Covid Kicks Bates Rumor Mill into Overdrive

Roy Mathews, Managing Forum Editor

It’s a hoot to be on campus at Bates College. It seems every day from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed, rumors, fear, anxiety, and paranoia characterize these days of absent classes and idle students. How many rumors have you heard in the past hour about phantom parties, calls to the police, positive COVID-19 tests, and students getting kicked off-campus? I’ve counted at least one of each of those rumors floating around different friends groups in the past day. Let’s all take a breath, calm down, and remember why we came to campus in the first place.

Remember all those mysterious “anonymous” accounts over the summer telling students to not come back to campus because Bates was horribly incompetent and putting people at risk? Well, so far, only two students have tested positive for COVID. That hasn’t stopped some from taking to social media to push their theories about secret underground parties happening and masks not being worn. 

Well, we’re back, and so far, nothing significant has happened: no massive outbreaks, no confirmed indoor or outdoor ragers, and no confirmed cases of students removed from campus. If you are on campus and doing your part, congratulations. You’re a good person. But, the incessant paranoia about what might happen on campus and spreading these rumors around the community is a waste of everyone’s time. . .

As every student of history knows, humans have been prophesying the end of the world since the beginning of time. From the Old Testament, prophets claiming God’s wrath is upcoming to the current climate change alarmists warning the Earth will burn in ten years, humans love a good impending threat. Let’s look back at some other times from more recent years where charismatic prophets of doom championed humanity’s impending demise. 

The months leading up to December 2012 saw popular conspiracy theories speculating that the world may end, on the premise that the Mayan calendar mysteriously ran out on Dec. 21, 2012. These theories weren’t all that believable. Almost ten years earlier, the world predicted a massive technological meltdown as a result of Y2K, when computers would not be able to calculate what day it was upon the start of the year 2000. Fearmongers across the world predicted that “elevators would stop, credit cards would stop working, and electricity and heat would shut off,” and made many more ridiculous assertions. It’s as if the computers now running everyone’s lives in the 1990s would cease to function once the clock hit midnight on December 31, 1999, tipping society into an abyss. Y2K fears cost government agencies and U.S. businesses large and small almost $100 billion dollars. Guess what? Nothing happened. The computers functioned just fine on January 1, 2000. 

These two scenarios seem silly to us now, but this type of paranoid fear-mongering has very real-world consequences. “Published at a time of tremendous conflict and social upheaval,” (sound familiar?) Stanford entomologist Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” became the Holy Bible of environmental alarmists and population control advocates across the world. The book explains how humanity’s growing population will soon be unable to feed itself as people take over more of the available arable land. 

This Malthusian Trap described by Ehrlich in “The Population Bomb” mapped out the horrors that awaited humanity: famine, pollution, and social and ecological collapse. This led to a massive wave of population control alarmism that spread to every major world institution including the United Nations, World Bank, the Population Council, and aptly-named organizations like the Hugh Moore backed “Association for Voluntary Sterilization.” The places described in Ehrlich’s book to back up his theory of overpopulation were in developing countries, most notably in India. This led to many developing countries instituting policies to cull their own populations, sometimes forcefully

In countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Pakistan, and South Korea, health worker salaries were set by the number of IUDs they inserted into women, inviting years of abuse. In Mexico, Peru, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, millions of people were sterilized coercively by their governments to prevent this alleged doomsday. China’s One-Child Policy is the most well-known government population control program. Finally, throughout the 1970s and 1980s in India, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi embraced policies that required sterilization for men and women in order to obtain food, water, electricity, medical services, and pay raises. Teachers could even expel students from school if their parents weren’t sterilized. All these horrors were realized because of a book published by an overly paranoid entomologist.  

I know what you’re thinking: COVID won’t lead to anything as drastic as that, how ridiculous! Of course it won’t. If that is your reaction to this article, then that’s amazing. Bates has chosen to squash the rumor spreading with Cats v. COVID so we can all rest easy about any more conspiracy theories. If you follow the rules, wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands, you will probably be fine. Humanity has survived the Spanish Flu, two World Wars, defeated Polio, made it through Ebola, and now it will make it through COVID. The sky is not falling, the world is not ending, and spreading fear through tweets or other social media avenues only increases the amount of paranoia and anxiety in students that already have plenty to worry about.