Tech Tuesday: The 5G Conspiracy
“Paranoia is infectious.” — C.L. Anderson
Back in the 90s, our local energy provider Minnesota Power was seeking to shore up its power resources by adding a connection to the grid that comes out of Chicago. This kind of duplication would serve as a backup resource for extreme situations. What this meant was the addition of a new corridor of high tension wires across Wisconsin.
As you might expect, there were plenty of people opposed to this. “Not in my back yard” applies to all kinds of matters, and having wires strung across the back 40 doesn’t always have a lot of appeal for most people.
One day a full page ad appeared in our local newspaper paid for by these opponents. They included a quote from a friend of mine who was the PR spokesperson for the power company. The ad declared how evil he personally and the power company were for placing deadly power lines across the land. The ad informed readers that 60 children and infants died from the low-frequency magnetic fields that were generated when strung across a reservation in Canada.
60 children died? This is quite an indictment. Was it true? Are power lines this unsafe? The notion was preposterous.
That story came to mind when I read Kaitlyn Tiffany’s article in the May issue of The Atlantic, “Something’s in the Air.” The article is about conspiracy theories related to technology in general, and with regards to 5G specifically.
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She opens with by noting that cancer caused by power lines was a major conviction of many people back in the 70s. Televisions and microwave ovens were believed to be human health risks. More recently, the notion of having cell phones next to our brains was leading to brain damage. (That is why I always put you on speaker phone. JK)
In short, Tiffany begins her article by citing the manner in which our paranoia can be fed when we do not understand technologies.
I once wrote an article about how we are constantly bombarded with radio waves and sound waves and other kinds of wavs, that if we could see it all, we’d see that we are sitting in a solid mass of waves. What looks like empty space is not empty at all.
The article’s intro is designed to remind us that in the light of history (and I am surprised the Luddites didn’t get noted at this point) the current resistance to 5G shouldn’t surprise us. What is surprising, however, is its vehemence. She writes:
A wildly disorienting pandemic coming at the same time as the global rollout of 5G-the newest technology standard for wireless networks-has only made matters worse. “5G launched in CHINA. Nov 1, 2019. People dropped dead,” the singer Keri Hilson wrote in a now-deleted tweet to her 4.2 million followers in March. As the coronavirus spread throughout Europe, fears about 5G appear to have animated a rash of vandalism and arson of mobile infrastructure, including more than 30 incidents in the U.K. in just the first 10 days of April. In the case of one arson attack in the Netherlands, the words “Fuck 5G” were reportedly found scrawled at the scene.
The article is well researched and quotes people from different points of view. David Savitz, an epidemiologist, notes how cell phones went from nowhere to everywhere in about a decade. Simultaneously, wifi and cell towers became ubiquitous. “Now nearly every public urban place has Wi-Fi,” he said, “and we will soon have small cell towers every few blocks. Whether or not you believe this will give you brain cancer, you didn’t have a chance to opt out.”
Further on in the article Tiffany writes about businesses that have emerged to protect us from the adverse effects of all this technology, both products and services. Would you like your new home inspected to make sure it’s not killing you? For $150 an hour, this can be done. If you know who to call. (A 21st century version of Ghostbusters, I suppose.)
Everything above is only scratching the surface as to why the 5G rollout has encountered resistance. There’s that whole other aspect of a techno-culture with wraparound surveillance. They can be watching and listening to us everywhere we go. They track us by our cell phones. Why not all the other sensors in our Internet-of-Things world?
BOTTOM LINE: It’s an informative deep dive into a complex issue. Wherever you stand on this issue, I believe Kaitlyn Tiffany brings a fair and thorough overview of what’s happening in our age of disruptions.