Conspiracy theories thrive in info vacuum

Senate President Tito Sotto and his “very interesting” video

When I read the news report about a 60-year-old American infected with novel coronavirus who died in Wuhan, China Feb. 6, my first thought was, this debunks the conspiracy theory going around that the fast-spreading virus is directed exclusively against the Han Chinese.

But then, the confirmation of the death by the U.S. Embassy in China did not give details “Out of the respect for the family’s privacy.” It said nothing about the gender and ethnicity of the victim.

A CNN report, however, said, “the Chinese government offered condolences for the death of ‘a Chinese -American.’”

Being talked about in private conversations is the mind -boggling conspiracy theory that the 2019 n-CoV, that has infected, 34,598and killed 724 as of Feb. 8 according to the World Health Organization website, target specifically the Han Chinese who comprise 91 percent of China’s population and 19 percent of the global population.

Why are Han Chinese being targeted? That’s the danger with conspiracy theories. It feeds the human need to fill the information vacuum about important happenings that affect them but not necessarily with the truth.

Usually conspiracy theories have plausible scenarios. Like the fact that all those that have been infected by the virus, even those in Germany, France, United Kingdom, Australia, are Chinese or of Chinese descent. But they do not present the whole picture.

They confuse rather than clarify. Propagated in platforms like YouTube and Facebook, they appeal to many because as Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III described the video he presented during a Senate hearing, “very interesting, if not revealing.”

The video which contained unverified claims was about “biowarfare being waged against China.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. resorted to sarcasm in reacting to the conspiracy theory advanced by the video Sotto presented. “Clever,” he said and added his own outrageous theory: “Maybe the plan is for China to create a virus so strong they will first test it on themselves, and when they are all dead, they will spread it to other countries.”

Conspiracy theories are a form of disinformation. They thrive when the public do not get adequate and correct information. In some cases, they are purposely done to cover up something. In other cases, they are produced for commercial purposes.

That the discredited corona virus conspiracy video was presented to the Senate by the author of the anti-fake news bill tells us the depth of the problem we are facing in this country