How conspiracy theories spread
It’s a fact of human nature that we’re always trying to make sense of our world. The more uncomfortable our world makes us, the more we struggle to make sense of it. That can sometimes lead to irrational thinking, which can take the form of denial, catastrophising, victim-blaming or finger-pointing. Conspiracy theories arise from irrational thinking but take on an air of legitimacy when they’re repeated by multiple sources—from your friends and family to the media and various online sources.
Often, the first time you learn of a conspiracy theory, it’s being presented to you as fact because it has already been disseminated by seemingly reliable sources. This is precisely what’s been happening with COVID-19. From the moment coronavirus was reported as an outbreak, we have been trying to make sense of it, which has left us vulnerable to conspiracy theories. In fact, more than 132 websites have been spreading verifiably false claims about coronavirus, according to NewsGuard, which rates the credibility of news and information sites. Here is a selection of the major COVID-19 conspiracy theories. We don’t judge you for believing, or wanting to believe. However, we do urge you to look at all of the facts before further disseminating them, as well as make sure to take the proper precautions to protect yourselves and others from coronavirus.
Conspiracy theory: The coronavirus is a hoax
This theory exists primarily because of denial. Who wouldn’t want it to be true that no one had gotten sick or died of a brand-new virus of unknown origins that has no known cure? Since it’s challenging to get yourself to believe that a virus that has overtaken the news might not actually exist, some have gone a step further to make it more believable by assigning a reason or motive.
Case in point: Some anti-vaxxers believe the pandemic is a hoax perpetrated by those who wish to strong-arm the world into vaccinating. “If you’re still thinking it’s coincidental that a pandemic erupted in the midst of a state by state sweep to REMOVE your right to refuse vaccination, it’s time to get your head out of the sand,” posits one group of US-based anti-vaxxers, which claims the coronavirus panic is nothing more than “irrational panic.” Tell that to the people who have it. What should you actually believe? The stories of real people who are currently battling coronavirus.
Conspiracy theory: All these precautions are overkill
Here is another conspiracy theory with its roots and appeal in the urge to deny the existence of this global pandemic. Some of its proponents go so far as to caution against washing hands excessively. “People are engaging in extreme handwashing, disinfecting their houses with high-grade cleaning products, refusing handshakes and wearing masks,” notes one such group, as reported by Mother Jones. “This is nonsense. Like any virus, coronavirus is no match for someone with a strong immune system.” This claim is false, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and its misinformation that can make the pandemic worse and cause grave harm to others. Coronavirus is actually just one of the many diseases you can prevent by washing your hands.