In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing disease to spread. Even before there is a coronavirus vaccine for them to oppose, they are already spreading nutty disinformation about the origins of the disease.
A video of a lecture given by Thomas Cowan, a physician from California, claims that coronavirus is the result of poisoning caused by 5G. One version of this video, which has been posted to YouTube a number of times, has more than 640,000 views. Another version has almost 600,000 views. Cowan’s talk was given on March 11 at the Health and Human Rights Summit, an anti-vaccination conference, in Tucson, Arizona. The event was headlined by Andrew Wakefield, the discredited British ex-physician and anti-vaccine activist. Cowan’s talk has also been shared widely on Facebook, receiving tens of thousands of shares, comments and views.
In a Facebook post on March 30, the attorney and anti-vaccination activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., son of Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former US president John F. Kennedy, also shared the conspiracy theory linking 5G to coronavirus. Global lockdown, he said, was stopping people from protesting to prevent “5G robber barons from microwaving our country and destroying nature”. The post has been shared more than 11,000 times and received almost 8,000 interactions. A video attached to the post that makes similar claims has been viewed almost 500,000 times.
Amongst the conspiracy sludge, one voice stands out. For more than a year, propaganda broadcaster RT has been attacking the roll-out of 5G. In one news segment, published on YouTube in January 2019 and with nearly two million views, RT correspondent Michele Greenstein explains that 5G has just one catch: “it might kill you”. Greenstein’s scientifically-baseless rant is part of a coordinated and sustained attack against 5G by RT. Greenstein alone has reported versions of the same 5G “health risks” conspiracy theory at least ten times since the start of 2019. In April of last year, RT erroneously claimed that children exposed to 5G suffered from cancer, nosebleeds and learning disabilities. A declassified US intelligence report, released in 2017, shows that RT videos on YouTube average one million views per day, higher than any other news outlet. While RT has never outright linked 5G to coronavirus, it has played a role in adding legitimacy to conspiracy theories surrounding the technology. As The New York Times reports, RT’s disinformation campaign against 5G – seemingly created to hinder the global roll-out of the technology so Russia can catch up – has since spread to a network of blogs and social media accounts, where it has been decoupled from Moscow’s propaganda firehose.