COVID-19 is a hoax meant to convince us to accept the Bill Gates “vaccine” that will secretly activate the nano-bots we’ve already inhaled from chemtrails, a technology that will then enable the illuminati to control our minds through 5G networks.

Of course, some already figured this out by deciphering clues from QAnon, right?

Having spent an entire career working to gather and report facts that help people make informed decisions about their lives, it’s bang-your-head-on-the-desk frustrating to see so many buying into baseless conspiracy theories. Now, obviously, this phenomenon didn’t creep into the country with the new coronavirus. Tin-foil-hat wearers have been with us since the invention of tin foil, and before that were probably protecting their brains with cast-iron pots or rabbit hides. But the guy who used to be the kook down the street now has access to the internet and with it a world full of fellow kooks.

It’s a kookapalooza.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no pollyanna when it comes to corrupt people and institutions, and I’m as suspicious of those in power — mainly big government, big business and big discounts (show me what you paid) — as the next paranoid guy. I believed the truth was being hidden about visits to our planet by strange beings from distant worlds long before the Pentagon’s recent release of videos showing “unidentified aerial phenomena.” Also, if they’re listening, I for one welcome our new alien overlords. (And to them I say, please don’t eat me.)

I have, however, seen close-up the damage online conspiracy theories can do. Remember the guy who shot up the pizza place in Washington, D.C. in 2016 because he believed children were being held captive and abused there? His dad was the register of deeds in the North Carolina county where I lived and worked for 17 years, a really good guy who did not share his son’s delusions.

And there were, of course, no captive kids at the pizza joint.

I’ve tried to teach my own son not to simply take things at face value, even things I tell him and believe to be true, if he’s not sure they are. He should, I’ve told him, do his own research, gather all the facts he can from trusted sources and come to his own conclusions and beliefs.

So should we all.

If I could say anything to the graduating class of 2020, it would be this: You will be bombarded with information — and disinformation — from every direction and countless sources now and throughout your life. Like no other generation before, you will have to decide what’s real and what’s not to make good decisions for yourself, your family, your community, country and world. Navigating the torrents of conflicting messages won’t be easy, but it is necessary. So if you haven’t already, start educating yourself on how to be a smart consumer of information from multiple sources you trust, not just one that tells you the same thing all the time.

I can hear some of you now: “Who are you to talk? You can’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Journalists are human. We make mistakes. When we do, we admit and correct them. When we’re all replaced by robots, things will go much more smoothly, I’m sure. In the meantime, if some person or internet influencer or cable network never admits to being wrong, even when proven to be, he or she or it does not deserve your trust.

Getting back to where we started, it’s an insult to the loved ones of the nearly 100,000 dead Americans and more than 330,000 worldwide to say the coronavirus pandemic is anything other than the terrible disease it is.

Also, Bill Gates is not coming to get us. He already has most of our money. Besides, if the illuminati were able to control our minds, it would be far less interesting for them to spy on us through the devices they sold us — which they definitely are.

Scott Jenkins is editor of The Greeneville Sun. Contact him at 423-359-3157 or scott.jenkins@greenevillesun.com.

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