Matthew Hornsey, a social psychologist at the University of Queensland, argues the uncertainty of COVID-19 and restrictions of individual freedoms created a “perfect storm” for conspiracy theories. This includes anxieties about mass surveillance and COVID-19 government apps that exacerbate fears about the potential for microchipping.
“The fear of insertion of tracking chips and other things like that into our bodies has been a longstanding bogeyman for theorists,” says Mark Fenster, a University of Florida law professor. “There is a lot of tracking that goes on. But the suggestion that it’s being used in this manner and this way seems absurd.”
And while it may sound like a conspiracy theory, the Russian government is partly to blame for the Gates-microchip conspiracy, too. In May, the head of the Russian Communist party said “globalists” were supporting “a covert mass chip implantation” agenda. A U.S. State Department report recently found Russia is spreading misinformation about COVID-19 through “state proxy websites.” Don’t trust the U.S. government? Well, you shouldn’t. But the website of Zvezda, a TV channel run by Russia’s ministry of defense, claims “the head of Microsoft held a conditional exercise called Event 201, which simulated an outbreak of a new virus that killed 65 million people in 18 months.” The simulation did take place, but at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the world’s leading authority on contagious diseases. And it was designed to help governments plan fast and effective responses — not as a dry run in an evil plot to eradicate an unwanted chunk of the human population.
For a long time, Gates refused to comment on the online war being waged against him, leaving it up to employees like Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, to put things right. “It’s distressing that there are people spreading misinformation when we should all be looking for ways to collaborate and save lives,” Suzman said. “Right now, one of the best things we can do to stop the spread of Covid-19 is spread the facts.”
But in June, Gates finally let her rip. “It is troubling that there is so much craziness,” he told the BBC. “When we develop the [COVID-19] vaccine we will want 80 percent of the population to take it, and if they have heard it is a plot and we don’t have people willing to take the vaccine that will let the disease continue to kill people.
“We are just giving money away, we write the checks,” Gates insisted. “We do think about let’s protect children against disease, but it is nothing to do with microchips and that type of stuff. You almost have to laugh.”
EYES WIDE SHUT
Part of the appeal of conspiracies is that their creators tend to be outsiders — independent sources who generally lack relevant experience and expertise but consider themselves the only ones in the world smart enough to see a higher truth.
Conspiracy theories are self-serving because they “can never be disproven,” explains Jennifer Mercieca, author of Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump. “He who wields conspiracy is very powerful because he can point suspicion in any direction he likes.”
But when conspiracies are exposed by reputable sources and backed up with detailed numerical research that takes time and patience to absorb, the public uptake is much slower — if at all, according to Cook from George Mason University. “Our brains are built for making quick snap judgments. It’s really hard for us to take the time and effort to think through things, fact-check, and assess,” he says.
The Bill Gates’s Charity Paradox, a lengthy investigation published by The Nation, offers a textbook example. The author, investigative journalist Tim Schwab, looked into more than 19,000 different charitable grants made by the Gates Foundation. His findings are startling.