A number of conspiracy theories about malign forces behind the coronavirus pandemic have cropped up in the last few weeks.
These include: the virus is a mass depopulation project by unspecified “powers”; it is a longer-term plot to vaccinate people with a microchip; Disney’s Tangled included a prediction about the virus; helicopters will soon be sent out to spray us all with disinfectant.
Perhaps not the least bizarre is the “theory” that links the coronavirus to the roll-out of 5G technology. This builds on baseless health scares around the new mobile technology over the last year or so. Celebrities Amanda Holden and Keri Hilson have boosted the new scare about 5G among their Twitter followers.
The social media nonsense transferred to real life in the first week of April when a mobile phone mast was set on fire in Birmingham. Openreach and other telecom engineers have been abused while going about their job keeping us (and essential services) connected during the pandemic.
The new impetus to 5G conspiracy theory seems to have its origins in the fact that Wuhan was one of the places in China where 5G was first rolled out. The link to the virus is the “theory” that the high frequency radio waves on which 5G is based damage the human immune system.
Smoking, alcohol, poor diet, and stress are linked to immune system problems. But there is no evidence to link those problems to the very low exposure from 5G networks to particular radio waves. Nor do those waves cause cancer.
In fact they are less likely to cause cancer than the radio waves used by 4G, 3G, 2G... Or different forms of radio waves, such as X-rays. (For more on this Google “International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection”).
This conspiracy theory is not a laughing matter. It is dangerous in all kinds of ways. It adds to people’s anxiety. Since many mobile phone masts are situated on buildings and near houses, the arson attacks could generate deadly fires.
The labour movement must defend our telecom comrades, and we need the government to be under such scrutiny, and so strongly pressed to answer awkward questions, that its factual briefings will be trusted.