Conspiratorial Conjunctions: Anti-Vaccine Group has Seized on the Anti-5G Movement
Over the past few months coronavirus conspiracies have followed the viral pattern of the disease itself, spreading and mutating online and off. These conspiracies have been amplified by a prominent anti-vaccine organization which has seized the opportunity to promote their own 5G conspiracy theories, linking the fears over 5G to already established anti-vaccine tropes implicating big business, state authoritarianism, and elite cabals, according to research by the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative at the German Marshall Fund. And while many outlets have noted the perceived similarities between the anti-vaccine and anti-5G movements in rhetoric and strategy, DIDI has found conclusive connections between the two conspiracy circles, conjoining a highly organized anti-vaccine group with an active and increasingly paranoid base of believers.
At the intersection of the anti-vaccine and anti-5G movements is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his institution Children’s Health Defense (CHD). Kennedy is a well-known leader and supporter of the anti-vaccine movement, and his organization has a strong online following, with 124,000 followers on Facebook and 32,000 on Twitter. Kennedy has 187,000 followers on Facebook and 128,000 followers on Twitter. He and staff members are prolific producers of anti-vaccine content, organizers of anti-vaccine protests and demonstrations, and promoters of anti-vaccine conspiracies, and in the current climate much of their anti-vaccine work has filtered into the broader public, with their blogposts and articles being shared in over two dozen “Reopen” groups on Facebook alone.
Now CHD has emerged as a leading player connecting antagonism to 5G with anti-vaccine conspiracies.
Using a list of the top 100 anti-5G Facebook Groups (compiled by anti-5G activists themselves), DIDI examined 72 groups that were publicly viewable and discovered that direct links to articles on the CHD website or references to either CHD or Robert F. Kennedy Jr. were shared in 62 of them, or 86 percent. We examined articles on the CHD website that were shared and found most were about Bill Gates’ role as a vaccine activist and technology champion; conspiracies involving large technology and pharmaceutical corporations, elite groups, and politicians; the purported health effects of 5G on children; or a lawsuit that CHD has filed against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the agency’s decision not to review putatively obsolete health guidelines.
Posts in these groups also fuse the vaccine and 5G conspiracies together in an overarching narrative involving sinister efforts at depopulation and the inauguration of a “New World Order”—the idea that a secret globalist elite is working to create an authoritarian world government. A key element of this conspiracy imagines mass surveillance through widespread microchipping, a fear of electronic tracking systems that easily predates the pandemic. The ensuing push to vaccinate as many people around the world as possible has elevated this concern, and 5G, notorious for needing small cell towers in close proximity, has emerged as a fearful new focal point hastening the creation of this nightmare scenario.
CHD has recognized and played into conspiratorial narratives projected onto Bill Gates who, in many ways, has become the universal bogeyman of conspiracy-minded groups and individuals. His role and that of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in providing accessible vaccines have placed him squarely at the center of anti-vaccination paranoia-mongering. A Yahoo News/YouGov Survey found that almost 30 percent of respondents in the United States (44 percent in the case of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats) said they believed a conspiracy that suggested Gates was planning on using a COVID vaccine to implant microchips.
CHD amplifies these conspiracies; one of their most shared articles to the anti-5G groups was titled, “The Brave New World of Bill Gates and Big Telecom,” connecting 5G technology to larger conspiracy narratives involving Gates, Elon Musk, Amazon, Facebook, global telecom companies, digital authoritarianism, and international industry. Arguing that “5G has almost nothing to do with improving your lives; it’s all about controlling your life, marketing products, and harvesting your data for Artificial Intelligence purposes,” CHD presents a reality in which 5G operates as the framework enabling an array of oppressions, from reproductive controls to economic restrictions to medical experiments merging the biological with the technological, that will usher in a worldwide surveillance state.
In keeping with the globalist fears, CHD’s campaign against 5G is now a global phenomenon, with articles from or references to the organization found in anti-5G groups representing Poland, Bulgaria, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Croatia, Switzerland, Norway, Germany, Peru, and Kenya. Not only are these groups diverse, they are also large: the top ten combined have over 400,000 members. And, while it is not possible to separate out how many users are members of more than one group, the fact that majority of the groups are country-oriented (Stop5G Italia, Australians for Safe Technology, etc.) suggests that many may be members of only one.
The impetus for CHD’s 5G efforts is mysterious. It now has a standalone “5G and Wireless Harms Project,” and it has filed lawsuits against the FCC attempting to force the agency to review the safety guidelines around wireless technology and radiation. Israeli lawyer Dafna Tachover, who directs the project, has been interviewed by RT America on the dangers of 5G, and posts of the interview subsequently shared on Bulgarian, Israeli, Maltese, Danish, Canadian, and French anti-5G groups. And, while CHD has written about 5G since at least 2017, the overwhelming majority of the 5G content it has produced has come in 2019 and 2020.
CHD does not suggest the coronavirus is caused by 5G, asserting instead that such conspiracies are a ploy designed to diminish genuine health concerns and allow “Big Telecom” and “Big Data” to effectively censor debate and discussion around the new technology. It does, however, oppose coronavirus vaccines and maintain that the virus itself is a planned distraction from the broader, overarching goal of corporate world domination and data extraction.
Despite CHD’s disavowal of a connection between the coronavirus and 5G, it is nonetheless feeding into and actively encouraging a conspiracy theory whose adherents have destroyed property and threatened the safety of workers. This is in addition to continuing to push an already suspicious population towards vaccine skepticism and hesitancy in the midst of a global pandemic, compounding the harms and raising the potential that increasingly desperate individuals, after imbibing this brew of misinformation, will act out in dangerous ways. Already a disturbing source of medical misinformation, the organization has set its sights on another conspiratorial frontier, ready and willing to supply an overly paranoid population with new stories and citations to support a deeply worrying worldview.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.