For a few years now, baseless fears about cell phone technology causing brain cancer have been a conspiracy theory staple. This, even though the metadata of reputable studies shows there to be no harm to humans from radiofrequency radiation. A New York Times article noted that while cell phone use has exploded exponentially in the last 30 years, there has been no corresponding skyrocketing of glioma in that time.
This is to be expected, as cell phones and towers emit non-ionizing radiation, which rests on the safe side, by a comfortable margin, of the electromagnetic spectrum. Dr. Steven Novella wrote that 5G and other wireless communications technologies operate at too low a frequency and energy level to cause tissue damage. “It is too low power to break chemical bonds,” he explained. “The computer screen you are looking at right now is bathing you is much more powerful and higher frequency EM radiation than any 5G network.”
By contrast, ionizing radiation is harmful since it can damage DNA and kill cells, possibly leading to cancer. But saying that 5G can spur rogue cell growth because, like X-rays it is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, is to commit the composition fallacy. It makes no more sense than thinking 5G could be used to get an inner look at our bones.
A graph touted by believers in wireless communication nefariousness shows that tissue injury becomes more pronounced as radio wave frequency escalates. But according to William Broad in Scientific American, the graph fails to consider the shielding capabilities of human skin. He wrote, “Radio waves become safer at higher frequencies, not more dangerous. At higher radio frequencies, the skin acts as a barrier, shielding the brain from exposure.”
With that out of the way, the anti-5G throng has switched its focus to the coronavirus and insist that 5G towers are spreading the respiratory tract infection. In most cases, this is considered an intentional act by a malevolent cabal. They even consider stay-at-home orders to be a plot to keep people from seeing the towers being constructed.
Proponents note in harrowing tones that 5G networks began appearing regularly in late 2019, the same time that coronavirus started spreading. Further, Italy, China, and South Korea are all at the forefront of this emerging technology and have all been coronavirus hot spots. This is textbook post hoc reasoning, wrapped in a self-righteous bow. It also represents extreme cherry-picking since it ignores that nearly every country has had a coronavirus case, while most nations have yet to employ 5G technology.
Advocates also tout a map of COVID-19 clusters and compare those areas with places that recently tested 5G technology. While the overlap is substantial, this is again a correlation-causation error. The overlapped areas were merely major U.S. cities
On April 1, one QAnon theory, which would have been considered an April Fools prank were it not for the source, warned that we were at the beginning of a 10-day stretch where electricity and the Internet would be unavailable anywhere. In the midst of this confusion, the 5G/coronavirus brigade would amp up its invasion and implement mass slaughter. The end date has arrived and we are still here. In classic doomsday mindset, believers have doubled down and are either promising that an even-worse demise is being plotted, or are claiming that calamity has been averted because brave citizen journalists exposed the plan.
People drawn to such conspiracy theories prefer the element of control they seem to offer. Believing that he or she has access to hidden information, and is more clever than the brainwashed sheep, gives the conspiracy theorist comfort.
China and Bill Gates are often cited by theorists as being behind the spread. These are both extremely powerful entities with vast resources and the idea of one or both of them coming after us and our loved ones is terrifying. So theorists seek solace in the idea of exposing them and readying for battle.
The truth, readily available to anyone who wants it, is that scientists have sequenced COVID-19’s genome and have traced its evolutionary path from other coronaviruses and they understand how this mutation transferred from animal to human. It shows none of the markers of genetic engineering. And as Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted, if the virus is an engineered bioweapon, it is remarkably inefficient. It has killed three percent of its victims, 15 times less than most bioweapons.
Further, there has been no scenario put forth from theorists as to why low electromagnetic radiation would cause a virus characterized by fever, dry coughs, and respiratory tract infections.
Those who most fervently deny this reality have taken their belief to disturbing heights. This has included the burning down of 5G towers and the intentional derailing of a train in an attempt to crash it into a military ship that had been enlisted in the COVID-19 fight. Put another way, believing in such a theory can be a worse evil than what the conspiracy is supposed to be bringing.