Like Herpes, New Conspiracy Theories Erupt from Anti-Tech Activists

By Alex Berezow, PhD — Jul 30, 2020
Conspiracy theories are like herpes. Once a person is exposed, he's infected for life and cannot be cured. Worse, the patient is vulnerable to more conspiracy theories.
Credit: Public Domain / Wikipedia

While much remains unknown about SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, we do know this: Like others before it, the new virus evolved naturally, perhaps in bats, before "jumping" into humans. A paper published in Nature Medicine explains that the genome of the virus strongly supports this narrative and that purposeful genetic engineering by humans is far-fetched.

No matter. The conspiracy lives. The Organic Consumers Association, which promotes the organic industry and is a top funder of the anti-GMO conspiracy website U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), just published an article that says:

Despite an ongoing cover-up by government authorities, the biotech industry, the military industrial complex and the mass media, there is growing scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was created and (most likely accidentally) leaked from a dual-use military/civilian lab in Wuhan, China.

Good grief. There are at least three conspiracies in that one sentence: (1) A massive cover-up; (2) the coronavirus was created; and (3) the Wuhan lab serves a military purpose. Let's debunk them one by one.

First, it is essentially impossible for there to be a cover-up involving the government, biotech industry, the military-industrial complex, and the mass media. A group that large would include tens of millions of people, and a study using mathematics alone shows how incredibly unlikely it is for that many conspirators to keep mum. Eventually, one of them would blow its cover.

Second, the claim that there is a "growing scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was created" is like saying that there is a growing consensus that Queen Elizabeth II is a shape-shifting lizard. To support its ridiculous claim, the Organic Consumers Association links to another conspiracy website.

Third, there is no evidence that the Wuhan virus laboratory is producing biological weapons (which is what is meant by "dual use military/civilian lab"). It's a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) lab, similar to those at the CDC.

From One Conspiracy to Another

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and conspiracy theorists gotta theorize. When one conspiracy gets old, they move on to a new one. It's usually the same, predictable people, though.

Before it was interested in coronavirus conspiracies, the Organic Consumers Association was peddling all manner of nonsense, such as 9/11 trutherism, chemtrails, FEMA's secret plan to implement martial lawpesticides causing school shootings, and (of course) anti-vaccine propaganda. Anti-tech activists posing as journalists, like Paul Thacker, have moved on from anti-GMO conspiracies to anti-5G ones. And a shocking number of Americans believe that Bill Gates wants to use vaccines to inject people with tracking devices. Your crazy uncle who said the moon landing was faked has moved on to more sinister theories.

Conspiracy Theories Are Like Herpes

We should think of conspiracy theories as "viruses of the mind." They are infectious because they spread from person to person. Like viruses, they are often completely impervious to treatment such as reason or logic. And once infected, a person holds on to conspiracy theories for life.

So basically, conspiracy theories are like herpes.

Alex Berezow, PhD

Former Vice President of Scientific Communications

Dr. Alex Berezow is a PhD microbiologist, science writer, and public speaker who specializes in the debunking of junk science for the American Council on Science and Health. He is also a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and a featured speaker for The Insight Bureau. Formerly, he was the founding editor of RealClearScience.

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