Coronavirus conspiracy theories test government, evidence: experts

The novel coronavirus threatens the health of Canadians, but to some people the pandemic stokes fears of a government plot to subvert freedoms, say experts who study conspiracy theories.

Terrorist attacks, natural disasters, economic shocks and the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak are events that fuel conspiracy theories, says Edwin Hodge, a sociologist at the University of Victoria who studies far-right extremism.

“Believing that it just happened by accident doesn’t work,” said Hodge. “One of the things I found that a lot of conspiracy theories do is they provide a sense of order to a chaotic universe.”

He said this holds true across political and social spectrums.

Governments closing public and private places, urging physical distancing and requiring travellers to self-isolate for 14 days to slow the spread of COVID-19 would be viewed as state control tactics by those who believe in conspiracy theories, Hodge said.

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