It is tempting to dismiss the conspiracy theories swirling around the 5G rollout and to ignore the fringe elements promoting them. But when protesters engage in arson attacks and abuse of telco workers, enough is enough.
No one wants to give crazy conspiracy theories any oxygen. But misinformation that goes unchallenged is dangerous.
Never has this been more obvious than in the rise of the 5G coronavirus conspiracy that has seen attacks on infrastructure and personnel across the UK, Europe, Canada, New Zealand, the US, and also resulted in several incidents in Australia.
Arson attacks and booby traps
5G conspiracy theorists in the UK have been the most militant, harassing telecoms engineers and even leaving booby traps of razor blades and needles hidden behind posters on phone masts.
While most of the abuse has been verbal, some confrontations have escalated to physical violence. In one instance an engineer was stabbed and hospitalized, and British Telecom CEO Philip Jansen said that some engineers had had cars driven at them.
Since March 30 there have been over 140 attacks on 5G infrastructure across Britain and European countries including the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany. There have been 200 counts of abuse against telecoms engineers in the UK. Suspicious tower fires have also been recorded in countries as far flung as Nepal, Canada, and New Zealand.
Spark tower set alight in New Zealand
Australia not immune
Australia is not entirely immune to the 5G conspiracy believers. Protesters in Mullumbimby near Byron Bay stopped work at a Telstra 5G installation during April harassing workers and preventing vehicle access to the site. Two weeks later there were two suspicious fires lit at a building with a Vodafone facility in Adelaide.
Ten people were arrested on May 10 in Melbourne after breaching lockdown rules and clashing with police. About 100 people had gathered at the steps of Victoria’s state parliament for a general protest against a range of gripes including 5G, vaccinations, Victoria’s lockdown restrictions, and what they called the “coronavirus conspiracy”.
5G protest rally Mullumbimby NSW May 2020 Credit: Echo NetDaily
Australian government allocates $9 million to debunking 5G myths
The federal government has been compelled to allocate $9 million for an awareness campaign aimed at fighting misinformation about the 5G rollout.
There are three main myths surrounding coronavirus and 5G: one that the virus is caused by 5G; two that 5G suppresses human immune systems making us more susceptible to 5G; and three that the coronavirus is being spread by 5G radio waves.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and various government medical officers have been forced to make public declarations to debunk all three myths and reassure the public that 5G is safe.
"There is no link between 5G and COVID-19. 5G does not cause COVID-19. It does not spread COVID-19. Nor does it increase the severity of COVID-19 or make people more susceptible to COVID-19."
Brendon Murphy, Chief Medical Officer
Myth 1: 5G is the cause of the coronavirus
Conspiracy theorists have linked the origins of the novel coronavirus to the installation of new 5G mobile networks in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
This is the most ridiculous of theories, easily disproved by the facts. Yes Wuhan had recently begun a trial of 5G in the city, but it was only one of a number of Chinese cities participating in the rollout. Furthermore, the only type of 5G radio signals being used on 5G networks in China are the sub-6 GHz variety.
Sub-6 GHz radio signals have been used all over the world for years for a huge number of applications with no impact. All existing 4G cell networks use signals in this range and so does Wi-Fi and the home microwave oven.
5G has also been rolling out since 2018 in many countries around the world. The first 5G network rollouts were in South Korea and in the US, so if 5G was going to cause a virus it would surely have started in either of those two locations where exposure has been for a far longer period.
Myth 2: 5G is spreading coronavirus
Another theory is that the coronavirus is somehow carried on 5G waves, and being spread across the globe in this way.
Again clearly a totally unreasonable premise. For a start it is the universally accepted science that COVID-19 is transmitted via respiratory droplets. Droplets can not be transmitted through 5G waves.
Secondly, many of the hardest-hit countries currently have no 5G infrastructure. Iran has over 114,000 confirmed coronavirus cases - and no 5G masts. Conversely here in Australia where we have 47 cities connected to 5G and over 8 million Australians exposed to the 5G network, we have managed to curb the pandemic with social distancing restrictions.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has debunked the claims, saying that viruses cannot travel on radio waves or mobile networks, and reinforced the fact that COVID-19 has spread to countries without 5G mobile networks.
Myth 3: 5G is making us sick
Perhaps the most prevalent of all the theories is the suggestion that 5G degrades the immune system, and that this has helped increase the severity of COVID-19. The theory that 5G is dangerous to the immune system is exactly the same claim made when 2G, 3G, 4G and WiFi were all launched.
5G waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and it is true that higher frequency radiation at the end of this spectrum does pose dangers. That’s because these high-frequency waves are “ionising”, meaning they can cause internal damage to human DNA if exposure is too great.
This is also why when we go for an x-ray the radiographer will wear a rubber apron and usually leave the room or move behind a screen while the x-ray is taken. X-rays use high frequency ionising waves that penetrate the body for medical imaging, so a human’s exposure must be limited.
5G is in a band of low-frequency waves, like WiFi, that are “non-ionising”. The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence has shown that non-ionising radiation does not cause internal damage to our cells.
International radiation watchdog, the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), set new guidelines for 5G frequency in May 2020 and confirmed that the frequencies at which 5G will be deployed will be safe.
“The guidelines have been developed after a thorough review of all relevant scientific literature, scientific workshops and an extensive public consultation process. They provide protection against all scientifically substantiated adverse health effects due to [electromagnetic field] exposure in the 100 kHz to 300 GHz range.”
Dr Eric van Rongen, Chair ICNIRP
How did the 5G conspiracies start and spread?
The first time the conspiracy spheres of 5G and Covid-19 were linked was by a little known Belgium GP, Dr Kris Van Kerckhoven. The interview which appeared in a small Belgian newspaper "Het Laatste Nieuws" was headlined "5G is life-threatening, and no one knows it."
There were no scientific facts to back up the claim, and Dr. Kerckhoven had no prior credentials in radio frequency engineering, as well as no proof of how 5G might link to the coronavirus. He had, however, co-authored a book called 'Natural Healing: seven simple ways to self-healing.'
Social videos of dead birds and fish
At the same time, according to a report in the Financial Times, a Swedish data company, Earhart Business Protection Agency, which tracks online disinformation, says the first video directly linking coronavirus to 5G appeared online in early January in the form of a lecture that discussed the influence of electromagnetic radiation on pandemics.
“It was really scary to look at,” said Hanna Linderstal, CEO. “You start thinking, should I move to the countryside?” Soon dozens of videos started appearing showing dead birds, dead fish and people fainting in the street — all, according to the videos, the result of 5G. Ms Linderstal tracked 35 of the most popular videos that appeared in January and found that, within weeks, they had been viewed 12.8m times.
Celebities jump on bandwagon
Theories multiplied, mutated and were amplified on social platforms. Celebrities jumped on the bandwagon promoting the 5G theory including actors Woody Harrelson and John Cusack; and singers MIA and Wiz Khalifa. Various other influencers, tv personalities and politicians all added to the social media noise.
LtoR: Wiz Khalifa, Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, M.I.A
Anti-5G Facebook groups incite violence
Anti-5G groups on Facebook - including one group called 5G Tower Fire Comp - began calling for arson attacks on 5G masts in the UK. Posts identified 5G masts with location data, under which users commented “you know what to do” alongside a series of fire emojis.
One widely shared video featured a man inspecting a 5G mast and commenting on his intention to burn it down, before cutting to footage of later that evening taken at close range to the flaming tower. Another popular video featured a woman interrogating some engineers installing 5G, where she asks why they’re complicit in “murdering people”.
How do you argue with a conspiracy theorist?
In short, you don't. You can't...
By its very nature a conspiracy theorist will believe that any dissenter is part of the conspiracy.
Critics are obviously in league with ....the government, big pharma, Bill Gates, telecom companies, the CIA, Chinese scientists... whoever they believe is behind the cover-up.
But while there is no point in arguing, there is every need to call out irresponsible, unproven, fake misinformation, and to mark it as such, or remove it from social platforms.
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