Every week I do a programme for American radio. It is an hour-long midweek discussion of world affairs. The other half of the discussion is dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporter Lockwood Phillips. I am the loony London liberal, and I am assured that a large number of radios are splattered with rotten tomatoes every time my dulcet tones waft over the air waves.
Normally I can anticipate Lockwood’s questions. In fact, the format involves my submitting an agenda and him asking me for analysis on the subjects I chose. This week, however, he threw me a zinger: “What about the Chinese conspiracy behind coronavirus,” he asked?
“WHAT… What?!!” I shouted across the Atlantic. “You have to be kidding. Are you saying that coronavirus is a pizzagate? Do you believe that Sandy Hook was a plot to discredit the NRA? Have you been reading Infowars or Breitbart News?”
“Well,” said Lockwood, “The Chinese could be using the virus to destabilise the West.”
I argued that the Chinese dependence on world trade meant that such a move would be akin to Beijing shooting itself simultaneously in the head, foot and heart. Lockwood was unimpressed.
I should explain that although I disagree with Lockwood politically, he is a well-informed and reasonably intelligent conservative commentator. He must have heard something from somewhere. A few Google searches proved me right. Here are a few Coronavirus conspiracy theories and their sources:
Rush Limbaugh: The far-right radio shock jockey whom Trump recently awarded America’s Freedom Medal, said on his daily programme that coronavirus was a Chinese conspiracy aimed at causing mass hysteria in the hope that it would topple Trump.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky: The leader of Russia’s far-right Liberal Democrats (no relation the British party of the same name) claimed that coronavirus was a plot by American pharmaceutical companies who will make billions from the vaccine when it is developed.
The Washington Times and US Senator Tom Cotton: The right-wing Moonie-owned newspaper and Arkansas senator wrote that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese Germ warfare factory in Wuhan and was released either intentionally or accidentally.
Jonathan Sulter: The You Tube conspiracy theorist has claimed that the coronavirus actually originated in Britain’s Pirbright Institute as part of research funded by Bill and Melinda Gates.
GreatGameIndia—The Indian conspiracy theory website reported that the coronavirus was developed in Canada, stolen by a Chinese scientist working there, smuggled back to China and then released.
All of the above theories are total rubbish. The source of coronavirus is still unknown, but most scientists believe that it originated in a wild animal which came into contact with a human. It started in China because of a tradition of live animal markets combined with crowded and unsanitary conditions.
This week the world’s top virologists wrote to “The Lancet” debunking the theories above. They finished with a warning: “Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus.”
Tom Arms is a member of Wandsworth Liberal Democrats. He is a regular contributor to Lib Dem Voice as well as broadcasting for US radio.