COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Lead to Harsh Consequences

COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Lead to Harsh Consequences

Valentina Velez, Section Editor

We are living in a changing world, finding or knowing any certain truth is almost impossible. COVID-19 pandemic is not any different; there is no absolute truth about how it started but there are many theories with the intention of blaming some specifics for this hard reality. Conspiracy theories about COVID-19 will only create unwanted feelings of fear and anguish and can lead to unwanted consequences.

One of the first conspiracy theories that came to light was that China created COVID-19 as a biological weapon in a laboratory in Wuhan (Jaaved, 2020). As this conspiracy theory started to get more and more viral, rumors about world war three started to create fear among society. In this way, this information with little to no evidence started raising fear and hatred.

Another widespread conspiracy theory is that 5G technology is the primary cause of the highly contagious virus or even the amounts of deaths. Without enough evidence there are two sides to this theory: it is the direct cause of the virus because it has a very high level of frequency or it uses these high levels of frequency to weaken people’s immune systems and that way causing a lot of damage and fear. But this 5G theory also comes back to China. China has a very impressive technological security that uses 5G technology, and some traces show a connection between 5G hotspots and the first COVID-19 outbreaks (Thomas, 2020).

According to “The WHO terms the conspiracy theories as “infodemic” that “spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous”,” Amjed Jaaved, journalist and researcher, said. It is the first time in history that we have a pandemic at the same time as social media is the center of everyone’s information source. What is going on in social media right now is called a context collapse which happens when “ social media platforms take messages that the sender intended to be seen by one audience in a given context and serve them up to others who were not the intended targets,” Elise Thomas,  freelance journalist and a researcher, said. With just a simple hashtag in social media people can access or communicate these kinds of information, if we could call it that, such as  “#coronahoax” or “#covid19hoax” (Thomas, 2020). Since everyone has access to all the conspiracy theories out there information is overlapping which means we end up with wrought information and mixed feelings. 

The mixed feelings all of this information creates will only affect people emotionally. Mental health is very important to maintain a balanced life, and in order to get used to the different types of life this pandemic has imposed on today’s society there has to be stability. Fear, one of the most common feelings in humans, might prevent one from being stable and getting used to this new type of “normal”. The context collapse in social media is bringing out all types of feelings that people are not ready to confront. 

“Long dismissed as absurd, conspiracy theorists on social media are increasingly posing a potential global threat—and becoming an asset for states looking to disrupt the geopolitical narrative and spread disinformation,” Jaaved said. 

There are consequences to conspiracy theories and misinformation, countries may take measures either to protect themselves or to blame others. If the guilt-tripping theories continue there may be economic consequences all over Asia, “Trump may increase import taxes just when China is experiencing Coronavirus-driven 6.8% contraction in gross domestic product. Trump’s volatile actions may reduce GDP not only in China but also in South Korea and Singapore and down through the economic food chain to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Myanmar. If Trump imposed 25% penalties on imports of cars and auto parts, it would badly affect Thailand. The fallout for supply chains would hit growth from the Philippines to India,” Thomas said. 

With very easy access to social media, which is now the first source of information for the majority of society the spread of conspiracy theories is growing significantly without the worries of the unintended or intended consequences. The amount of information creates a context collapse on social media and raises many negative feelings in society.  “Knowing about all of these conspiracy theories can either create more fear in society or it can give us a sense of comfort because now we know more or less what is happening,” Carolina Mira, TCS Senior, said. The infodemic is not helping countries stick together and help each other, it is doing exactly the opposite causing more consequences than the virus itself.

Resources 

Jaaved, A. (2020, April 28). COVID19 and conspiracy theories: A Chinese virus or a bio-weapon? Retrieved May 05, 2020, from https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/04/29/covid19-and-conspiracy-theories-a-chinese-virus-or-a-bio-weapon/

Thomas, E. (2020, April 14). As the Coronavirus Spreads, Conspiracy Theories Are Going Viral Too. Retrieved May 05, 2020, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/14/as-the-coronavirus-spreads-conspiracy-theories-are-going-viral-too/