But as the fear of a Covid-19 pandemic becomes more and more real every day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments must not only deal with trying for containment but also fake news.
Of course. Because we live in the Internet age of stupidity.
The fake news surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak is so bad that the WHO has said the world is facing an “infodemic”. Andrew Pattinson, digital business solutions manager for the WHO, said in a BBC article that false information is spreading “faster than the virus” – because of course it is. Lies spread faster than the truth. Always. And thanks to social media, a lie is heard around the world before the truth can even step out the door.
But why is this?
I suppose the first motive might be profit. Amazon has stated it has removed “tens of thousands” of overpriced items from its website. Among them vitamin C boosters which have been widely disseminated as a cure for Covid-19 – no, it is not. Do not purchase buckets of vitamin C tablets, munch them like candy and then think you’re safe to go out into the world of the coronavirus. You will not be safe.
Also among the items? Overpriced surgical masks “for coronavirus”. Note: The masks were not made with a coronavirus in mind and the WHO says that wearing surgical masks is of benefit to prevent the virus spreading if you are sick but does little if you are not. So don’t run out and buy up all the surgical masks on Amazon, especially at the price of £171 (RM930)! The same pack was priced at £10 (RM54) a couple of months ago.
This is motive one. Perhaps sowing disinformation is a way for some to profit off the fear of the many. Capitalism at it’s worst.
The next reason why there is an “infodemic” surrounding this outbreak is that people like novel stories. Here I’m talking about the wealth of conspiracy stupidity surrounding this situation.
I’ve been approached by at least eight people whose eyes lit up as they asked me if I knew where the novel coronavirus came from and then spouted a variety of nonsense ranging from “it’s a bioweapon made to take out the Chinese” to something about 5G being ground zero for the virus. And I get it, speculating about Big Foot and werewolves is fun, it’s awesome to watch those documentaries talking about how the pyramids were built by space aliens who may or may not want to use us as a food source – but please do not base your real life decisions on this bunk.
Conspiracy theories are not fact, and it’s harmful when people really start believing such nonsense and start using that as the filter through which they view the world.
Why do people fall for this garbage? Fake cures, fake origin stories? Well, it’s because despite humans being arguably the most intelligent beings on the planet, we’re still pretty stupid.
Especially when people don’t choose to educate themselves. For instance, in the United States, 38% of beer drinkers say they won’t buy the Corona brand beer because of the virus. OK, that sounds a little like people snickering and checking that box on the survey as a little joke. Corona Beer. Coronavirus. Ha. Ha.
But the survey by 5W Public Relations goes on to state that 16% of beer drinkers are confused about whether Corona beer and coronavirus are related. Genuinely confused. Yeah, maybe that 38% wasn’t joking.
This just means that during a time when there could be a pandemic, instead of choosing to educate themselves about the potential threat, these people presumably chose to do something else (drink beer perhaps). It also means that in a world that is inundating us with information from radio, TV, and social media that these people were somehow so impervious to facts to the point that there was serious confusion between coronavirus and a freaking Mexican beer brand associated with vacations and good times.
Covid-19 right now has about a 2% fatality rate; the rate rises to about 14% among people over 80. So Covid-19 is neither the plague nor as benign as the flu – should we try to contain it and limit exposure? Of course. But should we let fear and ignorance run our lives and stock up on overpriced surgical masks and stop drinking Corona beer? Of course not.
Unless you want to be part of the infodemic.
Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – a model who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries, and lifestyle programming. Write to him at email@example.com and check out his stuff at jasongodfrey.co. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.