By Nejoud Al-Yagout

We are in the midst of a pandemic, a pandemic that has yet to go away. 2021 is a whole lot more promising than last year with the vaccine, but we are still facing countless deaths, and we all know people being admitted to the ICU, along with tragic stories of suicides, families separated, loss of jobs, failing businesses and people with no access to oxygen.

But there is another virus which, for now, has no cure. It is a virus which is inconspicuous and travels among all of us. At any moment, any of us can become infected with it. The virus is known as fake news-itis (aka FNI). And we can label its mutation as conspiracy-itis (COI). FNI and COI are so pervasive that people can no longer tell truth from lies.

There are symptoms which the two viruses have in common: Both bring with them arrogance, anger, paranoia and can even cause tension among families. In worst case scenarios, the critical care version of Fake News-it is and conspiracy-it is, victims cause pandemonium on the streets in the form of insurgency, violent protests and even death.

There is an inherent obsession with viewing the world as a horror show and we are the ones who can direct it back to a utopia, if people would only listen. And the most assailant symptom of both variants is believing our egos, our minds. We stop trusting experts or anyone, for that matter. We deny everything unless it comes from our own mind.

And we self-appoint our mind as intelligent, aware, and the main source of all our information-even though FNI and COI both originate in the mind. What results is that all reason has been taken over and we become vulnerable to misinformation. What’s worse is not only that these two viruses are contagious, but those struck by any of the two variants want to spread it to others.

If we are struck by FNI and COI, everyone is an idiot except us. Scientists have no idea how science works. Only we do. The majority of the medical establishment is fraudulent. If you need medical advice, come to us. Everyone is out to get us, we think, because we are important, and we are dangerous because of the knowledge we contain (self-taught from Internet University and WhatsApp College). And then, when our antibodies or reason are weakened, and we become immune to the vaccine of common sense-we join the cult of us vs. them.

When we are exposed to either FNI or COI, or both, we begin to see ourselves as experts and saviors. Entangled in the web of I-am-free-and-you-are-a-puppet, we begin to convince ourselves and try to convince others that we are the true leaders of humanity, shepherds who have come to wake the world up from its stupor of stupidity. We follow anyone who creates hysteria, and look up to anyone who galvanizes others to dissent. Not for one moment does it cross our minds that maybe, just maybe, we are the ones who are being brainwashed. No, that thought would not occur because we are aware and the rest of the sheeple are not.

Now, under normal circumstances, the illness of fake news and its mutation can be discarded. But in a pandemic, in a pandemic, let us repeat, it is fatal. It is understandable to be afraid. The whole world has been shaken by this virus. But for us to tell people the virus is not that dangerous or, at worst, doesn’t exist, or that the vaccine is unnecessary is downright cruel. To tell people that if they take the vaccine they will become hypnotized by the government and killed off, one by one, is more dangerous than Covid itself. To be an anti-vaxxer is anyone’s right.

But to be an anti-vaxxer and tell others not to take the vaccine affects us not just individually, but collectively, as the pandemic has proven. One of the most paradoxical symptoms of FNI and COI is the constant complaint that fear-mongering is everywhere. But let’s be honest. What is scarier: Telling people that our government consists of reptilian aliens and they are all out to get us; or telling people that the vaccine assures us that we will not experience severe symptoms or die if we take it? Which is scarier: the notion of a plandemic or the pandemic itself?

This planet is fragile. Sometimes, we feel paranoid, sometimes we are swayed by fake news and conspiracy theories. And that’s okay. But what’s dangerous is when we begin spreading news without verifying it, when we create panic among communities, and when we endanger the lives of others because we don’t believe viruses are real, or we think everyone is out to get us. Whether we like it or not, the virus is here. It’s real. If you don’t believe it, ask frontline workers. Ask those who are grieving for their loved ones. And, while you’re at it, ask about the efficacy of the vaccine.

Perhaps the only cure for someone with FNI or COI is pondering the question, day and night, night and day: What if-just what if-I’m wrong?