Have you heard it? The whispering and the murmurs off stage? Like the chorus of an ancient Greek tragedy, suggesting that the current Coronavirus crisis is just a jumped-up hoax, a conspiracy to take away some vaguely articulated “rights,” but more specifically rumblings about freedom of assembly and lockdown by decree?
While the poet, Robert Frost, might have said, “Good fences make good neighbors,” I’m sure he would have been aghast at the emotional and economic impact of social distancing in the 21st century.
Despite more than one million cases in the United States, more deaths than the Vietnam War, the economy spinning toward Depression, and a potentially collapsing food chain, an increasing number of individuals are questioning the extent of the crisis and its actual impact.
This is evidenced by letters to the editor in state-wide newspapers, complaints on social-media platforms, and conversations among the socially distanced. In fact, many are open to entertaining some whacked-out conspiracy theories as to the origin of the pandemic.
In addition to the virus being a biological weapon that escaped from a Chinese lab, which is actually sounding more and more plausible; one hears that Bill Gates is plotting to use COVID-19 testing and a future vaccine to track people with microchips.
This idea has also been picked up by the anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists. Celebrities like the actor, Woody Harrelson (“Zombieland.” how timely!) have also suggested it’s caused by 5G transmission towers; or perhaps most bizarre, behind the virus is a plot to flush out and arrest members of the satanic “deep state” whose membership varies depending on your political affiliation. Other “theories” about the causes of the virus are even stranger.
Unfortunately, the facts don’t lie: worldwide, at least 200,000 deaths have been directly attributed to the pandemic; one in six Americans are out of a job; the International Organization of Labor (Organization Internationale du Travail), an agency of the United Nations, estimates that 1.6 billion people “are at risk of having their livelihood destroyed,” etc.
There’s nothing new about such doubts about the origin of the virus, about the honest questioning of things we don’t understand and abrupt changes in the status quo; however, in this age of “fake news” and distrust of formerly respected institutions, believability has been further compromised. My father-in-law, who was an educated man, went to his grave convinced that the 1969 moon landing actually took place on a television sound stage in Los Angeles or New York.
The “proof” that he and others cited included no stars in the background picture when Astronaut James Irwin, who was supposedly on the surface of the moon, saluted in front of the Apollo 15 landing module, a stray rock that appeared to have the letter “C” stenciled on it, inconsistent shadow lengths, and the American flag appearing to “flap” in the breeze when there’s no wind on the moon. It has been noted, however, that faking the moon landing and duping thousands of scientists around the world would have been more difficult than keeping the secrets of the Manhattan Project for the development of the atomic bomb.