I was an old school World of Warcraft player. There was in incident that started on Sept. 13, 2005 that became known as the Corrupted Blood incident. Simply put, there was a glitch in the game involving a spell called "Corrupted Blood" cast by a boss that did damage over time and could be spread to other players near you. This was meant to have a short duration and be contained to the instance but something went wrong. The glitch not only extended the duration of the spell but allowed players to bring it outside the instance into the main areas of the game. It spread from player to player, killing everyone who came in contact with it eventually. It was particularly bad for low level players as they were killed faster and had a harder time getting out of the infection zone so that they didn't recatch it when they respawned.
Soon, without any external direction, players began "quarantining" the cities and standing guard outside infected areas to warn low level players of the danger and to not go inside. It was an amazing turn of events that captured the notice of epidemiologists who studied the way players reacted. The analogy to our current situation is undeliable. Players tryed to buy time for devs to fix the issue, just like we try to slow the spread to allow scince to find a cure or vaccine. The protection of the more vulnerable low level players can be seen in our taking extra care of the elderly and immunocompromised to help them avoid infection. But even as most players worked to contain this "plague" there were others who went out of their way to spread it. The Lancet did a study in 2007 on all this and it has been used as a predictive model by epidemiologists to help predict human reaction to just such a real world event.
I was reminded of all this earlier today when I read an article about people infected with the covid-19 virus going into grocery stores and trying to intentionally infect others. This is by no means the first time I had heard of people trying to spread the infection but for some reason or another, THIS article reminded me of the Corrupted Blood event. From here I divert from the scientific information and get into my personal experience in WoW regarding the event. I am hoping that it might help us better understand why others feel the need to do this.
To be clear, I was not online during the bulk of this event but I DID talk to many people involved including some who had participated in the intentional infection of others. They all had different reasons for doing it. Some just thought it was funny. Others were angry at how "seriously" other players were taking the "plague" and wanted to "piss them off". Still others saw it as a way to vent frustration about the "system" and got a sense of satisfaction from making the situation worse to "prove" to Blizard entertainment just how badly they had coded the game. And of course there were those who just wanted to watch the world burn.
As I sit here thinking about all this I can't help but wonder if the reasons those players gave, can be seen in one form or another to apply to the real world. Of course this is just my speculation but I have come to theorize on possible motivations for the spreading of covid-19.
"It's just funny" I think this can be seen in the attitudes we saw especially early in the pandemic from those making jokes about the virus. While humor IS a coping mechanism for people, it can often happen when someone is very sheltered from the reality of a situation, leading them to not understand how inappropriate their joke may be. Call it entitlement if you will. It's the devil may care attitude of a person who has never really experienced REAL hardship and is therefore unable to empathize with those who are actually suffering. There is one case of intentional covid-19 spread in which the person decided that the virus really wasn't "that bad" and wanted everyone to get it so it could be over sooner. He did this in spite of all the images and information coming from other countries who are really suffering due to the pandemic. It shows a lack of empathy and an arrogance that THEY know what's best, even though they have not had to deal with it themselves.
"Anger at how seriously others are taking it" This is very similar to the "it's funny" attitude but with one important difference. The anger adds another aspect to their motivation. I have seen this time and time again working on this project. People who are genuinely angry about the warnings and precautions taken to address the virus. They seem to seethe with an irrational anger even when the warnings or precautions were mild enough not to effect them directly. One of the people arrested for intentionally spreading the virus expressed an "I'll show them!" attitude in their motivation. That same arrogance that they know better than anyone else and the willingness to risk the lives of others to prove it. It's as if they NEED this virus to be nothing serious in order to maintain their world view and any actions to the contrary spark a very dangerous anger in the person. In this case, leading them to try and deliberately spread the virus in order to "shut everyone up" about it.
"Anger at the system" I have seen a lot of this. The virus becomes a proxy for all the person's frustration with their government's system and in some cases, a means to strike back at it. I have actually had contact with another person in a foreign country who openly stated they wanted to spread the virus to bring down their country's current regime. For them, the mistakes they saw in how their country was handling the virus became analogous for ALL the problems in the system and simultaneously became the very solution to the problem itself. It's the idea that the virus can be used as a revolutionary catalyst to destroy the old system and build a new on from it's ashes. I have come into contact with this thinking in various forms even in here is the US. From those who only joke about their hope it topples this person or that person, to those actively trying to infect those they see as a part of the system they take issue with. Recently in the US I have noticed a dangerous level of this across all parties, expressed in multiple ways. One thing is very clear. Some see the destructive power of the virus as a means to an end where the "corrupt" are burned away leaving the "righteous" to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. This is of course absurd because a virus does not care who you are and it cannot be controled when allowed to spread, no matter how delutional or "revolutionary" you are. A virus does not discriminate. A virus spreads and kills. It's what they are evolved to do. The political weaponization of covid-19 wheather figuratively or litterally cannot be tollerated as the effect will be the same. We cannot fight a war on two fronts. If we attempt to do so violence and more death will be the ultamate result.
"Bring on the apocalypse!" There are always those who just want to watch the world burn. Whether religiously motivated such as with the cult in South Korea or due to sociopathic tendencies, there are those who's only interest is in causing as much damage and chaos as possible for no other reason than, because they want to. This attitude is often seen in those who feel disenfranchised by society, particularly in individuals who lack social skills and are isolated because of it. These people have no greater motive. They don't want to fix anything or strike at any one target. What they want is total distruction, even if it means the distruction of themselves. Sometimes especially if it means the distruction of themselves.
Whatever the reason, people will continue to try to spread the virus and we must all be aware of it and take precautions against it. For the average person like you and me, this means, social distance, washing our hands often and even avoiding take out. We need to disinfect or wash everything we bring into our homes, especially if it is food. Don't eat or drink anything that either has no seal or can't be washed with soap and hot water. This means that some foods will be off limits but it is a small price to pay in order to slow the spread of infection and to thwart the efforts of those who would do us harm.
None of this is going to be easy. We are all afraid and even angry. But we must focus on the things we can do as individuals to better our chances and to protect our communities and way of life. Ignore the weaponised polotics. Replace fruntration and anger with positive action. Treat those who you disagree with, with patience and respect. There will always be evil in the world. It's our job to make sure it doesn't get the chance it needs to thrive. Stay safe.
Note: I apologize about the Washington Post article being behind their pay wall. I only linked it as it was the one that got me thinking about this topic. NO ONE should be forced to pay for well researched covid-19 information and I will never put my work behind a paywall. All my work is done on my own time, with what little resources I can pull together. If you would like to support my work and this website consider donating to my Patreon. Recent donations have allowed this website to be upgraded and it is now listed on search engins like google! But there is a lot more to be done. As I have said before, my work is free to all who need it and always will be.