Covid conspiracies — I have a theory

The pandemic provides rich pickings for wild claims, ranging from sort-of possible to off-the-scale bonkers

September 04, 2020 10:45

Conspiracy theories are like gossip – they don’t have to be true to be juicy and enticing. The pandemic provides rich pickings for conspiracy theorists; there are multiple wild claims whizzing about the internet, competing for your attention and faith. These range from sort-of possible to off-the-scale bonkers. With some, you can understand their genesis at least. For example, the idea that the virus might have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab doesn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility, although it has now been proved that it didn’t. Others — that the pandemic simply doesn’t exist (not sure what those 800,000+ people died of worldwide….um….) or that it’s caused by the ‘deep state’ (sometimes code for the Jews; most things are our fault, as we know) — seem to have been spun out of thin air.

One of my personal favourites is that it’s down to Bill Gates’s sinister agenda: He wants everyone to be vaccinated so he can insert nano-micro-chips in us. That way he can track and even control us. Is it because he’s bored? Come on, Bill, take up watercolour painting or something — get a hobby, why don’t you?

When I think about myself — which I try not to do on the whole as my most recent predicted grade was “Could do better” — I realise that I am a mixture of competent and incompetent. I have two skills at which I am moderately able: writing and cooking. In every other area, my ability level ranges from “Acceptable”, say for driving and getting dressed, through “Below average” for singing and working out at the gym, right down to “Good grief! Can’t something be done?” for a mammoth cluster of items, such as keeping on top of my paperwork, tidying, ice-skating.

The same is true of the government — they offer a mixed performance. I feel no urge to trumpet how brilliantly we have handled the pandemic, but I wouldn’t describe the UK as a failed state. Arguably, the leadership has done its best to mitigate the worst effects with its free food boxes for those shielding early on and the furlough scheme. If you were predicting a final grade at the end of the pandemic, however, “Could do better” would be the best verdict the government could hope for.

But is there a darker truth lurking behind this picture of a cabinet that is well-meaning but hopeless? What are they really up to? Surely Boris’s bumbling manner is just a disarming façade to mask the fact that he is the mastermind behind the evil plan to keep everyone at home, baking bread and watching every movie ever made, for ever. Well, no. I can assure you that our government doesn’t have a sinister agenda for a number of reasons:

1) They’d never agree on what the sinister agenda is. Minister A: “Let’s say there’s a deadly virus so we can ban public protests and mass gatherings.” Minister B: “No, no, let’s use it as an excuse for why Brexit is going to be a total shambles. We can blame the ‘virus’ for everything”. Minister C: “Hey, couldn’t we use it to raise taxes?” Minister D: “I think you must be in the wrong room – you want Labour HQ.”

2) The government has difficulties with issues that involve counting. So far, it has placed orders for no fewer than six experimental vaccines – with a total of 340 million doses. Current UK population: just under 68 million. It is hard to control the people if you are that unsure how many of them there actually are.

3) If you want to control the populace, you need a consistent message. For example, at the beginning of a ‘pandemic’ where you want to manipulate your population into staying at home rather than roaming the streets waving placards mocking the government, ensure that all departments have the same crib sheet. On March 3, SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) advised the government to warn people against shaking hands, hugging etc when greeting each other. On the same day, Boris visited a hospital where he proudly said he had shaken hands “with everybody”.

4) For effective control, a basic level of competence is essential. This is why conspiracy theories about most governments should be not just set to one side but hurled out of the window with great force. The majority of governments are either corrupt or clueless, or – if you’re unlucky – both. So if they were using a fake pandemic to manipulate the electorate, it would either be bleeding obvious or ineffectual.

So why are conspiracy theories so popular? What do we have to gain by believing in them? Is it because we want there to be a proper reason when things are bad? So we have something specific to blame rather than a chain of random events?

Perhaps there is a parallel with religion? Do people choose to have faith because it’s better to believe in a vengeful god than in no god at all? Is the thought that we’re alone in the universe so terrifying that it’s unbearable? So we clutch at the comfort that a presence is watching over us, even if at present the world shows every sign of being, at best, looked after by an entity that is either uncaring or neglectful, and at worst, malign? That’s a lot to lay at the door of Bill Gates.

Claire Calman’s 
latest novel, ‘Growing Up for Beginners’, is out now

September 04, 2020 10:45

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