Conspiracy theories on COVID-19 have grown wilder and wilder since the start of the pandemic, and some Maltese people have now grown confident enough to air their questionable views on TV.
Earlier this week, historian Simon Mercieca hosted a two-hour long discussion on Xejk TV with four members of the ‘Human Health Alliance’ in which he promised from the start that they will speak about the pandemic “in a different way than usual”.
It certainly delivered on that front, but what started off as four people playing down the deadliness of the virus soon turned into a rabbit hole of outlandish claims that COVID-19 is actually the brainchild of some New World Order.
First off, who are the Human Health Alliance?
Founded last year, the Alliance started off as a group of people warning about the dangers of 5G technology. Last October, they organised a conference which appealed to independent MP Godfrey Farrugia, so much so that he tabled a parliamentary motion against the telecommunications technology in the Alliance’s name.
Their representatives on Xejk were boat repair store owner Alexander D’Agata, furniture designer Geraldine Camilleri, jeweller Paul Baldacchino and a former teacher called Carmen.
At the start of the show, D’Agata and Baldacchino made it clear that the virus had damaged their businesses.
“My main source of business is foreigners on visiting yachts, but they no longer come here,” D’Agata explained. “Those who had a yacht in Malta abandoned it and the ones who are returning are taking the boats back with them.”
It was clear that they, like so many people worldwide, have a very direct interest in seeing things return to the way they were before March.
‘We need to build up herd immunity’
At first, the discussion seemed to be going down the direction of why lockdowns are dangerous and why the best strategy is to ensure nations build up herd immunity to the virus.
Sweden, whose death rates have plummeted significantly in recent months despite not imposing a lockdown, was hailed as a prime example. So too was Singapore, which has eased restrictions significantly but which, unlike Sweden, requires everyone to wear a mask in public places.
D’Agata argued that the COVID-19 death rate isn’t high enough to warrant lockdowns and blamed constant messaging on the virus for the level of public fear.
“If the government had to publish daily statements about cancer patient and people with heart and kidney problems, we would stop caring about COVID-19,” he said.
Of course, the key problem with COVID-19 is that it’s so infectious, and D’Agata gave no straight answer when challenged with this point, merely repeating his prior statement about the government being selective in what data it publishes.
And when Mercieca questioned D’Agata about how wise going down the ‘Sweden route’ could be for the Maltese economy seeing as several countries have marked the island as an ‘unsafe destination’, the panelist warned that Malta is testing too many people.
However, around 18 minutes into the programme, he then waded straight into conspiracy theory zone and it only got deeper, more convoluted and more self-contradictory.
‘The Great Plandemic’
This is what the COVID-19 conspiracy theory floated on Xejk this week looks like in a nutshell.
Around ten years ago, practically all governments signed a silent contract with the WHO in which they promised to follow its instructions in the wake of a potential pandemic.
At one point, the United States started developing a bioweapon but former president Barack Obama exported it to China when he realised how dangerous it was. The virus was then manufactured in a lab in Wuhan, from where it was released to the world.
Pulling the strings is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who wants to curb the world’s population by 15%, a goal inscribed in the Georgia Guidestones, a mysterious granite monument in the US which has long been linked to New World Order conspiracy theories.
Gates’ end goal is to distribute a vaccine to the world’s population and make trillions by virtue of his secret shares in a company designing a vaccine. However, he also wants to use this vaccine to change our DNA and to implant nanobots in our bloodstream to report on our vital functions through 5G technology.
The very word ‘COVID-19’ includes a clue – it ends in ‘id’ (identification) and converting 19 into letters reads ‘AI’ (the first and ninth letters of the alphabet).
Finally, Gates and his buddies plan to obtain a patent on this new DNA, meaning all future children born in this world will become their property. The New World Order, hiding in the shadows for so long, will finally be victorious.
Bill Gates, the bogeyman of COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Photo: World Economic Forum
Of course, this theory is absolute nonsense.
Gates’ comment in 2011 that a vaccine can reduce the world’s population by 15% actually referred to how vaccines can keep more children alive, therefore reducing the need for parents to have more children and limiting the population growth rate.
Claims that a vaccine will alter human DNA or will be used to link people up to an AI interface have been debunked months ago.
Moreover, if this really was the work of a hidden global elite who wants to curb the world’s population, why didn’t they create a deadlier virus? As the conspiracy theorists themselves argued, COVID-19 isn’t deadly enough to warrant lockdowns, which would infer that this global elite is at once both all-powerful and extremely incompetent.
One might be tempted to laugh at these conspiracy theorists or call out Simon Mercieca and Xejk TV for giving them a platform to begin with, but this show gave Malta a taste of what authorities worldwide have had to deal with since the start of the pandemic.
Any attempt to deplatform them or restrict their audience will only make them feel even more strongly that a major cover-up is underway, so the alternative is to challenge and understand them.
There’s an allure to these conspiracy theories, which lies in proportionality bias, the psychological phenomenon whereby people believe big events must have big causes.
After all, the alternative to believing in some COVID-19 masterplan is an acceptance that this pandemic was a random event and a realisation that the world is actually chaotic.
With their personal livelihoods already at stake, accepting this fact will make these conspiracy theorists come to terms with how uncertain their futures are. And that can be an infinitely scarier prospect than believing this is just the global elite pulling the strings.