I love conspiracy theories; I wrote a book full of them. However, the thirst with which some folks are consuming the Covid-Anti Vax-Fauci-Bill Gates-5G theories is absurd and crossing into bat-shit-crazy. The first rule of any conspiracy is someone must benefit. Right now, the only one getting rich is Amazon. Sure, big pharma stands to make some coin from the eventual vaccine, but is it enough to burn the world down over? While you’re screaming at your governors to open up your states, ask yourself, what do they have to gain by keeping you locked up at home? Not much. You’re already part of a massive conspiracy, one which you’re chomping the bit to get back to. It’s called the daily grind, the rat race, the money machine, wage slavery; you know, the status quo. All those evil banks and corporations can’t profit unless you do your part. Believe me, they want you back to normal more than you do.

That said, you’d be better off solving the mystery of Carol Baskins’ missing husband than putting on your Alex Jones bunny ears and jumping down the Covid-19 rabbit hole. Yet, if you insist on chasing conspiracy theories, why not start with a few right under your nose that are equally as insidious, but somehow most of us have no problem participating in.

 

 

The Illusion of Privacy and the Mass Marketing of Your Personal Data

Over a few short years our cell phones have replaced not only our land lines, but also our cameras, music collections, computers, media players, personal libraries, and countless other wondrous things. This abundance of conveniences however comes at a Faustian price. To enjoy such luxuries, we only need to submit to 24 hour location monitoring, continuous audio surveillance, the cataloging of all our online activities and purchases, the forfeit of our digital media rights, and the profiling of our private, political, and consumer tendencies. If you would have told me twenty years ago that our phones would own us so completely, I’d have said “Get John Conner on that F’n phone right now!” But alas, the only future warning came in a user agreement we were all too eager to scroll past. Now, the apps and social media platforms that have become indivisible from our identities, silently rule us and keep digital record of all our deeds.  

Paranoid Hyperbole? Sadly, no. Facebook for one, has long kept extremely detailed records of your online activity and developed its own profile of you. Every quiz game you play, every meme you like, every group you join all goes into the algorithm. One common use is targeted advertisement, but the complete dissemination of your data is almost impossible to know. Curious to see what info Facebook has on you, poke around in your settings, I’m sure you’ll be surprised.  Of course, Facebook is not the only one, practically every platform or app uses your data for their own purposes, none of which benefit you. So, a word of advice, while your screaming about your loss of liberties and Bill Gates this-or-that; you might want to lay off the ten-year profile pic challenge. That facial recognition software is coming fast.

DNA Databases  

 The use of your data does not end in the digital realm, your DNA is also a prized commodity. Before you swab your cheek and send your DNA off to your favorite lab to discover the hidden mysteries of your ancestral origins, take a minute to read the fine print. Discovering how many cavemen you might have in your family tree isn’t the only application for your genetic information. Sending these samples entitles the recipient ownership of your DNA, which can be used or sold at that company’s discretion. 

What might they use it for? While there are certainly benign research applications, the principal value in collecting a DNA database is with law enforcement. Both Ancestry and 23andme definitively claim that they do not voluntarily work with law enforcement, except under extreme conditions and only with “court order”. However, there are other sites and third-party entities that do not share these values and willingly share their data with the FBI. 

Famously in 2018, the decades old cold case of the Golden State Killer was solved with the use of an ancestry DNA database called GEDmatch, which at the time went against its own user agreement. Dozens of other cold cases have been solved in this way, as well as a few exonerations. You might be thinking to yourself, that you haven’t committed any heinous crime, so what’s the harm. In most cases, it’s not the suspect themselves that is part of the database, but a close or even distant relative. Thus, not only can you be drawn into an investigation, but you might unknowingly be implicating a family member. 

The ethical debate continues with the major players holding fast to their user privacy policies and the pressure from law enforcement remaining constant. The future of the matter is not set one way or another and will likely be resolved regardless of your consent; something you might want to consider before allowing a corporation permanent access to your genetic information. 

Systemic Racism

With all the outrage about Covid-19, lockdowns, and vaccines, some of the protests are getting heated and, in the process, exposing one of the most entrenched of American conspiracies, systemic racism. As I watch armed militia members storm state capitals, threatening and intimidating law makers, I can’t help but point out that they belong to the same organizations vehemently opposed to athletes taking a knee during the National Anthem. Somehow, marshalling an armed resistance to a public health crisis is a useful demonstration of freedom, while kneeling in acknowledgement of unlawful police shootings of African Americans is not. 

It doesn’t take much imagination to predict the outcome of a heavily armed group of black men showing up uninvited at ANY state capital. In fact, the last time such a protest was mounted was in 1967, in California by the Black Panthers. Fortunately, no one was killed, certainly thanks to the heavy media presence and their pre-announced intentions. They were arrested and charged with felony conspiracy, though most pled down to misdemeanors.   Incidentally, the NRA was pro-gun control at the time. 

The inequity endured by African Americans in our country is profound and penetrates every aspect of our society. However, keeping with the theme of our Covid outrage and paranoia; a recent study has determined that approximately sixty percent of the cases and half the deaths attributed to Covid-19 have occurred in predominately African American communities. It’s long been established that African Americans are disproportionately afflicted by heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other deadly ailments. Not surprisingly, Covid has struck them among the hardest.

I know the lockdown has been hard and I don’t want to make light of the heavy toll it’s taking on everyone. It’s not even debatable that our federal and local governments have made huge mistakes along the way and continue to make mistakes as they go. However, the idea that this is some global conspiracy to vaccinate your kids, steal your freedom, depopulate the planet, or anything else of that nature is absurd. Spreading that kind of misinformation is causing harm and dividing us even more than we are. So, do yourself and your social media network a favor, do some research and fact checking before you start handing out the tinfoil hats.