Coronavirus

No, 5G Is Not Spreading Coronavirus. That Doesn't Even Make Sense.

These theories are dumb. Destroying 5G infrastructure is not going to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

|

Fringe theories linking 5G wireless networks to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have gotten a recent boost from professional actors and amateur idiots such as John Cusack and Woody Harrelson.

You shouldn't believe everything you read on celebrities' Twitter accounts. A tough lesson, I know.

The fifth generation of wireless telecommunications technology—that's what "5G" means—has the potential to do a lot of things. It promises faster connections, wider access to the internet, and another explosion in app development. The move to 5G could change where you work, how you visit the doctor, and the way you play video games. It's also one of the driving factors in the developing technological cold war between the United States and China.

But it absolutely will not spread a coronavirus.

"A worldwide online conspiracy theory has attempted to link 5G cell phone technology as being one of the causes of the coronavirus," the Federal Communications Commission said in an official statement. "5G technology does NOT cause coronavirus."

I know: The federal government doesn't have the best track record when it comes to telling the truth about the COVID-19 outbreak. But pretty much everyone else who knows what they are talking about is saying the same thing.

The coronavirus is spread from person to person via tiny droplets of saliva. A 5G antenna broadcasts millimeter waves, which are basically elongated radio waves that operate in a part of the light spectrum invisible to the human eye. Millimeter waves cannot carry virus-riddled droplets of saliva on them, for reasons that should be fairly obvious. Some theorists argue that 5G signals can warm your body temperature and weaken your immune system, but this idea "does not stand up to scrutiny," cellular microbiologist Simon Clarke told the BBC.

After seven years of research on the effects of millimeter waves on the human body, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection found no evidence that electromagnetic fields cause cancer, electrohypersensitivity, infertility, or other negative health effects, Reuters reports.

Satellites, radio telescopes, airport security scanners, and radar all rely on millimeter wave technology. The fact that those waves are now being introduced to the telecom spectrum is not cause for alarm.

And yet there have now been at least 20 incidents of people vandalizing 5G antennas and cell towers in recent weeks. We don't know for sure that the people setting fire to 5G towers are 5G/coronavirus theorists, but some of the attacks appear to have been broadcast online by anti-5G activists. Nothing demonstrates a lack of intellectual rigor than livestreaming the destruction of the very devices that make livestreaming possible.

According to Wired, the 5G/coronavirus theory was kicked off by a Belgian doctor, Kris Van Kerckhoven, who on January 22 gave an interview to Het Laatste Nieuws (that's The Latest News, because Flemish is basically a drunken hook-up between English and German) suggesting a connection between the telecom network and the virus. "5G is life-threatening and no one knows it," read the headline. The story speculated wildly about the fact that 5G antennas had recently been installed around Wuhan, the Chinese city where COVID-19 is believed to have originated.

An editor for Het Laatste Nieuws told Wired that they yanked the story shortly after it was published because of the "unfounded" claims. But the damage was done. Within hours, the story had gone viral on anti-5G Facebook pages in Belgium, and then around the world.

From there, the idea took on a life of its own online. If you want to try to understand the whole progression, Business Insider has a comprehensive timeline.

Fringe theories like this offer some semblance of comfort. Believing that the coronavirus is spread by 5G antennas—or that it was created by Bill Gates, another weird conspiracy theory currently circulating (and sometimes cross-pollinating with the 5G theory)—provides an outlet for the frustration and fear that so many people are feeling right now. It gives us something to blame. That can be more satisfying than chaotic reality.

This is hardly the first time human beings have attempted to blame technology for unrelated ills. Remember when cell phones were supposedly giving all of us cancer? Some airports have been blocked from installing low-altitude radar—technology that can detect potentially dangerous wind shear and prevent plane crashes—because locals were convinced that it might cause cancer. Even before the coronavirus, there was low-level opposition to 5G antenna installations based on (unfounded) fears of health risks.

The 5G/coronavirus theories are dumb, and destroying 5G infrastructure is not going to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Because—and I cannot believe these words actually have to be written—viruses aren't transmitted by cell phone signals.

NEXT: U.K. Media Lobby Wants Government To Force Advertisers to Support Coronavirus Coverage

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Well I guess either China or Verizon owns Reason now.

    1. And Trump owns a mutual fund with a 4% stake in Verizon and that means…OMG!?!?!

      1. Verizon caused COVID-19?

    2. #Big5G

    3. DEAR MR. FIST:

      What evidence do you have the the frequencies 5G operates on are somehow more harmful than the frquencies any other of our electronic technologies operate on? You don’t have any. There is none. Our environment has been permeated with manmade electromagnietic radiation for the past century. Suddenly 5G is different? Why would you perpetuate such a nutty conspiracy theory? You really ought to be smarter than that.

      Sadly, in the Age of Social Media, conspiracy theories are a dime-a-dozen.

      1. Pearls before swine….

      2. You’ve been Fisted and you don’t even know it.

    4. Whitey R. Backy It is very boring for me, talk to me! ?? Write me. ? Maybe we will make friends ?? ==>> Details Here

  2. “These theories are dumb.”

    So is starting a title with “No,”. Please stop.

    1. It should be Dr. No, no?

        1. No means yes. Yes means anal.

      1. Dr. No No!

        Betcha a nickel that’s a porn movie.

    2. One wonders who the audience for this is. Is it trying to actually convince people who do believe in it? If so, I would imagine that calling them stupid is not going to convince them. In fact, I would bet that years of being told “obey the experts; you have no say” and seeing the experts err has caused people to become very suspicious of “believe the experts” claims.

      1. I was wondering the same.

        It’s like an open letter to the Flat Earth Society.

    3. Eh, I’ll take it over the old journalistic trend of asking a question in your headline, the answer to which is always “no” anyways. At least they’re skipping to the point now.

      1. Indeed. Why read the article? If Boehm had phrased it “IS 5G spreading the coronavirus???” I would have to have clicked through to find out.

        1. He is helping us to be more efficient at wasting time.

        2. What? It’s perfectly fine to say:
          “NO, the moon is not made of green cheese.”

          Granted, it might be more diplomatic to phrase it:
          “Is the moon made of green cheese?”

          Phrasing it as a question spares the feelings of pig-ignorant idiots who boost their self-esteem by telling themselves that they’re way smarter than the “sheeple.” But why spare their feelings? Why coddle them? They’re the students who got a D+ in 10th-grade high-school biology, and complained that the B+/A students who actually learned the material were “curve wreckers.”

          1. Fuck off squirrel.

  3. KASHWAK=NO-FO

  4. Fringe theories linking 5G wireless networks to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have gotten a recent boost from professional actors and amateur idiots such as John Cusack and Woody Harrelson.

    Hey now, let’s be fair: John Cusack and Woody Harrelson are professional idiots who also happen to be actors. Actually I think you could say that about most actors.

    1. I might like their movies on occasion, but as individuals their only obvious skill is in lying for money.

      The type of people who are going to find it likely that electromagnetic radiation carries biological agents, however, are just stupid enough to find them persuasive I suppose.

      1. “their only obvious skill is in lying for money.” It’s worse than that: someone else has to write their lies. No one would pay to watch a movie if the typical actor wrote the script.

    2. I would think that Woody Harrelson and John Cusack are smarter than this. But hell, there are people today who are convinced the Earth is flat!

  5. As an rf engineer I think it would be awsome if I could make a system that I could control that would make people I don’t like sick, but alas it is not to be

    1. And yes my sister saw this and her initial reaction was to ask me if I am responsible for carona virus

      1. Did you reply “yes” then give her a menacing stare?

        1. I did tell her I was going to be safe because I had a 0.01 micron filter for water. Prompting her to do about 4 hours of water filter research only to find out its not water born. Hehe

    2. Are you?

      1. Am I An rf engineer, or someone who wishes they could make a radio wave to make people I don’t like get sick? Because the answer to both is yes

    3. A long time ago as an Air Force radar tech, I worked on systems that would definitely make you sick, if you loitered in the marked-off area in front of the test rig. It takes a _lot_ of power to get a radar return off a fighter at 200 miles. I don’t know which parts of the loiterer would cook first, but getting any part cooked is bad for your health.

  6. Look, I don’t buy the 5g-Rona connection but you’re strawmanning the fuck out of what many people think is the issue. They don’t think 5g is transmitting covid virus particles in the air.

    1. Hard to see what else they could believe, given that EM doesn’t generally spontaneously create life. Even if it does, it won’t in such a short time span.

      This is the modern version of rotten meat creating flies.

    2. So, what do they think?

      1. Apparently they think 5G signals are somehow frying your immune system, thus leaving you more vulnerable to the virus.

  7. I cannot believe these words actually have to be written—viruses aren’t transmitted by cell phone signals.

    What about computer viruses? Huh, smartguy!? /sarc

  8. Stopped reading after you called John Cusack and Woody Harrelson amateur idiots.

    1. They get paid for their idiocy? I thought they just threw that in for free while they are paid to promote their latest movies.

    2. me too those knuckleheads carry the banner.

  9. “A 5G antenna broadcasts millimeter waves, which are basically elongated radio waves that operate in a part of the light spectrum invisible to the human eye. ”

    This statement is painful. 5g is a higher frequency than previous generations thus shorter wave lengths, and millimeter waves are 3-300GHz, visable light is ~430 THz. Huge difference but it is all techniqully em (though in practice handled very differently)

    1. I assumed he meant elongated compared to light waves. Still poor wording.

      1. And gamma rays are just shortened light waves…

        1. And turn people into giant green rage monsters.

  10. “Amateur idiots”
    Lets not sell them short now.. They are much more than mere amateurs.

  11. I think there are two things at work here. People widely believe those in government keep secrets and lie about it. Politicians are also famous for being unable to provide a simple answer to simple questions. Ergo, when government makes a strong truth statement, the natural impulse it so assume they are lying about it.

    That being said I have no special theory on why celebrities are so illiterate and believe so many stupid thing. I suspect it has something do with being disconnected from reality by virtue of enormous wealth earned by playing make-believe.

  12. Any idiot going on about 5G causing cancer or some other nonsense that doesn’t also were an encounter suit any time they go outdoors isn’t taking the dangers of EM radiation seriously.

    Sunlight actually is a killer

    1. Sunlight actually is a killer
      Yes and those same idiots will flock to the beach, strip almost completely nude and bask in sun like it’s a recreation exercise.

      I myself avoid the beach, avoid the sun; stay inside and wear pants and sleeves when I’m out. Naturally I am much younger looking than people my age who just love sun.

      1. Sun is great, but is almost certainly the most dangerous source of EM radiation that most people will ever be exposed to.
        Beaches are lame. I’d much rather explore a rocky coastline.

        1. Says the guy who hasn’t been to South Beach…..

    2. “ever since the dawn of time, man has saught to destroy the sun”
      -c m burns

      1. “but sir every plant and animal will die. owls will deafen us with incessant hooting. the town’s sundial will be rendered useless!”

        1. Can we all agree that Maggie is the most libritarian character?

          1. incessant hooting makes me lol every time. Maggie yes. Dr. Nick too for practicing medicine w/o a license. “There are plenty of options for dangerously underweight individuals like yourself.”

            1. And according to Apu, America is dangerously underpopulated.

  13. But what does Trump say about this? Trump is the leading expert on which conspiracy theories are true and which are not. The dude literally has the inside scoop on conspirancies.

    1. I breathlessly await his wise utterances.

  14. “…That Doesn’t Even Make Sense.”

    Ha! I’ll bet you don’t believe in the third man on the grassy knoll, either!

    1. Probably some blue pilled sheep who believes the earth is round and mass shootings aren’t hoaxes involving thousands of people for each one.

  15. This conspiracy is so dumb. How would one explain the countless billions of infectious disease deaths that preceded 5g? The plague killed half Europe’s population in less than a decade in the mid 14th century.

    1. After which 5G was abandoned for over 600 years.

  16. It was reported earlier that Russia s engaged an anti 5g propaganda campaign because they are woefully behind the technology. I mean, christ, the NYTIMES!
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/12/science/5g-phone-safety-health-russia.html

  17. “Nothing demonstrates a lack of intellectual rigor than livestreaming the destruction of the very devices that make livestreaming possible.”

    Nice.

  18. “…wind sheer…”

    Not so nice. Sheer wind causes wind shear.

  19. There was plenty of ignorant anti-5G hysteria before this. Prior to that, older tech cell phones were touted as causing cancer. Let’s not forget wireless routers inexplicably causing migraines and visual hallucinations. Before we had cell phones, high-powered electrical lines were supposedly causing all manner of illnesses.

    Some of this BS was published or broadcast in mainstream media outlets, because most journalists have little to no understanding of even basic science, just like most celebrities, and just like most of the general population. For every Mayim Bialik, there are a dozen Cusacks and Harrelsons.

    1. And don’t you love that 30 years ago electromagnetic fields were killing you and now wearing magnets all over your body is a magic cure all?

    2. The jury is still out on whether EMF exposure can cause human illness. The evidence of harm is weak at this point but can’t yet be dismissed.

      https://www.bcmj.org/bccdc/living-near-power-lines-bad-our-health

      1. Although I don’t have time now to review the four references for that article, it seems incredibly unlikely that 0.4 microtesla exposure at 60 meters is somehow significant in any way when the Earth’s own magnetic field is two orders of magnitude stronger at the surface. I cannot say that it is impossible, but I would say that falls into the category of an “extraordinary claim”, thus requiring extraordinary supporting evidence.

        Given the inverse square law, the claim of a possible correlation for whatever the field strength is at 600 meters is even less plausible.

        Perhaps there are traces of carcinogenic substances in the soil near these lines, continually replenished by rain washing over the lines and towers. To me, that seems like a more likely explanation than effects from a very weak power line magnetic field which should be drowned out by the Earth’s magnetic field.

        1. I didn’t mean to imply that the studies of power line effects linked in the article were the entirety of the evidence for health effects from EMF.

  20. Good post. Plz visit me once… –
    Click Here

  21. 5G spreading the virus makes as much sense as getting it from Mexican beer! Keep in mind, these people vote. Now that explains Congress!

  22. No, 5G Is Not Spreading Coronavirus Boehm can control his TDS. That Doesn’t Even Make Sense.

    FTFY

  23. Oh, come on. Everyone knows Trump is spreading the coronavirus so his big pharma buddies can make a killing.

  24. Well, I guess theoretically at least coronavirus could be spread by 5G as 3D printing instructions that then make the virus at the nanoscale, which is then spread by chem trails and black helicopters, so not a COMPLETELY absurd theory.

  25. wider access to the internet

    No, it will provide POORER access to the internet for everyone except big city dwellers, because of the very short range of the transceivers.

    elongated radio waves

    No, they are SHORTER waves than are currently used for internet access. That’s why the towers have limited range.

    I know these errors are beside your point, but when you are trying to debunk people by claiming a superior grasp of science, it’s important to get your basic facts right.

  26. Flemish is basically a drunken hook-up between English and German

    No, Flemish is a legitimate descendant of West Saxon. English is the result of a drunken hook-up between West Saxon and Danish, with Brythonic watching and pleasuring itself.

    Again, beside your point, but you must attend to your details when you set out to debunk and call others stupid and ignorant.

  27. So, not that these theories are any less idiotic, but they aren’t that the virus itself is spread by 5G. The theory seems to be based on the idea that the 1918 influenza pandemic happened around the time radio was becoming a thing. The idea is human bodies have to adjust to the new waves, and this weakens their ability to fight infections, and the COVID pandemic is being caused/worsened by this.

    Still idiotic.

    Also, Woody Harrelson didn’t actually say he believed in the theory, but retweeted it as something he found interesting that he hadn’t vetted. Perhaps a dubious distinction, but in the interest of accuracy.

    As far as the purpose of the article- i guess making people aware that there’s a stupid conspiracy theory around? Perhaps making it clear that Reason does not in any way endorse this theory? (Libertarians often get confused of believing/supporting conspiracy theories. Some do, but then again so do people of all political stripes.)

  28. Your work here on this blog has been top notch from day 1. You’ve been continously providing amazing articles for us all to read and I just hope that you keep it going on in the future as well. transen in berlin Cheers!

  29. “That Doesn’t Even Make Sense.”
    It makes perfect sense if you think of it as religion. Valid, based only on faith.

  30. As an electrical engineer and an extra-class radio “ham” I say that the probability that 5G RF energy has anything to do at all with SARS-CoV-2 virus propagation is wild speculation based on zero facts or any reasonable theory.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.