The Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has generated a lot of storm in the social media — much of it being misinformation or propaganda. Mainstream scientists and public officials have summarily dismissed them as fake or as conspiracy theories. But it is fear of the pandemic at the root of this widespread misinformation. And behind the fear there are deep-seated realities which are seldom discussed .
The messages behind the misinformation around COVID-19 social media posts can be classified into a few dominant narratives. The first narrative is that that the COVID-19 pandemic is a lie (Woodward A 2020). It is claimed that this is simply the usual seasonal flu which kills Europeans and Americans every year. Second, that this a scheme by China to consolidate its political powers back at home in the face of rising democratic activism for independence in Hong Kong and Taiwan (Mikovits 2020; Mikovits J and Heckenlively K 2020).
The third narrative hovers around China’s ambition to overturn the growing US economy under President Donald Trump, and to ascend as a global superpower. This is linked to the introduction of 5G technology, which China has developed and is said to be anxious to control globally (Oyakilome C 2020). This is also linked to the narrative around whether the virus was deliberately “created” in a Chinese laboratory and released by China. A slightly variant narrative is that the virus was accidently introduced into humans in China. It is claimed that the virus originated in US and was brought to China under a joint collaborative program to develop a bio-weapon (Mikovits J and Heckenlively K 2020).
Another narrative hovers around China’s supposed collusion with some scientists and elite philanthropists in USA to create fear so as to make it easy to introduce a new vaccine. The vaccine agenda is said to be linked to a microchip to be inserted under the skin (Woodward A 2020). It is claimed the chip will be used by an elite group to control people by manipulating the human mind electronically. The possibility of such technology has been discussed elsewhere too (Harari Y N 2017). The vaccine agenda is also said to be linked to a global population control program, which especially targets Africans. Vaccine philanthropists, especially Bill Gates, have said openly in mainstream media that the COVID-19 vaccine programs will prioritize Africans, which has been represented in different ways. It is also claimed that this vaccine will be used to reduce human population (Mikovits J 2020).
Many Africans cite the repeated warnings given by scientists and public figures in the West that Africans would die in millions due to COVID-19 for various shortcomings (Okuonzi S 2020) as sign of a deliberate plan to decimate the population of Africa . While this type of disaster has not happened, the fear looms strong. Recent reports of disproportionately more black people dying of COVID-19 in USA and UK are often confirming these fears.
What underlies all these narratives in the social media is fear arising from human history. Our present lived experiences, as seen in modern slavery and racism further adds fuel to the fire. The history of violence and injustice meted by one dominant group against other humans is omnipotent (Harari Y N 2011). The violence and prejudice have changed only in name and form. From slavery, to colonialism, apartheid to racism, and now an unjust and unequal global economic and social system – history keeps on manifesting itself in different ways .
The recent killing of an African American, George Floyd, by a white policeman in the US is a stark reminder of this injustice. This incidence has sparked world-wide demonstrations against racism and white supremacy under the rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter”. An increasing number of people around the world are getting fed up with prejudice, saying “enough is enough”. Unethical and criminal drug and vaccine trials in Africa and other black people are on historical record (Washington H 2007). Also on record are regime changes in Africa , engineered by the West to exploit African minerals, oils and people.
Many Africans are angry about the current shameful global narrative about their continent and its people. Africa is depicted as a continent of conflict, corruption, diseases and dependency. The history of slavery weighs heavily on Africans. Indeed, studies show that Africa is still largely disconnected from the global economy (Bright J and Hruby A, 2015). Youth unemployment has become the single most explosive contemporary issue. While African leaders can be blamed for poor leadership, bad governance and corruption, they are not the main problem. The main problem is that the global economic system was created to exclude and exploit Africa and other non-white areas (Shutt H 1998). The roots are historical, but the exclusion and exploitation continue today.
COVID-19 provides a steppingstone to bring a “new normal”. With a major recession looming, a new economic system must be designed (Surico P and Galeotti A 2020). Africans will want to participate in creating a desirable “new normal” which is a fair to them- a global economic and social system built on equality and mutual respect. The pandemic has vividly brought into focus our flawed social and economic systems. Systems that were created by a cruel and selfish mindset, resulting into a grossly unequal world (Tolle E 2011). A mindset that has caused humans to kill other humans wantonly, and to destroy nature mindlessly. The mindset of greed, insatiable ambition, wild desires and competition that has led to a totally flawed global economic system (Collier P 2019, Stigliz J 2019, Pilling D 2018, Shutt H 1998).
Mankind must go to the drawing board and ask hard questions. We need to discard and question existing myths created by faulty mindsets . We need to promote a society which values mutual trust, equality, solidarity, dignity, sustainability, collaboration, complementation, simplicity and human fulfillment. This will enable us to create a world that works for everyone — an enlightened civilization.
About the Author:
Sam Agatre Okuonzi is a public health physician and academic. His current work is global health and health systems. He chairs Arua Regional Referral Hospital Board and several NGO Boards in Uganda. Arua Regional Hospital is a COVID-19 treatment and training center.
Conflict of interest:
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