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As COVID-19 cases rise, conspiracy theorists raise new fears

As COVID-19 cases surged in late summer, right-wing influencers and conspiracy theorists took to social media by stoking fears about mass lockdowns and spreading unproven new ideas about COVID-19’s relationship to world events. Have reacted.

“Do they want COVID measures rolled back to put us back on war footing to prepare for war with Russia?” right-wing personality Jack Posobiec told his more than 150,000 followers on his Telegram channel.

There is little evidence that Current wave of COVID-19 cases That would prompt extreme counter-measures of the type seen during the worst of the pandemic. Share of Covid-19 cases across the country reaches peak 14.1 percent in August — in line with most of the surge since the pandemic began — but hospitalizations were at historic lows.

Officials have responded instead targeted effortNoting that the country is benefiting from widespread immunity, better treatments for the sick and more accessible tests could help prevent the surge from becoming a full-blown crisis.

But according to disinformation experts, conspiracy theorists and online right-wing influencers, each surge is an opportunity to stoke fear and rile up their supporters. According to the data, use of “plandemic” and “scamdemic” — two terms that describe COVID-19 as a hoax — rose sharply on right-wing websites in August. pyrrhaA company that monitors threats and misinformation on alternative social networks.

“I would almost call it an obsession for the Covid-denying, anti-vaxxer community,” said Welton Chang, co-founder and chief executive of Pyra. “They make a mountain out of bargaining for every little thing.”

Misinformation about COVID-19 is as old as the virus itself. Much of it is about vaccines: One-third of Americans said they believe COVID-19 vaccines caused thousands of sudden deaths among otherwise healthy people. A survey published in August By KFF, a non-profit research group. Although there is no link between COVID-19 vaccines and sudden deaths, conspiracy theorists often believe disseminated ideas Since celebrities and athletes fall ill for unrelated reasons.

In many right-wing spaces online, users still claim without evidence that the virus is a planned bioweapon, that vaccines contain microchips or that unproven drugs provide simple cures for virus symptoms.

As COVID-19 continues to reemerge like the flu, disinformation experts warn that false and misleading views surrounding the pandemic will continue to evolve.

The latest misleading claims follow comments from the Biden administration in late August, when it issued a warning Declining wave of Covid-19 infections. Health officials advise Americans to get vaccinated using new subvariant upcoming booster dose,

The reaction was intense.

“red Alert!” A headline ran this week on Infowars, the conspiracy website run by right-wing misogynist Alex Jones. “White House announces plan to reimpose COVID tyranny.”

The surge in cases has also energized conservative politicians, who have found that criticizing lockdowns and mask mandates is a politically powerful message for Republican voters.

“There is no mask mandate,” Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican seeking the presidential nomination, told right-wing news site The Daily Signal. “No vaccine is mandatory. No lockdown ever again.”

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, said this month that the rising number of cases was being exaggerated by Democrats to “distract people” from the party’s political failures.

“We are going to get more Covid to increase mass hysteria and fear,” he said on Infowars, the conspiratorial talk show hosted by Mr Jones.

Former President Donald J. Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, has stressed his opposition to vaccines and other countermeasures. advocated as president,

He posted a video on his social network, Truth Social, last week, claiming that concerns over COVID-19 variants were part of a ploy to reinstate vote-by-mail policies used during the 2020 election.

“The lunatics on the left are trying very hard to bring back Covid lockdowns and mandates by suddenly spreading fear about new variants,” he said. “Gee Whiz, you know what else is coming? Upcoming elections.”

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