The Coronavirus Conspiracy Trap – Labour Article
In these trying times, we are united by one commonality… we all know someone who believes in a coronavirus conspiracy theory. Let’s see why they’re so popular at the moment.
Conspiracy theories can be fun and harmless – I, for instance, watch an unsolved murder show where one of the explanations posited for the murder always involves aliens or the supernatural. I also like laughing at the flat earthers.
However, as the anti-vaxx movement has shown us too many times, conspiracies can be very dangerous. During the pandemic, a variety of different conspiracy theories have gained more mainstream traction. These ones are not fun and harmless, either.
Let’s take a look at some of them…
After Bill Gates announced funding for vaccine research, conspiracy theorists went wild. Most believe that he intends to use the vaccines to microchip us and track our movements. Others think that these vaccines could be used to alter our DNA.
Obviously I don’t believe this. If I had to argue with a conspiracy theorist about it, then I would say that we can already be tracked from the amount of data we give to the technology we own, especially our phones, so Bill Gates really doesn’t need to go to all this trouble.
Others think that the severity of the virus is being hugely overplayed to give the state more control over us. Of course, this idea branches out of conspiracy theorists and extends to those who do not think they need to social distance or take precautions. But, the conspiracy theorists go more extreme than this. Their proof is anecdotal evidence of people having Covid-19 on their death certificate when they did not actually die of it.
Recently, the UK death count for COVID-19 was decreased by 5,000 due to changes in how it was calculated. But, over 40,000 people have still died, and countless more would have if we had not had a lockdown. Also, it is impossible for the 59 million medical professionals in the world to all be in on this.
Finally, and perhaps my favourite is the idea that 5G is being used to spread Covid-19. If you ever need to argue with someone about this, let them know that South Korea, a country with nearly 5 million users of 5G, has flattened the coronavirus curve.
My reaction to hearing these conspiracies is either to laugh or get very angry. I get angry because these beliefs are dangerous when they mean people do not take the response to Covid-19 seriously. One-third of British people being uncertain about taking a coronavirus vaccine doesn’t just come from nowhere.
I am someone who needs the vaccine for my life to go back to normal. So, it’s not hard to see why I am angry at people pushing these conspiracies.
But, the people I know who believe in these conspiracies are just normal people. Like my (now ex) hairdresser.
There has to be a reason why they’re getting drawn into them.
In reality, this is the perfect time for conspiracies to spread. Social media enables the spreading of well-disguised falsehoods at an alarming rate, and confusion about the pandemic and founded concern in how governments tackle the virus can lead people questioning their actions to the wrong answers. Parts of these conspiracies have facts attached to them, such as the incorrect death toll for coronavirus in the UK.
They seem innocent, are passed on by someone who would have no reason to lie to you, whilst many governments mislead and manipulate important information. They capitalise on people wanting to be informed and wanting to keep their families safe.
So what do we do about it?
Changing someone’s mind is never easy. But, there’s some hope. Preliminary research of anti-vaxxers has shown their minds can be changed when confronted with the reality of diseases that are vaccinated against. Other research shows that people who are sceptical about vaccines overestimate the likelihood of negative events happening to them.
So, as with practically everything, education is the answer. People need to know the realities of coronavirus. You may think everyone already does but there are a great number of people who do not know anyone seriously affected by the virus and so do not comprehend its severity.
People also need to be taught about how to navigate social media, how to spot the lies and manipulation. The social media platforms need to get better at monitoring and regulating the misinformation spread through them.
The truth has to find a way.
And I really hope it does. If a vaccine against COVID-19 becomes available and you choose to not get vaccinated (unless you have a valid health reason) then it is not just your life that is in danger, but everyone around you.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Freya Jhugroo
Point of Information
Conspiracy theories are harmful. They must be stopped – A Conservative Response
The rise of fake news and conspiracy theories is worrying. It is captured well in this article. Some of them are harmless, e.g. coronavirus is a hoax, the government just wants to change the batteries in birds. That made me laugh.
But some are dangerous. In fact, so dangerous that they kill people. A study done estimated that COVID conspiracy theories have killed 800 people. A man and his wife in the US thought coronavirus was a hoax so ignored the health guidance, both got it, and the wife died from it. And you mentioned vaccines. If enough people don’t get them, they won’t have the desired herd immunity effect, thus hurting many people.
This needs to be solved. Regulation by social media companies needs to step up, and I’m glad to see it has. It must continue. However, I disagree slightly that education is the answer.
There is a wealth of information out there disproving the theories you’ve mentioned. If people wanted to, they could look it up. But they haven’t. And they haven’t because they have an emotional connection to the theory that they believe. You can’t reason people out of something that they were never reasoned into. More education never hurts anyone of course but people don’t want to be educated.
You asked why people are drawn to these theories. I think they are for a few reasons. A general distrust of government and the elite/experts. Conspiracy theories give us answers when there aren’t any, and they also might give us someone to blame.
One solution you didn’t mention is that politicians from all parties should be discrediting conspiracy theories. Johnson called anti-vaxxers ‘nuts’. Starmer should be condemning the anti-vaxx movement as well. It makes the issue less partisan, and acknowledgement of the problem. This is why every time Trump endorses one, or fake coronavirus information, I worry that bit more for American politics.
This does not address the root cause. Nor does social media regulation. Some people will always still believe in them. But unfortunately, the root cause is tied up with human stupidity and fear. And nothing will solve that.
By Junior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Why you are probably just as bad as anti-vaxxers – A Liberal Response
Freya here writers a really strong piece, and actually ties in well with another article my Liberal colleague wrote recently about vaccines. I personally don’t feel I have much to add to Freya’s great summary of conspiracy theories, but I want to raise something else; complaining about anti-vaxxers is sort of ironic.
I have been stuck in quarantine since March, and have not seen friends, haven’t seen family and no holidays for me; I’ve only had one trip to the pub. I have, to the best of my ability, remained in quarantine. I have to for the people I love who are high risk and losing them would mean I would be lost completely; literally.
So when I read of conspiracy theories and people believing them, I get incredibly frustrated. I, and millions of essential workers, people quarantining, millions of people in the UK, have sacrificed jobs, their mental health, their physical health, and lost family members for people to pass it off as nothing.
However, anti-vaxxers are probably not the only problem. It is the people who have been going on holiday, to the crammed beaches, to the pubs, going out and socialising and breaking lockdown. And you what, I will have to at least venture outside when university starts. After five months indoors, I have to for mental health sake, but I will still obey all the precautions in place. But every second I will feel guilty for what I am doing, and not enough people are. The people who for months haven’t taken this seriously and spread the virus should be the ones feeling guilty!
This is not to say people are breaking the laws and I completely understand why people have done what they have done. However, it does make me extremely worried about how quickly we are going back to normal life and how easily this virus can increase again.
If you are at risk and have to stay at home, my thoughts are with you. You can do this, don’t worry. As long as you be sensible, we can come out the other side.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Max Anderson.
Hello, I’m Freya. I am going into my third year at Exeter, studying International Relations and Spanish. My main areas of interest are the environment, societal injustices and foreign affairs.
Hello, my name is Kieran Burt and I am going into second year at Nottingham Trent University studying Politics and International Relations. I first developed an interest in politics through reading the Dictator’s Handbook by Alastair Smith and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, when I was 16, and have furthered my interest by studying politics at A level and now at university.
I am currently in my second year of reading Politics at the University of Exeter. My first interaction with politics was at the tender age of four years old.