Conspiracy Theories and the Coronavirus

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As coronavirus cases continue to proliferate and the global death rate is nearing the 50,000 mark, naturally people are feeding their anxieties by voraciously consuming movies and books about other outbreaks.

As fear spreads more than the virus itself the idea that there is somehow some sinister backstory surrounding this outbreak, conspiracy theorists, as their name suggests, are coming up with a plethora of scenarios that the governments of the world ‘just don’t want you to know’.

Although the tinfoil hat brigade are fanning the flames of suspicion and adding to an already troubling news cycle, the fact that some so-called conspiracy theories of the past, met with derision and ridicule at the time, turned out to be completely real. Most notably, ones perpetrated by our own government.

From the CIA testing LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs on Americans in a top-secret experiment on behavior modification called MKULTRA to the completely fabricated Gulf of Tonkin incident being used as a pretext to go to war with Vietnam, the history of government cover ups does have provable cases in the past. Learn more here.

Is this the case with the current coronavirus outbreak? Let’s have a look at the conspiracy theories doing the rounds on the internet so you can decide for yourself.

 

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The coronavirus was predicted in a 1981 novel

Let’s start with one of the eeriest conspiracies on this list, although technically this should be considered more of a Nostradamus style prediction, one spookily made in a book from 1981. A precognition that has taken the internet by storm with its specificity in relation to our current situation.

Dean Koontz’s novel ‘The Eyes of Darkness’ tells the story of a mother who attempts to find out what happened to her son after he mysteriously disappeared on a camping trip. It turns out that her boy is being held in China, more specifically, in Wuhan, the suspected location of the source of the current outbreak.

It gets even stranger when the plot involves a deadly viral outbreak in Wuhan referred to as ‘Wuhan-400’. In the story, a character called Dombey narrates a story about a Chinese scientist who brought a biological weapon to the United States.

“To understand that,” Dombey said, “you have to go back twenty months. It was around then that a Chinese scientist named Li Chen defected to the United States, carrying a diskette record of China’s most important and dangerous new biological weapon in a decade. They call the stuff ‘Wuhan-400’ because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside the city of Wuhan, and it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at that research center.”

The passage then goes on to describe in intricate detail the effects the virus has on the human body, details that have a chilling accuracy to the outbreak and its symptoms that is currently spreading across the globe.

However, according to the South China Morning Post, the original 1981 edition of Koontz’s novel actually called the virus “Gorki-400”, alluding to a Russian locality, not a Chinese one. It was after all the height of the Cold War at the time. The newspaper goes on to state that the name of the weapon was changed to “Wuhan-400” when the book was released again in 1989.

The apparent accuracy of the novelist might seem weirdly prescient but writers have had a long history of extrapolating their current events into a possible future, Jules Verne’s 1865 novel ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ weirdly accurate prediction of how man would eventually walk on the moon being a prime example.

The coronavirus itself is not a new virus that has suddenly sprung up in the 21st century as scientists have been aware of this acute respiratory infection since the 1930s. The discovery of human coronaviruses was made in the 1960s so Koontz would have been well aware of their existence when using it as a plot device for his 1981 novel.

 

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Coronavirus was created as a biological weapon

As alluded to in the previous entry, the possibility that this virus could actually be a purposely created biological weapon may not be as far fetched as you might think. The testing and using of biological weapons on unsuspecting populations have a sordid and troubling history.

Two international treaties outlawed biological weapons in 1925 and 1972, but they have largely failed to stop countries from conducting offensive weapons research and large-scale production of biological weapons.

The German army was the first to use weapons of mass destruction, both biological and chemical, during the First World War and in the Second World War, the Japanese army poisoned more than 1,000 water wells in Chinese villages to study cholera and typhus outbreaks, then planes dropped plague-infested fleas over Chinese cities.

During the Cold War, the British Government used the general public as unwitting biological and chemical warfare guinea pigs. Research carried out by Ulf Schmidt, Professor of Modern History at the University of Kent, revealed that British military aircraft dropped thousands of kilos of a chemical of ‘largely unknown toxic potential’ on British civilian populations in and around Salisbury in Wiltshire, Cardington in Bedfordshire and Norwich in Norfolk between 1953 and 1964.

In 1997, the National Research Council revealed that the US also used chemicals to test the potential of biological weapons in the 1950s. Zinc cadmium sulphide was dispersed by plane and sprayed over a number of cities, including St Louis in Missouri and Minneapolis in Minnesota. Although the effects on the populations of those cities have been disputed to this day.

With that rather terrifying history out of the way, how does this relate to the current coronavirus spread? In July of last year a group of Chinese scientists in Canada were accused of spying and were stripped of their access to Canada’s National Microbiology Lab (NML) which is known to work on some of the most deadly pathogens.

The alleged ‘policy breach’, highlighted the bioweapon program of other countries including China. Dr Francis Boyle, the creator of Bio Weapons Act, claimed on the Alex Jones Show that ‘the coronavirus is an offensive biological warfare weapon with DNA-genetic engineering’.

Dr Boyle was citing a February 10, 2020 paper published on antiviral research on ScienceDirect but many researchers have quickly pointed out that the paper does not specifically refer to genetic engineering.

The fact that Dr Boyle chose to use the Alex Jones Show, a famed and widely debunked conspiracy theorist, to present his conclusion has led many health professionals to question not only his credibility but his state of mind.

 

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The Chinese Conspiracy

Although the exact cause of the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus is still unknown, the likeliest being a mutation from bats that jumped to other animals then to humans, experts are unanimous in their pinpointing of the location of the outbreak, Wuhan in China.

Since it’s initial outbreak, rumors and speculation about the communist government of China trying to ‘cover-up’ the outbreak and hide the official figures have persisted. Reports that the Chinese Government tried to suppress the attempts of whistleblowers who tried to warn the public of the pandemic, is rather alarming and didn’t help their cause.

Unsurprisingly, President Trump, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, and other elected officials have poured fuel on this fire, calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” with one White House official reportedly called it the “Kung Flu”.

Many online commentators have expressed concerns that China either deliberately created the virus or at the very least allowed it to spread for a number of reasons, most notably, to crash the US economy and/or to oust President Trump, with whom they are currently fighting a trade war.

The war of words between the two superpowers quickly escalated with China’s new Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, questioning the United States role on Twitter, saying “it might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”

However, in times like these, it is quite easy to give in to rumors, speculations, accusations and misinformation but it should be noted that cooler and more qualified heads than politicians have spoken up to quell any fears about China’s covert intentions.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University points out there is “absolutely nothing in the genome sequence of this virus that indicates the virus was engineered,”

He added that “the possibility this was a deliberately released bioweapon can be firmly excluded.” But that hasn’t stopped online commentators and even government officials from continuing to sow the seeds of this theory.

Gerald Keusch, a professor of medicine and international health and associate director of Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories has a stark warning “Conspiracy theories about manmade viruses are not new. We saw this with HIV — the rumor that the US made it and introduced it into Africa. But they are really dangerous kinds of things to get spread around,”

 

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A vaccine is being held back for profit

This one is a persistent conspiracy theory that goes hand in hand with any disease or viral outbreak, the fact that ‘Big Pharma’ already have a vaccine and the longer they wait to release it the more money there is to be made. After all, vaccines are a billion dollar industry.

This conspiracy theory gained traction recently when a patent filed by the CDC appeared online which purported to be a coronavirus vaccine, suggesting that the virus was introduced by the government, either Chinese or American, for pharmaceutical companies to profit off the vaccine.

Proponents of this theory who want to point the finger of suspicion at the communist government of China were quick to point at the rising stock prices of Chinese pharmaceutical companies after the outbreak of the virus.

Another finger of suspicion is being pointed at Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda’s foundation. Despite the fact that his foundation has vowed to donate millions to the fight against the coronavirus, many theorists are accusing Gates of orchestrating the virus to depopulate an already overcrowded world.

To back up their claims they point to the fact that the Bill Gates and World Economic Forum ran a coronavirus outbreak simulation just six weeks prior to the outbreak in October 2019, with the simulation focusing on the economic impact of such an outbreak. His foundation also made contact with the group who hold the aforementioned patent.

However, a spokesperson said that the Gates Foundation did not fund the 2015 patent, thus ostensibly negating any potential connection between the billionaire and coronavirus.

Where this theory falls short is the nature of this new virus. This novel coronavirus is, by definition, brand-new, so it would be impossible for there to already be a vaccine for it. The standard timescale for creating any vaccine is usually between two and five years, and although President Trump promised a vaccine “over the next few months”, his statement was quickly contradicted by health experts.

Dr Antony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and human services secretary Alex Azar reaffirmed that ‘it will take up to 18 months to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, a time frame much shorter than the usual two- to five-year window’.

The patent cited as the one being held back for future profit actually applies to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), another type of coronavirus that also originated in China and killed hundreds of people in 2002 and 2003.

Although there have been reports of companies receiving funding to developing a vaccine for Covid-19, currently “there are no vaccines available for any coronaviruses let alone the (Wuhan) one,” Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security, told PolitiFact.

 

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The virus is caused by 5G

As more and more conspiracy theories propagate the internet, the ones out there get wilder and wilder, none more so than our last entry, the mysterious connection and suspicious timeline of 5G and coronavirus.

All scientific evidence points to 5G in its current form being non-harmful to humans, the fact that China turned on some of its 5G networks in November, the same time that the coronavirus surfaced in a live animal market in Wuhan, have left many skeptical.

A post widely shared on Facebook, which claimed that 5G was rolled out of Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the early outbreak, now carries a warning that it has been debunked by independent fact-checking charity Full Fact.

Several conspiracy theorists also alleged that the viral videos of people ‘dropping on the ground and fainting’ in China, were a result of 5G radio waves messing with the oxygen levels in the blood of the general public.

“The main implication of the claim—that 5G can impact immune systems—is totally unfounded,” Full Fact’s Grace Rahman wrote in the report. “There is no evidence linking the new coronavirus to 5G.”

The agency also found no evidence that Wuhan was the first city to receive 5G coverage, instead pointing out it was one of several Chinese cities where early 5G trials took place.

Facebook further tried to allay fears by announcing it would begin to remove content “with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them” on 30 January, though many debunked claims remain accessible in 5G group pages.

The Advertising Standards Agency, the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, also banned an advert in January from Electrosensitivity-UK, a charity claiming to inform the public about the supposed health risks of electromagnetic radiation, which featured allegations 5G could damage people’s health with effects including reduced male fertility, disturbed sleep and cancer.

There is clearly a heightened skepticism on social media about the official narratives issued by the government in regards to the coronavirus outbreak. Up until recently, this was encouraged by President Trump himself when he originally called the outbreak a ‘hoax’.

This has undoubtedly contributed to a deep sense of anxiety and fear where false allegations, misinformation and outright lies have propagated and thrived. Some have even claimed to have miracle cures, ones they will happily sell you for a large profit, but the best medicine in a time like this is education and the correct information and advice.

Information and advice that should be disseminated by qualified health professionals, not politicians, and most certainly not by ‘some guy on the internet’. To stay well informed, take the time to research these outlandish claims and accusations by visiting credible sources such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the Center for Disease Control (CDC)

Click here to visit the WHO website – https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1
Click here to visit the CDC website – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

 

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