The coronavirus crisis adds fuel to the fire surrounding conspiracy theories and false news. Spread internationally by willing helpers, lies about compulsory vaccinations and the “New World Order” have already reached the mainstream of society. The key enemy in the smear campaign: Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
“Gib Gates keine Chance!” [Don’t give Gates a chance!] This phrase is on a poster held up in front of the Bundestag by one of the approximately 100 protesters. Officially, the registered demonstration was intended to criticise the measures taken by the federal government during the coronavirus pandemic. However, numerous conspiracy theorists are using it as a platform to also spread their rumours – reaching more and more people.
What does the billionaire Bill Gates have to do with this? He is used as a famous enemy figure for anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, extreme right-wing and left-wing groups and self-declared concerned citizens. They see Gates as the head of an international conspiracy. They believe Gates wants to enforce mandatory vaccinations. They believe Gates wants to implant a microchip in every person. Rumours that are easy to disprove. Why are they a problem? Because they’ve been shared millions of times. Not only the anonymous user “QAnon”, who claims to be a secret service employee and disclosing “confidential information”, has picked up a large group of followers and copycats in the US. All kinds of trolls are gathering under the pseudonym “QAnon”. The wave of false accusations arrived across Europe some time ago.
1.5 million regular consumers of conspiracy theories
A current study by “NewsGuard”, an online service that evaluates the transparency and truthfulness of news portals, has proven that the number of Facebook pages and websites which regularly and deliberately share disinformation with their followers has grown. On Facebook alone, eleven pages have been set up during the pandemic which regularly share disinformation. Including and in particular about Bill Gates. In total, they reach more than 1.5 million Facebook users in Germany. In addition, there are also messenger services such as Telegram and Signal, which are difficult for fact-checkers to access. The former presenter and full-time demagogue Ken Jebsen claims in a YouTube video, for example, that Gates is currently controlling the world and that “what they (Gates) want would need to be implemented by governments, virologists and the World Health Organization”. His clip got more than 2.5 million clicks in Germany.
Why has the Microsoft founder become a target for smear campaigns? There is a simple answer: his charity work. With capital of approximately USD 46.8 billion, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest charitable organisation in the world. Gates and his wife finance around 10 percent of the contributions received by the WHO. These funds are earmarked for specific purposes. This means that they can be used only for specific measures within the WHO. Critics accuse the Gates family of influencing the prioritisation of WHO work. At the same time, though, they praise the generous donations and work carried out by the Gates family.
Not so the conspiracy theorists who keep coming up with new theories. Currently they are accusing the Gates family of wanting to produce a dangerous vaccine which would cost many lives. The billionaire addressed the accusations and confirmed in an interview with the BBC that: “The priority is safety. If we have a vaccine that can last at least 18 months then we will proceed according to normal and valid criteria” . At the start, only a trial group of around 100 people would be vaccinated. Only when risk factors can be excluded will the number of participants then be increased. There is no kind of extensive mandatory vaccination on the horizon. The alleged witch hunt directed against a philanthropist proves that the boundary between hoaxes and fiction has become blurry. This is because every story needs a bad guy. To create a good story, the author gives their villain godlike attributes: unlimited financial resources, the intelligence of a true genius, an international network – and, of course, ambitious plans. Bill Gates has, without justification, become the perfect enemy for all sceptics and coronavirus deniers. Unfortunately, on a global scale.