Three weeks ago, I wrote a piece called, “The Stupidity of Strangers,” a rebuttal to those who say about our current crisis, “We’re all in this together.” In that piece, I gave examples of the kind of schmucks who live among us who are worse than no help.
You can add to that list the preachers and imams who flout the law by insisting their flocks show up for religious services, whether at Islamic services on a Friday night or for Christian services on Easter Sunday. Just as we’re learning how effective social distancing and stay-at-home rules are, the politicians who granted exemptions for these gatherings should be considered enablers.
While I’m at it, let’s add John Cusack and Woody Harrelson to the list, though not for religious reasons. They’re among the idiots who have been using their social media accounts to spread the completely false conspiracy theory linking 5G cellphone technology to the coronavirus. It sounds ridiculous — after all, there is exactly zero evidence backing up the claim — but that doesn’t stop the internet’s web of ignorance from spreading it.
An analysis by The New York Times found 487 Facebook communities, 84 Instagram accounts, 52 Twitter accounts, and dozens of other posts and videos pushing the conspiracy. The Facebook communities added nearly half a million new followers over the past two weeks. On Instagram, a network of 40 accounts nearly doubled its audience this month to 58,800 followers.
On YouTube, the 10 most popular 5G coronavirus conspiracy videos posted in March were viewed over 5.8 million times. Today, the conspiracy can be found on Facebook in over 30 countries, including Switzerland, Uruguay and Japan.
As if we don’t have enough trouble with a pandemic that is killing tens of thousands of people, some of those who believe this nonsense have gone as far as burning dozens of cellphone towers around the world and attacking telecom technicians on the job. Yet the social media outlets are doing very little to remove posts that disseminate this dangerous theory.
Most of those posts, including one from Harrelson, start with a phrase like, “A lot of my friends are talking about….” That’s the same sort of wording Trump uses when he spews something he’s just made up or heard from other conspiracy theorists. None of them ever quote a scientist or journalist or researcher who has looked into the matter and is backed up by others in the field. It’s always a rumor with no specific source.
If dealing with COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s the peril of something so noxious going viral.