YouTube has announced it will remove videos on its platform that baselessly link 5G to coronavirus after arsonists in the UK set multiple towers on fire last week. Theories linking the two have been circulating on social media in various forms, obviously to some effect.
The funniest thing about the idea that 5G could cause coronavirus is the idea that 5G is capable of causing anything. 5G can’t even cause good cell phone reception, which is its ostensible purpose for existing. If 5G were the Kool-Aid man, pop culture would be full of references to a large glass pitcher smashing itself to bits on an unperturbed brick wall, possibly with a faint pitiful squeak of “Oh no!”
“Please help us to make this stop,” says the joint statement, evincing a remarkably poor grasp of what are commonly referred to as “fighting words.” “If you witness abuse of our key workers please report it. If you see misinformation, please call it out.”
In some cases, arsonists are burning LTE towers instead of 5G, because somehow the same people who think burning cell phone towers will stop a viral pandemic aren’t all that good at distinguishing one type of network equipment from another.
This Is, In Fact, an Improvement
Two of the things I like to do for fun are read about disasters on Wikipedia and really liven up parties. The default, knee-jerk response on a story like this is to laugh at all the morons who think 5G causes coronavirus. The unsettling truth is: This is not only positively normal, burning cell phone towers is an enormous step forward for us as a species.
Historically, people had absolutely no idea where pandemics came from or what caused them. Pandemics have been blamed on a lot of things you’re probably aware of, like angry gods, bad air, and, say, the coincidental appearance of a comet in the sky. They’ve also been historically been blamed on Jews, other minorities, beggars, lepers, the Romani, and those with disorders like acne and psoriasis. When I visited The Cloisters in New York City back in December, I visited an exhibit on what is known as the Colmar Treasure. The Colmar Treasure consists of the possessions of a medieval Jewish family living in Alsace who did not survive the outbreak of plague in that city, courtesy of their scapegoat-seeking neighbors.
It should also be noted that even the earliest chroniclers of pandemics for which we have a record, like Thucydides, doubted supernatural explanations for these events and believed they must have a natural explanation. Hoaxes, scams, scapegoating, and lies are not a modern invention or unique to a political outlook. Humans, as a group, are bad at pandemics. It isn’t unsurprising to see people defying Covid-19 lockdowns or licking toilet seats. It’d be more surprising if people didn’t do these things, based on our collective historic behavior.
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