The pandemic is providing a lot of strange headlines: World leaders going missing, UFO sightings confirmed by the Pentagon, the price of oil going negative. While any one of these, on its own, would probably constitute an episode of Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know, our hosts Ben Bowlin, Noel Brown, and Matt Frederick are still focused on the multiple conspiracy theories swirling around the Internet about the virus itself. On this episode, they delve into tracking apps, astroturfed economic protests, whether the numbers of cases and deaths are being underreported or inflated (and why), and how worried we should be about our elections in November.
A lot of controversy has surrounded the reported numbers themselves. First, people fear that they’re being underreported, which is a pretty plausible fear – nearly every country underreported numbers, sometimes purposely, from the very beginning of the pandemic. But lately, people have feared that the numbers are being falsely inflated to create a sense of fear, control the public’s movements, and purposely crash the economy. This theory says that the numbers are counting every death as a Covid death, whether they died from the virus or some other cause like a heart attack. This is a tough one to investigate because there are many ways a virus can negatively impact our health outcomes, but Ben says taking a look at our “excess death toll” is a good source for figuring out how the virus has directly or indirectly contributed to deaths in the country. In all likelihood, our count for deaths related to the pandemic is actually too low – how much lower is still a mystery.
And there is a very real concern that governments the world over will use the pandemic as an excuse for sweeping surveillance measures, because that’s already happening. Contact tracing is an important step in virus containment, but could it go too far? In China, each citizen must get a mandatory Covid tracking app, which restricts their movements depending on their level of exposure. Nearly every country is experimenting with similar technology, with varying degrees of privacy protection. Here in the U.S., Google and Apple have promised to destroy the data collected during the pandemic. But it’s possible legislation will be put into place requiring them to hand it over to the government. If that happens, as Ben says, “If privacy is Elvis and the U.S. is the building, then Elvis has left the building.” Listen to this episode for more coronavirus conspiracies, including the story about Bill Gates, what China is up to in Australia, how our 2020 elections might be affected, and much more on Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know.
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