Escape from Electrosmog

Living free of 5G

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In the early hours of Christmas 2020, a sixty-three-year-old loner named Anthony Q. Warner drove into downtown Nashville, Tennessee, and parked his RV in front of an AT&T transmission building. Shortly thereafter, local residents were awoken by a computerized voice issuing warnings over a loudspeaker: “This area must be evacuated now. This area must be evacuated now. If you can hear this message, evacuate now. If you can hear this message, evacuate now.”

Warner’s RV was rigged up with a bomb, which detonated at around 6:30 a.m. The resulting blast set several vehicles on fire, collapsed one building, damaged forty-one others, injured at least three people, and killed one—Warner himself. It also caused heavy damage to his likely target, an AT&T network exchange point, jamming law enforcement communications, disrupting hospital systems, grounding flights, knocking payment processing systems offline, and causing multi-state cellular, internet, telephone, and television outages into the following week.

In the final minutes before detonation, Warner’s warning system blared a countdown that concluded with snippets of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit song, “Downtown,” which begins like this:

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go—downtown.
When you’ve got worries all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help I know—downtown.

Three months later, the FBI declared that the bombing was not an act of terrorism but a suicide fueled by “paranoia” and “beliefs adopted from several eccentric conspiracy theories.” The bureau’s final report “did not reveal indications of a broader ideological motive,” nor did authorities conclude Warner had “a specific personal grievance focused on individuals or entities in and around the location of the explosion.” Yet early reporting indicated that their investigation had zeroed in on Warner’s alleged concerns about 5G technology, which he believed could cause harm and perhaps even mass death. Warner, an IT consultant whose father reportedly died of dementia after working for a telecommunications company which later merged into AT&T, believed he would be “hailed a hero,” according to an anonymous source who spoke to the Daily Mail.

The Nashville bombing was just one high-profile entry in an international string of communications infrastructure attacks that followed the widespread rollout of 5G, the fifth-generation wireless technology standard. Service disruptions have been attributed to sabotage across the United States, with even more in Europe—the UK alone reported ninety arson attacks targeting phone masts in just a few months. “Violent extremists have drawn from misinformation campaigns online that claim wireless infrastructure is deleterious to human health,” read a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report obtained by ABC News, “resulting in a global effort by like-minded individuals to share operational guidance and justification for conducting attacks against 5G infrastructure.”

These attacks have been motivated by a range of fears about the potential health impacts of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) created by 5G networks. Latent suspicions were heightened by the pandemic, with some conspiracists drawing direct links between the 5G rollout and Covid-19. There are those who believe that Covid-19 is a cover story for symptoms caused by 5G radiation, while others accept that the virus is real but insist that 5G worsened symptoms and accelerated its spread by weakening our immune systems. Some theories center 5G’s alleged role in declining fertility rates and widespread reproductive damage, either inadvertently or as part of a mass sterilization campaign. And an entire subgenre dovetails with the longstanding anti-vaccination movement to warn that 5G EMFs may work in conjunction with vaccine-delivered implants—be they radio-frequency identification devices (RFIDs) for real-time surveillance, DNA-based nanobots to execute a mind control program, or something else entirely.

There is no reputable evidence directly linking 5G to Covid-19. Researchers have traced their conceptual union to a general physician’s exceptionally vague statement in a Belgian newspaper. “I have not done a fact check, but it may be a link with current events,” he told the outlet, according to Wired. But the diverse range of fears owes less to any one source than the fact that they have been distributed, honed, and intermixed across a virtual expanse of interlocking paranoia networks spanning Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, and innumerable backwater forums. From outside of this amorphous filter bubble, the perceived homogeneity of various 5G suspicions makes it easy—and convenient, perhaps, for the telecom industry—to dismiss the lot as unfounded paranoia. Yet it would be simplistic to equate all concerns about new forms of radiofrequency radiation with QAnon-style crackpot conspiracies or anti-vaxxer rants about implanted tracking devices. The lines between ill-informed paranoia and justified skepticism are blurry, and history furnishes plenty of reasons to distrust the telecom industry, Big Pharma, Silicon Valley, and organs of federal government. A closer look at popular 5G anxieties reveals that at least some parts of the subculture have practical conclusions, tracts of solid ground to stand on, and a deeper history than mainstream fact-checkers care to admit.

First Receivers

Diane and Bert Schou were living on a farm in Iowa when a new cell tower went up less than a mile away from their home in 2002. When a nearby call connected, Diane recalled in a recent interview, she “could feel it before the phone started ringing.”

What began as inconvenience spiraled into debilitating symptoms, leading Diane to speculate that prolonged exposure was taking a toll: her face turned red, she got headaches, her vision would change, and it hurt to think. Diane believes that anxious fixation can occasionally cause healthy people to perceive nonexistent symptoms, so when physicians suggested that her condition was psychosomatic, she tried to ignore nearby cell towers and avoid focusing on the pain—to no avail.

Because equipment at the Green Bank Observatory is sensitive to interference, the facility once shut down for months when a group of GPS-tagged flying squirrels took up residence in a nearby forest.

The couple knew they needed to move, but Diane wasn’t sure where she would be safe. In the meantime, she spent time on the road to alleviate her condition, living out of her RV when she could—until a park ranger told her about Green Bank, West Virginia.

Green Bank is the heart of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a thirteen-thousand-square-mile area split between the Virginias in which radio transmissions have been heavily regulated since 1958. With a sparse population of around two hundred and a “downtown” consisting of a gas station convenience store with a Dollar General across the street, Green Bank would be easy to miss if it weren’t home to the Quiet Zone’s crown jewel: the Green Bank Observatory, a scientific compound littered with radio telescopes resembling massive satellite dish antennas, which are designed to pick up radio waves from outer space. The largest of them, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT, which also sometimes stands for Great Big Thing), is one and a half times the height of Big Ben, with a dish diameter over fourteen times larger than the famous clock face. In recent years the observatory has notably been tapped to support Breakthrough Listen, a Berkeley-based search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Because the equipment is sensitive to interference—the facility once shut down for months when a group of GPS-tagged flying squirrels took up residence in a nearby forest—certain radiofrequency-emitting devices are restricted and actively policed within a ten-mile radius. Most residents can’t use Wi-Fi, and the nearest cell reception is miles away.

Diane took a few trips to Green Bank to get a feel for the town, camping out of her RV behind a local gas station before deciding to take the plunge in 2007, when she and her husband became the first radio-frequency refugees to relocate to the area. This decision helped open the door to a steady stream of so-called electrosensitives who have followed in the couple’s path. Not everyone can handle the culture shock, but Diane estimates that there are several dozen Green Bank residents who have experienced some form of electrosensitivity.

I normally record interviews on my iPhone, and assumed that I would be able to do so in airplane mode (perhaps with Bluetooth turned off as well) when I visited Diane and Bert’s home in April 2021—but Diane requested that I turn it off completely, leaving me to take notes in unpracticed handwriting for several hours. The couple’s son, daughter-in-law, and young grandchildren had just concluded their first visit since the start of the pandemic, and an otherwise tidy living room reflected the recent presence of kids in the form of multicolored post-it notes distributed haphazardly across its surfaces. Diane told me those would probably take a while to come down, warming at the memory of time spent with family.

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is formally recognized in some corners of the world, like Sweden, where it was estimated to afflict around a quarter million individuals in 2006.

To casual observers it may appear that anti-5G activists materialized out of the ether, but in fact they inherit a tradition of organized opposition to poorly understood EMF exposures that has long had people like Diane, with firsthand accounts of allegedly deleterious effects, at its vanguard. In 1907, the early days of the electrical grid, striking Toronto telephone switchboard operators complained of symptoms caused by exposure to electrical currents, including “an exhaustion of nervous energy, a depletion of nervous force.” A doctor who treated the women wrote that their work “produces headaches” and “prevents rest, so much so that they cannot sleep when they go home.” To some, these accounts capture early descriptions of electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), a loose term that attributes symptoms like headaches, confusion, difficulty sleeping, and burning sensations to certain man-made EMF exposures—often those produced by power lines, smart meters, and radiofrequency radiation emitted by radio towers, Wi-Fi, cellular networks, and various smart devices. EHS has been the prevailing name for this phenomenon since 1991, but references to overlapping terminology like “radio wave sickness,” “microwave syndrome,” “screen dermatitis,” and “neurasthenia” can be found throughout the twentieth century.

EHS is formally recognized in some corners of the world, like Sweden, where it is officially regarded as a “functional impairment” that was estimated to afflict around a quarter million individuals in 2006. Across the border in Norway, former prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who directed the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1998 to 2003, claims to have suffered from the condition since 1990. The region’s relative embrace of EHS partially grew out of an incident in the 1970s, in which newspaper union activists called attention to worker complaints of visual problems, headaches, and a cluster of miscarriages among female editors when the industry became one of the first to supply its employees with computers. While a former WHO director puts credence in EHS, however, the organization itself does not; as such, in much of the world, treatment is limited to alternative medicine or psychological evaluation.

For her part, Diane dislikes the word hypersensitivity, which implies that affected individuals are abnormally sensitive to what should be tolerable environmental features. In her view, electrosmog—the ambient, man-made jumble of electromagnetic radiation that enables modern technology—should be viewed as a pollutant that likely causes damage even to those who do not feel it acutely. “I came up with a word for it: technology lepers,” said Diane of her condition. But the reason she, and those like her, need to stay away is “not to protect others, but to protect us from what [they] carry.”

Diane keeps an open door to other “technology lepers,” serving as something of an advocate for the community and fielding several calls a week from people trying to escape the electrosmog. Jennifer Wood remembers being on the other end of one of those calls a decade ago—and the relief she experienced when Diane invited her to visit.

Jennifer believes that her sensitivity set in around 1996 or 1997, as the first digital cellular networks (2G) replaced analog (1G), and may have been triggered by an adverse reaction to the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin. Whatever the cause, Jennifer was overwhelmed by symptoms that quickly pushed her marriage to the brink, including rapid weight loss, difficulty sleeping, and a metallic taste in her mouth. “I had no idea what it was at first,” said Jennifer, relaying that it took some time to fully embrace a quiet suspicion EMFs were to blame. “I knew within the first year but was embarrassed. They’ll think I’m crazy if I say this.”

Jennifer’s journey to Green Bank was indirect and involved spending time at the Environmental Health Center in Dallas, Texas—a facility most notable for its efforts to treat people experiencing unrecognized environmental sensitivities. “For two hundred years, we’ve thought of electricity as benign,” said Jennifer. “As a kid, I thought electric cars were so cool. It’s a hard idea to get out of your head.”

A slender middle-aged woman with flowing red hair and a sharp, youthful energy, Jennifer stood before me in sharp contrast to her stories of spiraling into an inexplicable illness that had at one point reduced her to removing her cell phone battery between calls and living out of a car, which she used as a makeshift Faraday cage. Moving to Green Bank clearly brought Jennifer immense relief, and as she discussed the ever-thickening electrosmog, I couldn’t help but notice that she referred to those of us living outside of the Quiet Zone as the ones beyond the pale: “The technology out there just keeps getting worse.”

Just Because You’re Paranoid . . .

Diane Schou has difficulty walking these days, so it was her husband Bert who occasionally rose to pull volumes from a personal library of scientific papers and pass them into my hands. These included peer-reviewed publications by authors like Swedish neuroscientist Olle Johansson; pollution toxicology specialist and former Trent University professor Magda Havas; oncologist and Agent Orange researcher Lennart Hardell; and Henry Lai, a bioengineering professor whose research linking microwave radiation and DNA damage attracted the ire of Motorola.

Distrust of ambient electromagnetic interference is so widely condemned to the realm of delusion that the tinfoil hat, a pop culture representation of protecting one’s skull from EMFs, has become a universal symbol of paranoid conspiratorial thinking. Some might consider them fringe, but Bert and Diane (who both hold PhDs in industrial technology and biology) clearly possess a solid understanding of an underappreciated fact: mainstream science is more divided on the safety of twenty-first-century electrosmog than the telecom industry or its regulators tend to acknowledge. “A lot of industry people are good, upstanding people,” said Jennifer, “they just haven’t gotten all the information.”

It is worth pausing to define a few concepts. As with their 2G, 3G, and 4G predecessors, 5G networks consist of towers and cellphones that exchange information by radiating and absorbing waves of EMF-generating energy at particular frequencies. EMFs exist everywhere in nature, vary wildly in their effects, and in their most abstract conception are neither universally harmful nor safe. The electromagnetic spectrum contains everything from visible light to harmful gamma rays, but wireless communication technologies like television, Wi-Fi, and cellular networks all operate within the radiofrequency (RF) range, which sits above extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation, below infrared and visible light, and includes radio as well as microwaves. Electromagnetic radiation frequencies in most of the visible light spectrum and below, including the entire RF range, are generally considered “non-ionizing,” meaning that they should not have enough energy to strip electrons from atoms or molecules. Ionization causes acute cell damage that can lead to cancer and radiation sickness, so higher EMF frequencies are typically considered to pose greater dangers to living things. High-band 5G does operate at relatively high frequencies compared to other mass communication technologies, into the lower portion of the millimeter wave band, but these are still solidly sub-infrared, and have ultimately been declared safe by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

Non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation of sufficient strength is capable of producing harmful thermal effects like burns and cooked Hot Pockets, but radio waves quickly lose intensity as they travel, and it is easy to ensure that RF radiation does not generally strike people with the intensity required for noticeable heating. While government agencies tend to effectively regulate against EMF tissue heating, however, most ignore potential non-thermal risks associated with non-ionizing RF radiation—and a growing faction of scientists argue that this presents a dangerous oversight. Recent studies have found evidence of non-ionizing radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMF) breaking cellular DNA strands and inducing tissue damage, cell death, mutations, and reproductive damage that may be associated with decreased fertility. Millimeter waves are largely absorbed within a few millimeters of human skin, but as Joel Moskowitz wrote in Scientific American, “short-term exposure can have adverse physiological effects in the peripheral nervous system, the immune system and the cardiovascular system.” Studies have linked chronic low-level exposure to Wi-Fi signals and other types of RF radiation with the impairment of spatial orientation, learning capacity, and memory in rodents, as well as noted that negative implications for “wellbeing and performance” resulting from living near cell towers “cannot be ruled out.” At least one study found a link between this proximity and elevated blood glucose, which could in turn suggest a connection with type 2 diabetes. Long-term cellphone usage has been linked to an increased risk for glioma, a type of brain tumor, leading the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, to classify RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

The CDC acknowledges that “intense and direct amounts” of non-ionizing radiation may have non-thermal effects on living things, and a significant amount of evidence suggests that this is likely true under at least some circumstances, but what those effects are, and whether those circumstances resemble common real-life conditions, has not been clearly established. 5G introduces new RF radiation frequencies into our already dense electrosmog, but where some scientists see unnecessary risk, others conclude that there is nothing to fear. Scientific American published Moskowitz’s dire warning, but it also published a rebuttal by David Robert Grimes, who accused Moskowitz of “scaremongering” on the basis of “fringe views and fatally flawed conjecture,” arguing that “there is no known plausible biophysical mechanism of action for harm” resulting from RF radiation.

Distrust of ambient electromagnetic interference is so widely condemned to the realm of delusion that the tinfoil hat has become a universal symbol of paranoid conspiratorial thinking.

It is difficult to parse the scientific community’s disunity, but one way of understanding the conflict is as one between those who look at the lack of compelling consensus and see no clear threats, and those who see unjustifiable risk. The latter camp drew battle lines in 2015, when a group of 190 scientists signed an international appeal calling for stronger EMF exposure limits, updating the letter in 2019 with an additional fifty signatories. Similarly, the “5G Appeal,” launched in 2017 and signed by hundreds of scientists and medical doctors, called for a temporary halt to the 5G rollout. The appeals cited arbitrary and outdated regulations; massive increases to “mandatory exposure” resulting from the fact that high-band 5G radiation is poorly transmitted through solid material, thus requiring a high density of urban antenna deployment; and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Precautionary Principle: “When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm.”

EMF safety research is inconclusive, but the field is also saturated with industry money, at least some of which ends up funding scientists who seem less committed to any particular subfield than simply rubber stamping controversial products. As Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie reported in a 2018 Nation cover story, when Tom Wheeler—then-CEO of industry advocacy group Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA)—wanted to fund research that would “re-validate the findings of the existing studies” proving cell phone safety in 1993, he turned to a questionable epidemiologist whose privately funded research had recently downplayed the risks of breast implants and declared the chemical behind Agent Orange to be safe at low levels. At the same time, industry executives are often just a revolving door away from commanding sway over leading regulatory bodies. It is well known that the head of Trump’s FCC, Ajit Pai, hailed from a telecom-friendly background, but even Tom Wheeler, Obama’s ostensibly liberal FCC chairman, graduated to his post after a career in representing the industry—not to mention raising over $500,000 for the former president’s reelection campaign.

A 2007 analysis of cellphone safety-related studies found that 67 percent of those with independent funding identified biological effects, compared to just 28 percent of industry-backed reports. Perhaps widespread telecom-backed science, coupled with an industry-friendly regulatory disposition, can help explain why the FCC’s RF-EMF exposure limit (a specific absorption rate of 1.6 watts per kilogram of bodily tissue) has not changed since 1996 despite an unprecedented proliferation of networked smart technology over the last twenty-five years. As with the corporate interests that muddied research into the deleterious effects of leaded gasoline, tobacco, and climate change, however, the telecom industry does not actually need to win the EMF safety debate; they simply need to drag it into perpetuity.

Considering the harmful legacies of private-sector public relations campaigns and intelligence agency perception management techniques, it is hard to fault skepticism directed at “official narratives” around such a contentious topic. If you tilt your head and squint, you can even see how people assemble some of the more outlandish theories from disturbing bits of real history, like CIA experimentation with mind control brain implants in dogs, military development of directed-energy microwave weapons, or the forcible sterilization of black women in the United States. Today you can read about these things on Wikipedia, but before they were public knowledge, they might have sounded like “conspiracy theories,” too. Even justified skepticism can quickly become a slippery slope, as it is almost impossible for a layperson to critically parse scientific dissensus without expert guidance.

Nestled in the rolling slopes of the eastern Alleghenies, the area around Green Bank inspires humility. But this land, too, is stalked by dark suspicions. Sugar Grove Station, a former Navy base run by the National Security Agency (NSA) and tied to the ECHELON mass surveillance network disclosed in the Snowden leaks, is just an hour and a half away from Diane Schou’s home. Nearby sits the abandoned site of an unfinished project that was a significant motivator for the Quiet Zone’s creation: a massive radioastronomy telescope, six hundred feet in diameter, designed to intercept Soviet radar signals bouncing off the moon. The Sugar Grove telescope was never completed, but I heard rumors in town that the harebrained scheme had in fact been realized, with NSA agents disguising themselves as scientists to use telescopes at the Green Bank Observatory. Thirty-plus years ago, local rumors also suggested that the area was home to a secret bunker designed to house the U.S. Congress in the event of a nuclear war—that is, until the Greenbrier bunker’s existence was publicly exposed in 1992. Today’s benign fact is yesterday’s outlandish fiction.

Jammed Frequencies

Most people likely associate 5G with the industry-wide hype campaign that has been trumpeting its arrival since the Obama years. According to Silicon Valley’s sunken-eyed carnival barkers, the new cellular standard was going to trigger an explosion in “internet of things” applications, opening the gates to a horde of dweebs who want to make sunglasses, speakers, and doorbells more annoying by putting sensors in them.

Few were willing to drink the backwashed Kool-Aid of 5G’s half-assed utopia, but it’s worth noting that the standard has even failed to deliver on its promises. 5G is split into tiered bands, and despite the hype about godlike speeds, networks have largely just been built onto already existing 4G infrastructure. In their annual mobile speed testing, PCMag actually found that AT&T 5G phones were slower than their 4G counterparts in twenty-one out of twenty-two cities.

“I really do believe deeply in objective science,” said Jennifer Wood, “but public relations people are ruthless. You don’t even need to call them evil, they’re just doing what the market wants.”

Where they have actually been deployed, high-band millimeter wave 5G networks facilitate greater bandwidth but also require more antennas and base stations to operate. Because these need to be placed with greater density than 4G towers, high-band 5G infrastructure empowers companies to track networked device locations with greater speed and precision than was previously possible. While conspiracists fear a globalist plot to inject people with vaccine-borne RFID chips, the reality is that private companies have effectively done as much simply by promoting portable tech like smartphones.

Dark suspicions about 5G often seem irredeemably crazy from outside of their contextual meta-narratives, but this can say as much about an observer’s ignorance as about the believer’s knowledge. The problem with mass “online disinformation” is not necessarily that wide-open platforms amplify reckless, gullible human impulses, but that they condition us to think like them, inflexibly surveying data for patterns and hoping against reason that total clarity will emerge.

We are often forced to choose between accepting officially sanctioned narratives and appearing sane to those similarly grounded, or questioning their contradictions and winding up on unstable conceptual terrain, awash in a Google DeepDream of impressionistic half-truth. It is easy to stay dry and dismiss 5G fears as irrational New Age conspiracism, and easy to let go and sink into a whirlpool of paranoia. But for the sake of inhabiting a collectively compatible reality, it may occasionally be worth the effort of jumping in and treading water.

Broadening the Spectrum

The most widely recognized cultural touchstone for electromagnetic hypersensitivity today is likely Chuck McGill, the older brother of Bob Odenkirk’s lead on the television show Better Call Saul whose condition is portrayed as half punchline, half trauma-informed delusion. When Saul orchestrates a situation to confront him with the truth—i.e., that his aversion to EMFs is purely psychosomatic—McGill’s acknowledgement of his obvious mental illness is framed as personal growth.

We are often forced to choose between accepting officially sanctioned narratives and appearing sane to those similarly grounded, or questioning their contradictions and winding up on unstable terrain.

If Better Call Saul invites viewers to confirm their own assumptions about electromagnetic hypersensitivities, Todd Haynes’s Safe (1995) pushes them to the brink. The film follows Julianne Moore as a bored suburban homemaker whose sterile, dollhouse lifestyle starts making her physically sick. As she becomes frail, even tethered to oxygen, Safe plays to the situation’s anxious ambiguity: Is Moore taking necessary precautions against poorly understood environmental toxins, or is she manifesting her own demise by imagining the worst? From a dismissive general practitioner to the coercive leader of a wellness cult, male authority figures are unanimous in telling Moore that it’s all in her head—but you can tell she never fully believes them.

Directed by a gay man at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Safe is a sympathetic portrait of paranoia in a world of new dangers that authorities neither understand nor care to. The film’s portrayal of the gendered politics involved in seeking care reminded me of a story relayed by Green Bank resident Jennifer Wood. Questionnaire studies suggest that EHS primarily affects women, an observation that Jennifer anecdotally echoed as an obstacle to being taken seriously. She admitted that a part of her was relieved when over one thousand men came back with Gulf War Syndrome, a multi-symptomatic disorder affecting Gulf War veterans, which is speculated to have been caused by experimental medications or microwave weapons used by the United States. Because their symptoms resembled hers, she thought, people might finally start to believe that they were real.

While I was in Green Bank, I tried meditating to identify any trace of a sensation that I could plausibly attribute to the lack of nearby cell towers—and came up short. Like many people, I live in an area with dense cell coverage, sleep near a smartphone, and spend hours of almost every day seated near a wireless router without feeling anything unusual. At the same time, it is plausible to me that the physiological effects of EMFs produced by such devices might be gradual, cumulative, and beyond the scope of most people’s acute sensory perception. Having been born in 1993, I am not even sure that I would trust myself to identify man-made EMFs. Unlike Diane Schou, I have no memory of a time before cell towers.

It is possible that people like Diane and Jennifer are canaries in the coal mine, but it is also possible that they are wrong about the nature of their conditions. Even if moving to Green Bank alleviated mysterious symptoms—and I see no reason to doubt this—they may have been caused by any number of pesticides, industrial emissions, or other environmental toxins that might be relatively scarce in rural Appalachia. It is impossible for me to speak definitively on this point, but it seems likely that the certainty of EHS sufferers is at least partially a result of the dismissal and disinterest they encounter from the medical establishment, which prefers to deal in tidy solutions and known quantities.

As the pharmaceutical, technology, and telecom industries converge with state agencies to aggressively quash 5G safety concerns, even as science remains genuinely divided, it is easy to see where the skeptics are coming from, whether you agree with them or not. After all, many of the mental health symptoms associated with EHS—anxiety, confusion, attention deficiency, depression—are also well-documented psychological effects of the modern communication technologies that depend on radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. When the conclusions align, why fixate on debating the precise delivery mechanism when you could instead join hands against the corporate sociopaths engineering our technology against us? If all 5G skepticism is flatly branded as deluded paranoia, people like Anthony Warner may feel like violence is the only remaining way to communicate. A healthier approach might involve a less binary notion of truth, greater tolerance for the unknown, and more room at the table for people like Diane Schou.

Evan Malmgren is a writer based in New York, who focuses on power, communications infrastructure, and internet governance. His writing has appeared in Logic, Real Life, and The Nation, among other publications.

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