Coronavirus witch-hunt sets Europe ablaze

Scapegoats: Anti-5G activists argue radiation from phone masts spreads the coronavirus.

Is witch-burning back? Fear of the coronavirus has stoked the flames of the anti-5G movement, drawing parallels with the mass hysteria and witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries.

An invisible enemy stalks Europe, sickness sweeps the land. Dark diabolical forces are at work and angry mobs with burning torches are on the streets.

1613 or 2020?

Over the last few weeks, arsonists have burned down dozens of 5G towers across Europe, blaming the telecom equipment for spreading the coronavirus. It’s a bogus conspiracy theory, but one stirred up by celebrities on social media – and a climate of fear and anxiety about a disease that has infected five million people worldwide.

The anti-5G attacks have been especially bad in the Netherlands, where 22 masts have been torched in the last few weeks. But 400 years ago, they weren’t burning phone towers. They were burning people.

1n 1613, in the Dutch town of Roermond, a network of witches was supposedly uncovered. After being interrogated and tortured by the authorities, the women confessed to using black magic to murder 600 newborn babies, 400 elderly people and 6,000 livestock.

Thankfully, the last person to be executed for witchcraft in Europe was an unfortunate Swiss woman, beheaded in 1782. But some think the 5G arson attacks have a lot in common with the early modern craze for witch-burning.

Modern-day leaders are quick to blame China for the coronavirus, with 5G witch-hunters linking Chinese-made technology and Covid-19.

So, is witch-burning back?

Dark arts

Of course not, say some. There’s a world of difference between burning people and burning phone masts.Those who are burning 5G towers today are fanatics on the fringes of society, who are not supported by governments or the wider public.

Yes, others say, and it’s very dangerous. History warns us that widespread fear can turn into mass hysteria. Like a virus or a wildfire, these violent outbursts can grow rapidly out of control.

You Decide

  1. Do you believe in magic?


  1. Design your own magical communication system with diagrams of how it works.

Some People Say...

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C Clarke (1917-2008), science fiction writer

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It wasn’t until 1951 that laws against witchcraft were finally cancelled in the UK, meaning that no one today can be officially accused of being a witch. However, the term “witch-hunt” has entered modern language to describe any false accusation. The internet and social media have become spaces for fake news and rumour to spread rapidly – and like 17th-Century witch-hunts, they quickly turn into accusations and public shaming with real consequences for real people.
What do we not know?
The big question is whether modern society is as superstitious or irrational as those witch-hunters in 1613 Roermond, or 1692 Salem. Arthur Miller suggested that very little has changed and there is something deep in human psychology and society that leads to these violent accusations and outbursts. Others would say we are not like our witch-burning ancestors and it is only people with extreme views who believe these kinds of things.

Word Watch

Moves slowly and quietly towards an animal or a person, in order to kill, catch, or harm it or them.
Characteristic of the Devil, or so evil as to be like the Devil.
Burning torches
Destroying something completely by burning has always been deeply symbolic and ritualistic, as it reducing something to nothing.
People who deliberately start a fire in order to damage or destroy something.
5G towers
The fifth-generation telecommunication technology is designed to improve internet connections, but opponents argue the radiation is harmful to health. The technology is built in China and many are also worried about the country’s influence over telecommunications.
Not genuine or true; fake.
Rapper Wiz Khalifa, singer Keri Hilson, and actor Woody Harrelson have all used their huge following on social media to spread the 5G conspiracy theory.
Asked questions aggressively.
Farm animals raised to produce meat, eggs, milk, fur, leather, and wool.
Modern witch-hunts continue to kill people around the world, especially in India and sub-Saharan Africa.
Early modern
From around the early 16th Century to the late 18th Century. Roughly, the end of the Middle Ages to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
People who have extreme religious or political views.
Panic; uncontrollable emotion or excitement.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.