Conspiracy theories in a time of crisis

Conspiracy theories seem to be endemic, at least in the US. There seems to be a sizeable size of the US population willing to believe in all manner of theories about any major event that have little or no factual basis and this period of the coronavirus pandemic is no exception.

The last thing America needed on top of a president still in denial over the state current pandemic is the rest of the population believing conspiracies about it, but here we are.

While scientists agree that the virus emerged from nature, the uncertainty over how people were first infected by Covid-19 has left space for misinformation to grow. In Britain, that has meant the propagation of a random conspiracy theory about a link between coronavirus and 5G wireless technology – which almost a third of people say they can’t rule out.

In the US, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center, about a third of Americans surveyed believe that Covid-19 was created by humans in a laboratory.

Those most likely to believe in the conspiracy were Republicans or Republican-leaning independents (37% v 21% of Democrat or Democratic-leaning voters). About four in 10 conservative Republicans who replied believed in the conspiracy theory (39%), the largest share of any ideological group.

The research showed that the conspiracy was more prevalent among younger people than adults: about a third of adults aged 18 to 29 said the virus was developed in a lab (35%), compared with 21% of adults 65 and older. A fifth (19%) of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher believed that the coronavirus was created in a lab.

That Republicans are more likely to believe in this theory does not surprise me since it shifts blame away from their hero, our idiot president. But that younger people are more likely to believe in such theories than older people surprised me a little. Could that be because they spend more time in the social media world where these theories circulate widely? When one hears the same thing from seemingly many different sources, one may mistakenly think that there may be some truth to it, even though the theory may have originated from one or a few hoaxers.


  1. Mobius says

    I don’t know about younger and social media. Sadly, when I was young I had a tendency to pick up on weird ideas. I grew out of it fortunately. Of course, that is just a sample size of one.

  2. mnb0 says

    “Conspiracy theories seem to be endemic, at least in the US.”
    As the Dutch have the particular habit of taking over from the USA everything bad and nothing good it’s the same in my native country.

    “a random conspiracy theory about a link between coronavirus and 5G wireless technology”
    Because of this one recently no less than 11 telecom masts have been set on fire since 3 April. None of them were G5 masts. Here is some footage from a mast near Groningen:

  3. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    It goes all the way to the top. Trump just cut funding from the WHO, because they are a Chinese-Democratic conspiracy to destroy the USA. He didn’t use those exact words, but that is what his comments boil down to.

  4. jrkrideau says

    Conspiracy theories seem to be as American as apple pie. Mind you, I think the conspiracy theories are common in many countries but the US seem to be able to generate a really large conspiracy theories every so often.
    Richard Hofstadter wrote an article in Harper’s magazine entitled The Paranoid Style in American Politics discussing this interesting tendency. Russiagate and this new China Coronavirus conspiracy theories are nothing new.

    According to the popular conspiracy of the day, the USA has been under attack by the Illuminati, Jesuits, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Masons, Catholics in general, the Soviet Union,and possibly the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. Well okay, Grand Fenwick was my addition.

    Though the author does not mention I believe I have read of a considerable panic over fears of an invasion by the German Empire sometime before the first World War.

    I sometimes get the feeling that due to American exceptionalism, Americans cannot admit that something about their perfect system is buggered up and therefore have to explain away in injustices, economic and social problems through conspiracies would usually involve the malevolent actions of a foreign power.

    In this China, World Health Organization, etc.,etc., conspiracy, Trump is clearly lashing about panic, as are a lot of his criminally- incompetent appointees, and much of the right-wing mainstream media that have been telling the the USA what a great job the Administration has been doing. There is a desperate need for any kind of story that will offer up a scapegoat and divert attention from this total disaster.

  5. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 mnb0
    Doesn’t look like some of your Dutch fire starters are too bright, gullible perhaps but not too bright. The firestarter does take good pictures, don’t they It is so nice to leave the car parked where the police can see license plate license plate so clearly. Was he wearing a name tag?

  6. fentex says

    It’s because of the Just World fallacy, and is more prominent in places that are more religious -- because religion fosters exactly the same form of irrational belief in people that it prepares people for conspiracies.

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