Subject: Okay… so basically how the Coronavirus started was this- and this is how it was told to me. Basically, if you look on the news, “Why are there no cases in North Korea? Kim Jong Un closed that off, he’s cutting that thing down to zero.” To which I replied, “Well no one can really go to North Korea but… okay.” But he said, “No. North Korea had a relationship with China. It started in China right? What happened was, the North Korean prisoners were let free into China. And you know how when you leave the army or prison you get a vaccine, you get shots, you don’t really question it. Come on if someone said I’ll give you this shot for freedom, or else you’re gonna stay here, then you’re gonna take the shot! You don’t care, you want freedom. So… those North Koreans took the shot or whatever thinking it was a vaccine. Then they went to China. What if that…. was the Coronavirus and they started giving it to people in China…”
Interviewer: Oh… So like biowarfare?
Subject: Exactly! “So China knows what the cure is because they’re friends with North Korea. So some of these Chinese people have the vaccine already… but it’s just spreading to everyone else.”
Interviewer: Wow… Wait who did you hear this from?
Subject: *laughter* My grandfather. But he was telling me, “Here’s another reason why it could be. What do you think about that? What do you think about that?” And I was like, “I don’t know about that.” He was like, “You think it’s possible?” I was like, “No.”
Interviewer: Hmm… Um… Okay. So… how’s that currently affecting your mental state? *laughter*
Subject: Um. When my mom was here- because it’s not just that story specifically. It’s “the 5G towers.” It’s “to protect yourself, breathe in steam.” It’s “get some ginger on your boiling pot and put your face over it…” It’s all these videos that are popping up, and all these whatsapp messages everywhere that are like these nurses who are like, “I worked at a radiation lab and they locked us out of our work places.” Basically like these CSI, Men-In-Black type things. It’s just annoying… the amount of bullshit conspiracy theories that are coming out.
Interviewer: The rare times I go on Facebook, that is all I see. It’s disturbing.
Subject: It’s so annoying. My mom keeps showing me them like not endorsing it but just showing me it. And it’s literally like… other medical people. Apparently. In their PPE. It’s like cat-fishing but with using their authority. It’s such a mistrust it’s annoying. Like I could care less if it was harmless… but the idea that 5G or random other stuff is happening is so annoying. And dangerous.
Context: The subject is a 20-year-old African American male in his sophomore year at Columbia University studying creative writing. The subject and I were best friends in high school, and we are both currently quarantined in our homes in Charleston. I asked the subject if he would like to meet up for a six-feet-apart walk one evening, and asked him if he had heard any folklore regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Interpretation: I have heard many variations of this conspiracy theory regarding the Coronavirus outbreak. Like the subject, I am quite disturbed by the amount of misinformation, conspiracy, and racism that has spread along with the virus. I think times of such uncertainty and fear invite conspiracies. I found it interesting how the theory came from the subject’s grandfather, because while these types of theory are often tied more to the older generation, I have also seen so much of it coming from young people. I have seen so much misinformation and lies coming from people in the twenty to forty age-range, that the hysteria seems widespread across all demographics. Particularly, the racism thrown at China over the Pandemic has been abysmal. The biowarfare accusations have been pretty prominent on the Internet. I think people are just desperate to find a scapegoat when they lose control over a situation.