Well, that certainly didn’t take long. Once the current monkeypox outbreak spread to the U.S., it was only a matter of time before conspiracy theories about this outbreak began spreading as well. And it was only a matter of time before such conspiracy theories began mentioning Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist.
All of this should be about as surprising as a cat fight or a “here’s why you suck” speech on a reality TV show. After all, consider how many different Bill Gates-related conspiracy theories have emerged ever since the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020, some of which I covered for Forbes back in April 2020. For example, there was that Gates-placing-microchips-in-Covid-19-vaccines-to-track-everyone-for-who-knows-why conspiracy theory that people shared on Facebook and smartphones, two things that ironically do actually track people. Some politicians have further fueled such theories by either not denouncing them or even propagating them.
Speaking of politicians, take a wild guess as to which Congressperson has been among those pushing some of the latest monkeypox and Gates conspiracy theories in a space laser-like manner. Here’s a hint: her name rhymes with “Are Jury Mailer Bean.” Yes, take a look what Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) said on Thursday’s edition of her Facebook Live show MTG:Live:
Whoa, that’s certainly a live one. Throughout the video Taylor Greene made a number of claims about the outbreak without providing that little thing called evidence. For example, she claimed that “Bill Gates is very concerned about monkeypox because this is something, apparently, he can make a lot of money off of. Him and his other buddies.” She then talked about “disgusting” pictures of monkeypox lesions, saying that “They’re going to have pictures of all of these kind of terrifying images. They’re going to show children with this all over their faces. And of course, they’re going to be from…I don’t know where they are going to be from.”
Taylor Greene didn’t specify who “they” might be. Could they be the Gazpacho Police? Or maybe the “medical brown shirts,” meaning the ones that Taylor Green referred to in July 2021 and not UPS drivers? Regardless, Taylor Greene continued with, “And then they’re going to tell you, you have to wear a mask because if you get close to anybody’s face and they spit on you you’re going to contract this horrible, terrifying disease, monkeypox.” Of note, monkeypox is very different from the Covid-19 coronavirus. To date, there have been 92 laboratory-confirmed and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox across 12 different countries but no deaths. The monkeypox virus is clearly not as contagious and doesn’t tend to spread via aerosolized small respiratory droplets as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) does. Thus, the monkeypox outbreak is not likely to trigger the same response such as face mask requirements across all public indoor locations that the SARS-CoV-2 did.
Until then in the video Taylor Greene hadn’t yet mentioned Anthony Fauci, MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Fauci is also Chief Medical Advisor to the U.S. President, you know that person that Taylor Greene once referred to as the “Commander and Chief.” Ah, but it was only a matter of time before Taylor Green brought Fauci’s name into the mix. You didn’t have to wait for it, wait for it, wait too long until Taylor Greene pivoted to Fauci, or at least a pillow version of Fauci, She said, “But don’t worry, you got to go ahead, I know you have a Dr. Fauci pillow that you sleep with every night.” It’s not clear how many people actually have Fauci pillows although there are Marjorie Taylor Greene and MTG pillows being sold on Amazon.
Taylor Greene concluded the pillow fight with, “We need to order your Bill Gates pillow. You should have a body pillow of Bill Gates and you can cuddle with it every night, because Bill Gates is gonna save the day.”
Taylor Greene hasn’t been the only one who’s been pushing such unfounded claims. In fact, the hashtag #BillGatesBioTerrorist was trending on Twitter on Saturday as Renee DiResta, Research Manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, pointed out here:
Who’s been using this hashtag? Well, some identifiable people have. But so have many anonymous social media accounts. For example, an account named “Just call me Mike” claimed that Gates has “been releasing pathogens and experimenting on people” and that this has happened with Covid-19 and monkeypox:
Yeah, rather than “Just call me Mike,” maybe “Just call me an anonymous account” would be a more appropriate name. And an unverified Twitter account linked to something called the Thomas Paine Podcast asserted that Gates has an “uncanny ability to predict future pandemics and PROFT from each” in the following tweet:
What evidence have such social media posts provided to support such claims? Not a whole lot. Some have pointed to Gates’ previous comments urging the world to be more prepared about possible bioterrorist smallpox attacks:
But such evidence would be as weak as a track suit made out of toilet paper. Warning about smallpox ain’t the same thing as warning about monkeypox. The two disease are not the same. Plus, Gates certainly hasn’t been the only person warning about the possibility of bioterrorist smallpox attacks. Over the past couple of decades, many public health and security experts have been urging the world to be better prepared. After all, since 1980, when the World Health Assembly declared smallpox eradicated, the absence of naturally-occurring smallpox cases and the discontinuation of routine vaccination against smallpox has left the world’s population quite susceptible to the variola virus, the virus that can cause smallpox. A September 2019 gas explosion in a Russian lab that housed smallpox samples was a reminder that it could take only one accident to cause a smallpox outbreak.
So why are these conspiracy theories targeting Gates? Well, Gates has been supporting vaccination and the development of new vaccines to better prevent and respond combat infectious disease outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics. So perhaps anti-vaccination campaigns, which may in turn be trying to sell their own unproven therapies, view him as a big target. Also, could this be related to Gates’s efforts to encourage other billionaires and corporations to use their accumulated wealth more to help improve global health? Not all of them may be on board and happy with such encouragement from Gates. Without more evidence, it’s not completely clear what the motivations and sources of many anonymous social media accounts may be. One thing’s for sure. By monkeypoxing around in this manner, they are not helping and seem to be hurting efforts to protect people against such outbreaks now and in the future.