Slate’s homepage editors spend a lot of time looking for editorial photos to put on our site. Those searches sometimes yield unexpected results: random, perplexing, and mesmerizing photos that don’t belong on the homepage, but that are too good not to share. Every week, we’ll share the weirdest photo from the wires.
What search term was used to find this in Getty?
“bill melinda gates”
What were you hoping to find?
A photo of “America’s technocrat aunt and uncle.”
What did you find instead?
A rumpled-looking man giving off eccentric science teacher vibes. Is the banana a teaching aid or a snack? Perhaps it’s a signature talisman, like the Log Lady’s log in Twin Peaks? Is it even a real banana? In any case, it’s a whimsical counterpoint to the man’s stern expression and muted clothing.
What’s the actual backstory here?
The man in this November 2020 photo is Piers Corbyn, the older brother of former U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Regrettably, while Piers is eccentric, he’s no science teacher. During the pandemic, he has emerged as an avid anti-lockdown activist and has promoted numerous conspiracy theories about the coronavirus and the vaccines. This photo was taken while he spoke to the media after an anti-vaccine demonstration outside the Gates Foundation’s offices in London. At a separate protest in October 2020, Corbyn told a crowd that “Bill Gates wants vaccinations to control you and to control women’s fertility to reduce world population.”
Earlier this year, Corbyn was arrested on suspicion of malicious communications and public nuisance for his alleged role in distributing leaflets around London that compared the U.K.’s vaccine rollout to the Holocaust. The flyers depicted the gates of Auschwitz, with the camp’s infamous inscription changed from “Arbeit macht frei” (“work sets you free”) to “vaccines are safe path to freedom.” In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle after his arrest, Corbyn dismissed accusations that he was antisemitic by saying “I was married for 22 years to a Jewess” and “I’ve also employed Jewish people in my business Weather Action, one of whom was a superb worker.”
What’s the deal with the banana?
It’s a prop in his argument that COVID is a hoax, using the much-repeated misconception that humans and bananas share 60 percent of the same DNA. Basically, Corbyn claims scientists have not definitively proved the existence of SARS-CoV-2 because the tests they’ve used are about as accurate as saying that a human was in a room based on the fact that a banana was found in it. It should go without saying, but his theory is not true. Corbyn has a master’s in astrophysics and is not a doctor, geneticist, or virologist—but actual doctors, geneticists, and virologists have isolated the virus SARS-CoV-2 as the cause of COVID-19, and they have mapped the entirety of the virus’s genome.
Is he into any other conspiracy theories?
Corbyn, who is the founder of a weather prediction business, also promotes the unscientific claim that humans play no role in climate change and that rising temperatures are due to variation in the sun’s magnetic field, not carbon emissions.
Why is this the weird photo of the week?
Please don’t be like Piers. Get vaccinated.