various scientists and research institutions (and winged mammals) and the intent and involvement of political and corporate players which have proven largely baseless but serve the joint purposes of deflection and blame assignation.
This supposed 'debunking' of conventional wisdom and challenging of science (but not in a good way) has not just had some impressive window dressing but also embroiled a new and wider range of unlikely 'heroes' and 'villians'...
When the documentary 'Plandemic' broke a number of weeks back, one of the principal targets was Dr Anthony Fuaci, a director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), who took on the mantle of 'America's Doctor' as he stood at President Trump's side during his daily news briefings. These were not new rumours but the virus's arrival allowed them to be repackaged and pushed out again. So what was the truth of it...frankly, who knows but the principal antagonist is a research scientist with multiple axes to grind.
Caught up in the controversy, by extension, was Bill Gates and his foundation's work particularly in the field of preventative health provision in 'developing' nations where their mass vaccination programmes were characterised as an attempt to implant all humans with a range of items from tracking devices to fertility control drugs. Again, I think we can all agree that Bill Gates is a very smart (and generous) man including all those banging out their defamatory articles on their Windows enabled laptops but the scope of the allegations would appear as a stretch even for him.
Likewise, there have been a raft of stories pro-porting to explain how people catch and transmit the disease and how certain conditions can make it worse.
And we couldn't walk away without at least a hat tip to one of the most bizarre and least factually supported CTs around but the one that has possibly illicited the most destructive reaction of any...that 5G networks were responsible for the introduction and spread of the virus. Sadly, it wasn't long before the thin scientific evidence for this was being enhanced by anti-tech (any tech), anti-new tech (anti-5G) and anti-Huawei/China sentiments.
Even the hippies are getting in on the act...
Elsewhere, celebrities such as the tennis player Novak Djokovic (who has now tested positive and publicly apologised) and UK television 'guru' David Icke joined the fray and weighed in with their own 'theories' on who was up to what and why, whilst the anti-vaxxers also had a field day. Working on the basis that a virus needs a host to spread and that the same is true of misinformation, we are not going to reproduce the stories perpetuated by many of the cited examples, if you want to find out more, be our guest, we've shown you the door to those rabbit holes!
One thing that doesn't help but seems to be inevitable is the emergence of the amateur expert. However, seldom would you expect the person in question be the 'most powerful man in the world' and his pronouncements on such diverse kitchen cures as light, powerful light, UV light, injecting disinfectant and taking hydroxychloroquine, a supposed prophylactic (that he claimed to have taken) having pushed it from the platform of his daily presser with the somewhat concerning tagline of "What have you got to lose?". (The FDA has since withdrawn its support for the drug).
But in fairness, these examples are hardly conspiracy theories, these have a much simpler name...they're the younger cousins of proper CTs...the malicious or mischievous rumour (herein after refereed to as an MR!).
However, he is by no means alone with a veritable tsunami of preachers, teachers, holymen, spiritual leaders, holistic & homeopathic doctors, drug companies, scientists and lifestyle gurus of all shapes and sizes out peddling their pet theories and supposed cures! Some are, in fairness, well meaning and sincere, whilst others are bordering on the criminal and/or the insane! Snake oil never goes out of fashion, apparently!
Lo and behold...here comes the cure! But at a price...Big Pharma (and a lot of little Pharmas) are genuinely engaged in a 'race' to find a cure, a vaccine, rumour has it that it will take 18 months and governments have been co-erced into parting with billions of dollars to support these efforts, that is not a theory, it's a fact. And the cure, if and when it is found, will not be public property!
Meanwhile, on the back of an MR regarding a breakthrough, one mid-sized Pharma saw its stock moon, so some of its directors decided to make a little hay in the midst of the medical mayhem!
What is truly worrying is not that so many people choose to devote so much time to these scams and distractions but that there are more significant issues to focus on, issues that are out there, provable beyond dispute, going on right in front of us that are being slid past us and embedding themselves in the fabric of our lives on the back of the ravages of Covid-19.
The rise of teleconferencing and all the attendant concerns over security, the plethora of tracking technologies that are being implemented or peddled by governments and private corporations in the name of contact tracing, the background whirl of the printing presses as governments and global banking institutions print near limitless amounts of 'new' money to prop up economies across the world...again these aren't theories, these are facts.
And there is a paper trail of newly passed or renewed legislation around the tracking technology all over the world, there are new emergency powers in the UK put in place specifically in response to COVID-19 that will remain in place for the next 3 years (why?), the renewals of the Patriot Act and other surveillance legislation in the USA went through without question in an unusually bipartisan way, elections have been postponed and even cancelled in countries like Ethiopia and Guinea (where the incumbent Alpha Condé will now remain in power until 2032 by which time he will be 94!), rule by decree was introduced by President Orban in Hungary (thankfully since rolled back) and along with all these and numerous other countries, such as Malaysia and India, the virus has been used as an excuse to take away the rights of the individual and further invade peoples' privacy.
Additionally and equally dangerous has been that given the need for evidence based guidance in this time of epidemic, conspiracy theorists have sought to debunk the work of the scientific community and by that I mean the academics and public health officials who work earnestly and diligently to provide the short term remedies and the long term solutions.
People have chosen to deliberately misrepresent the lockdown programmes, they were designed and implemented to help flatten the curve, so that the medical response and resources could be put in place to manage the casualties. It was needed to buy time,it was not some global assault on personal liberties or a government sponsored programme of social control. It was (is) being done for our collective good...the same reason we have governments and all their attendant apparatus, for our good!
And whilst we are on the topic of time and long term solutions, the time being bought was to facilitate the development of a vaccine! Sadly, HIV/AIDS, also a virus, still has no effective vaccine and it has been known to us for over 40 years and the work on the SARS vaccine was abandoned once it disappeared...something about there being no demand so no longer any money to be made (my own CT...Cynical Theory)!
Focus on the facts, forget the falsehoods, by all means challenge the science, as free thinkers it is our right and our duty to do but do it in the right way!
The malicious challenging of science, in turn, is leading to a questioning of all authority and to a rot in our institutions, a lack of belief in the fundamentals of civil society not seen in recent times and exacerbated by events in the USA with the resurrection of civil rights issues...yet another rich pasture for conspiracy theorists and the like, the open rebellion in the streets being fueled by these people for their own nefarious ends.
All this political 'sleight of hand', these distractions, mis-directions, all the talk about deep states and promises to 'drain swamps' has more to do with electioneering, naked power grabs and populism. But these actions have consequences, see what is happening with the defunding of the World Health Organization, again fact, not fiction!
And the whole time, governments and politicians across the spectrum are all looking for the only cure that they can realistically hope for at this stage: Plausible Deniability!
As already stated: A virus needs a host to spread, the same is true of misinformation. So how do Conspiracy Theories work? How are they constructed? What drives people to create and push them, more often than not in all seriousness?
There are some common drivers here: as a challenge to authority or the prevailing socio-political system; theorists are overly suspicious of almost anything and everything; as a result they are convinced that something in the system is wrong and so incubate that reasoning into a sense of victim-hood in their fight for the truth; they are seldom convinced by conventional wisdom, evidence or established and provable facts; and are prone to joining dots that either don't exist or at least have only a passing relationship with each other.
They are, by no means, always driven by bad intentions but that can often be the outcome especially when and if they start to gain adoption, support and traction.
There are so many incredible stories in circulation that it is sometimes difficult to keep track, some disappear for a while, an age, only to reappear at some later time and date for no good reason but sometimes for a very good one!
Take the curious case of Carolyn Gombell. Carolyn was a secretary with whom Donald Trump had had an affair. Upon confiding in him that she was pregnant, he killed her. Sound fantastic? Of course! Sound feasible? To a degree, especially when backed by witnesses, books, the accounts of friends and relatives...except that none of it is true!
The reason the story was invented was in response to President Trump's decision to dredge up a CT that a talkshow host in the US had killed his assistant many years back, after the host in question, Joe Scarborough, had made some unflattering comments about The Donald on his show!
Sadly, this led to the dead woman's husband requesting that the President desist from referring to the matter which had been resolved years previously and did not involve any other person...actions do have consequences.
There is a entire sub industry in Conspiracy Theories out there, of that there is little doubt.
Some is for political gain and others for financial enrichment. And don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good theory as much as the next person...when it isn't for malicious intent...UFOs, alien abductions, Area 51, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Sasquatch, the Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, the Menk, all entertaining in their own right but all lacking the critical piece in their proof puzzle...irrefutable evidence! Plenty of hearsay, not many, if any, facts!
However, there is way too much going on in the world at the present time for us to be allowed or encouraged to seek solace in the tales of supposed wrongdoing and malfeasance.
We have the means and the knowledge to live much better lives and technology can play an important part in that. Cleaner energy to combat climate change is one fact based example of that. And our individual and collective physical & mental wellbeing needs our attention, too many people die of despair, through abuse, addiction, depression, loneliness and all their attendant symptoms and impacts. It doesn't need to be this way, we just need to recognize what is important and start by relearning how to talk to each other and help our neighbours.
So let's keep our eyes on the prize and as a parting suggestion, a wish for a better future that sees people and science unite for the common good? How about Big Pharma MAKING THE VACCINE OPEN SOURCE when it arrives? Just a thought!
And in recent weeks, a number of articles here in decentralize.today have attempted to address the question of what we can and should do differently as we adjust to the 'new normal'. A virus needs a host to spread, the same is true of misinformation, maybe we should focus on denying hosting for both in future!
“Knowledge is the antidote to fear.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson