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Is it possible to stop the spread of conspiracy theories about coronavirus?

Don't you think the world is a little crazy? I dare to suggest that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was somewhat out of order - environmental pollution, uncontrolled population growth and climate change, along with our unbridled desire to consume more and more in the literal sense of the word, made the planet boil. But, as it turned out, not only the earth, but also the brains of its inhabitants gradually melted: serious upheavals and uncertainty, as it turned out, are fertile soil for the prosperity of various conspiracy theories. As a result, the pandemic of the new coronavirus began along with infodemia - the spread of misinformation about COVID-19. But is it possible to fight it, and if so, how?

Shot from the animated series Futurama. Conspiracy theorists wear foil caps

An attentive observer noticed that in theAt the beginning of the pandemic, people on social networks massively shared the false allegations that washing with bleach or eating garlic are effective methods of fighting the virus. Needless to say, both of these were immediately refuted by the World Health Organization (WHO). Ah, if it were all over!

After bleach and garlic, the world overtook a wave of everythingmore insidious, absurd and insane pandemic conspiracy theories. Among them is the false assertion that 5G cellular networks are spreading the coronavirus (someone, please explain to HOW), and Bill Gates is a kind of Thanos from the Marvel cinematic universe, which is struggling with the overpopulation of the planet.

Disinformation spreads on the Internet in much the same way as the virus itself on the planet.

How do conspiracy theories appear

A catastrophic event like a pandemiccreates fertile, incredibly nutritious soil for conspiracy theories. This is well known to scientists, as confirmed by John Cook, a disinformation expert at the George Mason University Climate Change Communications Center, in an interview with The Washington Post. Cook is concerned about the onslaught of information and misinformation on social networks, in news and cable channels - this creates a mess. Moreover, people do not perceive information overload very well, especially when their lives are at stake. They feel overwhelmed with information, but they don’t have the information that they need. That's why they tend to believe in outlandish claims, for example in the 5G towers that supposedly spread the coronavirus. 5G is the newest and fastest type of cellular network, which began to spread around the world in 2019. As is usually the case with new technologies, it has attracted the attention of conspiracy theories. But why exactly did this theory become “viral” of others?

More on the topic: Psychologists have identified a link between schizotypy and faith in conspiracy theories.

Who would have thought that 5G towers would become an “instrument of evil”

According to the publication Wired, on January 22, the general doctorpractice in Belgium by the name of Chris Van Kerkhoven groundlessly told the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws that 5G technology is life-threatening and associated with coronavirus. The newspaper quickly amended and deleted the misleading article from its website, but it was too late. The 5G towers movement began to spread rumors, and some people, desperate for some sense of order, believed this implausible lie.

When people feel threatened, they get out ofcontrol or try to explain a large significant event, they are more vulnerable or tend to turn to conspiracy theories to explain what is happening. Somewhat illogical, but it gives people a greater sense of control. Accident and uncertainty no one likes.

John Cook, a disinformation expert at George Mason University’s Climate Change Communications Center.

The actual origin of misinformation, bythe opinion of many researchers does not matter much, because she begins to live her own life as soon as she breaks free. The biggest problem is our psychology, because the human brain is designed for quick decision making. It is really difficult for us to spend time and energy thinking things over, checking facts and evaluating.

For more articles on why people behave so strangely and believe in the supernatural, read on our channel in Yandex.Zen. There are articles that are not on the site.

People around the world blame 5G technologists for the coronavirus pandemic

How conspiracy theories spread

According to scientists, misinformation is spreadingeverywhere just like information. And the repetition of misinformation makes it more believable over time. Of course, it is much more difficult to deal with misinformation if someone intentionally and tirelessly disseminates it, which partially relates to various theories of the 5G conspiracy.

According to The Washington Post, the RussianRT America’s network spread misinformation about the mobile network long before COVID-19, partly according to The New York Times, to slow its deployment in the United States and give Russia time to catch up. Mike Wood, a psychologist and faith expert in conspiracy theory, who studied the spread of misinformation during the outbreak of Zika fever in 2016, believes that there are people who believe in one or another conspiracy theory because it matches their political beliefs, and for some conspiracy theories are beliefs at all. For them, the specifics of conspiracy theory does not matter much.

During a pandemic conspiracy theory thatthe virus is either harmless, or a biological weapon that kills everyone, or an excuse for the government to make a vaccine that will kill everyone - appear instantly.

Mike Wood, a psychologist and an expert on faith in conspiracy theory.

By the way, in the United States a theory of conspiracy about 5G towers andcoronavirus also distributed media personalities, just like our former member of “House-2” Victoria Bonya. So, the singer M. I. A. groundlessly tweeted that 5G towers are likely to slow the recovery of COVID-19 infected people, and actor John Cusack even stated that 5G will soon be proved to have a bad effect on people's health. True, then he deleted this tweet but the Internet remembers everything. And - unexpectedly for me personally - Woody Harrelson linked 5G and coronavirus in two now already deleted Instagram posts. Agree, against this background, Nikita Mikhalkov’s fiery speech about the dangers of 5G does not look like thunder from a clear sky. But stopping the spread of this conspiracy theory is now almost impossible.

It is not clear how the burning of cell towers will help in the fight against a pandemic

You will be wondering: Why are coronavirus conspiracy theories so ridiculous?

How to stop conspiracy theories?

While the origin of the piece of informationmay not matter, the most important is the type of misinformation. The idea that eating garlic helps fight the disease is a natural rumor - it's just false information. But conspiracy theory suggests that a vile group of people is fulfilling a sinister plan, and it’s much harder to refute. Experts believe that more natural rumors pass very quickly, but rumors of conspiracy theory accumulate and do not stop. For conspiracy theory, where misinformation is accompanied by distrust of institutions, the state, and science, any evidence that refutes the theory is considered part of the conspiracy.

Are there any conspirators among your friends? Is it possible to conduct a constructive dialogue with them? Share your experience in fighting disinformation with our Telegram chat participants as well as in the comments to this article.

Thus, the 5G conspiracy theory led tothe real destruction of cell towers throughout Europe. In Britain alone, The New York Times reports, “In April, more than 30 acts of arson and vandalism were committed against wireless towers and other telecommunications devices,” including towers in Liverpool and Birmingham on April 2 and 3. But what can be opposed to the conspirators?

Perhaps the most frightening thing in this whole story is that conspiracy theories may be the worldview of individuals

Scientists believe that in conversations with the conspiratorsneed to focus on the facts. When your interlocutor publishes misinformation in the comments, you need to write that this is misinformation. Because when people read comments or posts, then seeing the facts is alarming and less likely to believe the conspirator. So whether we want it or not, it is very important to refute false information and it is best to politely provide the interlocutor with a link to a study or an authoritative source, for example, WHO.