How Dangerous Are COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories In Italy?

A focus on Covid-19

The virus that causes acute severe respiratory illness, coronavirus, is the source of the infectious sickness known as coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) (SARS-CoV-2). In Wuhan, China, in Dec 2019, authorities discovered the first recorded case. The illness soon spread around the world, causing the COVID-19 pandemic.

When humans breathe air polluted by the virus’s droplets and minute airborne particles, COVID-19 can spread. These can be breathed across longer distances, especially indoors, but the risk is greatest when individuals are close together. Transmission can also happen if infected fluids splash or spray into the mouth, nose, or eyes or, less frequently, when they come into contact with contaminated surfaces. Even if individuals do not have symptoms, people can transmit the virus for up to twenty days.

Several COVID-19 vaccines have indeed been authorized and made available in several nations, which have started widespread immunization programs. The use of face masks or covers in public, concealing coughs and sneezes, quarantining, ventilation of interior areas, physical or social seclusion, hand cleaning, and keeping unclean hands away from the face is further preventative methods. Although efforts are being made to create medications that block the virus, symptomatic care remains the mainstay of treatment. Treatment of symptoms by supportive care, seclusion, and experimental procedures is referred to as management.

Conspiracy Theories and COVID-19

Conspiracy theories sparked demonstrations & violent attacks throughout Italy during the COVID-19 epidemic. This phenomenon is not particularly recent. There have always been conspiracies. While some may be risk-free, others may be quite hazardous. The spread of perilous conspiracies accelerated considerably during the epidemic. Radical right extremists from around the world flooded social media sites with speculations about the virus’s causes, its perpetrators, and also how governments are enforcing lockdowns and later mask and vaccine regulations to control populations. These theories significantly damaged Italy.

When a wave of protests swept over many media to big towns in Italy last year, the consequences of conspiracy theories were particularly apparent. A tiny fraction of the Italian populace protested against the government’s mandated vaccinations and the usage of the Green Pass, which is only issued to people who have received both vaccine doses and is required until April 1, 2022, to attend public areas.

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COVID-19 clinical research pages | Ecrin

The theories that drove these demonstrations centered on how the government handled the epidemic, the risks associated with vaccinations, and the simple presence of COVID-19. While most demonstrations were peaceful, some people were motivated to carry up violent actions by conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories are generating unrest throughout Italy and endangering the political and social fabric of the nation by offering straightforward explanations for complicated occurrences.

As “attempts to explain the final causes of key social and political events… with assertions of secret schemes by… powerful players,” conspiracy theories might be defined as such. Researchers have shown that they frequently coincide with mysterious and unanticipated global occurrences that leave people feeling anxious, unsure, and out of control. People who experience these emotions are more likely to believe in conspiracies because they offer alternate, straightforward explanations for complicated situations.

Conspiracy theories have flourished in the ideal setting provided by the COVID-19 epidemic. Individuals have turned to conspiracies to try to make sense of their world since it is so mysterious and unclear. Additionally, because of the instructions to stay at home, individuals have been spending a lot of time on social media sites, which are filled with conspiracy theories.

Numerous extreme right-wing extremists were quite active on social networking sites and are still doing so. They disseminated several theories surrounding COVID-19’s genesis. While some were entirely new, others were simply updated versions of previous tropes that eventually included the pandemic.

Anti-Semitic (the Jewish population was accused of spreading the virus to further its financial goals), pro (with a readaptation of the Great Replacement theory, itself frequently imbued with racism), and anti-Asian conspiracies were some of the most prevalent ones spread by the radical right.

Conspiracy Theories in Italy: Dangerous or Not? (Covid-19)

Italy saw a surge of widespread protests late last year & early this year as people vented their ire at the government’s limitations. For workers in practically every industry, the government-mandated vaccines. Employees who rejected vaccinations would have their jobs terminated. The Green Permit was also required. Italians expressed their rage at these measures by using their freedom to protest. Sadly, evil conspiracies frequently feed this fury. A few of these blatantly incite people to use violence after or during the protests.

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Italian residents expressed their ire against the government’s mandated lockdowns between September 2020 & April 2021, over the first wave of widespread demonstrations. They also expressed doubt about the COVID-19 vaccination and questioned the virus’s existence. Several online conspiracy theories that have gained traction added fuel to their rage.

The majority of these conspiracies claimed that COVID-19 was a hoax created by governments to keep people under their control and did not genuinely exist. They asserted that the media in Italy was inflating the number of fatalities and illnesses there. They also claimed that governments had developed vaccinations to keep an eye on people. These vaccinations were also thought to be harmful since they were developed hastily with little testing to demonstrate their effectiveness.

Robert F. Kennedy | Biography, Facts, & Assassination | Britannica

The foundation for this more latest spate of demonstrations included conspiracy theories that ranged from anti-government to pro. A segment of the Italian populace believes that the federal government is increasing its control over its people by enforcing control over them, removing their liberties, and managing the nation’s currency. Additionally, they think that vaccinations still pose a risk to children and shouldn’t be given to them. The Italian government is being referred to by protesters as a “health dictatorship or tyranny.” Robert Kennedy Jr. was received by a sizable throng in Milan in November 2021 who applauded his remarks opposing the Green Pass & compulsory immunization.

Unfortunately, not all demonstrations were peaceful, as was already noted. Some led to violent assaults. On April 3, 2021, Nicola Zanardelli & Paolo Pluda launched a multi-incendiary attack on a vaccination center in Brescia, Lombardy. The main goals of the culprits, according to investigators and prosecutors, were to destroy the center and stop the city’s immunization drive.

The attack was indeed a direct result of Pluda’s investigation into conspiracies. Paula posted a wide range of articles, images, and memes on his Facebook page about various conspiracies, from generally pro to anti-immigration, from anti-vaccine to anti-COVID. He thought that COVID-19 was indeed a hoax, that the state had invented it to further its objectives, and that vaccinations were made to keep the populace under control. Paula participated in several anti-vaccination and anti-COVID rallies due to his beliefs, and he promoted them on his Facebook page to attract as many of his friends and supporters as he could.

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Other demonstrations tried to overthrow the administration and alter the political and social landscape. When protesters led by the leaders of far-right organizations in Italy, such as Forza Nuova, burst into the offices of the Italian National Confederation of Labour (CGIL — Italy’s most significant trade organization) in Rome on October 9, 2021, the demonstrations turned violent. Police personnel at the entry were overtaken by protesters, who then made their way slowly into the offices while causing damage to the furniture, smashing items, and shattering windows.

How to Curb Violence over Covid-19?

Italian prosecutors and detectives have been attempting to apprehend anyone with extremist and radical ideas who was connected to the protests since the horrific incident in Rome. Many of them detained belonged to the “Basta Dittatura” (or “Stop the Dictatorship”) Telegram channel, which was shut down because of its offensive comments. The channel had thousands of subscribers who discussed joining the military, attacking Italian institutions, and overthrowing the health regime.

Government of Italy - Wikipedia

Although this is a positive move, the Italian government may carry out additional informational efforts, both online and off. These campaigns may be essential to prevent the spread of theories. The Italian government might reduce violent assaults in the future by spreading more factually accurate information on vaccines & COVID-19 and by removing articles, films, and memes that encourage conspiracy theories.

In particularly intense, mysterious, and unsettling situations, conspiracy theories may be hazardous and inspire violence in people. Conspiracies surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak have inspired violent crimes all across the world. Italy is not an exception and must take swift action to stop this bloodshed, just like other countries.

Edited by Prakriti Arora

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