- Law enforcement officials are investigating how a number of conspiracy theories, including beliefs that 5G has accelerated the spread of the coronavirus and is being used for spying, may be connected to a Christmas Day bombing in Nashville, TN, according to NBC Nashville and other reports.
- In the early morning of Dec. 25, an RV parked outside of an AT&T transmission building in the city's downtown exploded, injuring eight people and killing the alleged bomber, identified by officials as 63-year-old Anthony Warner. The attack temporarily affected local communications and resulted in damage to various buildings in the area.
- While local law enforcement and the FBI have yet to determine a motive, reporters say Warner espoused his belief in a number of conspiracy theories, including that so-called "lizard people" are bent on world domination. Local NBC affiliate WSMV said FBI agents are asking those who came into contact with Warner about his potential paranoia surrounding 5G technology.
The bombing in downtown Nashville shook the community over Christmas, and has left investigators scrambling to find a motive. Warner reportedly drove his RV to the area early in the morning, then a few hours later used a computerized voice to warn people nearby to evacuate and not approach the vehicle.
Darrell DeBusk, a spokesperson for the FBI's Knoxville, TN Field Office, declined to comment on a possible motive, but said Warner appeared to have shared his views with others.
"We are aware the suspect sent materials which espoused his viewpoints to several acquaintances throughout the country," DeBusk said in an email statement to Smart Cities Dive. A Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) spokesperson referred all questions to the FBI, which is leading the investigation.
The attack had real-world consequences that impacted city services. The city's Metropolitan Action Commission (MAC), which provides a variety of services to families in poverty, set up temporary lines on Dec. 27 to assist customers until full phone service was restored. MAC Executive Director Cynthia Croom said in an email to Smart Cities Dive that full phone service was restored on Dec. 31.
The attack came as 5G technology has been increasingly attributed to various health concerns even as deployment has continued nationwide. Those claims have been dismissed by the medical community and the telecoms industry but have resulted in vandalism against cell towers and other communications facilities as rumors spread online.
At a budget hearing last year, Tennessee Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Jeff Long said three department emergency communications towers in the east of the state had been vandalized in 2020. Long linked the vandalism to conspiracy theories about 5G. "There's a problem going around the country about the 5G network," Long said at the time.
CTIA, the trade associations for U.S. telecom companies, has also issued strong rebuttals of the link between health concerns and 5G, and even of false information linking the technology to the spread of the coronavirus. A CTIA spokesperson did not respond to requests for further comment.
"The coronavirus is not being spread by radio waves," Monika Gehner, a spokesperson for the UN-backed International Telecommunication Union, said in a statement. "It's a real shame, during this time when there are real concerns about the health and well-being of the general public, and the economic toll that the fight against this pandemic is taking, that any time or energy has to be put into fighting this and other false rumours."
In a previous interview, Americans for Responsible Technology (ART) Founder and Director Doug Wood said the connecting of 5G technology with spurious conspiracy theories undermines the health concerns that some groups have, which focuses purely on the effects of wireless radiation on the human body.
"We really try to stay away from conspiracy theories," Wood said. "Stop linking 5G to coronavirus because we don't have the science, the science isn't there, and you're undermining what we're trying to do here. We rely on the peer reviewed published science, we don't rely on conjecture."