Ever since the pandemic began, there’s been a blatant conspiracy theory circulating in the media that 5G and coronavirus are somehow linked. This is scarcely new — LTE and 3G both went through their own periods of being declared unsafe and harmful to humanity — but that minor detail contains no predictive power where conspiracy theorists are concerned.
As James Vincent details, an increasingly unhinged fringe has begun targeting engineers directly rather than contenting themselves with setting 5G (and often, LTE) towers on fire. According to Mobile UK, there have been more than 200 documented instances of abuse towards telecoms engineers since March 30, with more than 90 arson attacks against mobile infrastructure.
Vincent’s story discusses how a telecom engineer named Naveed Qureshi was threatened by a hysterical woman who first harangued the man before leaving the scene and returning with a friend in an attempt to cause an even larger public spectacle. She loudly declared that Qureshi was a murderer and directly responsible for some portion of the COVID-19 outbreak. Some people were picking up the message, moving towards him and saying things like “murderer,” “killer,” and “watch out.” Qureshi took their advice and got out of Dodge.
Naveed Qureshi, for the record, does not and has never worked on 5G infrastructure of any type. He works for Openreach, a UK company that does virtually no work on mobile networks.
This is the kind of “evidence” you can expect to be presented with if you make the mistake of engaging with any of these people. For the record, that is not a radiation suit. It’s a Tyvek suit and it protects against basic on-the-job spills and messes, not radiation. Workers do not need to wear radiation suits when installing 5G antennas. He’s wearing a Tyvek suit to protect himself from backsplash when hosing bird crap off the cell tower. These camouflaged towers are popular nesting sites for birds, as Snopes notes, and have to be scrubbed with a power washer from time to time.
Also, this isn’t a 5G tower. It’s a standard 4G/LTE tower.
The reason such myths take root in the human psyche is that they offer a tempting rationalization for what can seem like impossibly complex situations. People want somebody to blame, and it’s easier to blame a wireline engineer for spreading a virus through radio waves than it is to confront the fact that the last few months have been at least a little frightening for just about anyone.
Vincent claims that engineers are lightning rods for attacks because people identify them as the human components of a largely faceless network. They’re seen as playing a vital role in internet infrastructure, but the specifics and particulars of that role are poorly understood. As he notes, some of this is the direct fault of carriers puffing up the capabilities of 5G to make it sound capable of doing things or delivering long-term lifestyle improvements that it’ll never actually be able to accomplish:
If the root appeal of a conspiracy theory is that it simplifies the world’s messy truths, what could be a better way to explain the pandemic, a story of endless complexity that involves viruses, globalization, and human biology? The 5G conspiracy paves over this with a simple narrative of harmful technology forced on the public by an uncaring elite.
Companies like Openreach are trying to launch new education initiatives to clarify these points, but many conspiracy theory adherents have no interest in being shown how incorrect they are. Engage with them, and you’re just another example of someone who’s been “gotten to.”
5G does not cause coronavirus. 5G does not weaken your immune system. 5G does not make it easier for coronavirus to infect you. Standard 5G is somewhat faster than LTE (in theory), while mmWave 5G is much faster than regular internet but has the range of a thrown rock and not much more.
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