Wires of a telecommunications mast damaged by fire are seen in Sparkhill, masts have in recent days been vandalised amid conspiracy theories linking the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and 5G masts, Birmingham, Britain, April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Carl Recine - RC2ZYF9RAJIC
Wires of a telecommunications mast in Birmingham that were set on fire by vandals © Carl Recine/Reuters

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I know what you’re thinking. How did 5G go from a moderately helpful new technology to a mad internet conspiracy? Why are British mobile phone masts being vandalised by people who blame them for spreading coronavirus?

Let me explain. Outside my day job at the Financial Times, I’ve been working flat-out to question the benefits of 5G. I had no idea I’d be so successful.

It all started back in the 1990s, when I walked past a piece of abstract graffiti that linked the popularity of electric hair-curlers and the rise in cruciate ligament injuries. I was persuaded immediately. What other explanation was there? Did the Victorians have hair-curlers? No. Did any Victorian footballers miss the World Cup because of cruciate ligament injuries? Also no.

Correlation is causation; the universities no longer teach that, because of a change to their funding model. Sure enough, when I raised the hair-curler issue with women, their faces turned white and they started backing away. I knew I was on to something. But when I returned to the graffiti, it had been plastered over by a Girls Aloud concert advert. Covered up, by the mass media.

Luckily I met Bob4357. Bob4357 assures me that is his real name — he’s from a big family. “New technologies are uniquely dangerous,” he told me when we first met, on Reddit. He’d known this ever since swallowing a USB stick during a drinking session at a Scientology conference.

We knew we were too late to stop hair-curlers and USB sticks. So we focused on emerging technologies, like PalmPilots, solar panels and those tiny plastic fans that people bring into the office during heatwaves. We bombarded internet forums until consumers got the message. The death of the MiniDisc player? That was us.

Then we stumbled on a Mayan manuscript with two symbols, G and danger. We knew what this meant: 3G, 4G, Warren G and — in particular — Kenny G were all very dangerous. We just didn’t know in what way.

Frankly, we struggled until coronavirus. But the pandemic was clearly what the Mayans were referring to. We knew fact-checkers would try to shut us down. So we developed a secret phrase to mark ourselves out: “I’m not an expert in viruses, but”.

Some investigative reporters from the Russian network RT contacted us, saying they weren’t experts in viruses either. “5G could even allow foreign hackers into American homes!” I explained to the reporters. “But it’s mainly bad!” they replied.

They said that 5G might kill people. RT is financed by the Kremlin, and the Kremlin are experts on what might kill people, because they’re looking for alternatives to novichok. So I believed them straight away.

The scariest thing about 5G is that there’s no vaccine. And if there were, I certainly wouldn’t take it. Especially as I’m recovering from adult measles.

RT put videos about our campaign on YouTube, which I found odd: isn’t YouTube a new technology that relies on 5G? They promised to explain later. The only conspiracy video they wouldn’t upload was one about Donald Trump recommending chloroquine. They said that one seemed legit.

Things took off. Celebrities got involved — Woody Harrelson, John Cusack and the guy from Irish pop band The Corrs. I didn’t know there was a guy in The Corrs, I told Bob4357.

I’m looking forward to winning the campaign, so we can move on to other issues, such as how the British government is installing water meters to take our urine samples. We’re not sure which gullible celebrities will help spread the word — but remember, The Apprentice is now on series 15, so there isn’t exactly a shortage.

I’ve always believed that just seven people run the world. I’m just proud that Bob4357 and I are now two of them.


henry.mance@ft.com

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