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Another symptom of COVID-19: conspiratorial thinking

By now we all know the telltale signs of COVID-19: dry cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, loss of smell/taste ...

At least those are the physical symptoms, the ones they tell you about. But if you want to find out what’s really going on, you have to dig a little deeper. Well, maybe not that deep. OK, just jump on the internet.

Because what’s been a low point in the lives of nearly everyone on the planet is now high times for conspiracy theorists. As it stands, there are now dozens of theories floating around concerning our favorite pandemic. Consider, if you will, that:

• The virus was accidentally released from a Wuhan virology lab; or

• The virus was deliberately released from a Wuhan virology lab; or

• China engineered the virus as a weapon; or

• The U.S. military engineered the virus as a weapon and released it from a Wuhan virology lab; or

• The virus is connected to the rapid rollout of 5G cellular networks; or

• The virus was caused by genetically modified crops; or

• The virus was specifically designed to kill seniors who want to reelect President Trump; or

• There is no coronavirus, it’s just a plot by the globalist elite/Deep State to take away our freedoms; or

• The coronavirus was engineered by Big Pharma to cash in on a vaccine; or

• Bill Gates plans to use coronavirus vaccination to microchip the world’s population; or

• All those emergency room doctors and nurses you see on TV begging people to stay home are all fake, just like the moon landing, Sandy Hook massacre and 9/11; or ...

... well, there’s many more, but you get the picture.

Now, I’m not here to rain on anyone’s prize pandemic plot parade. Maybe one of these theories is true. Heck, maybe they’re all true. I’m not sure if that’s possible, although in theory ... oh, man, now I’m doing it.

The truth is I have no idea, and I find it all very confusing and depressing. So how can the average idiot like myself determine if any of these schemes is fact or fiction? The answer is you can’t. And here’s why: Facts are based on data, theories are based on belief.

For instance, for centuries it was believed, based on personal observation, that the earth was flat. But it’s a fact – based on later centuries of measurements, tests and equations – that the earth is round. At least that’s NASA what says, but then, you know, they’re the one behind that whole moon landing thing ...

There’s a neat little document called “The Conspiracy Theory Handbook” that highlights the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking. It was written (and I am so, so sorry about this, because some of you are undoubtedly going to say “aha, that figures”) by a couple of guys trying to debunk conspiracy theories against global warming. Still, it’s a useful starting point to help figure out whether your favorite machination actually holds water. 

You can find it at: shorturl.at/syAMS.

All conspiratorial thought, the authors contend, can be boiled down into the acronym CONSPIR:

• Contradictory: A simultaneously held belief in ideas that are mutually contradictory (like Princess Diana was murdered, but she also faked her own death).

• Overriding suspicion: Extreme disbelief in anything that doesn’t fit the theory (like that there Fake News).

• Nefarious intent: A belief that all those involved in the conspiracy are evil, like Bill Gates (although as a lifelong Apple user, I’m pretty sure Windows is the work of the devil).

• Something must be wrong: A belief that official accounts are based on deception (the COVID-19 death count is purposely exaggerated ... or purposely under-reported).

• Persecuted victim: A belief that believers are brave antagonists taking on villainous conspirators (instead of, say, 35-year-old man-children still living at home in their parents’ basements).

• Immune to evidence: Any facts countering the theory are re-interpreted as being part of the conspiracy (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in on it!).

• Reinterpreting randomness: Small, random events are woven into the tapestry of the conspiracy (intact windows in the Pentagon after 9/11 confirm it was inside job).

And while none of these observations actually prove or disprove any of the current crop of conspiracies, they do help put them into some sort of perspective.

Still, at the end of the day, the final analysis is up to you. Because, as the great philosopher Tom Petty would say, “Listen, it don’t really matter to me, baby. You believe what you want to believe.”

• Bill Wimbiscus is a former editor and reporter at The Herald-News. He’s currently banking on the “coronavirus doesn’t really exist theory,” although he’s holding off on going outside until Memorial Day +14 to be sure.

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