Opinion: Don’t fear the coronavirus protests

I have an acquaintance and Facebook “friend” in Atlanta, Georgia, in the US. His name is Karl. For the past few weeks, Karl has been posting like crazy on the coronavirus. His opinions indicate he would be a perfect fit for protests against government lockdown measures designed to curb the spread of the deadly infection.

Karl is wholly convinced that Bill Gates is a baby killer, that immunization is about boosting profits for pharmaceutical companies, and that the coronavirus was created by the Democratic Party. But Karl does not belong to any group, nor is he an activist. He gets his inspiration from other like-minded social media users.

Debating with anti-vaxxers: An experiment

I decided to conduct an experiment with Karl. I entered into a debate, in which I took the time to quietly employ my investigative journalistic skills and seriously consider his claims. I took those claims seriously, followed them up and ultimately wrote back to him. When I informed him that the sources he cited were fictitious, I asked him once again for his thoughts on the matter. His response: “I don’t care if they are fake or not — they could still be true!”

DW’s Hans Pfeifer

Eventually, Karl asked me if I wasn’t perplexed by the fact that the Bible predicts that humanity will fall prey to a massive virus between 2020 and 2030, and that vaccines are the devil’s work? Despite persistent requests to tell me where exactly I could find that information in the Bible, I never got a reply.

Karl had disappeared on Facebook.

Read more: Coronavirus: How do I recognize a conspiracy theory?

Long story short, the experiment was a failure. Karl isn’t looking for someone to have a rational debate with; he is looking for fellow combatants. And that is the same thing most people yelling about vaccines, Bill Gates and lockdown measures on the streets these days are after, too. They are not interested in participating in a broad social debate — they want total victory. And anyone wearing a yellow Star of David on their chest with the word “unvaccinated,” as was recently the case in Berlin, belittles the murder of millions of European Jews during World War II. Such people have one goal, and one goal only: Maximum provocation and a thirst for attention.

Toxic alliance

In the end, this article itself is counterproductive because its subject is a toxic alliance of disgruntled provocateurs. Ultimately, it is politicians and media outlets that are making these so-called protests out to be so much larger than they actually are. Add to that the fact that many of these protests are crawling with conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites and far-right extremists who have sought to exploit every opportunity to attack our open society. It seems the rest of society would very much like to leave those people just where they are: in isolation.

  • All made up? Conspiracy theories in movies

    ‘JFK’ (1991)

    US director Oliver Stone has often dealt with conspiracies in his films. His 1991 movie “JFK” looks into the alleged cover-up of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Prosecutor Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) does not believe that a lone gunman killed JFK; his theory is that a widespread network, the “deep state,” is behind the assassination.

  • All made up? Conspiracy theories in movies

    ‘The Parallax View’ (1974)

    After the Kennedy assassination, the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, sections of American society felt a sense of unease. Filmmakers like Alan J. Pakula picked up on this in the 1970s; he directed three films on conspiracy theories arising from such events, one of which was the 1974 “The Parallax View,” starring Warren Beatty (right).

  • All made up? Conspiracy theories in movies

    ‘All the President’s Men’ (1976)

    Another Pakula film shot two years later is also a classic conspiracy movie. It tells the story of journalists Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), who became famous for uncovering a political conspiracy that later went down in history as the Watergate scandal.

  • All made up? Conspiracy theories in movies

    ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (1962 and 2004)

    Richard Condon’s novel “The Manchurian Candidate” was filmed twice: in 1962, as a Cold War thriller starring Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey, and in 2004 with Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington (photo). In the more recent film, the story takes place in a Middle East conflict setting. The complex plot is about “remote-controlled” murders under hypnosis and all kinds of conspiracy myths.

  • All made up? Conspiracy theories in movies

    ‘Vanilla Sky’ (2001)

    This story was also filmed twice, first in 1997 in Spain, as “Open Your Eyes” by Alejandro Amenabar, and again in 2001 in Hollywood by Cameron Crowe under the title “Vanilla Sky,” starring Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz. Not so much about political conspiracy, the film pinpoints a corporation that programs and controls people. Or is it really — as the film plot suggests — just a conspiracy theory?

  • All made up? Conspiracy theories in movies

    ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (2006)

    Based on the bestseller by Dan Brown, “The Da Vinci Code” (2006) is a contemporary classic of the conspiracy genre. There is not enough space here to list all the conspiracies or theories that play a role in this film. Let’s just say it is about religion and the church, about Opus Dei and the Holy Grail. The film was a blockbuster, followed by its sequel, “Illuminati.”

  • All made up? Conspiracy theories in movies

    ‘The Ghost Writer’ (2010)

    Ten years ago, Roman Polanski directed a particularly successful film starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan (photo). “The Ghost Writer,” a thriller about political scheming in foreign and economic policy is actually set in the US, but was for the most part shot in Germany.

  • All made up? Conspiracy theories in movies

    ‘Z’ (1969)

    A master of the political film genre, Constantin Costa-Gavras has often looked into conspiracies of all kinds. The Greek-French director shot to fame with “Z” (photo), a fictionalized depiction of the assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis. The filmmaker followed up with a few more movies about alleged and actual conspiracies.

  • All made up? Conspiracy theories in movies

    ’23’ (1998)

    German filmmakers have also tackled the topic of conspiracies. In “23,” Hans-Christian Schmid fictionalizes the real-life case of a young hacker who was obsessed by a worldwide conspiracy and died of a presumed suicide in 1989. The number 23 plays a key role in the story. The 1998 film remains relevant to this day.

  • All made up? Conspiracy theories in movies

    ‘Jud Süss’ (1940)

    Between 1933 and 1945 the Nazis commissioned anti-Semitic conspiracy films for propaganda purposes. The best known one was “Jud Süss” (Süss the Jew) with Ferdinand Marian (photo). But unlike the other films listed in our selection — made to entertain people — these conspiracy films had a dead-serious background, aiming to spread anti-Semitic hatred.

    Author: Jochen Kürten (db)


Germany and other democracies fall into a trap each time they seek to justify their actions to these supposedly “concerned citizens.” What can come of a discussion with 5,000 people who are allowed to protest thanks to the protection of police – despite the health risks posed to them – and then scream at journalists, complaining that they can no longer speak their minds? It would be much more constructive to continue to publicly debate the pros and cons of various coronavirus measures in parliament and in the media.

Conspiracy theory as business model

Those who value democratic society really only have one thing to fear: The fact that the ear-piercing screams of those opposed to our current open democracies have morphed into a business model. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the US news outlet Fox News earn millions each year by spreading half-truths, hate speech and anti-Semitism. Anyone concerned about the impact that this business model can have on a democracy need look no further than the incredible rise to power of one Donald J. Trump.  

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Article source: https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-don-t-fear-the-coronavirus-protests/a-53539742?maca=en-rss-en-ger-1023-xml-atom