“The establishment” and “Mother Nature” are both mythological creatures, but conspiracy theorists have incorporated them into explanations for the coronavirus pandemic.
Casablanca – The coronavirus appeared in an interconnected world where powers are shifting, the distrust in authorities is deepening, and environmental urgency is omnipresent. Conspiracy theories are not a “hidden truth,” but rather an extrapolation of society’s collective emotional state. Such understanding helps to analyze the state of the global collective psyche through uncovering the ideological origins of the coronavirus conspiracy theories.
The evil, the cruel, the heartless: ‘The establishment’
Although the phrase has been gaining popularity since the 2016 presidential elections in the US, nobody really knows who “the establishment” is; it bears similarities to the Illuminati or the lizard people in being all-powerful and all-infiltrating.
This time, “the establishment” has released the coronavirus upon Earth. . . to get rid of the elderly.
Unproductive seniors cause a strain on the forever-rising economy: They cannot work anymore, yet they require medical support and pension payments. COVID-19 is a perfect getaway of getting rid of “useless” members of society without being accused of ageist genocide. And the Earth is overpopulated, anyway, is it not?
Forgive us, Thy Earth, for we know not how we polluted
The coronavirus panic caught humanity in the middle of the most urgent concern in the history of the environmental movement.
The issues of global heating, biodiversity loss, increasing levels of pollution or more frequent extreme weather events are extremely complex. Their solving requires an extensive collective effort, which may mean a significant altering of the current ways of living.
Consequently, it is easier for lousy human brains to seek for simple causes, such as “the planet is overpopulated.” Here, the coronavirus crisis is playing out perfectly, since it will reduce the population numbers without anybody being accused of planned genocide. And cute, furry animals are returning to quarantined cities! COVID-19 is ultimately good for the planet’s survival.
This argument is not as much a coronavirus conspiracy theory as the understanding of climate issues gone terribly wrong.
It has been known since the late 60s, with the publication of Paul R. Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb,” or later in 1972, with the Club of Rome’s report, that humans consume too many resources to sustain the whole population in the long run.
What this effectively means is not that the planet is overpopulated, but that excessive consumerism proves deadly for our survival.
Taking COVID-19 as a cure for our environmental problems is a lazy, simplistic call. Overpopulation is not to be tackled this way, and cute animals do not return to slightly-more-quiet cities after a week (the stories were debunked as fake news). The world needs firm, collective action, only to slow down, if stopping proves too difficult, the deadly environmental consequences of the past decades of hyper-production and consumption.
Another somewhat funny environmental interpretation of the coronavirus pandemic is a sudden increase in a strange, hippie spirituality. “The Earth is defending itself” by sending new, mutated viruses onto sinful humans who dare to spoil it. COVID-19 is “Nature’s” punishment for our collective actions. How spiteful. How spiritual. How misplaced.
“Nature” is not a conscious organism. It is normal for viruses to mutate randomly to ensure the continuity of them spreading. The deeper we go into ancient jungles, the bigger the possibility of finding an unknown deadly genome there, as it happened with the Ebola virus. Nobody knows what ancient bacteria or viruses will appear once the permafrost in Siberia melts due to global heating.
But natural processes in a circular ecosystem are not “Nature’s punishment,” only exactly that, natural processes.
For now, emissions around locked-down countries are falling, which is the only good news about the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19, however, is not the answer to global environmental issues and using the pandemic as such is not only lousy and simplistic but ultimately as inhumane as the coronavirus conspiracy theory about “the establishment” targeting the elderly.
Read also: Ozone Layer is Healing, Could Fully Recover
Facts, sources, and logic are humanity’s friends
Conspiracy theories feed on uncertainty and in return help create more of it, which is why they are especially dangerous in current times of a crisis.
Fortunately, there are quite simple ways a reader can use to verify the veracity of a read. According to “The Conspiracy Theory Handbook,” created by cognitive scientists Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook, there are four questions worth asking oneself before deeming something as true or false:
- Do I recognize the news organization that posted the story?
- Does the information in the post seem believable?
- Is the post written in a style that I expect from a professional news organization?
- Is the post politically motivated?
A big part of this advice comes down to using common sense and looking critically at the source of the information.
Professional news outlets have established, recognizable names. They have built up their credibility through years of reliable, fact-based reporting. It is impossible for any news agency to be fully objective, but the journalistic ethos obliges writers to back their research with certified sources and double-check every fact.
Writers on forums where anybody can express their opinions, on the other hand, do not have the restrictions of reliable reporting and can create any story by establishing fictional causality between random facts.
Believing in conspiracy theories comes easier in times of great uncertainty and crisis, but they may prove highly destabilizing for the public order. Our institutions are not perfect, but they are doing anything they can to secure our immediate and future safety. Falling into the anarchist trap and perceiving any official as a pathological liar will not ease one’s anxiety but ultimately increase it, through spiraling into greater uncertainty.