'Mistrust, Rumor and Conspiracy Theories Hinder U.S. Virus Fight,' Bloomberg News Whines

Chris Menahan
Mar. 10, 2020

Mark this down as one of the drawbacks of lying to the public non-stop for decades.

From Bloomberg, "Mistrust, Rumor and Conspiracy Theories Hinder U.S. Virus Fight":
No one has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus in Alabama, but unfounded social-media rumors run so wild that the state public health department assigned a staffer to stamp them out.

In Texas, Houston and Harris County officials have been fighting misinformation since January, after false claims that the virus was circulating in the Asiatown neighborhood.
People been brazenly defying quarantine orders across the country, that's where much of the suspicion comes from.
Time and money is also being frittered away in New York, where the attorney general demanded that televangelist Jim Bakker stop falsely promoting pricey pills as a cure. And Bakker's company was one of seven that received letters Monday from a federal task force, warning them against claiming that their teas, oils and tinctures will cure the virus.
Bakker is a big time Christian Zionist, so that's not surprising.

Bloomberg continues:
Across the U.S., government officials fighting the disease are wrangling with a population made dubious by years of Internet misinformation and a politics based on the debasing of facts. The World Health Organization has said that a global "infodemic" makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance.

"We are all working fastidiously to get communication out," said Trevor Thomas, an epidemiologist with the Georgia Department of Public Health in Waycross, where officials have been trying in vain to dissuade people from buying every face mask in sight, even though basic hand-washing and cough-covering are more effective. "There's a disconnect with the public, particularly on the preparedness side of things."
The WHO Director putting out the garbage stat that the coronavirus death rate is 3.4 percent because he simply divided the official number of deaths by the official number of infections probably didn't help.

Same goes for him claiming that "stigma" is "more dangerous than the virus itself."

Also, there's nothing wrong with wearing a proper mask. The issue is our government failed to plan for this crisis in advance and we outsourced all our factories to China, so now we're largely dependent on them for masks (which they need for themselves).
The disconnect starts at the top, with President Donald Trump's repeated undermining of health officials' assessment of coronavirus risks. With no evidence, Trump last week disputed the death rate from the WHO and downplayed the virus' dangers on national television.
Though Trump did seem to be winging it, the death rate was wildly misleading as mentioned above.
A Republican congressional candidate recently tweeted a coronavirus conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, George Soros and Pope Francis. Radio host Rush Limbaugh told millions of listeners last month that the virus was nothing more than the common cold, politically weaponized to hurt Trump's re-election chances. Trump aides Kellyanne Conway and Larry Kudlow have said the virus is largely contained.

Public fear is increasing and people "desperately want and need accurate, concise, reliable information," Lisa Lockerd Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention at the Johns Hopkins Health System in Baltimore, said Saturday. There are serious discrepancies between the statements of scientists "and some of the political leaders," she said. "I'm trying to be careful in how I say that."
Unfortunately, the scientific community has also been pushing bad science for decades. They recommended everyone eat trans fats and said we were all going to die from "global cooling," then "global warming" and now "climate change."

While I agree Trump's downplaying of the situation is embarrassing, there's plenty of blame to go around.
Skepticism resonates in Trump country as the president has lashed out at Democrats, calling Washington Governor Jay Inslee "a snake" for criticizing the administration's response. He has said he will continue staging large campaign rallies despite the risk of transmission. A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week found Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to say the virus poses an imminent threat to the U.S.
I've seen a lot of Republicans claiming this is some sort of deep state conspiracy.

The media can be recklessly hyping the virus to hurt Trump and Trump can be downplaying the virus in the interest of stock market preservation with both being in the wrong.
The internet is awash with oddball cures, false infection reports and conspiracy theories about the motives of health experts and the federal government. That has real consequences, because cynicism degrades "the chief tool of public health, which is trust," said Jim Thomas, a pandemic expert and epidemiology professor at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health. "Without that trust, it can do nothing."

[...] In the U.S., suspicion of public-health officials' statements on coronavirus extends beyond politics. It has found fertile ground with so-called anti-vaxxers --- or the "vaccine-concerned" as they prefer to be called --- whose opposition to mandatory inoculation has been blamed for measles making a comeback in the U.S.
The fact you're exploiting this coronavirus outbreak to bash "anti-vaxxers" who had nothing to do with it is another reason people don't trust you.

The CDC has already said a vaccine won't be out for a year and a half.
For state and local health officials, such reflexive distrust makes things harder. Scott Packer, who handles communications for Houston's health department, has gone so far as to dispute false information on individual Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. He also works with local news outlets to correct the record.

He said some of the misinformation comes from people who genuinely think they're helping. Others spread falsehoods maliciously: The rumors about the virus in Asiatown, for instance, singled out one Chinese restaurant by name.
If the government and their media allies wanted to be taken seriously by the general public in crucial times such as these they should have thought about that before they decided to use all their clout to deceive the public for their own ends.

If you want someone to blame for this crisis of confidence, look in the mirror.

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