In the past month, the United States has seen a rise of lockdown protestors screaming at nurses and police officers, often with military-grade weapons strapped to their bodies and Walmart-grade bullet proof vests riding high over their bellies. These same people and those supporting them have taken to attacking Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation, viciously, ceaselessly, and senselessly. What is going on over there in MAGAritaville?
They are making claims that Gates is going to spread nanobot mind control systems through the COVID-19 vaccine he’s going to help create, manufacture and deliver. They are claiming links to 5G, which will be used to talk to the nanobots. They talk about the billions of dollars he intends to make with his non-profit organization spending his own money to save millions of lives. They are lunatics.
What we’re witnessing is the spread of conspiracy ideation among a population which has had its mental inoculation stripped away by decades of anti-science lobbying and propaganda.
I created this graphic years ago based on the work of Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, PhD, chair of cognitive psychology at the University of Bristol in the UK. He and his co-authors, including John Cook of Global Warming and Climate Change skepticism examined and Critical thinking about climate change fame, as well as a cognitive scientist PhD himself, found that conspiracy ideation regarding one of numerous subjects was highly predictive of climate change denial. They, of course, immediately became the subject of conspiracy theories themselves, as John recounted when we chatted on a two-part podcast recently (Science Denial, & Communication To Solve That and How To Debunk A Myth (Effectively)).
Conspiracy ideation is mostly a right-wing thing in the US at present. As with many things, it used to be spread more evenly across the political spectrum, but the Republicans have had a formal strategy of scooping up the irrational wedges of the populace since the Southern Strategy grabbed the southern racists who refused to accept the Equal Rights Amendment that the Democratic Party brought in. I step through the ‘highlights’ of that ongoing devolution of the GOP in this article: Exploring the ‘Liberal Bias’ of Reality.
A big part of conspiracy ideation is focused around a “New World Order,” by which they mean a group of Jewish bankers who secretly control the world through the UN, WHO, and other global organizations. George Soros typically gets swept up in that because he funds democracy in foreign countries while being Jewish, so conspiracy theorists bend over backwards to describe bringing freedom of speech and democratic principles to communist countries as a bad thing because a rich, non-Republican Jewish guy is doing it.
Recently that process has included explicit outreach to the anti-vaxx community. Trump has tweeted BS. People close to Trump and regular visitors to the White House are anti-vaxxers. In the 2018 mid-terms, five Republican gubernatorial candidates were openly anti-vaxx, and two were elected. In Oregon, Republican state representatives left the state to block passage of a sensible vaccination bill, and introduced anti-vaxx legislation themselves. Yes, anti-vaxx is now dominated by right-wingers.
Bill and Melinda Gates are hated by anti-vaxxers, because their foundation is the single most effective non-governmental agency working in the space of eradicating communicable diseases through vaccination. They’ve spent billions and shifted global vaccination patterns for the better. They’ve been a core part of one of the best public health and human health improvement stories of the past 50 years. They aren’t saints, but this is sainthood stuff. But not to anti-vaxxers of course.
Trump has also been promoting Sinophobic conspiracy ideation since the start of his Presidency, switching from the Birtherism he’d been promoting to get elected into an actually existing enemy to create further racial division and hatred around. His trade war and other stupid excesses hurt the US far more than China, but the coronavirus is perfectly timed to catch the trifecta of conspiracy ideation: Trump’s anti-Chinese megaphone, Trump’s anti-globalism, ‘New World Order’ international organization and anti-vaxx. I guess that’s a quadrafecta, but you understand my point.
A lot of the rhetoric that used to be thrown at Soros is now being thrown at Gates. One observer commented that they literally just changed the names from Soros to Gates in many of the fevered online posts. We now have Trump surrogates Diamond and Silk promoting the anti-vaxx conspiracy theory that Gates is implanting mind control technology in people via the to-be-delivered coronavirus vaccine. These are people Trump has spent a lot of time with. Trump’s inability to judge insanity and/or willingness to tolerate it is incomprehensibly bad for the US and the world, and this is just another example of it.
As a note, I’ve published multiple times that Bill Gates needs new climate solution advisors, as his current ones are pushing him toward terrible ideas like next-generation nuclear, air-to-fuel schemes, concentrating solar, and solar geoengineering. I overlap with Gates’ foci in three different ways, having created complex technical computer solutions around the world in multiple domains often using his technology, having helped build one of the most advanced communicable disease management solutions in the world, one that is being used today to manage COVID-19 in several jurisdictions, and spending a good deal of my time in the past decade on climate solutions. I respect Gates’ results in computers, and think his Foundation is one of the most effective working in the field of disease management globally, but I give short shrift to his climate efforts. Would that he had as good people advising him there as he does for diseases.