Why Is It So Hard to Accept That Trump Has Covid-19?
The news of President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis has only been confirmed for eight hours. Many Americans awoke this morning to an internet fully ablaze. Considering Trump’s longtime downplaying of the virus, which has killed over 200,000 Americans, and adamant refusal to consistently wear a mask, his diagnosis is unsurprising, to say the least. Also unsurprising? That there would be conspiracy theories already springing up around the announcement. But what’s maybe more disturbing is seeing how many average, seemingly non-conspiracy-minded people on my Twitter timeline are assuming there’s some hidden story or agenda behind the news.
The spread of conspiracy theories has seemingly accelerated in 2020. Twitter and Instagram’s attempts to counter the rise of QAnon and the spread of false information about child sex trafficking have been unsucessful. As recently as yesterday, QAnon believers were harassing Chrissy Teigen, a longtime target, after she lost a pregnancy. QAnon has also pushed anti-mask propaganda and questioned the legitimacy of the virus. Trump is the hero of the QAnon movement, so it’s no surprise they’ve already activated around Trump’s diagnosis. But now the type of liberal and left-leaning people who normally would denouce Q and right-wing conspiracy theories have quickly started indulging their own.
Even as they consider Trump’s disdain for masks and social distancing and generally acknowledge that the widespread danger of the virus surely put him at greater risk for contracting it, some Twitter users are also asking questions like: What if Trump is lying about his diagnosis so he can brag about overcoming it? What if it’s just an excuse for him to skip out on the next presidential debate? What if it’s all about gaining sympathy so he can come back stronger? What if ... this is all fake?
Unlike QAnon theories, which want to put innocent people in jail for crimes there’s no evidence they committed, these Trump-diagnosis conspiracies are hardly sinister. If some ways, they are a reasonable response to a declaration from a president who brazenly lies about many consequential things
Ultimately, these theories don’t offer any insight into what happens now—but they do perfectly encapsulate what’s happened of late in this country, as distrust has infected so much of the American public. Disinformation campaigns, actual fake news, debunked viral tweets, and an oversaturation of opinions thanks to the increasingly social media-driven nature of our society means at any given moment, we keep telling each other that we’re living through a shit show that always has the potential to be worse. It gets harder and harder for virtually anyone to accept that they don’t know what’s going to happen next.