on July 2nd, 2024

The Baltimore bridge in Maryland collapsed in March this year. It was a tragic event as it involved loss of life. 

Despite the trauma, the internet buzzed with discussions after the collapse of the bridge, also known as the Francis Scott Key Bridge.  

Across social media, people speculated that the bridge collapse was not merely accidental. Theories ranged from attributing it to Covid-19’s effects to suggesting connections with a Netflix movie produced by Barack Obama called “Leave the World Behind,” which aired last year.  

Even as dive teams conducted their investigations, the incident continued to spark widespread debate. 

What Do We Know  

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, a steel arch continuous truss bridge spans the lower Patapsco River and outer Baltimore Harbour. Construction began in 1972 and was completed in 1977. 

A cargo ship, also known as MV Dali owned by Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Ltd collided with one of the bridge supports.  

The cargo ship can carry nearly 10,000 standard-sized metal shipping containers, but at the time of the accident, it carried close to 4,700 containers. 

It was on its way to Colombo, Sri Lanka when the accident occurred. Due to the bridge collapse, shipping to and from the Port of Baltimore was severely affected. 

The Conspiracies  

There were more than ten conspiracy theories that circulated on the internet accounting for the collapse of the Francis Scott key bridge.  

It is worth looking at some of the theories that were posited, as they may illicit some chuckles.  

Black Swan Effect  

Many regard this incident as a “black swan event.” 

The term “black swan event” has long been used to describe significant global occurrences, typically in financial markets, that can severely impact a country’s economy.  

However, in recent years, it has been adopted by conspiracy theorists to explain events supposedly orchestrated by the so-called deep state, suggesting they could herald revolution, global conflict, or other catastrophic scenarios. 

One of the earliest proponents of labeling the bridge collapse as a black swan event was former US national security adviser Michael Flynn.  

baltimore bridge
The collapse of the Baltimore Bridge

He commented, “This is a BLACK SWAN event,” on X. “Black swans typically arise in finance, not the military… There are harbor masters overseeing safety at every transit point in America; that’s where we should start.” Flynn’s post has garnered 7.2 million views. 

Foreign Cyberattack  

Andrew Tate, a prominent online figure known for his controversial statements, took to X to claim that the incident was the result of a cyberattack on the ship, alleging it had been intentionally steered towards the bridge.  

Tate offered no evidence to support his assertion, stating, “Foreign agents have targeted critical digital infrastructures.” 

By Wednesday, Tate’s tweet had garnered over 18.5 million views on X, as per the platform’s metrics. 

Under the leadership of Elon Musk, X encourages community fact-checking through annotations. Initially labeled as “speculation,” Tate’s post was later updated on Wednesday morning to clarify it was “misleading.”  

By Wednesday evening, the annotation warned readers that Tate’s statement was an opinion presented as fact. 

Despite these clarifications, Tate’s initial claim set the tone for ensuing discussions. 

Shortly after Tate’s tweet, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones shared a video of the bridge collapse, suggesting it was a deliberate act possibly caused by a cyberattack.  

Jones commented, “Looks deliberate to me. A cyber-attack is likely. We may already be in WW3.” 

Jones and other proponents of doomsday scenarios have long argued that global catastrophe is imminent, often encouraging their followers to stockpile survival supplies, a market in which Jones himself is involved. 

Netflix Movie Induced  

Conspiracies around the collapse of the baltimore bridge
Netflix movie produced by Barack Obama

Another widely circulated post which has garnered over 1.2 million views, linking the bridge collapse to the film “Leave the World Behind”, produced by Barack Obama.  

According to the post, the ship’s destination of Sri Lanka, identified by its lion emblem on the flag, draws a connection to a scene in the film “White Lion,” where a ship with similar insignia runs aground.  

The post further notes that “White Lion” was produced by figures associated with the Obama administration. 

Result of DEI Policies  

A social media post by Anthony Sabatini, a former Florida state congressman, has gone viral with over 2.2 million views. In his post, Sabatini claimed, without substantiation, that “DEI did this.” 

The meaning of the acronym is unclear, but in various contexts “DEI,” can stand for “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” These are principles aimed at promoting fair treatment, representation, and opportunities for all individuals, especially in organizational or societal settings. 

EIT and the Baltimore Bridge  

EIT Lecturer and Unit Coordinator, Dr. Igor Shufrin, conducted a webinar, providing insights into the bridge collapse from a civil engineering perspective. 

In the webinar, he examines the events surrounding the bridge collapse, offering insights into structural engineering aspects.  

He analyses vessel collision risks, impact loads from vessels, and the protection of bridge substructures.  

He advocates for a data-driven approach to the bridge design and argues that the decision on bridge type at any given location should be based on a comprehensive risk analysis. Skipping this crucial step could lead to costly repairs or even catastrophic failure down the line.  

Watch Dr. Shufrin’s webinar here:  

References  

How the Baltimore bridge collapse spawned a torrent of instant conspiracy theories 

Online Conspiracies About the Baltimore Bridge Collapse Are Out of Control 

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