How does a conspiracy theorist make money?
"Conspirators blame Bill Gates for the pandemic"
Wednesday October 28, 2020
Berlin - A trip to East Africa for their engagement in 1993, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda once opened their eyes to extreme poverty - this is what the couple has told us over and over again over the years. It was then that they decided to invest most of the money the tech company threw in charity. The foundation named after the couple now finances the development of drugs and vaccines and their dissemination worldwide. It is precisely for this reason that many conspiracy theorists consider Bill Gates the number one public enemy.
For the 65th birthday of the Microsoft founder, the German Medical Journal talked to Michael Butter about why Bill Gates is seen as an enemy by many and why his commitment to vaccination campaigns is such a hot topic for conspiracy theorists.
5 questions to Michael Butter, professor of American literary and cultural history at the University of Tüamgen and leading expert on conspiracy theories research
DÄ: Bill Gates turns 65 today. Few people in the world can claim to have invested so much money in prevention and vaccination around the globe. Why is it such a fixed point for many conspiracy theorists, especially in the corona pandemic?
Michael Butter: I think there are several reasons for this. For example, one is that his foundation simulated a pandemic last year. The simulated virus originated in China, jumped from animals to humans and then spread to the rest of the world.
Even before Corona, this process was considered a realistic possibility for the start of a pandemic; there were such simulations from many institutions. But few have such a prominent face as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Conspirators assume that Bill Gates has prior knowledge or even blame him for the pandemic.
There were conspiracy theories about the foundation and his person even before the corona crisis. He invests in vaccination campaigns around the world, which many do not like. A large part of the large amounts that he donates to the World Health Organization (WHO) are earmarked and flow into vaccination campaigns. This is partly controversial among people who do not believe in conspiracy theories, for example because the campaigns are not considered to be culturally sensitive. Conspiracy theorists, of course, distort everything in their own way.
DÄ: What do conspiracy theorists Bill Gates specifically accuse?
Butter: He is said to be the puller behind various conspiracies. Some think that he wants to enforce a global vaccination requirement with the corona pandemic, that he personally deserves vaccinations. Others think that he wants to use the vaccinations to plant chips in them to make people compliant. Still others that he wants to reduce the world population and has specifically introduced Corona into the world for this.
DÄ: Why is vaccination so polarizing among conspiracy theorists?
Butter: Vaccinating conspiracy theories aren't that much more popular than others - but it's an issue everyone needs to take a stand on. It affects your own body and whether it concerns yourself or the children, everyone has to decide at some point how they feel about it.
It is different with a conspiracy theory such as the one that lizard people secretly rule the world. But you can say that anti-vaccination campaigners who believe in conspiracies are the most militant and the most aggressive, I can deduce that from the emails I receive.
When vaccinations first appeared in the 17th century, the controversy was great. The fact that something should be removed from the dead and injected into the living fueled fear and was of course not as certain then as it is today. At that time, a certain image was solidified, some of which has persisted to this day.
This picture has been reinforced again and again by fake studies, such as the study by Andrew Wakefield, which was published in 1998 in Lancet has been published. At that time he established a connection between autism and the mumps, measles and rubella vaccination. Research later revealed that he and his co-authors had received money from attorneys who represented the parents of autistic children and tried to sue vaccine manufacturers.
The internet and social media also do a lot to ensure that the picture lasts. For example, no matter where in the world you look for it on the Internet, the same pages with misinformation about vaccinations appear. Colleagues and I have investigated, in our opinion someone is investing a lot of money so that these pages always appear high up.
DÄ: Bill Gates is also one of the richest people in the world. Without question, he could do a lot without being prosecuted or questioned for it. The investments of his foundation are hard to keep track of. Although he is not an elected representative, he has great power that he uses worldwide. Conspiracy theorists reinterpret these facts in their own way. What can you say against them?
Butter: One cannot argue with staunch conspiracy theorists. Arguing with facts often only makes them believe in the conspiracy even more. You can only show openness and ask about reasons or sources.
Sometimes this stimulates a process of self-reflection, but often there is relatively little chance of success. It is different for people who have heard of a conspiracy theory but do not yet firmly believe in it. Structurally, there aren't that big differences between different conspiracy theories, it is more about how strongly people believe in them.
DÄ: American people are believed to be at the center of various conspiracies. What is the reason for this and are there other people that conspiracy theorists are similarly fixated on?
Butter: Conspiracy theories are often power theories. It's about money, politics, governing the world. And there are many powerful people in the United States, both in politics and in business. But there are also national conspiracies.
Conspiracies around Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden are popular among Trump supporters. For them, Trump is seen as the messiah that these two want to harm. They are seen as opponents who are assumed to be part of a gigantic conspiracy that is worse than anything one had before. In Germany, on the other hand, Angela Merkel is an enemy of many conspiracy believers. © alir / aerzteblatt.de
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