“See?” said Crowley. “It’s just like I’ve always said. They’re cunning buggers, humans. You can’t trust them an inch.”— Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
I have been thinking a lot about each of our roles in this pandemic. Many of us are home, working from home, or worrying about not being able to work. Some businesses were able to pivot gracefully and efficiently, still able to cater to their clients and provide excellent service. My gym has been amazing setting up virtual classes on zoom. I used to only workout twice a week, but have been able to do the workout every day. One positive of a pandemic is the growth of my biceps. They are running a free 21 trial class, in case you also want to grow your biceps from your house anywhere in the US. (This is not sponsored and I’d love to see your sweaty face on zoom at 11:30am ET).
But what about other businesses? Many have faltered and may not come back. This worries me in terms of the skyrocketing unemployment. I think about what I can do to help. I love how The Conscious Kid is running a rent relief fund, no questions asked. Is that something we could do in the long term with this blog? Could we provide support to those who are doing great work through Patreon? Would we be able to fund 1, 2, 10 artists, activists, and wonderful people?
And then, I get angry because I think about those profiting directly off this crisis. With the ability to be super connected, and with so many at home on their computers, and increased social media consuption, it has become easy to disseminate large amounts of dissinformation. Fake information that is meant to cause confusion and distrust of science. (As an aside, this is a great explainer on how the scientific process works — you should check it out if you’re unsure how we figure things out about the world from data we collect.)
What we share online matters, even in whatever small bubble you live in.Carolina, PurpleGlasses.com
What we share online matters, even in whatever small bubble you live in. I say this while thinking about the two recent conspiracy theory videos that surfaced. I will not link to them because I don’t want to increase any of their traffic (even with only a couple people reading this). But also, because their content has been debunked by many, many, many, many, many, scientists (this list of references is below with descriptions). I was surprised and dissapointed with how many people in my small network shared this. Especially the ones who insisted we should “have an open mind” while watching. #facepalm. To be clear, an open mind is useful when looking at facts and data, but a conspiracy video that only has misinformation is not a time to have an open mind, it is a time to report it as false news and close that window.
We are not only responsible for what we consume online, but what we share as well. It is easy to fall into believing some of these theories. But they all stem from the same vein: by decreasing our trust of data and scientists analyzing this data, which they use to learn and come up with valuable discoveries, we are ultimately losing this information and what is has brought to society. An obvious example is how the anti-vaccine movement has led to oubreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Please #vaccinateyourkids and #factsnofear.
Also, the more we are distrustful of actual scientists, the more likely it is that conspiracy theorists can profit off your distrust. They don’t even need that many people to buy what they are selling, but they do need many people to share. To continue the anti-vaccine example above, they need many people to choose not to vaccinate, or share about not vaccinating. A small subset of those people will look for “alternative” medicines and give money to this movement. This is what fuels such movements and makes it so harmful. People who really need treaments that are shown to work are refusing them. Over time, this community distrust engenders more distrust and increases the base of people buying the “alternatives”.
Please think twice before sharing something on your platform that seems outlandish and conspiracy like. It only helps to strengthen the dislike of real facts and weakens society as a whole. Without science we would be very much lost.
Resources with FACTS about COVID and Science:
Sawbones: COVID Lies, Darned Lies and Statistics – a great podcast by Dr. Sydnee and Justin with great fact checking and good info about COVID. It has a transcript attached for those who want to skim the article.
Vice article – if you want some background on the person who created the viral video that has been removed, this is a great article.
Facebook post by Dr. Kat Montgomery, a pathologist with a masters in epidemiology debunking step by step the many claims the video made. It includes references for every fact check and lots of good information.
Pseudoscience and COVID-19 — we’ve had enough already – not specific about the viral videos, but a great overview about why its so important for us to help not spread conspiracy theories and false claims.
COVID Explained – a website created by Dr. Emily Oster (author of Cribsheet and Expecting Better) and Galit Alter. This is a great resource to answer any questions you have about COVID. They use the current data available to answer these questions.
How the Scientific Process works – by Dr. Katie Everson – this is a great explainer of how the scientific process works. Also, it’s all drawn out beautifully.