Let’s talk about Tito Sotto’s endorsement of a conspiracy theory on nCoV being a ‘biological weapon’

February 5, 2020 - 4:24 PM
Chinese man in Macau
A man wears a mask as he waits for a bus, following the coronavirus outbreak in Macau, China February 5, 2020. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III at a hearing yesterday shared a video alleging that the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease is a form of “biological weapon” made by the United States to supposedly cripple China’s power.

The video was shared during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography in which the legislators talked about the government’s response to the threat of the new virus.

Reports noted that it was uploaded by YouTube channel “The Atlantis Report” and then eventually reshared by other channels.

The channel, however, is among the YouTube accounts that investigative magazine Mother Jones has identified as “cranking out content that, in many cases, spreads alarm, unsubstantiated claims, scams and sometimes outright disinformation.”

RELATED: A collection of false rumors about coronavirus in the Philippines

The video featured wild speculations about the origin of nCoV and alleged that it was an engineered virus designed against China by the United States and Britain as the Asian giant expands its territorial claims in areas over South China Sea, among others.

It also attempted to connect the unfounded theory on ongoing tensions between Washington and Beijing—the two major global powers—in terms of trade.

The video also alleged that China might have “stolen” the strain of the coronavirus from a Canadian lab and then weaponized it, although it stood by its claims that it was initially created to target the former.

It notably failed to mention any primary or secondary sources of authority except a website called “blacklistednews.com” and medical journal “The Lancet.”

What experts are saying 

Allegations in the video have been debunked by experts, including those in the United States, the supposed mastermind of “bio warfare” or the use of biological toxins to incapacitate humans as an act of war.

Richard Ebright, a chemical biology professor from the US-based Rutgers University, said that nCoV could not have been an artificially created virus based on its “genome and properties.”

“Based on the virus genome and properties there is no indication whatsoever that it was an engineered virus,” he said to The Washington Post.

The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency currently monitoring nCoV’s origins, also said that the virus appeared to originate from a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Its report did not make any mentions of a biological weapon nor a sort of warfare aimed at China or the United States.

Fact-checking website Politifact also said that both CDC and the Chinese authorities suggest “a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.”

The website also debunked claims of China being the perpetrator of the alleged biowarfare program and said that there is “no evidence” that Chinese scientists have stolen anything from a Canadian lab.

According to Science Daily, people “gravitate toward conspiracy theories that affirm or validate their political view.”

Such people are inclined to believe in such due to “the desire for understanding and certainty,” “the desire for control and security” and “the desire to maintain a positive self-image,” Psychology Today noted.

“And we don’t just ask questions. We also quickly find answers to those questions—not necessarily the true answers, but rather answers that comfort us or that fit into our worldview,” the article stated.

“Uncertainty is an unpleasant state, and conspiracy theories provide a sense of understanding and certainty that is comforting,” it explained.