Is related to the Black Death and HIV
Corona, AIDS and Plague: The Disease of Conspiracy Theories
No, the coronavirus that is keeping the world in suspense has no detectable origin in Chinese or U.S. military laboratories. No, Albanians are not genetically immune to Corona and no, even the strong aura of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Bojko Borissov cannot keep Corona away - even if the fortune teller Alena travels from TV show to TV show in Bulgaria with it.
The list of corona false reports ranges from funny and absurd to terrifying conspiracy theories. Last week, Dana Ashlie, online activist, "revealed" the "true origin" of Corona to her hundreds of thousands of followers on Youtube and Facebook: The virus was caused by the 5G mobile network expansion in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Ashlie closed the circle between digital conspiracy theory and digital pandemic.
Education of the WHO
In view of the thousands and thousands of requests to speak on the subject of Corona, it is hardly surprising that warnings about corona fake news now take up almost as much space as official reports on the subject. The World Health Organization (WHO) has even set up its own website to dispel rumors about alleged cures and ways of spreading it.
The clarification of fake news and the clear information strategy of the WHO, health authorities and the media show that lessons have been learned from the past.
The long history of plague conspiracy theories
Global pandemics have always been accompanied by rumors and conspiracy theories - with fatal consequences!
Then as now, the focus was on the central questions of the origin and spread of diseases. A conspiracy theory describes the assumption that a group operating in secret tries to control or destroy an institution, a country or even the whole world, according to Professor Michael Butter from Tübingen.
The black death
For example, when the plague struck Europe in the mid-14th century, nobody knew its origin. Rumors of well poisoning quickly began to circulate. And the alleged perpetrators were found just as quickly: the Jews with their "diabolical plan to rule the world". An inexplicable epidemic was politically and religiously charged and resulted in pogroms and expulsions.
But conspiracy theories of this kind were by no means a characteristic of long-gone epochs that were particularly rich in superstition.
Spanish flu patients in Fort Riley, Kansas (USA), 1918
The "German Poison"
In just two years (1918-1920) the "Spanish flu" claimed between 25 and 50 million lives, more than the First World War, which had just ended. Since its origin could only be researched in the 1930s, many contemporaries declared the disease a "German poison", a weapon artificially developed by the German Wehrmacht.
Beetle against the GDR
Although not a disease, the Colorado beetle (Colorado beetle) was a plague in the former GDR. When it threatened to destroy almost the entire potato harvest in 1950, socialist propaganda simply declared it a "US American weapon" that was used specifically for sabotage against the East. The new East German regime wanted to divert attention from its own failures.
Hardly any disease experienced such an elaborate disinformation campaign as AIDS. From 1983 the Soviet secret service KGB spread the rumor worldwide that the US had developed AIDS as a biological weapon in Fort Detrick, tested it on prisoners, minorities and homosexuals and then blamed Africa for its origin.
In 1985 the Soviet-German biologist Jakob Segal wrote a pseudo-scientific underpinning for this conspiracy theory. Although biologists and medical professionals all over the world rejected the theses as nonsense, this conspiracy theory in various forms is widespread to this day.
What worked for AIDS could also be carried over to other diseases. In the mid-1990s, the Soviet Union went under and the health authorities were getting a better grip on AIDS. In Africa, however, there was a serious Ebola outbreak. Some of the same conspiracy theorists who believed in the artificial origin of AIDS in US laboratories again blamed Ebola on biological weapons testing in the military research facilities of Fort Detrick, USA, or Porton Down, Great Britain.
Ticks used as bio-weapons?
An old story that also worked for another disease: In 2019 there were several inquiries in the US Congress by the Republican MP Chris Smith, who asked the Pentagon to publish secret documents about the breeding of "militarized" ticks between 1950-1975 . A recently published "study" suggested that these had brought Lyme borreliosis into the world.
Alleged biological weapons and digital dementia
"Spanish flu", AIDS, Ebola, Lyme disease and now also corona infection. The list of global diseases allegedly caused by US bio-weapons programs is getting longer and longer. To be fair, it must be noted that versions of the corona virus are now also circulating that describe the virus as an artificially produced Chinese bioweapon.
However, the arguments are always the same - and there is always no evidence. Such conspiracy theories arise primarily in the early stages of pandemics, when the origin and distribution are still relatively unclear. The digital revolution has complicated the situation many times over. Rumors and hoaxes spread via social media and messengers much faster than biology, medicine and health authorities can even provide information. The digital age is like a turbocharger to conspiracy theories about disease.
Corona is a virus that can only be dealt with through serious research, hygiene measures and medical care. This can also be transferred to information consumption and education about the virus. Here too, education, media skills and mental hygiene help. And as a remedy for irrational fears and emotions, some internet trolls recommend a Corona beer. Although this has no proven healing effect, it calms down conspiracy moods and hysteria.
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