It’s one thing to read or hear about COVID-related conspiracies on Reddit or Twitter. It’s a whole other thing to have someone you’ve known for over twenty years tell you that he was interrogated by people who thought he was part of the Deep State.
About three weeks ago a childhood friend called and told me that he’d contracted COVID-19. His symptoms weren’t bad enough to put him in the hospital, but they were close. He’d been told that his lungs had “brown glass opacity” and to go straight to the ER if his breathing got any worse. We talked for a good hour and he told me that he’d decided to post his COVID experiences on Facebook so he could help others understand it better and, you know, realize that it really was a real thing. “Trust me,” he said in his first post. “COVID is real.”
His daily Facebook posts were pretty detailed. Symptoms would get better, then worse, depending on the day. Sometimes on the hour. He lost his sense of taste and smell. His voice would come and go. His fever would come and go. He said more than once that this was the weirdest illness he’s ever had. He also urged people to wear masks.
This guy is a Trump supporter, by the way.
I thought it was nice of him to go through the trouble of documenting the effects that this virus were having on his body. Since we both grew up in a Florida town that is full of people in denial about the current pandemic, I thought that his posts would convince others that COVID-19 was a real concern. He’s always been an upstanding citizen, always been liked. He has no reason to lie.
I texted him about a week later to see how he was doing, and he replied, “Apparently I’m being paid by the Deep State and I may not be real.”
It’s not like I’m not into conspiracies. I read 1984 when I was in middle school. I’ve watched every episode of The X-Files. I’ve read about the CIA’s Operation Paperclip and Project MK Ultra. I’ve read unusual wording in some of the Podesta Emails in WikiLeaks, and I’ve read Fritz Springmeier’s Bloodlines of the Illuminati that is published in the CIA’s online library.
So I get the whole Deep State mentality. There’s so much paranoia fostered by the President and his minions over the past three years that the whole thing makes sense to a lot of people. To them, everyone is lying, everyone is against him, every mainstream media outlet is fake news, masks are seen as unpatriotic at best and mind control devices at worst. Anyone voting for Biden is a rabid supporter of socialism, communism, abortion, and child trafficking. And COVID-19, something that’s no worse than the flu, has been perpetuated by the fearmongering media and is a tactic used by Bill Gates in order to get microchips into everyone on the planet, which is probably the Mark of the Beast from the Book of Revelations.
But I didn’t realize how deep this Deep State belief had gone until people started calling and messaging my friend and not only accused him of working for the Deep State but went so far as to ask him questions about himself in order to prove that he wasn’t a decoy.
He told me that at least one of these “crazies” was from our hometown. So these are people I probably know.
The people who assume and accuse others of actively participating in this conspiracy aren’t just random people on Twitter or YouTube videos or alternative news. They are people I know. People that you know.
This is how far things have gone.
Today I checked on my friend and he’s now tested negative more than once. He still has lingering symptoms and possible lung damage, though. He figures that it will probably take several months for him to feel more like himself.
Then I asked him if the conspiracy people have backed off.
“Some have, some haven’t,” he said.
“Some have unfriended me.”
If someone had told me that in the year 2020 there would be a pandemic that would not truly be accepted by, as of last month, 31 percent of Americans, I wouldn’t have believed it. Percentages on the current pandemic beliefs of Americans vary depending on the day and the various polls that are out there.
But to me, even one person who believes a pandemic conspiracy so strongly that they are driven to basically cross-examine someone they know who is currently in pain and has trouble talking because his ability to breathe is hindered — that’s one too many.
For some time I’ve been convinced that if a person believes something to be true, they shouldn’t be afraid to look at the other side. If I’m a Christian, for example, I shouldn’t be afraid to read about other religions and beliefs — including what atheists have to say about the matter of God’s existence. If, according to me, I know that my faith is absolute, unshakable, and true, it shouldn’t bother me to see the other side. The opposite of my belief system. Because if I’m afraid to research or talk to people or read about alternatives to my faith, that could mean that maybe I’m not sure. I know that plenty of people don’t want to “pollute” themselves with what they consider to be garbage beliefs, but honestly, how can you argue that your faith is true if you don’t know why other people believe what they believe? What they consider to be evidence? Why do they feel just as strongly about their own faith — even faith in themselves rather than God?
Is the refusal to look at the other side of the argument — real looking, not just reading other people’s comments and trolling them — based on fear?
And is this fear related less to the strength of their belief than the possibility that maybe they aren’t right after all?
The same thing applies to COVID-19 and the various reasons why there are people who believe that it’s media hype, that the Dems or Libtards or whatever other names for their enemies perpetuated “fearmongering,” that the Deep State is behind all of this, and all the other stuff that has been circulating for most of 2020.
In order to better understand the way of thinking of these people, I watch Fox News, not just CNN. I’ve heard several of Trump’s speeches at press conferences and I’ve read many of his tweets. I’ve scrolled through my Facebook feed and read comments and articles.
- I’ve watched YouTube videos about the Deep State.
- I’ve read about why there are people who call Joe Biden “Sleepy Joe” and, worse, “Pedo Joe.”
- I’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and other far-right radio hosts.
- I’ve had long conversations with my Trump-supporting family.
Looking at the other side wasn’t easy. But I was determined to get into the heads of right-wingers who have long made up their minds about who they’re voting for in November.
And after looking at the evidence presented by the other side of the beliefs I had about the pandemic, it confirmed the beliefs I myself had.
The key to finding out all the facts you can about this pandemic is to look at things the way a researcher does: objectively.
My husband does research as part of his job. He has a neuroscience background. He stresses that epidemiologists and infectious disease doctors must look at things objectively — without inserting their own emotions into their research. Emotions may have attracted them to the field they chose, such as a scientist who researches cures for cancer because she lost her mother to cancer, but in order to research and experiment and discover, she has to put emotions aside and become a computer of sorts. Feelings can’t enter into it. Subjectivity can complicate her research at best, and contaminate it at worst.
And when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, what we believe can complicate and prolong everything at best, and kill more people at worst.
The people who believe that my friend recovering from the virus had the motive to lie about it are looking at the pandemic through a lens distorted by their emotions.
Don’t we know that emotions have a reputation of betraying us? Sure, in theory. As an afterthought. But that’s the genius of our emotions. They convince us that our emotional way of thinking is logical. Our right brain cons us into believing that our beliefs are coming from our left brain.
That is what causes people to defend their beliefs by striking out at others and accusing them of working for a secret entity. To call others names and take things as personally as if someone had insulted their own mother. It’s emotions.
And that goes for both sides of the coin.
In all honesty, I’ve gotten so emotional that I’ve had to get away from social media altogether more than once. I’ve talked to my part-Vulcan husband — who helped give me some of the ideas for this story — so he could get me thinking less with my emotions. It takes practice, man. A lot. For me, it’s taken over ten years of it. And I still screw up.
But I’ve seen firsthand how looking at things objectively actually works.
And if I can help bring one more person to try their hand at researching and looking at this pandemic and politics and the hot-button issues going on during an unprecedented time in the United States, maybe I can help spare someone else from being accused the way my friend was.