The global coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, delaying travel, closing cities and new cases continuously being reported daily.
Spreading just as fast, it seems, are conspiracy theories and theorists, who are not only causing problems with what they are spouting but putting people in serious danger at the same time.
Research conducted at the University of Kent said that conspiracy theories have a tendency to arise in moments of crisis. They tend to bloom in periods of uncertainty and threat, where we seek to make sense of a chaotic world.
It’s also more likely that those who endorse conspiracy theories will not self-isolate, even if symptoms are present, and will not follow the proper hygiene rules like washing their hands or wearing a mask.
As of 11:59 pm on Wednesday, July 22, it became mandatory for residents living in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire to wear masks when they leave the house.
Most recently, Lizzy Rose, an anti-masker, became famous for berating Bunnings staff after they asked her why she wasn’t wearing a mask inside their store.
In a video posted to social media, Rose said that she had a “medical exemption” for not wearing a mask inside the store. According to the woman, she was asked to leave and the staff had “threatened” to call police on her.
“Because as far as they’re concerned, my medical exemption is irrelevant. And it’s actually not. As we know, I have every legal right to protect my health and myself, and I am exempt and I have all the documents to prove it. So let’s see what happens,” she said into her camera.
Rose then proceeded to say how “sad” it was that “so many people are so fearful.”
“It’s so sad that people are just so fearful of what they’re told, what they’re programmed. It’s really, really sad,” she said.
This video, of course, is problematic for so many reasons.
At the time of publishing, Victoria had recorded 723 new coronavirus cases and 13 deaths in the past 24 hours. A very good reason for masks to be worn.
Former Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten took to Twitter after appearing on Channel 9’s Today show, calling out Rose and other anti-maskers for being “selfish attention-seeking whack jobs” who “should not detract from the excellent work almost all Victorians are doing keeping other safe.”
While we do not condone his use of the word “whack-job”, we do agree with the sentiment.
“COVID-19 is real, it’s not a conspiracy, it’s not a made-up rumour,” he said before adding, “Why do people take cameras into Bunnings to film themselves deliberately going looking for trouble?
“It’s selfish. The rest of us in Melbourne are wearing our masks, we’re doing our social distancing, people can’t go to funerals, the year 12 kids are, you know, doing it hard, everyone’s doing it hard and you just want your 15 minutes of whack job fame.”
Celebrity chef and former My Kitchen Rules host Pete Evans also came under fire earlier this year for saying that there was “no pandemic”.
Evans even threw it to his followers, asking them if “this was the biggest scandemic in history”. We’re not talking about a few thousand followers either. We’re talking 258k on his Instagram alone.
In May, he spruiked a $15,000 light machine on his social media, claiming that it could help fend off the coronavirus — only to be hit with a $25,200 fine by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
In the post, Evans promoted a three-hour-long video by a British conspiracy theorist, David Icke, who claimed that COVID-19 was “a fake pandemic with no virus” and linked infections to 5G antenna installations.
Then in June, he appeared on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes, profiled as part of a wider story about conspiracy theories surrounding the coronavirus, with some of his more prominent views on the matter kept mum.
He also alluded to the fact that Bill Gates was behind the coronavirus, saying when asked about the theory: “I don’t know. I don know. Because what Bill is suggesting, and every single interview that he has done recently is suggesting that the world will not become safe until every single person on the planet has been vaccinated for this.”
Medical professionals have also said the same thing — the world is safer if there is a vaccine.
Especially now more than ever, and during a time of crisis, it’s important to listen to the professionals and not those who endorse conspiracy theories.