KJR Conspiracies

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A popular conspiracy theory has it that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was created in a Chinese laboratory.

This idea is, quite plainly, preposterous. The state of the art in genetic engineering is nowhere close to achieving something like this.

It isn’t a stretch to figure out that this finger-pointing exercise is being promoted by people who want to distract us from the obvious true source.

Which is? Check out these three UFO videos recently released by the Department of Defense.

The question we need to ask and answer is why the DoD chose this moment to release them. The answer is, I think, easily discerned. Without these videos, significant portions of the defense budget would be diverted to dealing with the immediate threat the virus poses.

But with these videos, the Pentagon can make a credible case for investing heavily in the advanced weaponry we’ll need to counter an alien attack.

Which is, of course, exactly what the aliens want us to do. Aliens advanced enough to traverse interstellar distances will easily tailor more viruses. The less we invest in pandemic response to instead develop weapons we’ll never have a chance to use, the more the aliens win.

Except that if this were really the Pentagon’s plan it would have released videos that aren’t so grainy and fuzzy. We need to think a few moves ahead to interpret the data.

The cui bono (who benefits?) method of analysis is useful for this analysis.

Who benefits? Zoom benefits! Maybe the virus was designed and produced in its secret laboratories. What, you never heard of these? That just proves they’re secret.

Who, after all, has benefited more than Zoom? Well, Amazon, maybe, but it didn’t need the virus. It’s been taking over the world just fine without it.

But because of social distancing, Zoom’s share price grew from around $70 when the virus first emerged to a recent peak of $170, and that’s in spite of sloppy security practices that otherwise might have caused InfoSec officers around the world to insist on a more hardened alternative.

But, you might object, surely Zoom lacked the financial resources to build and staff a virus engineering lab.

It’s a reasonable objection, but one that’s easily explained: Zoom had co-conspirators. Take, for example, Goody. As a purveyor of products that keep hair under control, Goody must be seeing a dramatic uptick in demand, as people of all genders, with their cutters shuttered, find themselves with too much hair, and in the wrong places.

No, I haven’t been driven to wear a man bun yet, but the handwriting is on the mirror. It’s only a matter of time.

Okay, enough. Fun is fun, but what’s the point?

In spite of their outsized impact on our political dialog, conspiracy theories are promulgated and promoted by only a small minority of our fellow citizens. They’re more loud and irritating than numerous.

What encourages conspiracy theories to thrive is, in contrast, quite common. That’s the desire, whenever anything goes wrong, to find someone or something … no, I was right the first time, to find someone to blame for it.

In our national political dialog the standard of blame is tribalism. Not that many years ago, the standard of blame in IT was Microsoft, and before that IBM.


Wrong subject. The right one?

Much of the workforce has transitioned to Remote status. In the short term the challenge was ensuring everyone has enough bandwidth and the right access to be productive.

By now, all but the tardiest adopters have made it this far. It’s time to prepare for Stage 2 of the transition to working remotely, which is social dysfunction.

Social distancing is making us safer. It is, however, also making us crabbier, and that’s true even for those of us whose current situation is more inconvenience than serious problem.

With everyone stressed we’re more likely to scrutinize for trivial defects and, having found them, to assign blame. And that’s when things go right. When they go wrong, blamestorming is the entire agenda.

We human beings have a very strong tendency to divide everyone in the world into two groups: Us and Them. We’re the Good Guys; They’re the Bad Guys.

As we increasingly work remotely, the population we each consider to be We will inevitably shrink.

At least it will shrink unless we each, as leaders, adopt active measures to circumvent it.

Because the desire to blame can and will easily overwhelm even the most solid sense of team identity.

Blame the aliens. The ones in the UFOs, that is.

Comments (11)

  • I, for one, shall welcome our new Alien Overlords.

  • I’m a big fan of yours (as you know), but this isn’t one of your best offerings. You spent too much time describing the symptoms and not enough describing what to do.
    Looking ahead, my company is considering split shifts, physical distancing, in addition to remote meetings. Work is going to be different for awhile, so sensible businesses are already looking ahead.

  • I understand the point of the article and it’s not really about conspiracy theories but I don’t think that the example you used is was a correct. Like you, I don’t think this is an engineered virus although I do think it was a known virus that was accidentaly released from a research lab. To say that we don’t have the knowledge or skill to engineer a virus is just wrong. There are multiple nations around the world with enough money, skilled scientits and technical ability to do this kind of research. Difficult and dangerous, for sure. Are they really doing it? We don’t know but it’s not unrealistic like believing in UFOs.

  • Well said Bob. Part of the problem seems to be that many of us cannot accept that the pandemic was inevitable once the virus hit China. I got caught in the same trap – which public official was screwing this up so I could not have my life back? The country is more divided than ever and our own workforce is struggling between paranoia and anger.

    This is a great opportunity for leaders to step up and take their followers into the great unknown. Live for the day and stay in the moment while recognizing the challenges ahead. I worry that all the blaming is taking away from the good that is happening and the promise of an eventual solution.

    Then again, a week ago I was ready to start screaming at everyone. It is a tough time for all.

  • Blamestorming may be a natural part of forming a group, which means it would occur when ever organizations or cultures re-align. The aliens word is perfect. THEM.

    THEY could be the folks in the networking department and that helps build cohesion in the developer group. Or They could be other parts of the organization which builds cohesion for your (separate and distinct) part of the organization. Or They could be a competing organization (which is best goal for managers) and we’re all in it together against them (and maybe sharing in some of the profits).

    It could be a whole city or state, with the mayors and governors exhorting “their” citizens and belittling those others. It may be in good jest as when betting on the Super Bowl but it may also occur when they have covid-19 and you don’t.

    No need to talk about nationalism and foreigners. Just hate to think it’s part of a natural process. However, managers fix all sorts of processes, and most of the human ones are natural.

    When real aliens come, then perhaps we would all band together as in War of the Worlds and Independence Day. Probably not immediately because those processes take time and folks have to verify that it isn’t fake like the Moon landing or Kim Jong Un’s peace process or Kim Kardashian.

  • You perhaps underestimate the capability of biological labs. While I agree that investigators have found no credible evidence that this particular virus originated in one, we most likely will never determine exactly where it originated, much less how. Given that the purpose of this lab was to study bat coronavirus, it is also possible that one they collected, or one that was transmitted there, is the source even if the lab didn’t intentionally create it. I expect you have seen the report that our CDC went to that lab a few years ago to help them set up a proper level 4 containment facility. As part of the ephemeral news that floated by, I caught a statement that that the current work was being done at level 2. Lab workers at level 2 would be much more likely to be exposed to a virus from test materials.

  • Right on Bob – as usual. 🙂

    I once read, perhaps in one of your columns, that character is what is displayed when one believes no one is looking – so it makes sense when we, the lucky ones that are privileged to be working AND working remotely from home are in places were no one is looking – its easier than ever in this context of self-isolation to be selfish, self-absorbed, isolated-yet-connected, crabby, short-tempered and overly-demanding and all-too-willing to externalize our fears and anxieties and failures and project our crappy outlook onto others to explain their actions and behaviors.

    Same as it ever was, in other words. The challenge then is to confront myself, warty warts on warts with ugly warts to be a better person and strive to not inflict myself on others. There is an opportunity here, at this time in history, to be better. There is no time for blame, just pull up my little boy pants and straighten up and not blink in the face of the work to be done.

    That is my devout hope, my whispered prayer, my promise to myself and to others. This condition will lift, with a different reality and sure as shootin’, we’ll be called to account for our actions during the lockdown when our better angels were not informing us – just desserts will follow and all that.

    Thanks for the column

    • Thanks, Lee. And, much as I’d like to take the credit for the definition of “character,” I just borrowed it with, I hope, proper attribution although I found it and similar quotes attributed to quite a few different sources.

      Anyway, whoever said it first said something worth listening to.

  • Excellent point about ‘us’ v ‘them’… so much about the perceived ‘success’ of the current telework environment is based on people who know each other, rallying around a shared disaster situation, and making the best of it. I don’t think it says anything about how sustainable it is (or isn’t)

  • Was the Chinese Wuhan Coronavirus (known commonly as Covid-19) made by humans as a bio-weapon? Unlikely, mostly because China sequenced the virus genome and released the sequence to the public (it’s unlikely they would do that with a weapon).

    Did Covid-19 escape the lab as an accident? Quite possibly, yes – particularly given that we know the lab was studying bat coronaviruses, coupled with the the activities by the Chinese government to censor any fact-finding efforts around the origins on the virus. China’s propaganda machine went into full cover-up mode early on, and they made a full-court press around it.

    Given how economically intertwined the world’s largest companies (especially USA Fortune 500 companies) are with China, and the fact that money is power, it’s quite likely that we will never know the “full truth and nothing but the truth” regarding the origin of the virus.

    No matter, this is a great opportunity for the USA to revisit pandemic response strategy, and correct deficiencies for the next time.

    • And beyond pandemic response, I’ve thought for years that we need to develop the means to develop vaccines on demand. It’s clear this one is neither the first nor the last highly infectious and deadly virus we’re going to face. Having to deal with each vaccine development as a one-off just won’t do the job anymore.

      Not that I have the faintest idea how we might go about this.

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