Have you heard? The U.S. Army brought the coronavirus to Wuhan!
It’s true. A Chinese government official says so. In fact, the theory that the virus began in the U.S. has actually supplanted the former #1 theory that the coronavirus is a bioweapon created in a secret lab in Wuhan.
Or maybe an episode of The Simpsons foretold the pandemic. Or it was inspired by a Dean Koontz novel. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, the internet is a wild, wacky, wonderfully inventive place that any boob with a theory can get lucky and see their nonsense go viral.
So what about The Simpsons?
A February 20 Facebook post appeared and showed stills from a 1993 episode of the show in which both Homer Simpson and Principal Skinner are sick; another image shows a broadcaster reading off a piece of paper while the words “corona virus” and a cat appears on a screen behind him.
However, it turns out that the images were altered. Three images were from an episode called ‘Osaka flu’ where a factory worker coughs into a package for Homer and he falls sick. The text behind the broadcaster in the fourth image however, does not say ‘corona virus’ but ‘apocalypse meow’.
The show also “predicted” 9/11, so anything is possible, right?
From the silly to the sublime, the idea the virus was proposed in a Dean Koontz novel might send chills down your spine. The plot resemblance to real events is uncanny. The 1981 novel, The Eyes of Darkness, tells the story of a mother trying to find her son who disappeared on a camping trip.
Be prepared for an attack of the eeries. Economic Times:
In the passage, a character named Dombey narrates an account of a virus called ‘Wuhan-400’ which was developed at the RDNA lab outside the city of Wuhan, and ‘it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at that research centre’.
The passage then gives intricate details about how the virus affects the human body. The chilling accuracy with which this 1981 book predicts the outbreak and the resemblance between ‘Wuhan-400’ and Coronavirus is eerie to say the least.
Yes, but “eerie” don’t make it true.
More realistic is the conspiracy theory that the bug was created in a lab in Wuhan and accidentally was let loose upon the world. Or deliberately, if you’re inclined to fantasy role-playing games.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is a real place, and the exact origin of the novel coronavirus is still a mystery, with researchers racing since the outbreak began to figure it out. But already, virologists who’ve parsed the genome and infectious disease experts who study coronaviruses say they have enough evidence the virus is brand new and came from nature. A large group of them, citing genome analyses from multiple countries, recently affirmed in The Lancet that the virus originated in wildlife.
The emergence of the virus in the same city as China’s only level 4 biosafety lab, it turns out, is pure coincidence.
The most prominent proponent of the bioweapon theory is Senator Tom Cotton, who is almost certainly out of his cotton-pickin’ mind (sorry, couldn’t resist).
The Arkansas senator furthered “infodemic” by pushing debunked claim that the novel coronavirus may have been created in a Wuhan laboratory. https://t.co/oJvVzjOyxw
— Atlantic Council (@AtlanticCouncil) March 1, 2020
But what if the Trump administration pushed the idea of a Chinese attack? The Chinese government has no qualms about spreading propaganda to the effect that the bug was created in the U.S. and brought to Wuhan by the U.S. Army.
A spokesman for the Chinese government on Thursday promoted a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was brought to the city of Wuhan by the U.S. military.
“It might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” said Zhao Lijian, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Business Insider reported.
The Chinese are pushing back against the “Typhoid Mary” image of their country that, they believe, is hurting their economy.
The conspiracy theory, which has recently gained steam in China, instead suggests the virus was brought to the country in 2019 by U.S. athletes participating in the Military World Games that were held in Wuhan.
Zhao pointed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield’s acknowledgement in congressional testimony Wednesday that some Americans who appeared to have died from the flu may have died from the virus due to a lack of testing.
Some Chinese media outlets announced that the director of the CDC had been arrested for covering up the disease in the U.S. No doubt, the narrative will become more and more fantastical as time passes.
There is a need during a crisis for human beings to explain what can’t be explained or hasn’t been explained yet. We are finding answers to the mysteries of this coronavirus and soon, we’ll have a much better handle on what we’re up against.
In the meantime, caution is called for. And that includes being cautious in spreading spurious and unsubstantiated rumors about the disease.