Covid-19 nonsense peddled by celebrities needs to be challenged

High profile figures online have greater influence than we would like to believe

Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton shared a post on social media insinuating the Covid-19 pandemic was a ruse by Bill Gates to microchip people. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton shared a post on social media insinuating the Covid-19 pandemic was a ruse by Bill Gates to microchip people. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

In times of great upheaval, toxic fictions too frequently fill the void left by uncertainty. Covid-19 has seen a staggering change in all our lives, and in the rush for answers, disinformation about the disease has spread as aggressively as its virological instigator. One curious facet of this has been the spectacle of high-profile celebrities pushing dubious nonsense. Madonna recently insisted that a vaccine existed but was suppressed by sinister agents. Lewis Hamilton shared a post insinuating the pandemic was a ruse by Bill Gates to microchip people, while John Cusack and Woody Harrelson have asserted a link between 5G technology and coronavirus – an allegation that crumbles with even cursory understanding of either topic.

These high-profile examples are just a sampling of famous figures pushing demonstrably wrong-headed views to their millions of followers. Nor is this phenomenon confined solely to entertainment figures, with politicians across the political spectrum worldwide sharing nonsense claims about the virus. Most infamous in this rogue’s gallery is Donald Trump, whose pre-eminence as conspiracy-theorist-in-chief is confirmed daily by his seeming incontinence for all things clandestine, to the point of undermining his own medical experts and jeopardising public health. While tempting to dismiss this as the hubris of underinformed, overly confident individuals, the explosion in coronavirus fictions tells us something more fundamental about how we interpret our world.

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