Editor’s Notebook

The Infodemic

Conspiracies, misinformation, nonsense


Cell towers, 5G, are spreading the coronavirus; Dr. Anthony Fauci sent the virus to China in 2015; Medicare is incentivizing hospitals to lie on admittance and death of patients giving out $39,000 for each death; miracle cure gets rid of COVID-19; Bill Gates did it; vaccinations are designed so governments can depopulate the world; Schweppes tonic water prevents the virus;  COVID-19 is a bioweapon developed by China; more; more; and more.

Why write about this?

There is the chance that some of you reading this will jump on the bandwagon, saying, “Oh sure, that sounds reasonable.” I am just asking that you investigate before jumping on. Look at sources that are NOT in your social media streams but search elsewhere.

The problem is the current ability of misinformation to spread like a, yes, virus. Social media algorithms look at what the reader is exploring and suggest more of the same, so if you look up the 5G conspiracy, you will find it, and a thousand more reinforcing videos and posts to support it. Finally, you might think, “Well so many people talk, write, video and post about this, it must be true.”

It is not.

To make things worse, when celebrities start to chime in, people believe them even more. Just because someone famous says something, doesn’t mean it is true. Actor Woody Harrelson and UK personality Eamonn Holmes chimed in on the 5G theory, and people went crazy. This theory got so far out of control that 5G towers in the UK have been set on fire and broadband engineers threatened.

Then there’s the idea that secret messages about 5G and coronavirus are hidden in the design of the new £20 note in the UK. To quote an article from theconversation.com, “In reality, 5G relates to viruses and bank notes as much as the tooth fairy relates to zoology – not at all.”

There are some especially frightening ideas out there promoting dangerous and disgusting thoughts which have been around for a while but are being adapted to the pandemic situation. QAnon is a complex political conspiracy theory group that easily adapts to several of the COVID-19 misinformation flows. For example, QAnon promotes the use of Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) which in the past has been touted as a cure for everything from autism to cancer and HIV/AIDS. Now, MMS reportedly can cure COVID-19. What is this miracle cure? Um, its chlorine dioxide, also known as bleach. What can happen if you take it in amounts as small as one-gram? Results could be nausea, vomiting, shedding of the mucous membranes in small and large intestines and hemolysis.

Please, don’t drink bleach.

It is our nature, as human beings, to look for answers to make sense of the world. We are organized and logical and unwilling sometimes to believe in the randomness of the universe. This sometimes means that any coincidence can be interpreted a as conspiracy of some kind. Like the fact that Bill Gates gave a TED talk in 2015 warning of a possible staggering death toll in the case of a worldwide pandemic, then participated in a 2019 exercise hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security focusing on emergency preparedness in the case of a severe pandemic. Suddenly Gates becomes the leader of a conspiracy to vaccinate for COVID-19 and introduce a worldwide digital ID into everyone in the world (an idea backed by, yup, QAnon).

Oh and, yes, garlic is good for you and hot baths are nice, but they don’t prevent this virus. Drinking water is essential but won’t “flush” out any virus that enters you however much you drink. The sun won’t kill the virus and ice cream won’t encourage it. You cannot buy a test kit that you can test yourself with. And, holding your breath for 10 seconds without coughing means only that you can hold your breath for 10 seconds without coughing, not that you don’t have the virus.

Elva K. Österreich is editor of Desert Exposure and would love to meet Desert Exposure in Silver City. Please give her a call or drop her a line and she will be glad to arrange a day to meet up. Reach her at editor@desertexposure.com or by cell phone at 575-443-4408.