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Pandemic conspiracy theories are tempting, but follow the science first

social scienceJohn Gordon, Content DeveloperMay 13, 2020

Things are frightening and confusing right now—our health and our jobs are at risk, and we can’t go about our lives as we normally would. And the awful icing on this nasty cake is that we don’t know when it will all be over, or exactly how we can keep ourselves safe, or what will happen to us if we do get sick. So it’s entirely understandable that people are looking for answers, and are maybe a little more willing than usual to accept answers that don’t stand up to careful scrutiny.

I’m talking about coronavirus conspiracy theories and a general resistance towards accepting the science as we best understand it. The widely shared “documentary” Plandemic is a pretty pure embodiment of this, but it comes in a lot of forms. For example, over the course of three days last week, a friend on social media went from questioning whether or not they should be wearing a face mask to TYPING ALL CAPS SWEARWORDS AT ANTHONY FAUCI for . . . causing the pandemic, I guess? Or my mom’s neighbor, who compared two months of no haircuts to the lead-up to . . . wait for it . . . the Holocaust. Yep.

It’s been hard for everyone. But come on, you guys. YOU GUYS. Come on. I, too, wish there were an easy explanation for this situation, one that removes danger from me and places blame on a clear, tangible target. But how often has that been true in the difficult parts of your lives? And if it’s not true, spreading it is going to cause harm.

I could spend a lot of words walking through how and why it’s harmful and what you can do about it, but other writers have already done a better job at that than I could. So I encourage you to check out one (or all!) of the articles below:

If you’ve seen Plandemic and are intrigued about the claims it makes, take a minute to read this article. It’ll walk you through the players and their backgrounds, and it addresses the major points of the “documentary” one by one. (Yes, I’m going to keep using scare quotes for that.)

TLDR: There’s no there there in Plandemic. The film’s sources are questionable, almost none of its claims hold up, and the very few that do deserve a big “well, duh.” (For example, healthcare and pharmaceuticals in this country are largely for-profit businesses, so, yeah, they’re going to make money from this and every other health issue in your life until that system changes.)

If you have friends or family who are sharing conspiracy theories, and you’re wondering what you should do about it, check out this article.

TLDR: As the article says, “conspiracy theories like those in are actively, directly harmful and dangerous. They can influence people’s behavior in ways that are harmful to those people and public health—including you personally—in general.” If someone you know is promoting these ideas, don’t insult or make fun of them, just ask them what they find so persuasive about the ideas, and push back a little. You don’t need to make a war out of it, but you probably shouldn’t let it go unchecked.

If you’re wondering how to evaluate “sensational videos, memes, rants and more about COVID-19,” take a look at this piece. I found this pretty helpful. It doesn’t attribute any ill intent to people sharing Plandemic, or even to its makers, it just offers a checklist of questions to help you think through it yourself: “Is the presentation one sided?”; “Is there an independent pursuit of the truth?”; “Is there a careful adherence to the facts?” ;“Are those accused allowed to respond?”; “Are all sources named and cited, and if not, is the reason explained?”; and “Does the work claim some secret knowledge?”

TLDR: Plandemic does not fare well under those questions. It’s basically empty. And you should keep those questions in mind as other theories turn up.

If you just want a taste of some of the coronavirus myths that are out there, check out the WHO’s myth-busting page.

TLDR: Garlic and spicy foods don’t prevent COVID-19, mosquito bites and 5G networks don’t spread it either. There is no shortage of dopey ideas out there.

Finally, the Science Museum of Minnesota has done a lot of work to encourage people to use scientific evidence when making decisions around their health. For some quick, fun info on good science in medicine, check out our animated videos about looking for science in medicine, the placebo effect, and medical costs, risks and benefits!

It’s frustrating, but which scenario seems more likely? That the death numbers from this pandemic have been inflated, but that the virus was also altered in a lab to be more dangerous, and also that it came from a botched vaccine, and also that effective treatments are being suppressed so Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci can make money from vaccines that will be forced upon us, and also that shelter-in-place orders are a way to keep people under control as these sinister plans are executed?

or

That we were pretty unprepared for the emergence of a highly infectious disease (something that epidemiologists warned us was inevitable) and that measures for slowing the virus (like shelter-in-place orders) are actually not financially beneficial to most individuals, governments, or corporations, so getting these entities to collaborate in a massive secret conspiracy is . . . silly?

Be gentle with yourselves and others, but don’t be a rube. Take time to really think things through, and follow the science. It’ll get us to the other side.