Communications masts in two English cities have been set alight as false news of a link between 5G infrastructure and the coronavirus takes hold.
Police in several different UK cities are investigating a spate of attacks on communications masts, which are believed to have been targeted because of the misguided belief that 5G radio waves are causing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although proponents of the theory are sparse on details and many different versions exist, most attempts at explaining it focus on the idea the illness we have come to associate with the coronavirus is actually a symptom of radiation emitted by 5G masts.
Theories about the dangers of 5G have been around for a while now with pundits on the Russian-state controlled outlet, RT, warning about the purported dangers of the technology for more than a year now.
According to Wired magazine, claims made by those against the technology include that it causes any number of ailments between nose bleeds and cancer, and that it is responsible for behavioural changes, as well as the deaths of animals.
The link with the coronavirus first appears in a now-deleted interview carried out by a Belgian newspaper with a general physician making unproven assertions about the dangers of 5G and raising the possibility that the then-nascent disease could be linked to the technology.
As the epidemic in China turned into global pandemic, the belief in the 5G conspiracy grew with it, picking up backing from celebrities and prominent figures in other conspiracy theory trends, such as the Anti-Vaccination movement.
Prominent supporters of the 5G conspiracy theory include the boxer Amir Khan and British talent show judge, Amanda Holden. While both and others have vocally joined the cause, none has any qualification in science.
On the extreme ends of the conspiracy, some have even gone as far as to suggest the death of basketball star Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash was part of the initiation process for the global roll out of 5G.
Turkish technology venture, BIOSYS, has produced the first domestic life-saving ventilator amid coronavirus outbreak pic.twitter.com/JWxoXknUnk— TRT World (@trtworld) March 30, 2020
So what is 5G?
For all the controversy surrounding the technology, 5G is just the latest reiteration of wireless radio communications technology, like 4G and 3G before it.
Devices enabled for 5G use radio frequencies to transmit and receive data, in the same manner an FM radio set picks up its signal.
Although a form of radiation, unlike damaging types, such as nuclear radiation, the waves needed are non-ionising. They therefore cannot disrupt or damage our molecular make up, let alone give us the flu-like symptoms associated with the coronavirus.
While scientists have long debated the long-term effects of such exposure, there is no suggestion whatsoever that radio-based technologies can cause pandemic levels of sickness.
The World Health Organisation argues that “No major public health risks have emerged from several decades of EMF (electromagnetic fields) research, but uncertainties remain.”
So why are people making the link between 5G and Coronavirus?
Northumbria University social psychologist Dr Daniel Jolley told the Huffington Post that conspiracy theories gave people a sense of certainty in uncertain times.
“We know that conspiracy theories are a way of coping with stressful or little–understood situations such as coronavirus, so it makes sense that the 5G conspiracy has come to the fore,” Jolley said, adding: “There’s evidence that links a belief in conspiracy theories to hostility and violence, and while that’s mostly been linked to terrorist activity, it can also be seen in the current situation.”
With the attacks on the communications masts, UK government officials have been swift to condemn the conspiracy.
Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove dismissed the 5G conspiracy as “dangerous nonsense”.
While British National Health Service medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, has described the trend as the “worst kind of fake news”.