Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories Inexplicably Target Bill Gates

This is bizarre even by conspiracy theory standards

Bill Gates
Bill Gates in 2017.
Kuhlmann /MSC/Creative Commons

Bill Gates: tech magnate, philanthropist and…conspiracy theory subject? As the very wealthy go, Gates is a relatively restrained figure — but a new report by Thomas Ricker at The Verge notes that Gates has become the subject of a massive number of conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus. The runner-up? Conspiracy theories about coronavirus and 5G — theories which prompted some people to set cellphone towers on fire.

As Ricker writes, the theories about Gates aren’t confined to a single conspiracy theory — there are quite a few:

The 10 most popular Youtube videos spreading misinformation about Gates and the virus were viewed almost five millions times in March and April. The falsehoods being spread vary, but range from him creating COVID-19 in order to profit from a vaccine, or of Gates being a member of a plot to cull humanity and/or implement a global surveillance system.

How did Gates wind up at the center of so many bizarre conspiracy theories? Gates has spoken out repeatedly about the risks that infectious diseases pose to humanity — which, in the bizarre logic of many a conspiracy theorist, has been taken as evidence for his harboring a sinister agenda.

Looking back at some of Gates’s comments on diseases, he was certainly prescient about the risks that a pandemic might pose to the United States’ healthcare system. Here’s part of a talk he delivered in 2018, for instance:

In the real world, though, the health infrastructure we have for normal times breaks down very rapidly during major infectious disease outbreaks. This is especially true in poor countries. But even in the U.S., our response to a pandemic or widespread bioterror attack would be insufficient.

Gates’s words from a few years ago sound all too accurate. That he’s found himself embroiled in conspiracy theories is a bitter irony, and a deeply frustrating one.

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