5G protest movement keeps marching on

The activist wing of a popular protest movement is campaigning for the demolition of public edifices because of the damaging signals they send out.

No, it's not Black Lives Matter, or anything so worthy, but another protest about 5G masts. The latest comes from the Emerald Isle, where Mast Watch Ireland and 5G Awareness Ireland have clubbed together to grumble about a 5G tower in south Dublin, reported The Times newspaper this week.

It seems to have escaped the notice of 5G Awareness Ireland that the mast in question, for which Three Ireland looks responsible, will support 2G, 3G and 4G services – but not 5G. Perhaps the protesters expect the technology forefathers to answer for the sins of their malicious offspring.

Anti-5G protests have grabbed headlines this year because of the claim by some protesters that 5G spreads the coronavirus. Presumably, middle-aged and older members of this faction were in self-imposed lockdown at the turn of the millennium, terrified of catching the Y2K bug. Social distancing from computer equipment must have been in practice ever since.

Saner individuals know the only real technology risk comes from licking a contaminated smartphone screen – or, more seriously, from handling the filthy device and then inserting a grubby digit into a facial orifice.

If the notion of the super-spreading 5G mast seems madder than bedlam, that's because it is. Remember that David Icke, a former TV sports pundit who is now one of the chief conspiracy theorists, previously decided he was the son of God. More recently, and probably after binge-watching V on crystal meth, he worked out that reptilian extra-terrestrials have colonized Earth, disguising themselves as humans.

5G Awareness Ireland might not be able to tell the difference between its Gs, but at least its concerns are a bit less outrageous. One, which overlooks evidence about safe and unsafe frequency bands, is that 5G radio waves are carcinogenic. Another worry – possibly more valid – is about the environmental impact of erecting 27-metre-high masts in the Irish countryside.

Still, this didn't prevent members of Stop 5G Waterford, a kind of sub-faction (Ed: how many of these groups are there?), from posing in March for a group photo – featuring placards and idyllic scenes of small-town Ireland – that was probably taken with a 4G smartphone and then uploaded to Facebook over a 4G connection.

It's also highly likely the protesters are using mobile communications to organize their outings, and possibly order pizza for everyone at the end of a hard day's activism. That's like preaching about social distancing and then squeezing between other semi-naked sun lovers on this week's mobbed Bournemouth beach.

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on Light Reading.

Arguing 5G is different from 4G would not cut it. 5G Awareness Ireland has already shown it cannot tell one from the other. Nor should it be able to: The technologies work on the same fundamental scientific principles and in Europe rely on frequencies in the same "midband" range. 5G is no better or worse than 4G.

Confused hypocrites are preferable to vandals and thugs, however. All protest movements throw up a violent wing and the anti-5G campaign is no exception. In some countries, and especially the UK, masts have been torched and technicians abused. Unsurprisingly, some of those masts and technicians had nothing to do with 5G.

Besides the 5G protests in Ireland, this last week has seen the publication of the first academic research into the psychology behind the 5G (or occasionally 4G) mast-burning phenomenon. Courtesy of Northumbria University, the paper concludes mainly that violent conspiracy theorists are "angry" people with high levels of paranoia. These days, there is a lot of that around.

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— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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