OPINION

Lashing out at the truth

lashing-out-at-the-truth

The signs were visible since the very first wave of the pandemic, but still I never expected it to spread so violently. This was a time when molecular virology Professor Leondios Kostrikis from the University of Cyprus was conducting daily public briefings on the course of the pandemic in Cyprus, much like Professor Sotiris Tsiodras did in Greece at the start of the health crisis. In April 2020 Kostrikis found a death threat on his answering machine. He contacted the police, and a 35-year-old man was arrested and fined.

The man was also said to have been spreading conspiracy theories against the vaccines. He believed that the professor was collaborating with secret American powers to do evil against the people of Cyprus. Months later, Kostrikis’ car was vandalized by unknown assailants. The attack coincided with the day Covid vaccinations began. The police advised Kostrikis to put security cameras outside his home.

Kostrikis is not the only scientist who has come under attack in Cyprus. More of his colleagues received online threats. Some preferred not to give the issue greater publicity, while others spoke of these incidents as stemming from a small, though vociferous, segment of the population.

Recently, however, a mob of anti-vaxxers attacked the Sigma television station in Cyprus, smashing cars and trashing the premises. “The state will respond to anyone who does not respect the laws of the land. The health and security of our people, as well as our democracy, will not fall into the hands of a few irresponsible citizens,” said President Nicos Anastasiades.

Those who hide behind these violent attacks are not simply clinging to some conspiracy theory or other because they are afraid of the vaccines. They believe that they alone know the truth. And the less they actually know, the more complex the problem appears and the easier it is to blame it to an elaborate evil scheme. It is, in fact, a desperate attempt to feel important.