As inevitable as mosquitos and weeds in spring, conspiracy theories are quick to surface after every major world event, with an alternative explanation (read: the TRUTH) about what’s really happening and why.
The COVID-19 pandemic is no different. These wild-eyed fast talkers are ready with a shocking tale of how governments, the rich, the professors, the journalists, the [insert racial and/or religious minority here] are pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes over who’s REALLY responsible for what’s going on.
Fortunately, there are a few brave souls who see through it all. They screw their tinfoil hats to the sticking place and whip up a mashed potato mountain of a tale involving tens of thousands of people spread across the world, secretly collaborating over multiple generations to impose the new world order, steal our freedoms, enslave our minds and destroy our way of life.
It doesn’t matter how much legitimate evidence is presented, they have an answer for everything in the form of the classic Easter Bunny argument.
Well, just because we can’t prove the Easter Bunny exists doesn’t mean it doesn’t. These powerful, shady elites are hiding the Easter Bunny from us but one day, some day the Easter Bunny WILL BE REVEALED (how to spot conspiracy theorists in the wild – their favourite button on the keyboard is the caps-lock).
Pointing out all the conspiracy theories in the past that have never come to fruition proves nothing, of course. Like the Easter Bunny, the real truth is always right over the horizon, the horrifying takeover is sure to happen tomorrow.
And when it doesn’t happen, they take credit for it because they sounded the alarm and enough people sent money after seeing their straight-to-YouTube documentary that the incredible forces at work were suddenly too frightened to complete the final stage of their nefarious plans.
That logic is allowed, of course, but political leaders and public health officers aren’t permitted to use the same thread, supported by actual empirical evidence, to say that the restrictions on the economy and personal freedoms imposed during the pandemic is directly responsible for the dramatic reduction in the spread of COVID-19, saving many people from becoming sick and dying.
Instead, the low numbers are used to argue the coronavirus was never a real threat in the first place but the same logic – the conspiracy theory isn’t true because few to none of the dire predictions have actually happened – is also not allowed.
In most conspiracy theories, the government is given supernatural powers of planning and persuasion in their bid to seize control of the world. Yet governments small and large around the world prove every day they are incapable of keeping anything secret for long and require multiple committees, consultants and studies on how to assemble a two-car parade.
In the case of this pandemic, there are two simple facts working in plain sight with entire branches of science and history to support their validity.
First, nature is incredibly diverse and has a limitless ability beyond the imagination of even the most manic conspiracy theorist or mad scientist to whip up crazy creations like viruses. As UNBC’s Stephen Rader has explained in his excellent series of columns over the past six weeks, a virus isn’t even technically alive but it has the ability to hijack our own cells to replicate itself and damage/kill its host while spreading itself far and wide. In other words, nature invented zombies long before humans were even on the scene.
Second, every living creature, whether they are humans in cities, bats in caves or bees in colonies, can create incredible efficiencies by gathering in large masses but they run the risk of a disease spread rapidly through the masses, harming or destroying the collective.
It seems people would rather invent a frightening conspiracy than face reality.
For all of our intelligence and technology, humans have been and always will be minor players in the history of this planet, which existed long before us and will continue to circle the sun long after our species becomes extinct. Furthermore, we remain in the exact same predicament as all the other animals, hemmed in by a natural world that can randomly produce forces from the microscopic (viruses) to the massive (hurricanes, floods, murder hornets) that care not whether we are here or not and will senselessly murder us because they can.
There’s no point investing in conspiracy theories because there are actual doomsday scenarios possible because they’ve already happened before.
A giant meteor colliding with Earth ended the reign of the dinosaurs and most life forms on the planet at the time, paving the way for the rise of mammals, including humans.
Could (and probably will in the vast expanse of geological time) happen again.
Or just Google “solar megastorm” for some fascinating reading about how if/when the sun burps loud and long enough in Earth’s direction, the electromagnetic impact would disable every satellite orbiting the planet, short circuit our phones, our computers and our electrical grids and instantly send us back to Victorian times.
No amount of toilet paper hoarding would protect anyone from the devastation.
Small, ignorant minds embrace flimsy conspiracy theories, even while there are numerous terrestrial and extra-terrestrial mortal threats staring us all right in the face.
Neil Godbout is editor-in-chief of the Prince George Citizen.