A large percentage of conservatives (indeed, of U.S. adults) subscribe to a bizarre Bill Gates conspiracy theory

May 24, 2020 • 9:30 am

It’s unbelievable what Trump supporters, Republicans, and conservatives can bring themselves to believe, but this new Yahoo/YouGov poll shows that bizarre and unevidenced beliefs are held by a substantial proportion of not just those on the Right, but of all U.S. adults. This article (click on screenshot below) centers on both Bill Gates and the coronavirus, particularly a vaccine. The poll was conducted in May, and you can link to the main results by clicking on the screenshot below.


The most bizarre contention, debunked by Snopes, is that Bill Gates is using his money and promoting Covid-19 vaccinations to create an authoritarian country where everyone will be surveilled via the implantation of microchips (presumably inserted surreptitiously during vaccination).  As Snopes notes,

primary focus of that foundation, and of Gates’ philanthropy in general, is the reduction of inequalities in health outcomes, with a focus on the developing world. Via these organizations, he also funds research into technological solutions to public health problems in the poorest communities globally. Since 2015, he has been raising alarms about the world’s potentially catastrophic lack of preparedness for a pandemic.

In part because of his advocacy for vaccines, Gates has also been a major recipient of the anti-vaccine movement’s vitriol for well over a decade. Years of manufactured animosity built by false claims from these anti-vaccine groups have, as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, combined with the dubious claims of doomsday soothsayers and cryptocurrency Youtubers to create a sprawling COVID-19 conspiracy theory centered on Gates.

The basic allegation against Gates goes like this: He is using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to push a vaccine with a microchip capable of tracking you along with the rest of the world population.

Snopes debunks this, saying that Gates’s only remotely related argument is that perhaps people should have certificates of either immunity after having contracted the virus or after having been vaccinated, and those documents could be used for travel and entering new countries. Whether they will be required is up to the countries, not to Gates. That’s about it.

So that’s the basic allegation. How many Americans agree with it? See the chart below of the poll’s results, and weep copiously.

Yes brothers and sisters, friends and comrades, 44% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats—one in five Dems—accept this bizarre theory. Indeed, half of all those who get most of their news from Fox News accept the theory, while only 26% think it’s false. As expected, those who voted for Trump four years ago have statistics almost identical to those of Republicans in general. Those who are most sensible are the Democrats, those who get most of their news from the liberal station MSNBC, and those who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But even the latter categories show more than a quarter of people saying that they aren’t sure whether the microchip implantation theory is true.

Why on earth does anybody believe such a palpably false myth, one supported by no facts at all? Well, for the Right, it’s tribalism, with right-wing tribalism going along with an antivaxer stance. It’s above my pay grade to dilate on why the right is so suspicious of vaccines given that many conservatives support them, but some how it’s taken hold. The Yahoo site gives details:

The new Yahoo News/YouGov survey shows that skepticism about a possible coronavirus vaccine is already taking root on the right. There is little partisan disagreement over vaccines in general: 83 percent of Americans consider childhood vaccines either “somewhat” or “very” safe, and more than 80 percent of Democrats, independents and Republicans share this view. The same goes for concerns over the safety of “fast-tracking” the vaccine through the typical research and regulatory process: 73 percent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned, with little difference by party affiliation.

But when it comes to actually getting vaccinated, Clinton voters are nearly 30 points more likely to say they will (72 percent) than Trump voters (44 percent). A majority of Trump voters say either that they plan to skip the shot (29 percent) or that they aren’t sure (27 percent), even though the president himself has been pushing hard for a vaccine. 

As a result, only half of Americans (50 percent) now say they intend to get vaccinated “if and when a coronavirus vaccine becomes available,” with nearly a quarter (23 percent) saying they won’t — a 5-point decline in the percentage of “yes” responses and a 4-point gain in the percentage of “no” responses since the previous Yahoo News/YouGov survey two weeks ago. The rest (27 percent) say they’re not sure.

With 83% of Americans considering childhood vaccination safe, half of us still won’t get vaccinated when there’s a safe coronavirus vaccine. This is the downside of all the doubt sowed by the conspiracy theorists: it makes people less likely to get vaccinated. And this isn’t the same as ignorant suspicion of evolution or advocacy of flat-earthism, for doubt about tested vaccinations leads to sickness and death. There are no fatal complications of creationism.

There’s more misinformation and tribalism concerning—yes, you guessed it—hydroxychloroquine, which has been unproven as a virus preventive and seems positively harmful when given to those already infected. Have a look at this:

Vaccines are not the only subject of misinformation. Another example with dire implications is hydroxychloroquine. A majority of Fox News viewers (53 percent), along with nearly half of Trump voters (49 percent) and Republicans (44 percent), think the antimalarial drug is an effective treatment against COVID-19 — even though study after study has not proved that to be true. In fact, a new study of 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents found that those who received the drug had a significantly higher risk of death compared with those who did not.

Far fewer Trump voters, meanwhile, say that hydroxychloroquine is ineffective (just 17 percent) or that they are not sure (34 percent) — an upside-down perspective that may have something to do with the fact that the president told reporters Monday that he has been taking the drug for the last “couple of weeks” as a preventive measure.

In contrast, only 5 percent of Clinton voters say hydroxychloroquine is effective. Seventy-three percent of Clinton voters say it is not.

The poll also found that a plurality of Trump voters (41 percent) say they would take hydroxychloroquine if it were available to them. Only 4 percent of Clinton voters say the same; 80 percent say they would not take the drug. The Food and Drug Administration has warned that hydroxychloroquine should be used only in clinical trials or hospitals because it can trigger fatal heart arrhythmia in COVID-19 patients.

Well, physicians who are responsible doctors won’t treat infected people with the drug, and I hope that they won’t write prescriptions for it as a preventive. But some will. The upshot is that trust in science in general will be eroded, as well, I think, as trust in vaccinations.

As we saw from the statistics above, the Left isn’t resistant to the blandishments of misinformation, either. For example, on the issue of “reopening” cities and states, we see this:

The left is not immune to picking and choosing its preferred version of events. Democrats (58 percent) are more likely than Republicans (33 percent) to believe that “coronavirus-related deaths have surged” in early-to-reopen red states such as “Florida, Georgia and Texas” — as are Americans in general (45 percent). Yet average daily deaths have declined in Georgia and Florida since reopening, while holding roughly steady in Texas.

The statistics for reopened states were given on the news last night, and, as the poll notes, they contravene the Left’s scenario that prematurely reopened states will suffer huge tolls from a resurgence of the pandemic. That hasn’t happened so far, and yet the Left believes it more than the Right. Again, tribalism. It is, of course, possible that these states will suffer another onslaught of the virus, and our best attitude should be a wait-and-see one.

There are a bunch of other results, all showing tribalism in belief about what’s true, even when we don’t have sufficient data yet (well, what did you expect in such a religious nation?):

But views on reopening are starting to diverge as well. Asked in previous Yahoo News/YouGov polls whether stay-at-home orders were the only way to stop the spread of COVID-19 or whether “the cure is worse than the disease,” majorities of Americans, both Democratic and Republican, said the former. Now for the first time, a majority of Republicans (53 percent) say the cure is worse. Among Trump voters and Fox News viewers, that number skyrockets to 59 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

On the right, nearly every question about reopening is trending in the same direction. Pluralities of Republicans (44 percent) and majorities of Trump voters (55 percent) and Fox News viewers (61 percent) now support the protesters demanding an end to lockdown measures. Wide majorities of these right-leaning groups also say they are more concerned about lifting restrictions too slowly than too quickly; most Americans — by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin — still say the opposite. And while 62 percent of Americans say they’re more worried about the impact of the coronavirus on people’s health than on the economy, the right disagrees: 63 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Trump voters and 73 percent of Fox News viewers say they’re more worried about the economy.

This is going to cause another fractious election result, which we knew anyway. I still think Trump will lose, and have bet a few hundred bucks on that result; but I’m appalled at how many American continue to support a man who’s so obviously mentally ill—a narcissist of the first water—and how many still buy into his ridiculous statements. As I’ve said, I lived through the Sixties—through Nixon, Reagan, and W., but I never thought I’d live to see a President and an administration so dysfunctional. And, even worse, how many Americans support Trump. Do they really admire the guy, or are they using him as a cudgel against the Left and what it represents to them (lax immigration policy, more concern for racism, and so on)?

And I have no idea why tribalism has increased so much in the last decade or so. Even the Reagan years seem almost halcyon compared to the today’s seemingly irreparable divisions in the ideology of Americans. I’d be interested in hearing readers’ take on this.

Apropos, here’s a photo sent in by reader Barry:

h/t: Ken

106 thoughts on “A large percentage of conservatives (indeed, of U.S. adults) subscribe to a bizarre Bill Gates conspiracy theory

  1. As expected, those who voted for Trump four years ago have statistics almost identical to those of Republicans in general.

    I find that very unexpected. I would have thought “Republican but sane” and “Republican but didn’t vote for Trump” would be heavily overlapping categories. And I know there are a few Republicans who didn’t vote for Trump. So there should be a few less conspiracy theorists in the generic “Republican” category.

    1. Yes, but the number of Republicans who didn’t vote Trump is presumably minuscule, so “those who voted for Trump four years ago” and “Republicans in general” are essentially the same group.

      1. Just out of curiosity, I looked it up. 4% of Republicans who voted in the general election in 2016 voted Hillary, 92% for the toddler-in-chief, and presumably 4% for others or for no one. So, small numbers, but around 3% of all active voters are Republicans who didn’t vote Trump.

        1. A not insignificant number of non-Trump-supporting Republicans have renounced their GOP membership since Trump’s election — including, off the top of my head, such high-profile individuals as George Will, Joe Scarborough, Steve Schmidt, Nicole Wallace, George Conway, and Justin Amash.

          1. Come on Ken, that’s twitter twaddle. Trending tweeting twats is an actual poll now? The six you list are famous, but they’re six. The numbers in these sets of polls show almost no difference in the beliefs of Trump voters and all Republicans. That does argue pretty persuasively against twitter hashtags that are “trending”.

            1. In addition to the twitter twaddle, the article I linked to cites a Gallup poll showing that GOP registration has dropped 3% recently (and is off by 11% since the days of Dubya’s presidency).

              1. I see that now below all the tweets (still the alteration was fun).

                That quote is a good example of the kind of urinalism that we can expect from rags like Newsweek. They say this;

                “According to a January Gallup poll, 27 percent of Americans consider themselves a Republican over a Democrat or Independent, down from 28 percent in December 2019 and 30 percent in November”

                But that’s up from 26 percent in October and 25% in January. They cherry picked their data points. Their first statistic is noise. The 11% drop, however, is not, and that is encouraging.


              2. (still the alteration was fun)

                Looks like the pudgy fingers, uncertain coordination, and faulty vision you adverted to below bedeviled you once again, buddy — this time from stroking the l, i, and t keys in the intended number. 🙂

                In basketball there’s a saying “game recognizes game.” In this instance, you and I make for a case of sloppy typist recognizing sloppy typist. 🙂

  2. I think it likely that the rise of tribalism in the past few decades can be attributed to the influence of social media and cable news. It is now much easier to get so-called news that fits your ideological propensities than it was more than twenty years ago when the news people got was mostly from mainstream media. Would there have been a Trump without social media (including a little help from the Russians) and Fox News? I don’t think so. Social media can bring out the worst in some people. It is not surprising that the worst public health crisis in a century has hardened ideological lines. The right wing has always mistrusted government at least since the days of FDR or perhaps TR or perhaps since the last decades of the 19th century – historians debate this, you can take your pick, but certainly this mistrust is at a record high. For a democracy to survive and prosper, there must be a general consensus on basic values. This is no longer the case. The virus has accelerated the downward spiral. It may not be able to be reversed.

    1. So true the part about the right always mistrusting government. All the way back to Jefferson this is true. The republicans have the perfect campaign slogan for this. Government is not capable of doing anything, just vote for me and I’ll prove it.

    2. Tribalism fostered by social media plays a role for sure, but another contributing factor is the abject failure of our educational system. There’s no getting around it; an empty vessel can be filled with all sorts of junk.
      While it is possible to get a good education at nearly all American high schools, it is also true that, for a non-trivial fraction of students, a high school diploma is merely a certificate of attendance. And that educational failure then carries up to our large public universities. For decades now, educators have consistently emphasized “critical thinking”, but the more we talk about it, the less of it seems to be occurring.

      1. Very much agree! In U.S. public primary and secondary education immense wealth has been spent but little achieved–especially in (as you say) the development of the skills of critical thinking, the attainment of which is a necessary condition for a healthy democracy.

        Add to this the miseducation of private religious schools, both Catholic and Evangelical, plus the joke that goes by the name of home-schooling, and you have generations of youth who have become adult citizens yet are not civic.

        When they enter college (to obtain a credential if little else) they are already made. Some professors fondly talked of fashioning clay vessels on potters’ wheels, then firing them with intellectual heat. Too late! So I responded that what was truly needed was breaking the crockery.

    3. My impression has been that the ideologically malleable Republicans are more in the Trump camp. The truly ideologically conservative ones are more likely to be never-Trumpers.

    4. I don’t think social media is to blame. Sure, there’s a lot of nasty stuff on there but this takes someone with nasty thoughts to want to express them, regardless of the medium. Blaming social media is like blaming the telephone for crime as criminals surely use it to discuss their plots.

      Another way to look at it is to remember that social media is just a communication mechanism. To successfully blame it for what is communicated would require evidence that the medium promoted certain messages over other messages or filtered those allowed to use the medium in some negative manner. None of those things are the case. Blame the nasty messages on those that write them.

      1. The telephone did not commit crimes, but it made it easier for criminals to commit them. Likewise, social media makes it easier for people to become cocooned in the ideological niche they are most comfortable in.

        Conspiracy theories have been rampant in American history. The country has an inglorious record of indulging them. There is nothing new now. The difference is that now it is easier and faster for more people to become “infected.” It is theoretically possible for people to become inundated with conspiracy theories and blatant propaganda 24/7. Prior to the advent of social media and talk radio, people had to make a much bigger effort to absorb the message, such as going to a speech or reading a conspiratorial publication. I think it is fair to say that the “infection” is much more contagious and in some instances more virulent than it was pre-social media.

        1. Sure but my point is to lay blame where it belongs with the people that spew this junk. As is often the case, the solution is increased personal responsibility on a massive scale and better education.

        2. “The telephone did not commit crimes, but it made it easier for criminals to commit them.”

          The telephone eased all economic activities, including those of criminals, of course. But, as always, there are not only good sides to it; the new technology also created completely new risks for criminals: that of being detected by wiretapping techniques, risks which did not exist for them before the telephone was invented.

          Telephones are therefore not a pure win-win situation, the same applies to the new media and their users.

    5. Yeah, the Trump presidency was midwifed by talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News teevee network created by Roger Ailes.

    6. I am convinced that Trump would have had a good chance of becoming president even in a time without digital media. He really does combine many of the qualities that have always characterized very successful politicians: Black-and-white thinking, narcissism, megalomania, low abstract intelligence but good social instincts and a sense of how to appeal to and attract certain groups of voters.

        1. Since when has the capacity for empathy been a condition for attaining power? I think rather the absence of empathy is crucial for success in politics or business.

            1. The term “social instinct”, unlike empathy, refers explicitly to group behaviour; the reference point is the masses, the people, the party etc. and not the individual.

              The definition of the APA of *social instinct*: “the desire for social contact and a feeling of belonging, as manifested by the tendency to congregate, affiliate, and engage in group behaviors.

              One can be a very empathic person and at the same time lead a life as a hermit, since one lacks any desire (aka the social instinct) for belonging or for a position of power within a group.

      1. Trump has a good instinct for feeding red meat to his base.

        But he’s the first first-term president in living memory (and perhaps in all US history) to have made no effort whatsoever to broaden his appeal beyond that base. That failure will cost him in the next election. Whatever his chances may be in the electoral college, he has no path to winning the votes of a majority of Americans next November.

          1. I’ll bet any man from any land any amount he can count that — barring a nuclear first strike against the US or voter suppression on a heretofore unimaginable level — Donald Trump WILL NOT WIN 50%+ of the popular vote (as his two immediate predecessors did in their reelection bids).

            It’s all but UNpossible for a candidate who’s behind in virtually every early poll and has been mired with an approval rating in the low 40s for essentially his entire first term in office.

            1. If the election were held tomorrow, and Trump was muzzled and bound until it was over, I would agree. When Trump and his henchmen control many of the levers of power, anything is possible. They will become increasingly desperate as November approaches. Jared Kushner’s recent statement about postponing the election, “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan”, tells us that they’re thinking about what they can do.

        1. Yes, I also think that he will not be re-elected, but mainly because of the devastating economic consequences of the Corona crisis, no matter how much Trump tries to talk them away, or to smooth things over.

          1. Trump has a chance at the electoral college. He even has an outside shot of winning a plurality of the popular vote, should he be successful in his devious efforts to drive down Joe Biden’s approval numbers by besmirching his name, such that a sufficient number of potential voters decides to stay home or to vote for third-party candidates.

            But Donald Trump’s chances of winning an actual majority of the ballots cast by American voters in November rounds down to zero. You heard it here.

  3. A large portion of this insanity lies at the feet of evangelical Christianity. Children are trained from birth to believe craziness. Most people can’t grow up like that with anything resembling critical thinking skills. So you fall prey, easily, to all manner of woo and nonsense.

    1. “A large portion of this insanity lies at the feet of evangelical Christianity”
      Agreed. And I’d add being inundated from childhood with hundreds of falsehoods every day in the form of TV advertising. And most other religions, though evangelicalism is worst.

      1. The difference, of course, with regard to TV advertising, is that very few people think they are receiving instructions from an all powerful deity.

          1. When my now-33 yr.old daughter was about 4, I overheard her telling one of her little friends that Mommy says that the stuff advertised on tv is no good🤓

        1. I definitely agree with you that being fed lies about ‘god’ should be the most harmful to the psyche of young children.

          But at the same time, for most 3,4,5 year olds, the authority of, e.g., plastic toy manufacturers, is likely to be just about as strong as that of the deity they are lied to about. But as they age, cynicism about what people try to sell them can arise from some experience.

          Surveys about such by sociologists and psychologists might tell us something. But my cynicism often includes them as well. Particularly the Sociology Department, in the institution where I taught for 99 years, had several people not much more believable than Mass Murderer donald, if I may exaggerate a bit.

  4. I saw the article about that poll as well and was absolutely stymied. My theories on how those numbers could be so high:

    1. The poll was wrong, or in some way heavily biased. I would hope so. I don’t personally know anyone that I think would subscribe to such a theory so maybe the people who participated were just out there.

    2. After years of strange conspiracy theories like “chem trails”, lizard people and whatever people say about fluoride (Mind control or gay frogs or something? I don’t have the energy to go down that Google rabbit hole.) it’s escalated to a point where you can float any idea and people are like “Yeah, sure, maybe!”. Or maybe it hasn’t escalated, maybe it was always there – maybe it’s the same instinct that caused us to believe in witchcraft back in the day.

    3. It’s a general statement of how people feel about the billionaire class, and they either don’t really believe it or they kind of want to believe it, so they spread it like a nasty rumor about a coworker they don’t like. I think it may be similar to how the Jewish community, in many times and places, was persecuted, and simultaneously people were willing to believe bizarre conspiracy theories about them. Perhaps a combination of a group being thought of as outsiders and simultaneously seeming mysterious and somewhat insular. That times are bad right now probably escalates this.

  5. Something about the relationship between the right and the left reminds me of the most horrible, toxic moments in a divorce, where two people are barely restraining their hatred of one another, and they’re fixated on hurting the other person in the most immediate instrumental way. There’s a frenzy to the hatred, like the normal world melts away, and all that counts is getting one over the other person.

    And you end up with Trumpites calling mask-wearers ‘cowards’, and screaming at governors’ windows like a horde of zombies. Refusing to take a vaccine becomes a way to stick it to the enemy.

    It seems to me heavily one-sided. The derangement that Trump has brought about in his supporters makes them behave like society is nothing but a zero-sum battle. No ground can be given and everything – down to face-masks – is a potential weapon. That is how they seem to see the world. I don’t see that same manichean attitude on the liberal-left(arguably to their political disadvantage). They aren’t as apocalyptic as the American right has become.

    I just hope that in November a majority of the American public is as exhausted by all this as the rest of the world is.

    1. The derangement was already there. It brought us tRump, not the other way around. Most of the rest of us didn’t realize how widespread the derangement was until he took office, however.

      1. This is true but Trump and Trumpism has vastly expanded that derangement. It has infected all parts of American life. I believe Historian above is correct; our Republic in a death spiral, an existential crisis that we cannot seem to stop. I fear Saul’s hope is in vain; even if Trump loses there is little hope we will break out of that spiral. But Trump must lose or all will be lost.

    2. A similar manichean attitude is commonplace on the academic left, holding that everything that happens in the world is the fault of the USA (and of Israel). A typical example: all Islamist terrorist attacks (including those of 9/11/01) are responses to the evil-doing of the USA, like the invasion of Iraq (which occurred 1-1/2 years later) or the
      Crusades (700 years before the USA existed).
      This view is most often implicit, rather than explicit, in statements by its adherents, but some dopier ones spout the view aloud.

    3. Something about the relationship between the right and the left reminds me of the most horrible, toxic moments in a divorce …

      Masks and vaccines are the new grandma’s sterling-silver flatware set?

      I, for one, would rather handle an ax murder than a divorce. 🙂

      1. Somewhere on the Intertubes is a photo taken in divorce court showing a couple sorting through a huge pile of Beanie Babies, which some kind of stuffed toy that apparently was collectible – like a vastly stupider version of Hummel figurines. My understanding is that they couldn’t agree how to divide them so the judge made them sit on the court floor and do it,

        Divorce lawyers must be heavy drinkers,

        1. goddamn keyboard design – comma is right next to the period and I have fat fingers, poor coordination and lousy eyesight.

        2. Fortunately my long-ago divorce was relatively amicable, though I did make him take some of the cheesy wedding gifts (including a pewter “praying hands” plate)from his side of the family😬

          1. I’ve always considered it one indication of a person’s character how well they can get along with their ex (or ex-es), especially if there are children involved.

            My ex-wife is like a sister to me — except like a sister who’s a bit of a pain in the ass that you don’t want to hear from or see every day (as opposed to my actual sister, whom I love completely and unconditionally and can’t ever hear from or see enough of). 🙂

            1. That’s wonderful Mr. Kukec! I might have inferred as much from the general tenor of your comments. I love and respect my own ex more now than when we were married. She always was a fine person, we were just incompatible. On the other hand, I have a brother that I adored as a child, but who is now a Republican and we can barely tolerate each other now. It tears me up.

              1. Heh. I think that’s how my brother feels about me. But in this case, neither is a Republican. We both voted for Sanders. Go figure.

  6. This mentality will make even non-microchip tracing difficult because the crazies will claim tracing is malevolent government surveillance. Sad, because tracing is an important step in opening the economy safely.

  7. fox laid the groundwork,russian social media propaganda spread the conspiracies, trump gave license to them.

  8. This is just another finding to confirm how dangerous the internet in general and facebook specifically has become. Every conspiracy idea you can create and put on line is like another virus in high speed.

    What is needed in this country is some serious studies on the mentality of these believers to find out what causes this disease of the mind in so many people. Con men like Trump have always know of this and it becomes his way of life, so to speak. I keep calling it pure ignorance but maybe there is more to it?

    1. What is needed in this country is some serious studies on the mentality of these believers to find out what causes this disease of the mind in so many people.

      I don’t think we need serious studies; to me, it’s pretty apparent that the disease stems from fanatic religion/religious upbringing. The vast majority of Republicans are religious, thus prone to delusional thinking.

      1. You’re right about that. Religion and republican are pretty much all the same and the conspiracy thing goes right along with it. However, I would like to know what defect these people have that causes this disorder. Maybe there is a gene for it?

        1. Perhaps there is a dunning-kruger gene. Only joking. But I do believe there is a link between humans evolving self-consciousness and religion/religious thinking. It probably stems from the fact that we know we will die, and that’s not a happy thought. So we created many ways to believe our way out of the fact that no one here gets out alive.

  9. Like the commenter above, I hope the poll is just wrong. That said, I now hypothesize that anti-vaxers and the others named just want an unobtainable perfection: a) one where every medicine or procedure works perfectly without any bad reactions or consequences; b) one where their particular race/religion/ethnicity is always and forever the majority; c) one where only their views and opinions are recognized, accepted, and taught. They want to be protected from the slings and arrows of natural life, inquiry and change. The world they want to live in never existed and, one hopes, never will. Evolution rules: we learn, we grow, we evolve or we die.
    Sorry to be so grim. The daily dose of pandemic news, Trump news and crazy news makes me think grim thoughts. Stay safe and sane, All.

  10. A note about the photo:

    More than 100 people (not 40 as the link says) got infected with Covid-19 in Germany, because they or their relatives or friends have attended a service in a Baptist church in Frankfurt/Main

    The deputy congregation leader said that all legal requirements had been met: There had been disinfectants and the mandatory distance (1.5 m) had been observed.


  11. I wasn’t aware that Bill Gates had replaced George Soros in this demonology, but it does make sense, given the Gates Foundation’s role in funding the socialist evils of Public Health and dread vaccination programs. I also didn’t know that the big danger of vaccines is now microchips, rather than autism. Thanks
    for the warning.

    As to where these superstitions come from:
    of course, the combination of Fox News and Evangelical Christianity and the Internet, a perfect storm. Another sign of gullibility is that syndicated radio program (“Coast to Coast”) which specializes in UFOs, ghosts, alien abductions, and similar bunko.

    As an additional factor, I suggest that the idiocies of the campus Left, and the spread of diversicrat clichés into institutions, both stimulate an urge to poke the Left in the eye, accounting for some Trump voters.

    1. Never fear, Soros still looms large in the rightwing’s perfervid dreamscape.

      Matter of fact, I’m a bit POed at ol’ George myself, seeing as how I never got a check from him for showing up to protest a local visit by Donald Trump.

  12. A third of US adults are “unsure” whether Bill Gates is doing that; 28% believe he is.

    The US is now the world epicentre for this deadly garbage, or maybe the international clearing house for it, and it is only going to get worse. America is a case study for what happens when half the population disassociates itself from the other half. I hope the remaining liberal democracies can learn from it.

  13. Unfortunately, this kind of poll no longer reflects belief but membership in some club. The reason Republicans and conservatives are against a Coronavirus vaccine is not for the usual anti-vax reasons but because getting vaccinated for Coronavirus is inconsistent with it being a Dem hoax, a meme that flags membership in their stupid cult.

    1. While I hesitate to set foot onto Historian’s acreage, I’ll pretend I’m in England and can walk freely through it on my way somewhere else. So,

      I’m an outlier at an organization called the Abraham Lincoln Association. At a crude guess, I’d say that a heavy majority of the members–and certainly the members of the board of the Association–are Republicans. As Trump was seeking the Republican nomination, a number of them were part of the flaccid movement they named ‘anyone but Trump.’ The Republican Party was after all the ‘Party of Lincoln’ and they were more or less Lincolnists. I listened to them fulminate about the soiling of the Republican (and the Republic’s) vestments, etc., etc.

      But when Trump was nominated? When Trump was elected? And the past 3 + years of Trump’s administration? Silence. Not praise, certainly, but silence. None of my acquaintance of this ilk have resigned from the Republican Party, nor hinted at voting Democratic or even sitting out the 2020 presidential election. They just won’t talk about it.

      It’s not so much tribalism but a kind of quasi-secret confraternity of what we used to call WASPs: education at a good college, maybe Ivy League; successful career in business, law or medicine; country-club membership; a local civic profile (this or that board); church membership of a mainline Protestant sort (elder or deacon); stay at the Union League Club in Chicago or New York; and of course head up the Abraham Lincoln Association–where they almost religiously guard the heritage of Abraham Lincoln.

      But Lincoln was nothing like them! He was never a Christian and for some time while young an atheist or near-atheist. If he died as a theist it was of the predestinarian sort, which went along with his philosophical naturalism. He held to the labor theory of value and the right to rise (from his white trash origins). Most of all, he believed in reason as the principal building tool for the architecture of U.S. democracy. And he was the very opposite of tribal.

      Many of the better informed of the members of the ALA know this. But they don’t change. They prefer clubbability. Their own.

      1. I suspect the members of your organization are simply waiting for the next Republican president and hoping he or she will be “normal”. That’s not going to happen this time around of course, so they will have to suffer in silence for at least four more years. Perhaps they can find something Lincolnesque in Biden, though for sure not a gift for oratory.

  14. Democrats (58 percent) are more likely than Republicans (33 percent) to believe that “coronavirus-related deaths have surged” in early-to-reopen red states such as “Florida, Georgia and Texas” …

    I see no evidence to support such a surges. But Republican governors in at least three states — Florida, Georgia, and Arizona — having been “juking the stats” (as the Baltimore police used to say on The Wire) regarding COVID-19 infection and death rates.

    Florida governor (and unregenerate Trump jockstrap) Ron DeSantis, for example, recently fired the state’s longtime data manager who was running the state’s public-information “COVID-19 dashboard” for “insubordination” because she refused to massage the data to his liking.

    In Arizona, the Department of Health has been massaging its coronavirus modeling and coming up with pretextual excuses to refuse to release the number of COVID deaths in nursing homes ever since Republican governor Doug Ducey announced that social-distancing restrictions in that state would be relaxed.

    And Georgia — the last state in the union to impose social-distancing restrictions, and the first to lift them entirely — has published misleading bar charts to suggest that its infection rates are declining.

  15. Being raised as an evangelical christian, it is not surprising that most on the right (who are also mostly religious) engage in these conspiracy theories. I remember church goers who in the 80’s thought barcodes were being used to track us, and there was always some scenario surrounding 666 subliminally turning us towards satan, and there was hyper vigilance in revealing the anti-christ; this mindset is seeped in distrust and fear and the psychological profile hasn’t changed. Apparently, satan (big government) wants to track everyone (after 9/11, it actually became somewhat of a reality). Many of these sorts believe in an “end-time” scenario, and indeed want it to come true. The coronavirus and how those in power react to it is just another harbinger of the impending apocalypse and fits nicely into their delusional world-view.

    1. I’m still pissed at Barack for failing to fulfill those FEMA-camp and death-panel promises. 🙂

  16. “Yet average daily deaths have declined in Georgia and Florida since reopening”

    Don’t be too sure. Both states have been credibly accused of massaging the figures. In Florida Dr Rebekah Jones says she was fired for refusing to do so.

  17. And I have no idea why tribalism has increased so much in the last decade or so.

    It’s the internet. People can find whatever information stream they need to fulfill the biases they want reinforced.

    In the pre-internet days, unregulated* information was transmitted face-to-face or on paper, or one-to-one electronics (phones). The bandwidth was much (a million times?) slower, so the transmission of conspiracy theories was much slower. To fall subject to Jim Jones’ sway required face to face contact with Jim Jones, and this provided physical limits to Jim Jones’ reach.

    The internet erases all those physical limits, so cult and tribal memes propagate much faster (millions of times faster).

    The internet is a massive disrupter and human society as a whole hasn’t yet adapted to the rapid communication bandwidth increase.

    *television and radio were heavily regulated/censored

    1. The medium-of-choice for right-wing nut-jobs in those days was the “newsletter.” Famous examples of the genre were published in the 1950s and 1960s by people like H.L. Hunt and Dan Smoot and Willis Carto and Clarence Manion.

      The last of the breed was probably the reactionary newsletter put out from the late 1970s through the early 1990s under the name of Ron Paul (and ghosted in large measure by swamp creatures like Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell).

    2. I think it’s the internet but also increases in mobility that allow for much greater freedom of association regarding where people live, where they work, and so on. Not long ago, moving much distance away from your hometown would have been a daunting task. Now, with the internet, air travel, and high availability of cars, it’s far easier to find out about a new city, keep in touch with people in the old one, find a job before you get there, and so on. As a result, people have sorted themselves into like minded groups more than ever before.

  18. “And I have no idea why tribalism has increased so much in the last decade or so.”

    Lots of people don’t want to say it or have it said, but I’ll say it. The thing that is different as of 12 years ago is that America had a black man as president. That was a bridge too far in the minds of a good chunk of the American population, and we have been more sharply divided as a nation ever since.

    That doesn’t get you directly to the idea that Bill Gates is taking over the world by putting micro-chips in vaccines. You need some additional sources of crazy to get that zany. But it was the event that really set off the insanity that the GOP has become, and that has led to what may be the collapse of the USA as a leader of the free world.

    1. Sure, blame the black man! LOL

      I think you are right. I remember being surprised that Obama was elected, though I voted for him, and thinking that there’ll be a price to pay for it. It took eight years but we’re paying for it now.

    2. I do not believe that the increased division in the US has mainly to do with the election of a black president. Because the phenomenon of division is just as prevalent in European countries, in Great Britain, in Germany, in France, etc.
      The crucial reason for tribalism is the dwindling importance of conventional media in the face of the multitude of voices generated by the Internet and social media.

      1. Things have been heading in this direction in the US for half a century — dating back to the GOP’s cleaving to its bosom the racist voters disaffected from the Democratic Party of Lyndon Baines Johnson by passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

        But the election of Barack Obama loosed something in the land that pushed these people over the edge. See The Birther Movement, of which Donald Trump was this nation’s most prominent proponent and, by which, he got his initial toehold in American politics.

        1. There will certainly be specific cultural characteristics in each country, such as the Birther Movement in the USA, which form the special breeding ground for the roots of those extreme currents
          But that they are becoming so influential in the present era can probably not be explained without the new media.

    3. “And I have no idea why tribalism has increased so much in the last decade or so.”

      And there’s no tribalism on the left. I can tell by reading these comments…

      1. Sure there is but it doesn’t make us wrong. I’m pretty sure this crowd here is ready to defend their positions with logic, data, facts and such, unlike the other side.

  19. What I can never understand about the various Bill Gates conspiracy theories is – what’s the point, from his perspective? The man is already rich beyond the dreams of Croesus. He has so much money he can’t give it away fast enough to make a dent in his bank account. He can already avail himself of every earthly pleasure the human imagination can devise. If his vaccine is supposedly being laced with microchips in order to “track us all”, then what’s the purpose of doing that? What benefit could Bill Gates possibly derive from knowing when I’ve been to the supermarket, taken a shower or gone for my afternoon bike ride? If the aim of controlling the world’s population is to make us all buy his computer software, then he can save his energy – most of the world does that already.

      1. That’s a relief. I can take his vaccine secure in the knowledge that his attention is focused on people who live more interesting lives than I do!

        1. I’m sure you’ll be able to remove the chip and glue it on some dog’s collar. That way you can really pull one over on Gates.

          Perhaps when we go to the local Rite-Aid or CVS to get the vaccine, we can just say “hold the chip”.

    1. In the fever-swamp imagination, Bill Gates isn’t satisfied merely being as rich as Croesus; he has his sights set on world domination — you know, like the Rothschilds.

      It’s another iteration of the paranoid style that gave the world The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The Turner Diaries.

  20. I see people pointing fingers at the internet and Trump himself, and I think those are two factors. But the primary factor, in my mind, is the now decades long propaganda campaign perpetrated by the Republican party and its moneyed supporters. This lies at their feet. Trump is simply what happened when their efforts succeeded beyond their wildest imaginations. They lost control and have been trying to maintain a tenuous grasp on the tiger’s tails. This is fight or die time for them.

    And really, things aren’t looking all that great for them. It takes every dirty trick and illegal tactic they can manage to just barely squeak out enough wins to maintain their advantage. And it’s gotten harder for them over time. We may be looking at moment of significant change. If we can survive long enough. They are a clear minority.

  21. That ‘inject you with a microchip’ is a lot older than the current crisis, there’s a first or second season episode of Mythbusters where they deal with the claim that the Red Cross was injecting people with ‘mind control’ chips when you went to donate blood and you could find them by running a stud finder over your body.

    1. The anti-intellectualism that is eating conservatism is flexible and reactive. If a liberal is promoting a vaccine, then the vaccine must be evil or a hoax. Or an evil hoax.

    1. Nice article. From your article:

      A meta-analysis by academics Douglas and Sutton informs us that believers tend towards lower educational attainment and lower analytic thinking.

      Something I’ve noticed in the USA is that this “lower analytic thinking” is becoming more acceptable. Irrationality and anti-intellectualism has taken over conservatism and become a tribal characteristic. I think cynical institutionalized science denial funded by the fossil fuel lobby is a large driver of this – a massive amount of money has been spent promoting a basic message: “don’t believe scientists.” Naturally, as you allude to, religious people are much more receptive of the “don’t believe scientists” message.

      I’ve heard political analysts on both the left and the right point to Sarah Palin’s rise on the national stage as the point at which this anti-intellectualism got mainstreamed in the GOP and laid the groundwork for Trumpism.

Leave a Reply