A 5G logo on a phone with a coronavirus illustration in the background.

Last year, I wrote what has become perhaps the most-read article about 5G and human health on the internet. There are weeks when I get 20 emails a day. Because my article asserts that 5G is not an existential threat to humanity, most of these emails are unkind. Many of them are outright insane.

My goal when writing that article was to interview researchers and doctors and address the real-world risks associated with our forthcoming 5G wireless networks. To that end, I spoke to a half dozen experts for background information. It quickly became clear to me that most of the concerns about 5G seemed to be based on little more than pseudoscience, speculation, and fear. While some people can argue that we still don’t know for 100% certain 5G is safe, I wanted to debunk the most egregiously false anti-5G claims.

Instead, I became a captive audience to a world of insanity I could not have possibly anticipated.

Note: The reader emails reprinted here have undergone minor changes for readability. In general, we haven’t modified their grammar, spelling, or punctuation unless it was necessary to make them understandable.

First, the Cancer Fears

Initially, my inbox filled with messages from people challenging the article in a fairly straightforward way. This email is typical of the kind of belligerent challenges I got early on:

Which telecom asked you to greenwash this tech? What about all the cancer? There’s soft cell damage coming like a tsunami! But you know, cigarettes are great for you!

Because I was getting so much email—particularly from people asserting that cell phones cause cancer (the very premise I tried to debunk in the original article), I started sending a boilerplate response that pointed to a study on brain cancer incidence trends in relation to cellular telephone use in the United States published by the National Institute of Health. The study shows that despite exponential increases in cell phone use over the last 20 years, cancer rates have been essentially flat (and in fact, decreased slightly). The report concludes, “Overall, these incidence data from the United States based on high-quality cancer registries do not provide support for the view that use of cellular phones causes brain cancer.”

One person responded:

“They sell radiation screens for your phone.”

…which I assume was meant to be the final word on the dangers of electromagnetic radiation.

All Aboard for Crazytown: 5G Caused Coronavirus

A 5G antenna with an illustration of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Sasa Kadrijevic/Shutterstock.com

But those relatively tame emails about cancer were only the beginning. It didn’t take long for me to get this short and to the point message, which found a way to put a modern spin on a classic conspiracy theory:

Chem trails from planes combined with 5G adds up to mind control agent.

You might know “chem trails” as the mythical chemicals that the government sprays out of the back of aircraft to … mind control us? I guess? Finally, 5G is here to mind control us better.

Soon I was getting emails like this one:

Our world is changing  before our eyes. Everything that is going on is claiming to be from the “coronavirus virus.” That’s absolutely not true. There is NO VIRUS. yes you read that correctly. The government is doing one of the biggest cover up our history has seen.

What we are witnessing is radio frequency radiation.

The first 5g tower was in Wuhan. That’s where the ‘coronavirus’ originated supposedly and the trail moves on from there. Look it up for your self. We’re days away from Marshall law being declared with this national emergency and fake coronavirus sweeping the globe.

Just be warned that once our government makes the excuse that we need to have UN soldiers on our soil to ensure “security and safety” we will be royalty screwed. The UN soldiers do not have any duty to protect your constitutional rights and they don’t want to. They will be there to kill you or throw you into FEMA camp where they will kill you.

GUNS AND AMMO PEOPLE. Wake up!!!! Protect what’s yours.

This was the first time I’d heard someone allege a connection between coronavirus and 5G, and it honestly blew my mind. I couldn’t wrap my head around the suspension of disbelief necessary to believe that radio waves could cause flu-like symptoms, and then be spread socially like an infectious disease. Tying the conspiracy into globalism fears about a UN invasion on American soil was also worrisome; the cries for guns and ammo worried me enough that I forwarded this one to the FBI.

In the coming days, the 5G/coronavirus conspiracy theory appeared to be evolving in real time, getting seemingly more elaborate daily. A number of correspondents sent me minor variations of this email:

5G is 10,000 the strength of 4G and uses the same frequency as a military weapon. Ripping DNA structures from living organisms. It is true. Its quite sickening to be honest.

Of course, while the description in the email is the stuff of science fiction—ripping DNA structures from living organisms—there’s a kernel of truth here. The U.S. military has indeed researched a “heat ray,” a non-lethal directed energy weapon, and both 5G and the heat ray operate in the “millimeter wave” part of the EM spectrum. Operating at 95GHz, it blasts targets with enough energy to produce intense pain, but because it’s such high frequency, it doesn’t penetrate beyond the surface of the skin (and in fact is easily blocked with clothing and other shielding). This was deployed (but never used) in the Afghan war, and police have expressed an interest in using the technology as well.

Regardless of what you think about a weapon like this, the fact remains: 5G is not a military weapon and actually bears little resemblance to heat-ray weapons. The power level of 5G is thousands of times lower. Of course, that didn’t stop another emailer from telling me:

Its all about de-population. The de-population agenda globalists are deploying 5G (that’s a military term… hmmm…) to cook sperm and reduce the birth rate.

I thought I was getting used to crazy, but this definitely caught me off guard. For your information, in case this worries you: even as a weapon, millimeter-wave energy can’t penetrate deeper than .65mm. Your sperm is safe from 5G.

Also interesting: several people seemed obsessed with the banal term “deploy,” asserting that it revealed a hidden and probably sinister military connection, despite the fact that the word is used routinely in civilian engineering and logistics.

RELATED: No, 5G Does Not Cause Coronavirus

And It’s a Huge Conspiracy Involving Nano-Tech Chips

A doctor or nurse getting ready to inject a vaccine.

This is when the conspiracy theories took a turn towards the bizarre:

I bet the majority of the USA did not know that on March 23th Trump signed a bill and is a law now by the way “S.893 SECURE 5G and beyond act 2020.” While everyone was distracted by the fake virus 5G law passed. SIGNED INTO LAW 116-129 on 03.23.20

That will speed up the installation of the 5G and protect profits.

Children had to be out of schools for the corvert installation.

Parents are you seeing what is happening….

Marshall law will take effect soon if not weeks months from now. They shut down everyone. It’s all about control. Everything we ever known will completely change as we know it.

So, reality check. Is there a law called S.893 and did President Trump sign it? Yep and yep. Is it evil? I’m going to say no; the Congressional summary says, in part, that “This bill requires the President, in consultation with relevant federal agencies, to develop a strategy to secure and protect U.S. fifth and future generations (5G) systems and infrastructure.” The text of the bill is just a few short pages. You can read it for yourself.

Recently, an email turned me on to the motherlode of 5G conspiracy theories: a site that has found a way to weave together everything into one formidable narrative. Purporting to offer “real news” about the Wuhan virus, something called Tierney Real News Network (which I won’t link to because I don’t want to give the site any additional link juice) is a rambling 2,500-word post that connects Bill Gates and Barack Obama (they apparently paid a lab in Wuhan to engineer the virus) so that a pandemic could allow the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to both collect DNA samples from the world’s population and inoculate the population with an “antidote” that contains a nano-tech tracking chip—one for every person on earth.

I don’t know who was the first to weave this sort of completely insane narrative, but emails started arriving in my inbox with alarming regularity that reflected this through-the-looking-glass version of reality. From one email:

The mark of the beast is what they are pushing for to be put into us through a “vaccine” they will claim this “vaccine” will keep you safe from the coronavirus. Not true. The vaccine will have a small chip in it and the world before we know it will be digital currency. We will be slaves. I know it sound far out this world but hear me out…

At least the emailer recognized that it sounded “far out.”

Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?

A man putting a 5G smartphone into his tin-foil-covered pocket.

This is something that fascinates me: I often wonder how seemingly ordinary people can find themselves knee-deep in a narrative that defies rationality, yet accept it as truth.

“Many people without obvious psychiatric problems can believe in a conspiracy theory,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, an associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and host of the Personology podcast. “But the kind of people who gravitate to conspiracy theories are often mistrustful or particularly anti-authoritarian.”

That makes sense. If you’re sufficiently mistrustful of established authority figures, you’ll relish being part of a small number of people who embrace the “real truth” through secret knowledge that average people won’t accept.

That leads us to the obvious question: can you yourself fall prey to this kind of fake news? Barna Donovan is a professor of communication and media studies at Saint Peter’s University, and he has a simple litmus test for conspiracy theories: “It’s a conspiracy theory if its claims are not falsifiable. Any true theory should be testable according to the tenets of the scientific method. Conspiracy theories can never be proven false.”

For example, most 9-11 Truthers believe the towers were struck as part of a deep state, false flag operation—and it’s not falsifiable because no matter what evidence you show to prove the conspiracy false, theorists can simply claim the evidence was faked, which leads to ever-more people being involved in the conspiracy. “But even that would pale in comparison to the armies of scientists and engineers it would take to cause the coronavirus outbreak by way of 5G towers,” says Donovan. “And a conspiracy like that would also take thousands of healthcare workers and media professionals.”

Unfortunately, most of us know someone who buys into a crazy conspiracy theory—if it’s not that 5G is a military weapon that will enslave us via nano-chipping, perhaps you know an antivaccine activist, flat earther, or moon landing denier. And, you won’t be able to talk them out of their belief system with data. Jonathan Swift is credited with saying that “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into,” and Saltz agrees: “Conspiracy theorists, like all people, tend to keep believing what they already believe, and new information is taken in through the prism of their existing belief system. They’re unlikely to accept your data because it comes from the same sources that they don’t trust and that they don’t want to trust.”

So, is there a way to convince Uncle Ted that 5G isn’t the UN’s way to depopulate the earth? Saltz says, “they have a need for certainty, and your information undermines that, so they see you as an enemy that needs to be defeated.” Instead, she says you have a better chance of changing minds if you can develop a relationship. “Build trust. Try to understand their viewpoint so they feel listened to. Then you may be able to introduce information in the form of questions.” Bottom line: Don’t become an adjunct to the authority they don’t trust.

Sometimes, It’s Just Profanity

I can assure you that it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting to contend with a non-stop stream of conspiracy theorists in my inbox every day. Sometimes, I’m actually relieved when I hear from readers who just want to send me a good, old-fashioned profanity-laced stream of insults:

Dave you ****face Idiot,
You horrible ****
look at the science you ****wit.
How much did you get paid to talk out your sorry ***? You’re a ****ing idiot dude. **** you, you ignorant stupid ****
You’ve made your choice and It won’t be forgotten. **** you…you stain on mankind

RELATED: How Worried Should You Be About the Health Risks of 5G?

Profile Photo for Dave Johnson Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson has worked as a tech journalist since the days of the Palm Pilot and Windows 95. He is the author of almost three dozen books about technology, spent 8 years as a content lead at Microsoft, and is the founder of family tech site Techwalla.
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