Post Mortem

2020: A year of conspiracy theories

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/20/2021 1:19:32 PM IST

 Year-2020 has been unique, challenging and memorable in many ways. From political upheavals to catastrophes to anxieties about jobs, education, security, life and livelihood and above all when it comes to humanity’s common futures everything seems to in utter jeopardy. Year-2020, by and large, was enmeshed with conspiracy theories that we confronted raising lots of questions such as what’s going on in the world and in our society leaving open to search for solutions to many unresolved questions and how to fix them. Conspiracy theories did exist in the past and will continue to be in future as well.

In the modern world, it is no accident that popular conspiracy theories covers themes such as religious majoritarianism, clash of civilizations, asserting identities, wealth and powers amassed and centralized and the ways they are exhibited in appalling ways by the rich and super-rich, rivalry between nations, mysterious technologies and the destruction of environment. Across the world people in general believe in theories that concerns religio-cultural, socio-economic, politico-environmental and historical. People also believe in events that have multiple facets that happened in particular places and at point of time.

Each society has its own anxieties, pulls and pushes, priorities and observances and in that successful conspiracy theories flourish by infiltrating and asserting in the societal domains. For example, by emphasising the distinctions, absoluteness and uniqueness between one religious’ community from the others and in the process conspiracy theories exerts stronger bonds and thus provide a sense of protection against those people belonging to other religion considered as lesser people with less rights based on majoritarianism. This obviously end in widespread religious conflicts. India is a classic case that proves the point.

Efforts by politicians to erase faces and evidence and remake the world into something with all sorts of hypes and grandeurs and superlatives to push their political goals and agenda. Knowledge gaps grows between the haves and have-not, but at the same time it talks about level playing field igniting more mistrust as the facts do not concur. One thing that dominated year-2020 is coronavirus. Almost most of the conspiracy theories that revolve around COVID-19. Political leaders across the world particularly the totalitarians took advantage of coronavirus floating all sorts of conspiracy theories.

It all started with the origin of coronavirus and one dominant theory vehemently pushed by President Trump of the United States that it originated from Wuhan, China, followed by wet market and laboratory in China and then on numerous theories emerged from different directions pointing to countries. Leaders from some countries branded China as the culprit. One year on, even now no one knows from where it originated. Then on leaders tried to conceal the death and infected toning down the numbers by comparing with others. 

Without adequate preparations and careful scrutiny measures taken to contain coronavirus in sporadically ways to suit their interests. Those leaders who dared and want to spread conspiracy theories defied facial mask and social distancing passed on message questioning science and professional expertise. As the top pharmaceutical corporations, research institutions and institutes were busy in developing a vaccine to counter coronavirus saying that at least by early 2021 and should go through regulatory processes.

Breaking what the science and scientists were saying one miraculous invention came from a so-called “scientific mind” in the form of Baba Ramdev’s company Patanjali that hit the headlines. It claimed 100 per cent recovery from coronavirus infection within seven days. It rebranded the drug as an immunity booster and pushed it into the market which sold 85 lakh unit worth over Rs. 240 crores. The ruling dispensation did not question since he happened to one of the “venerated god man”. A candid show case of conspiracy theory. 

President Trump went one step ahead that said that it was a “hoax” and added that the disease did not exist at all. What then is a conspiracy theory? A conspiracy theory is “an emotionally and intellectually satisfying explanation things for many. In times of stress such as pandemic it is natural that these theories gain momentum and popularity. They offer simple, understandable explanation of events and help us regain a belief in human control over situations.” Human tendency is that during catastrophes its mind becomes irrational. 

We have been living amidst coronavirus for about a year. In the last 12 months conspiracy theories concerning COVID-19 emerged and some became dominant. Religio-cultural facets dominated the current scenario because for many faithful adherents the god or goddess factor is their last resort to rescue them from the current impasse because in whom they have total faith and belief. In addition, the custodians of religion keep saying that it’s the act of God to punish those who went against by committing things that were antithetical to the belief system.

Tele-evangelists, healers and those who claim having divine power of casting away demons and deadly pestilence have failed to offer any solace to the lethal power of coronavirus. Rather they went into hiding fearing coronavirus. Conspiracy theories and those who floated have dared to counter COVID-19, but somehow with their narratives and interpretation made the followers to believe them. President of Brazil Jair Blosonaro openly said he would not take the vaccine as he may be turned into a crocodile – such a weird theory which is nothing, but certainly endorses conspiracy. 

Another glaring example is vaccine. Countries literally came out with number of conspiracy theories with regard to development of vaccine. It tacitly promoted vaccine nationalism and protectionism on geographically localised manner. Citizens are made to wait based on the promises of the leaders but it is going to be a long wait especially for countries like India. No one knows whether it is going to be in the first quarters or second quarts and lots of things they themselves not aware but float conspiracy theories.

At the level of events, year 2020 was the year belonged to the pandemic. The ideas flowed through phones and social media could perhaps be termed or be suggested with another name that 2020 was the year of conspiracy theories. The theories that were floated around could not be verified, scrutinized or even challenged because of lethal pandemic as everyone knew that the governments were lying and misleading, and yet had to believe and lived with it.

Dr. John Mohan Razu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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