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The Conspiratorial Style in Pandemic Politics

Given the scale and rapid onset of the COVID-19 crisis, it was inevitable that the public's confusion would be exploited by political opportunists, anti-vaccine fanatics, and scammers of all kinds. To get the pandemic under control, health officials and politicians will have to confront two deadly contagions at once.

NOTTINGHAM – Over half of the world’s population is in self-confinement as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And though the lockdown has slowed the spread of the coronavirus, it has accelerated the progress of another insidious phenomenon: conspiracy theories. Fearing for one’s life, livelihood, and loved ones, all while in a state of isolation, has turned out to be a veritable Petri dish of fabulist paranoia.

According to one of the most popular conspiracy theories, new Chinese-made 5G networks are to blame for the pandemic. According to the theory’s proponents, 5G equipment is emitting radiation that weakens the immune system, or is even transmitting the virus directly. In the United Kingdom, proponents of this view claim that the Huawei research center responsible for the company’s UK rollout is located in Wuhan, where the pandemic started.

As it happens, Wuhan is also host to many laboratories, and, according to recent opinion polls, 23% of Americans and 17% of the French believe that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was created “intentionally” in one of them. In France, the conspiratorial lens focused first on a Chinese P4 (the highest biosafety level) lab that was apparently set up with the help of the French government, before shifting to former French Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn and her husband, Yves Lévy, both of whom are doctors of Jewish descent. Indeed, when conspiracy theories are on the rise, anti-Semitism is never far away. Not surprisingly, the philanthropist George Soros has also been linked to the “Chinese lab” conspiracy.

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