COVID-19 and 5G networks: Another social media scam?

Sadly, I heard this ludicrous claim in the checkout line at Floyd's Food Lion store. Will this needless misinformation ever stop?

A woman ahead of me at the checkout line at Food Lion Thursday evening wasn’t wearing a mask, so I asked why.

“I can’t breathe through a mask,” she said. “Besides, you don’t need that mask. The 5G technology is causing this virus.”

Say what? Mobile phone technology is moving to 5G data transmissions at new, faster speeds. I’ve heard and read a fair amount of debate about whether or not the new standard will live up to its promise, but cause COVID-19 had not come up in any discussion I had or read.

I wished the woman well, paid for my groceries and left the store, shaking my head.

The Journal of Medical Internet Research says the COVID-19 caused by 5G claim is just another case of false information spread rapidly through social media.

“The combination of quick and targeted interventions oriented to delegitimize the sources of fake information is key to reducing their impact,” JMIR says in a new report. “Those users voicing their views against the conspiracy theory, link baiting, or sharing humorous tweets inadvertently raised the profile of the topic, suggesting that policymakers should insist in the efforts of isolating opinions that are based on fake news.”

Sadly, there is no limit to the paranoia and groundless conspiracy theories that circulate on social media and other places when it comes to COVID-19.

A retired Floyd County sheriff’s deputy posted that the pandemic will “mysteriously end” as soon as the presidential election is over. It’s all a plan by Democrats to oust Donald Trump from the White House, he added.

I wonder what he will be claiming this time next year when are still living under the limitation of the pandemic.

Trump supports a QAnon claim that Democratic political leaders are secret pedophiles who are forcing children into sexual slavery. He also retweets claims that Barack Obama, as president before him, approved the killing of SEAL team members to fake the death of Osama bin Laden.

I have a nephew who is a team member. I’ll ask him about that one the next time he is back in Floyd for a visit between deployments.

During his 2016 campaign for president, Trump promoted the ludicrous claim that Barack Obama was not a natural-born citizen, but was born in Kenya. That claim was debunked and disproven time and again by both Democrats and Republicans and Trump backed away from it but I still hear that claim from some residents of Floyd County.

Whenever I post the current COVID-19 virus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths on the Facebook group that follows the pandemic, at least one Floyd Countians often posts claims that hospitals are inflating the numbers because they get more federal money from the federal government.

Carillion officials say they get some help, but not enough, from the federals but the level of aid is based on populations they serve, not the number of cases. The Virginia Department of Health confirms that.

One reader asks why I don’t write about the “chem trails” created by high flying commercial jets. “That’s why we’re all sick,” she said.

“We receive many emails and letters asking me about chemtrails. Many express deep concern, some are abusive and threatening,” says The Keith Group of Harvard University.

They add:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The claim that there is a large-scale secret program to spray materials from aircraft is extraordinary. Yet all the evidence we have seen to date has been very weak. The most common claim is simply that aircraft contrails look “different”, without any comparative analysis. This as convincing as saying that alien beings walk among in disguise as people because some people act very strangely.

If there really were a large-scale program dumping material from aircraft at the scale described, there would have to be a large operating program to manufacture, load and disperse materials. If such a program existed at the scale required to explain the claimed amount of chemtrails, it would require thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of people. It would be extraordinarily hard to keep such a program secret because it would be so easy for a single individual in the program to reveal it using leaked documents, photographs or actual hardware.

This kind of conspiracy garbage is similar to those who believe in the conspiracy that the 9/11 terrorist attack was staged by the U.S. government. I know one resident of Floyd County who wants to support that claim whenever we talk.

He says the twin towers of The World Trade Center were brought down by implanted explosives in the towers and not jet airliners. Any attempt to dissuade him or others who buy into that theory brings anger and an unwillingness to even discuss the issue.

I covered the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. I interviewed the cab driver whose auto was damaged by a light pole knocked down by the airliner that flew low over him on Columbia Pike in Arlington the crashed into the Pentagon. I saw and photographed part of the plane in front of the gaping hole in the building.

Yet the conspiracy theorists continue to claim there was no plane. A bomb placed inside the building, considered one of the most secure in the world, exploded and killed.

Are these conspiracy theorists nuts?

I’m hoping they are misinformed. They are paranoid. Their distrust of government, the media, and other sources of real information lead them to discount the truth when it is presented.

With that said, I’m still trying to fathom how a claim that a proposed 5G mobile phone transmission protocol is killing people with COVID-19.

We have also heard claims that using a cell phone to your ear causes brain cancer.

“The RF waves given off by cell phones don’t have enough energy to damage DNA directly or to heat body tissues,” reports The American Cancer Society.

“No scientific evidence establishes a causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses,” says another report from the Federal Communications Commission.

Facts, however, do not deter those who buy into conspiracy theories.

However, we have more than 230 cases of COVID-19 in Floyd County. At least 16 have died. No 5G networks exist in our area yet. Virginia had more than 170,000 cases. Only a few areas of The Old Dominion have any 5G. More than 3,524 deaths statewide.

Don’t you hate it when facts get in the way of a conspiracy theory?

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