The COVID-19 pandemic, and the responses to it, have been the biggest thing to happen to the world since World War II. Like all major happenings, new conspiracy theories have abounded in its wake – some plausible, others absurd. This article provides an overview.
The first wave of conspiracy theories to achieve widespread acceptance suggested COVID-19 was a bioweapon.
When the initial outbreak happened in China three months ago, it was traced back to one particular wet market in Wuhan. This market happened to be close to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory that studied extremely contagious and deadly viruses. That sparked rumours that the COVID-19 strain was a Chinese bioweapon that had escaped the lab.
Some people claimed to have proof that workers at the Institute had sold lab animals to local markets for meat, and that some of this meat had carried the virus that infected people. This assertion was demolished once it became understood that the virus had leaped to humans from eating undercooked bats, and not lab animals.
The next theory was that the strain was an American bioweapon, deliberately engineered to target Chinese people. Apparently the coronavirus targeted something in the lungs called ACE receptors, and apparently Far East Asians had seven times more of these receptors than other races. This theory was very popular when the pandemic was mostly affecting China, Japan and South Korea.
After the pandemic exploded in other countries, that theory became unpopular. It was replaced by a theory that claimed the strain really was a Chinese bioweapon after all, and that they deliberately infected themselves with it, knowing two things. One – the virus would spread to America and to the West anyway, and two – the Chinese model of government would allow them, unlike the West, to take the necessary measures to prevent it becoming a pandemic.
A second wave of conspiracy theories broke out when the world’s governments started to institute various lockdown and social control measures, ostensibly to stop the spread of the virus. One of the first of these held that the strain really was an American bioweapon after all, but it was not launched for military reasons. Rather, it was launched to stop climate change.
It has been observed that many climate experts had predicted an apocalyptic future for the human species, on account of that we appear to have cooked the planet. Some of them were saying that the world’s industrial output was such that, if we didn’t change course, our carbon emissions would raise the Earth’s temperature by five degrees Celcius by the end of the century, making human life impossible.
The first conspiracy theory of this second wave suggested that COVID-19 had been deliberately engineered to kill a large number of old people who would not be missed. This would caused world governments to shut their countries down to contain the spread, which would cause the world economy to collapse, which was the only thing that could have saved the world climate.
The next conspiracy theory claimed that COVID-19 was neither deliberately engineered nor even a truly big deal, but world governments had seized the pretext of a catastrophic pandemic as an excuse to carry out drastic social change. This theory developed out of the previous one, but suggested that the government was acting opportunistically rather than with forethought.
This theory stated that the world’s governments knew that a coronavirus pandemic was coming and that it would be reasonably bad, but that they co-operated in secret to overplay the severity of the threat, creating the impression that shutting down half of the economy was justified.
This conspiracy theory made extensive mention of something called UN Agenda 21, which apparently calls for much of the world’s urban and suburban area to be reclaimed by wilderness. This is given as one of the explanations for why the world’s governments want to cripple the global economy with lockdown measures. Forcing a shift to a cashless society is often a part of it.
A more sinister theory has it that the governments of the West will use these lockdowns to persecute critics.
In many places around the world, the ruling powers have given the police the power of warrantless entry to private property on the grounds that they need to look for gatherings of people indoors. It can be predicted, even without conspiracy theory, that the police will use this power to intimidate and harass dissidents.
With conspiracy theory, it’s easy to believe that it could go as far as kidnappings and extrajudicial murders. Right now, no-one could protest about police brutality as protests are banned while the lockdowns are in place. So the police could get away with disappearing a great number of government critics before any civil unrest could occur.
No doubt there will be more conspiracy theories as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens. The next wave of them may relate to which demographic categories are being left to die once the health system gets overwhelmed, or whether the police are able to see the entire population’s whereabouts in real time by using cellphone tracking. If a vaccine gets released, that will surely lead to another wave.
If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.