Ben Collins, NBC News:
Well-organized, professional disinformation peddlers in the QAnon and anti-vaccination movements have gained new audiences during the coronavirus pandemic by coalescing around two primary boogeymen: Bill Gates and 5G towers.
Brian Keeley, a professor at Pitzer College in California who studies why people believe in conspiracy theories, said that some people in times of crisis look to far-fetched ideas with simple answers for complex problems.
Providing a straightforward, extinguishable enemy — whether it’s a well-known celebrity like Gates, or a mysterious concept like the illuminati — gives conspiracy theorists hope, agency and power in a time of chaos. In reality, those recognizable, often mortal figures are simply a scapegoat for an act of God.
These people are, by far, an obnoxious minority. However, it is still distressing to see such a scientifically illiterate response to a conceptually easy situation: a highly contagious and lethal virus for which there is no vaccine nor cure requires that we reduce contact to reduce its spread. This is not a hard concept; I don’t understand the impulse to twist it into some cynical fiction when the reality is plainly obvious.
On Tuesday, President Trump toured an N95 mask manufacturing plant, wearing goggles, but no mask, as the song Live and Let Die blasted in the background. At least we know metaphors will survive the pandemic. Many Americans won’t be so lucky. It’s not a hoax. It’s not fifteen cases going down to five. The same pattern of nonstop lies that has marked Trump’s years in office continues apace, but now the disinfo is not about his biography or political opponents. The lies about the virus are not just irritating, demoralizing, and frustrating; they’re deadly. During Trump’s checkered tenure, there’s been no moment when facts and science are more imperative than when it comes to the re-opening of America. What we’re getting is more of the same.
I cannot imagine how dispiriting it must be as a doctor or researcher, working diligently and with urgency, all while fringe beliefs and unproven miracle cures are being recklessly promoted by officials in positions of inherent influence.
Update: Appropriately and poetically, Kirby Ferguson has just finished the final cut of “This is Not a Conspiracy Theory”, which he began putting together about eight years ago.