Coronavirus conspiracies mark us as the Gullible Generation


When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, killing thousands of Americans, the “Greatest Generation” recognized we had been attacked, rallied to enlist in the defense of our country, willingly accepted privation and worked tirelessly for victory.

Can you imagine what would have happened if the Left denied we were attacked or if the Right insisted that Hawaii wasn’t really part of the US so there was no need to respond? We would have been invaded and conquered and we would have deserved the destruction that followed.

Instead of the “Greatest Generation,” we are the Gullible Generation.

Faced with our Pearl Harbor, a pandemic that has already killed tens of thousands of Americans, many in our generation — the Gullible Generation — deny that there is a deadly threat, refuse to participate in the defense of our country, won’t even tolerate wearing masks in public and refuse to believe in the existence of the enemy let alone work to defeat it.

And they’re proud of their gullibility!

They tell themselves that they’re the ones who see the lies, and the rest of us are sheep. But believing that everybody’s lying is just another kind of gullibility.

Slate writer William Saletan was talking about JFK assassination conspiracists, but he could just as easily have been talking about coronavirus conspiracists. They, too, are absolutely sure that there is giant conspiracy, a conspiracy that encompasses the entire world, designed to falsely convince people that we are in the midst of a pandemic. Ironically, instead of being the only people who see the conspiracy, they are the the very “sheeple” that they purport to despise.

From the alt-right to the loony left, thousands of people have created and then clung to conspiracy theories that feel to their believers like a child’s fuzzy blanket — offering comfort from the big, scary world. They are so psychologically immature that they are incapable of dealing with reality, a pandemic that could kill them and their family members, so they escape into fantasy.


Unlike the “Greatest Generation” that came to maturity in the 1930s and 1940s forced to endure the reality of the Depression and World War II, the current generation of conspiracy sheeple came to maturity in the age of social media, able to recuse themselves from reality.

Social media allows us to:

… customize our surroundings, and accustom us to regulating and controlling the information that comes our way. This has several effects: an expanded sense of what falls under our personal social domain, an increased expectation of control over that domain, and a greater sensitivity to input that deviates from our preferences.

If reality is too hard or too frightening, we don’t work harder or mature to handle our difficulties. Instead, we seek out like minded sheeple on Facebook and Twitter to bond around fables that leave us simultaneously victims of malevolent forces AND heroes who recognize the true source of our peril. The sheeple on the Left soothe themselves by pretending that the pandemic was planned by the government and corporations; the sheeple on the Right soothe themselves by pretending that it doesn’t even exist.

The Greatest Generation was blessed with extraordinary leaders like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The Gullible Generation is cursed by Donald Trump, the apotheosis of recusing yourself from reality. He constantly vomits forth a barrage of lies, nearly all of which involve simple, but wrong explanations for complex problems and advocate simple, but wrong solutions that never work.

Both the alt-right and the looney left may cling to their conspiracy theories, but they cannot recuse themselves from reality for long. Countries like Germany, which relied on scientists and epidemiologists, quickly brought the pandemic under control, have experienced far less economic and social disruption (not to mention far fewer cases of illness and deaths), while countries like the US, which ignored (and continues to ignore) scientists and epidemiologists has seen the pandemic accelerate with no end in sight. The massive economic and social disruption we have experienced will continue because we don’t have the disease under control.

The COVID-19 pandemic is another national Pearl Harbor and unlike the Greatest Generation, we are not rising to the challenge. The Gullible Generation, in the grip of conspiracy theories, is failing spectacularly.