Gee, what are some people now claiming is the cause of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic? How about 5G? No, not a stack of $5000 but 5G, which stands for the fifth generation of Internet communications technologies.
Yes, add yet another conspiracy theory to the growing list of conspiracy theories. This time some folks on social media are blaming 5G for causing the pandemic that has already afflicted over 1.5 million people and killed over 90,000 people. That’s 5G, the technology that is supposed to make mobile and Internet communications much, much faster.
Oh, 5-jeez, how could telecom possibly be related to the spread of a respiratory virus? Well, one variation of the theory is that there is actually no COVID-19 coronavirus. In other words, those pictures of the virus that you see on the news, that testing that you hear famous people are getting, and that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) that doctors and scientists seem to be battling are all part of some elaborate hoax. The virus is supposedly like love at first sight. It doesn’t really exist. Instead, this theory claims that the radiation from 5G is what’s actually causing COVID-19 symptoms.
Another variation of the conspiracy theory asserts that radiation from 5G can weaken your immune system to the point that you are more easily infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus. So the claim is that the advent of 5G is what has allowed this virus to spread as it has.
Holy conspiracy theories, Batman. Does this then mean that all those patients, doctors, nurses, other health care professionals, scientists, public health officials, journalists, policy makers, school officials, businesses, and countless others are in on the hoax, coordinating this massive scam? That would be amazing. Heck, just getting doctors and scientists to agree on something can be like trying to herd a bunch of cats with some pickles.
What exactly is the scientific evidence behind these theories? Well, here is an example of the hard hitting evidence that people are providing:
Yep, that seems to be the argument. Something happened and then something else happened. Therefore, they must be linked. 5G can produce some kind of radiation (more on this later). 5G begins in China. Then people start dying from COVID-19 in China.
The following tweet tries to take this “timing” correlation one step further:
Umm, simply showing that two things occurred around the same time doesn’t mean that they are somehow linked. How about the following then:
- 1916 – Justin Timberlake wasn’t born yet.
- 1918 – Flu pandemic
- 2002 – Justin Timberlake leaves N*SYNC
- 2002-2003 SARS Outbreak
- 2008 – Justin Timberlake stars in Mike Myers’ movie The Love Guru.
- 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic.
- 2019 – Someone grabs Justin Timberlake’s leg at a Paris Fashion show.
- 2020 – COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” that Timberlake is somehow linked to major infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics? Well, it looks like the “timing” evidence behind this Timber-link is as strong as the “evidence” provided for the claimed radiowaves, 3G, 4G, 5G link.
What else have people got to support this 5G-COVID-19 conspiracy theory? Well as this NBC2 News segment shows, some have tried to use the map argument:
The claim here is that since more COVID-19 cases are appearing in locations where more 5G towers are present, the two must be linked. After all, doesn’t correlation automatically mean causation?
The answer is absolutely not. Correlation alone does not mean causation. For example, if you were to map out the number of times people laugh and fart at the same time, which incidentally is called “larting,” you’d probably see a similar geographic distribution. Why? Is larting somehow causing COVID-19? Or do 5G towers go up every time enough larting occurs? No, because there is at least one big confounder at play here that is driving these three things: population density. Places in the U.S. with more people are more likely to have more 5G towers just because more people means more telecommunications demand. Such locations are also more likely to have a greater number of COVID-19 cases because a larger number of people interacting closely offers more opportunity for the virus to spread. Then there’s the larting. More intestines and more people to experience merriment equals more potential larting.
How else are folks trying to give currency to these 5G-COVID-19 conspiracy theories? What about pointing to currency? The video accompanying the following tweet claims that the new Bank of England £20 note happens to include pictures of a coronavirus and a 5G tower: