The origins of the pandemic, which are still unknown, have left people around the world baffled as the virus quickly spread around the world in a few months. Some bizarre theories include coronavirus being the body’s reaction to the electromagnetic radiation from 5G waves. There is no scientific evidence to support this view, indeed the frequency of these 5G waves is between 30 to 300GHz, which is lower than the frequency of visible light or TV remote controls.
Nonetheless, the theory and belief in them have led to incidents of 5G masts being attacked.
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Dr Viren Swami, a professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, tried to pin down the psychology behind people believing in conspiracy theories despite no truth in them.
He told Express.co.uk: “One of the problems with understanding conspiracy theories is so many people believe in them.”
Dr Swami noted one study in the US concluded 50 percent believed in at least one conspiracy theory and it was difficult to build a psychological profile for such a large group of people.
He added, however: “We know they’re some things that make it more likely for people to believe, such as a reliance on more intuitive or emotional thinking.
“Mainly what we’re talking about is a lack of agency or control.”
The expert also cited feelings of fear and a lack of support leading to people believing in the theories.
Dr Swami summarised: “Generally, people who feel powerless, people who feel under threat, people who feel they have no control of what’s happening around them.”
Conspiracy theories such as the 5G theory work by personifying other groups as “bad”, such as governments and those putting up 5G masts.
Dr Swami adds this makes theories believe: “Now, I can do something about it, I can take action.
“That action in the UK involves burning down telephone masts”, which can give a sense of control of their destiny back.”
The professor added the rise of social media allowed to increase the spread of conspiracy theories.
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There has been little study on whether conspiracy theories are becoming more common.
He added: “But we also know specifically in terms of the coronavirus, that it’s spreading very rapidly.
“There have been a couple of studies which have shown that you can map the spread of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus and they are spreading much more quickly than the actual virus itself.”
On whether it is easy to change the mind of a conspiracy believer, he said: “No, near impossible, particularly if you’re a hardcore believer.
“They typically reject any evidence that doesn’t fit with their worldview and they only accept evidence that fits with pre-existing beliefs.
“They will reject anything and say mainly because I’m part of the conspiracy myself.
“They frame it in such a way that there is no possibility of having a debate.
“They get into this frame of mind, where they think people who are doing bad things are inherently evil and you don’t want to have a debate with someone who is evil, what you want to do is vanquish evil.”
Success in debating and convincing the theory is incorrect is much more likely to come when debating someone who is still relatively “on the fence”.
The radiation causing the illness is not the only 5G conspiracy theory, some theorists believe the waves are linked to some sort of government attempt at mind control and lockdown is an attempt to get the public out of the way whilst masts are built.
Conspiracy theories concerning power and control are not uncommon, such as the new world order theory which hypotheses a totalitarian world government is attempting to emerge.
Dr Swami says there are two major approaches as to why theories about power and control can emerge.
He said: “One is the historical version, which is basically the kind of people who subscribe to these theories are either paranoid or deeply suspicious, and because they are psychopathological in some form, they subscribe to weird and outlandish theories.”
Whilst acknowledging there may be some truth in this, Dr Swami says “it’s not the full explanation”.
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The other approach is that: “It’s a rational form of trying to explain the world. It may lead individuals to completely irrational thought patterns, but the attempt to understand the world is a rational process. “
Dr Swami explains the issues arise through “over-simplistic” attempts to gain information that fills in gaps in knowledge.
These conspiracy theories have harmful consequences, Dr Swami warns conspiracy believes are also less likely to follow social distancing guidelines.
Whilst, the New York Times reported that in March, there were more than 30 incidents of suspected arson or vandalism at wireless towers and telecommunications infrastructure.
As well as around 80 incidents of harassment of telecom technicians in Britain.
Metro reported there were 20 further cases of suspected arson in England, Scotland and Wales over Easter weekend, including one to mast providing connectivity to the Nightingale Hospital in Birmingham, which has been set up to provide treatment to coronavirus patients.
Vodafone chief executive Nick Jeffery told Metro: “In practice, this means families not being able to say a final goodbye to their loved ones; hard-working doctors, nurses, and police officers not being able to phone their kids, partners or parents for a comforting chat.”
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