A pandemic of stupidity

What’s the connection between coronavirus and a burning phone mast in Birmingham?

The answer, you’ll be amazed to discover, is idiots.

The mast is a 5G phone mast; the idiots are the people on a local Facebook group who claimed that it was pumping out “massive radiation” and that “there is definitely a strong link between the ‘coronavirus’ and 5G”. They’ll no doubt be delighted that the mast went on fire the other evening.

Here’s one of the locals:

“As we are all locked up at our comfort homes, did you realise 5G have been busy in UK putting up there (sic) towers. Something to think about. The whole world was against 5G. And here we have it.”

The concerns are largely ignorance. 5G uses radio waves, the same things that bring TV and radio to your house, and the current worries are just repeats: we had this over 4G, over 3G and over Wi-Fi. Those panics were without foundation and this one is too. But there’s an extra element this time, and that’s coronavirus. We’ve seen a significant uptick in 5G conspiracy-mongering here in the UK since we went into lockdown – for example, a video of a woman haranguing 5G-installing workers went viral on Twitter today – and sometimes the argument goes like this: 5G hardware is largely made in China; we didn’t have coronavirus before 5G went live; therefore 5G causes Coronavirus and the Chinese are doing it deliberately.

I guess it makes a change from blaming the gays and the trans people for coronavirus, although that’s happening too.

The cause of the fire hasn’t been established – it could just be an electrical fault rather than a conspiracy-believing arsonist – but the mast’s online infamy demonstrates the way in which disinformation spreads in times of crisis: with lots of people stuck home with nothing to do, bullshit spreads even more quickly than usual.

[Update, 4 April: It was just a matter of time before the anti-trans loons worked 5G into their nonsense. Apparently “the increase in [5G] towers and the increase in ROGD” – a made-up term coined by bigots to pretend people coming out as trans is a mental illness – is “too close for coincidence”. It’s from the same mindset as Alex Jones screaming about a conspiracy to turn all the world’s frogs gay: once again, the line between anti-trans activists and the alt.right/far right is very, very faint.]