OPINION

A global pastime

a-global-pastime

Despite so many flights being grounded, someone must be spraying us with chemicals, given the fresh passion that the coronavirus crisis has injected into our favorite national pastime, now a global one: conspiracy theories.

Take George, for example, who insists that the family of a friend’s cousin who died of an unrelated illness was forced to sign a document stating that he had died from Covid-19. “They’re making the crisis appear worse than it is to push the Bill Gates vaccination,” he argues. Then there’s all sorts of “pundits,” including among the clergy, who believe that the coronavirus is forcing in a new system of global governance.

Anyone who makes the mistake of underestimating the intensity and popularity of such views right now, is being obtuse. This is not just in Greece; similar views are gaining ground on social media in the United States, Europe and everywhere else. The new cold war that is starting to develop is centered around such conspiracy theories and fake news.

The penchant for conspiracy has been in the Greek blood for years. The self-evident and fact-based is dismissed as stupid and perhaps even false. Anything with a dose of suspense, international intrigue or masonic mystery appears much more credible.

Greeks have shown incredible maturity in the face of the coronavirus crisis and rejected the voices of populism. When it comes to the migration crisis, though, they are worried and insecure – and this breeds fear. The coronavirus is also breeding fear with regards to what tomorrow may bring. It happened so fast, none of us have yet absorbed the shock. Soon we will face the additional shock of a major recession and a fresh round of pauperization.

Taken together, these factors form the perfect environment for breeding conspiracy theories and doubt. We need to be vigilant, because conspiracy theories have the power to undermine institutions and people’s faith in democracy. In contrast to classic propaganda, they don’t push a particular ideology – they simply destabilize, isolate and divide.

Such theories provide desperate people with a channel for their anger, something or someone to blame. They give answers to the existential dilemmas of people who feel they are being left behind. And the only antidote is education, information and improving people’s lives.

The combination of the migration crisis, the pandemic, the Turkish threat and the looming recession will test our limits and our unity as a society. Perhaps that was the aim all along for those who… unleashed the virus.