On Sunday, a bunch of conspiracy theorist lunatics staged an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne. Their quarrels were many, ranging from 5G trutherism, anti-vax bullshit and QAnon nonsense imported directly from the US.

But one aspect of the protest was particularly peculiar. The conspiracy theorists were all chanting “arrest Bill Gates“, for some reason, acting as if the guy was directly responsible for the current situation. I touched on this when I reported on it at the time, and it’s apparently struck a nerve.

On Sunday night, some random slid into my DMs to lecture me on the Bill Gates conspiracy theory and call me an “utter fucktard”. Being the diligent journalist that I am, I decided to do some “actual research” and investigate these claims. Spoiler: they’re bullshit.

My haters make me famous.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

It’s true that Bill Gates has long supported both vaccination and birth control, as any normal person would. But to accuse him of wanting to depopulate the world is a leap-and-a-half.

In 2015, Bill Gates even gave a TED Talk where he said the greatest risk to mankind in the near future is a global pandemic.

“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war,” he said.

“Not missiles, but microbes.”

He was right.

After the coronavirus pandemic broke out, conspiracy theorists started pointing to this innocuous video as evidence that he planned to unleash a pandemic upon the world. But really, Gates was just bringing up what epidemiologists had been saying for ages: that we were underprepared for a global pandemic.

More recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $125 million to fund COVID-19 vaccine research.

One of the biggest sources connecting Gates to the pandemic is the conspiracy film Plandemic. In it, discredited, anti-vax “scientist” Judy Mikovits mentions Bill Gates as one person with immense wealth who is funding vaccination programs across the world. Mikovits is on the extreme fringe of everything, and nothing she says has any standing in the scientific community.

“Nobody elected him, he has no medical background, he has no expertise,” she says in the 30-minute film.

This is true, but the same can be said for pretty much everyone spreading the conspiracy theories too. The difference is that Bill Gates is funding people who do have expertise, and that’s why it’s such important work.

Mikovits doesn’t make any actual claims about Gates being responsible, but her implication is that vaccines are bad, and therefore Bill Gates is too. It seems the whole conspiracy theory hangs off ~vibes~.

But vaccines are not bad. The World Health Organisation estimates vaccines prevented 10 million deaths between 2010 and 2015 alone. Thanks to vaccines, we are able to talk about “preventable deaths” because we actually have the means to prevent them. A COVID-19 vaccine is the only thing that will get us out of the current crisis.

One of the reasons these claims are so difficult to directly refute is because they’re so damn incoherent. Mentioning Bill Gates and vaccines in the same sentence proves nothing, yet unfortunately for many, it’s a convincing argument.

There are plenty of genuine criticisms of Bill Gates, his fortune and his philanthropy. Many would argue that nobody deserves to have a net worth in excess of $100 billion (billion with a b). Many of his charitable efforts have also been slammed as being paternalistic and ignoring the concerns of those he claims to be helping.

But did he have a role in causing the coronavirus pandemic? Abso-fucking-lutely not.

What does spread the virus is dickheads ignoring lockdown restriction to have a mass gathering.

Stay at home and keep your germs to yourself.

Image: Getty Images / Chesnot