Virginians who fret about being forcibly implanted with microchips were likely disappointed this week.
A state bill that passed the House would have made it illegal for employers or insurance companies to require that the human tracking devices be embedded in people. Violators would have faced a $500 fine. The bill died in a Senate subcommittee on Feb. 23.
The bill’s sponsor, Mark L. Cole (R-Fredericksburg), said he was motivated by privacy concerns, along with fears that the microchips could become the dreaded mark predicted in the Book of Revelation, according to The Washington Post. “My understanding — I’m not a theologian — but there’s a prophecy in the Bible that says you’ll have to receive a mark, or you can neither buy nor sell things in end times,” he told the Post. “Some people think these computer chips might be that mark.”
Linking the mark to microchips isn’t uncommon on the Christian Right, according to Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League. Some members of conservative denominations that believe in end times theology have long seen identification devices as indicators of the biblical “mark of the beast.”
But microchip paranoia is also rampant in the antigovernment Patriot movement, Pitcavage said. Patriots worry that electronic tracking devices — from microchips to product bar codes to rental vehicle monitoring systems — could be used by an evil government to track and control people. “It combines privacy concerns with conspiracy theories,” said Pitcavage, adding that he’s no fan of the idea of implanted microchips himself.
Sometimes the microchip fears from the Christian Right and the Patriot movement overlap. That can lead to bizarre speculation, such as the notion that the Anti-Christ is linked to the New World Order, a Patriot conspiracy theory referring to one-world government. A YouTube video reflecting this phenomenon, titled The Microchip Mark of the Beast (666), warns that the microchip will include information about an individual’s fingerprints, DNA, eye scan, financial status and personal history. On the video, which has been viewed nearly 600,000 times, a disembodied voice intones: “Gun owners. Christians. Conservatives. Libertarians. Liberals. Anybody that doesn’t go along with global new world tyranny will be watched, will be controlled, will be tracked. The new world order gang has a reason they want to control you.”
None other than Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber with militia ties, told his Michigan neighbors in the early 1990s that he’d had a microchip implanted in his buttocks. However, he later claimed he was only trying to exploit their gullibility and, in fact, was referring to a booster shot he’d received in the Army, according to American Terrorist, a biography of McVeigh.
Those disappointed with the microchip outcome in Virginia can still look to Tennessee, where state legislation is pending that would ban the unauthorized implantation of the devices. Like Cole, Rep. Susan Lynn, the bill’s sponsor, has equated the microchips with the “mark of the beast.” But during an impassioned speech earlier this month in front of a House subcommittee, Lynn veered into Patriot territory by comparing the specter of microchip implantation to the treatment of Nazi concentration camp victims. “The people that were taken into concentration camps, they were marked on their body. They were tattooed,” she said, according to the Nashville Scene blog Pith. “That wasn’t repulsive simply because they were innocents. … That was repulsive because the government was actually altering, labeling their body, and we realize it is a violation of civil rights to have the government do this against your will.”