May 11, 2020

Why is 5G Surrounded by Conspiracy?

Genevieve Montague

he fifth-generation cellular network is a new global wireless network fashioned after the standard of the first generation (1G). 5G is a general term for technology that makes wireless devices faster. To the average person, it just means a better connection speed for their devices.

By promising exponentially fast speeds, the new generation network will enable a different kind of connection — aiming to connect virtually everyone to everything. 5G will connect all sorts of technology like machines, objects, and devices.

The fifth-generation wireless network is unique because it gives access to the highest known forms of multi-Gbps peak data speeds, more reliability, a more uniform experience, increased availability, and massive network capacity. 5G will set the world up for newer never-before accessed opportunities through higher performance, and the birthing of new industries.


Why are There Conspiracy Theories Around 5G?

Theories are meant to explain a phenomenon, especially new ones that are not yet entirely clear. On the other hand, people typically resort to conspiracy theories in a crisis to explain a fearful situation. Andreas Gories and Martin Voracek, psychologists at the University of Vienna in Austria, published a review in Frontier in Psychology. The paper showed that when people feel powerless over a situation, they attempt to make sense of those situations, and these attempts result in conspiracy theories.

According to Karen Douglas, a significant situation requires an equally significant explanation, and in a time of confusion, people connect dots, even if it is incorrectly. Douglas is a University of Kent psychologist who published a 2017 paper with two of her colleagues regarding conspiracy theories.

Again, researchers link conspiracy theories to the fear of new technology and the effects it might have on the human population.

The Conspiracy Theory Handbook

In The Conspiracy Theory Handbook by Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook of Bristol University and George Mason University respectively, the authors discuss several reasons for believing in conspiracies. These reasons include:

  • Coping with a threat
  • A feeling of powerlessness
  • Disputing mainstream politics
  • Explaining unlikely events

When people feel vulnerable, there is a tendency to believe and spread theories that might give them some of the power they think they have lost back. This is a sort of coping mechanism to explain unexplained events.

Other times, people don’t want to accept the prospect of an unknown occurrence, or they could dislike what the ordinary explanation is, so they seek something to blame.

Lewandowsky and Cook also explained the danger of the circular nature of a paranoid mind. If a part of their argument is proven untrue by evidence, they believe a greater conspiracy theory must exist to explain the discrepancy.

If you think a story might be an unproven conspiracy theory, the handbook suggests there might be several clues to tell if your suspicions are founded:

  • Contradiction: conspiracy Theories often contradict themselves when you dig into the details
  • Overriding suspicion: Do you have to stop believing in other truths to make the narrative work?
  • Nefarious intent: What is the objective?
  • Something must be wrong: Many conspiracy theorists believe that something is wrong with society
  • Persecuted victim: The conspiracy theorist is  the people’s hero, fighting against the machine that is trying to conquer the theorist
  • Immune to evidence: Conspiracists claim that contrary evidence is wrong
  • Re-interpreting randomness: They believe that nothing happens by mistake.

In some cases, it is easy to recognize a conspiracy theory, but quite a few may appear plausible. Conspiracy theories encourage doubt in science, government, and other subjects. The Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central — Dr. John Grohol — said in an article published recently, that people who feel estranged from society are more likely to turn to conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories about 5G started before the spread of COVID-19. The theories — suggesting that since 5G is more powerful than former mobile internet generations, it is dangerous  — began to spread in 2019.

As COVID-19 started to spread, the 5G conspiracy theory evolved. Now, theorists believe that the launch of 5G technology worsened the pandemic., a UK-based fact-finding organization, disproved these rumors, but it has done nothing to curb its spread or effects.

The Conspiracy Theories and the Truth

Here, we have some of the conspiracy theories that have been circulating about 5G. We also attempted to provide information that debunks these theories. This is not a complete list of conspiracy theories, only a preview of the most prominent ones.

5G is the cause of COVID-19

In March, a US doctor on disciplinary probation, Dr. Thomas Cowan, claimed that 5G poisoned the body’s cells and forced the cells to excrete waste. He claimed that this waste became known as COVID-19.

The video went viral and was shared and reposted by many celebrities. Scientists have, however, disproven the video, which has now been removed by YouTube.

Scientists have successfully recreated the virus in a lab. The success proves that it is not a secretion from the human body cells.

Besides, several claims in the video did not seem right. Cowan’s video suggested that the Spanish Flu (1918) coincided with the invention of the commercial radio in 1920. He also claimed the fact that Wuhan was the first place with cases of COVID-19, and the first city to have 5G — although it wasn’t — was proof of a link between the two situations.

These are not facts, and while Cowan claims to be an expert, a thorough history search reveals a shady character. Moreso, he is being investigated by the Medical Board of California for unlicensed drug use.

5G is a health hazard

This is a theory that has been in circulation many years before the 5G technology had passed lab trials. The claim dates back to the nineties when the usage of mobile phones was limited, and critics claimed that the 2G airwaves could cause cancer.

Although most people have dismissed these rumors, the invention and emergence of 5G have brought a revival of these claims. Pinpointing a source is difficult, but many posts appear on social media, which seem to encourage the critics.

People get the idea of hazardous airwaves from the concept of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. While it is true that telecom equipment emits radiation, it’s also true of most electrical equipment. This sounds alarming until you note that Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) is not strong enough to cause any damage to humans.

Although the non-damaging verdict is not total, the potential cost for the human body depends on the distance of the airwaves from the ground and whether it emits high or low energy.

Furthermore, numerous public health authorities, including the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), have clearly stated that the radiation is not harmful to health.

The lockdown is a government cover-up

The extremes of theorists have come up with this — the COVID-19 pandemic is only a coverup by the government. As probably the most alarming theory yet, even borderline conspiracists have a hard time believing this one.

It is hard to grasp the whole framework — like which of the many governments are trying to enforce societal lockdown?  But their attributed reason is even more ludicrous. The lockdown will enable the government to install 5G antennas en masse without the input or knowledge of the public.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus is real, and the lockdown is to prevent the spread and continuance of the pandemic.

Interestingly, the presence of telecom engineers in public places has only strengthened the position of the conspiracy theorists. But, contrary to their imaginations, these experts are only working to enhance the reliability and resistance of infrastructure.

Because of the surge in internet activities since the start of lockdown protocols, existing infrastructure might come under strain. This is because they weren’t developed to withstand such demands.

Dangers to believing the conspiracy

It’s easy to focus on how out-there these theories are and thereby underestimate their potency. But conspiracy theories are extremely dangerous. As the public becomes more invested in these thinking patterns, they begin to act out, thus endangering themselves and others.

In April, conspiracy theorists became arsonists and burned down fifty masts across the United Kingdom in a bid to prevent the supposed spread of coronavirus by 5G. However, this only exposed them to more harm since they weren’t following the lockdown protocols.

Action like this is only proof of what sort of damage can come from ill-formed theories that only exacerbate fears. Other detrimental effects include the refusal to use progressive technology to better one’s quality of life.

Combatting conspiracy theories?

Conspiracy theories thrive on misinformation, so its cure is relatively simple — educating the masses.

Evidently, some of the conspiracy theorists are wired to believe and facilitate such false claims, but most people are only hanging on to the available information they have.

Telecoms only provided 5G, expecting its reception to be grand since they know its benefits. Besides, they never had to explain the first to fourth generation wireless technology. But this sort of information is essential now.

To illustrate, one of the major points of conspiracists is to ask why telecoms and governments bother about 5G and invest a lot in it when 4G works today. This question expresses a valid concern since the public does not have details regarding user trends and network consumption.

Only a minuscule amount of everyday users will understand that video is increasing network traffic rapidly, and that will eventually put strains on user experience. In light of this, it is wise that 5G deployments are active so we can get ahead of the curve.

To conclude, the two ways of debunking conspiracy theories — through fact and logic — must be applied to solve the 5G conundrum. The facts of science must be presented to the masses to show the conspiracy theories as toxic, and the advantages of a world with 5G must be emphasized.

As soon as there is sufficient proof that 5G and its intentions are not nefarious, the conspiracy theories will only die a natural death — from the angle of the masses, at the very least.

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