surinenglish

THE BOTTOM LINE

Scaremongering

The reaction to the outbreak of coronavirus has been distinctly mixed. On the one hand, you have the panic buyers, filling their supermarket trolleys with non-perishable goods and wiping out pharmacies' stocks of hand sanitiser and face marks. On the other, there's those who, relying on nothing other than their feelings, have decided that Covid-19 is absolutely nothing to worry about at all.

"The normal flu kills many more people" is a common comment doing therrounds. As is: "This is just another bird flu, Ebola or mad cow's disease... it will come to nothing."

This is the problem with this new post-truth era that we're living in. Facts don't seem to matter anymore. No one seems to care that Covid-19 is much more contagious than the normal flu; nor that there's evidence that it's already mutating. It's much easier to dismiss the facts and go with your gut. And this is dangerous.

The reason we don't want to listen to experts anymore is that our lives are all so entwined with the echo chamber that is social media. Because of the abundance of (dubious) sources just one click away, we no longer have to rely on the mainstream media. Instead, algorithms mean we often only see information with which we are likely to agree.

This means that when we are presented with facts that don't necessarily chime with our viewpoint, we are much more inclined to dismiss it à la Donald Trump as "fake news" or, in this case, "scaremongering".

I can't pretend that I don't live in an echo chamber of my own, but from the reporting I've seen about the coronavirus, it has been far from scaremongering. If anything, the media has been playing it down.

Admittedly, being subjected to a constantly rising number of cases is alarming, but when did reporting facts become "scaremongering"? It's the media's job to report the news - surely.

What isn't helpful, however, is that the modern world gives news 'consumers' an immediate platform to spread their own version to a potentially massive audience. How often do you see, for example, commentors on Facebook who clearly haven't even bothered to read the story they're supposed so infuriated by?

It is these people in particular who create and propogate their own version of events and who have massive potential to misinform and incite fear.

This is why, when dealing with something as potentially lethal as the coronavirus, that we check our sources and pull people up when they spread misinformation.