Conspiracy theories have taken root in Kansas. Reporter Jim McLean discovered this while visiting the town of Protection, Kansas recently for a story. In 1957, this Comanche County community became the first town in the U.S. to be fully vaccinated against polio. Back then, vaccinations were a community event with widespread public support. According to McLean, “it’s a different story today.”
McLean found today’s Protection deeply divided over the COVID-19 vaccine. Refusers and skeptics gave many reasons, including a vague sense of distrust. However, some people he interviewed expressed a more-specific belief, that the government puts a tracking microchip in each dose. This particular belief is not only baseless, it is also a component of a larger conspiracy theory called QAnon. When citizens and public officials tacitly endorse components of larger conspiracy theory narratives, they put public health in danger by raising the percentage of those not vaccinated. They also make it more difficult to properly allocate supplies so that doses do not get wasted. Finally, they help spread the conspiracy theory itself.
Conspiracy theories also endanger our democracy, and Kansas’ elected officials are the culprits. Led by Trump appointee Christopher Krebs, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) reported that the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election was “the most secure in U.S. history.” So, why did Kansas Reps. Tracey Mann, Jake LaTurner, Ron Estes, and Senator Roger Marshall refuse to certify the results? Each was vague, but one of the most popular narratives defending this decision was the belief that Dominion Voting Systems machines were “rigged” to change votes from Trump to Biden. This too is linked closely to QAnon, and it too is false.