Monkeypox conspiracies are far-right politicians and influencers latest misinformation campaign

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Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia at a hearing on the challenge to her candidacy in Atlanta, Georgia on April 22, 2022.
Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared to promote the theory that Bill Gates was partly behind the monkeypox outbreak in a live show.John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images
  • Prominent conservatives and far-right influencers have spread monkeypox conspiracy theories.

  • Many of the narratives echo the same anti-vaccine rhetoric as COVID-19 denialists.

  • Other theories allege the US coordinated the outbreak or that the disease is a hoax altogether.

The rising alarm surrounding the monkeypox virus has led to a surge of baseless online conspiracy theories about the illness, some promoted by prominent conservatives like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and far-right influencers like Alex Jones.

Many of the people promoting medical misinformation are politicians and pundits who spread false claims about COVID-19, and many of their narratives are the same for baseless accusations about monkeypox.

One frequent conspiracy theory floating around social media is that Bill Gates, who has been a frequent target for Covid-19 denialists, has had a hand in the monkeypox outbreak. A hashtag baselessly calling Gates a "bio terrorist" was tweeted thousands of times on Wednesday, with users claiming he's responsible for the disease's sudden spread. Twitter posts spreading conspiracies that Gates planned the outbreak and calling for his arrest have amassed thousands of likes.

Monkeypox, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is a milder version of smallpox that involves lymph nodes swelling on the body, headaches, and exhaustion, and can be spread through broken skin and infected liquid, among other ways. It often lasts between one and two weeks, and usually begins with a fever and face rash. The first human case of the illness was discovered in 1970, according to the CDC, twelve years after it was initially found in monkey colonies.

Monkeypox has been found in at least 16 countries so far, including multiple confirmed cases in the US. International health organizations are monitoring the spread of the virus, and experts, who believe the outbreak won't be as serious as COVID-19 because it's easier to contain, are researching what is behind the recent outbreak.

During a stream of her MTG:Live show on Facebook Live last week, Greene appeared to promote the Bill Gates conspiracy theory, saying Gates is "very concerned about monkeypox because this is something, apparently, he can make a lot of money off." She later suggested that people are going to be advised to purchase a "Bill Gates pillow" and sarcastically said, "you can cuddle with it every night, because Bill Gates is gonna save the day."

Along with Gates, the World Health Organization has been a major target of conspiracy theories around monkeypox. Rep. Paul Gosar, who last year spoke at a white nationalist conference and this week falsely claimed the Uvalde, Texas school shooter was transgender,  tweeted Tuesday that we must "defund the WHO."

Another conspiracy theory, which baselessly claims that COVID-19 vaccines are responsible for the monkeypox outbreak, has also spread on social media. InfoWars host and far-right conspiracist Alex Jones promoted the theory during one of his live streams this week. Jones was found liable in three defamation suits last year after promoting a conspiracy that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax.

A third baseless conspiracy theory alleging the US purposely launched the monkeypox outbreak has spread on Chinese social media like Weibo, according to Bloomberg. A nationalist influencer with over 6 million Weibo followers, Shu Chang, claimed documents revealed  "a plan by the US to leak bioengineered monkeypox virus," the outlet reported.

On Telegram, where baseless conspiracy theories tend to spread unchecked, numerous far-right influencers have speculated about or denied the significance of the illness. The right-wing radio personality Stew Peters called the virus a "hoax meant to push fear," while the QAnon conspiracist GhostEzra baselessly claimed monkeypox is "bs."

Another QAnon influencer, Jordan Sather, speculated to his 80,000 Telegram followers that monkeypox could be a ploy to "lock down America" and "push mail-in ballots right before" the US midterm elections in the fall.

Facebook has begun labeling several videos for containing false information about the virus, including one debunked by PolitiFact that claims the virus is the result of "biowarfare."

Read the original article on Insider