July 6, 2020

conspiracy theories abound

Today I found out that COVID-19 is either the number of pounds you gained during the shutdown or the number of years lost from the “face lift” of wearing a mask. I walked into an exam room to see an elderly patient. She did not recognize me, saying I looked too young to be Dr. Brown. My hair is longer and my wrinkles were covered by the mask! Maybe that will persuade some of the non mask wearers to take up the practice.

Apparently Seattle wasn’t the only place that had more neighborhood fireworks than usual. New York City was so full of fireworks that conspiracy theories were rampant about where the fireworks came from. It seems people were blowing off steam from being cooped up for so long and missing the big firework shows that were cancelled.

But those theories add to the fact that misinformation is rampant and we need to continuously be reminded whether to trust what we are reading or hearing. This goes for both the pandemic and the election. We are in for a wild ride for the next few months. As the pandemic ages, more information will be around and some will be reliable and other information not so much.

How can we discern the truth from fiction? It does take some work, but it is possible to learn how to detect what is reliable and what isn’t. The Infodemic blog has developed a method they call “SIFT: Stop, Investigate the source, Find better coverage, and Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context”. This technique is helpful and can be a fun challenge to investigate something that sounds either too good to be true, too crazy for words, or so reasonable that you wonder why nobody has offered this info up before. It can be frustrating too, and we don’t always have time to get to the original source, but it is enlightening.

This can also help slow us down and think before we share on Facebook, Twitter, email, or other media. This article in the Washington Post shows it is far too easy for misinformation to go viral. Other resources to help us sift the news are available such as News Literacy Project and First Draft which is can help separate helpful vs harmful information. Remember, the virus is still only 7-8 months old. Data and understanding of it are changing, so keeping up with those changes are important to keep us safe.

Wash you hands, cover your nose, and keep safe six.

Also, I made an error in yesterday’s post- Dr. Jenner inoculated with cowpox (Vaccinia), not smallpox, hence the name Vaccination. I have corrected it on the blog page and Facebook.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/how-to-inoculate-yourself-against-rumors-about-coronavirus-or-any-subject/

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/covid-19-meets-election-2020-the-perfect-storm-for-misinformation/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/05/08/this-covid-19-misinformation-went-viral-heres-what-we-learned/

https://infodemic.blog

https://newslit.org

https://firstdraftnews.org/project/too-much-information-a-public-guide/

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/nyregion/fireworks-nyc-conspiracy.html