THE World Health Organisation has stated, as we find ourselves yet again in a Covid wave and reintroduced social restrictions, that misinformation is a major factor damaging our ability to overcome the pandemic.
We might be here on a small island in the Atlantic, the wind blowing in from the sea, but Covid and the internet, a worldwide pandemic and the worldwide web, mean we are all everywhere else now too.
What is said in the corridors of the WHO, for instance, matters in Ireland now too.
So, when a Facebook post that is doing the rounds came across my desk recently, I thought of that World Health Organisation warning and thought I’d look into it.
Is this, I thought, what they mean by misinformation?
Now I’m a working nurse and a journalist so I had a double interest in this matter but I tried to be as fair to this Facebook post as possible.
So, hands up I couldn’t really discover it’s origins and I’m unable to vouch for where it originated.
What I have seen is that various individuals are reposting it as being written by someone else, though who that is is not stated.
It consists of a list of over two hundred ‘hero’ doctors who are trying to tell us the truth about the current situation.
Prior to the list there is a short preamble where the introduction to the post talks about ‘my truth’.
This sounds, of course, essentially harmless. But isn’t.
Factual truth, i.e. that I am writing a column for The Irish Post, that this is January, that this is 2022, is objective.
‘My truth’, by contrast, is about emotions and feelings.
That’s absolutely grand but doesn’t really fit if trying to talk to people about a viral disease. It doesn’t fit in the world of facts, in Ireland, or anywhere else.
Unless, that is, you accept the Trumpian notion of ‘alternative facts’ and then, well, anything goes, doesn’t it?
The preamble also recommends that the reader pursue this alternative truth by accessing information on ‘uncensored’ internet search engines such as Duck Duck Go, which is fair enough. I have no shares in Google.
Except it then lists Bitchute and Telegram which even the most cursory inquiry will reveal as very unpleasant places.
Telegram has, for instance, been described by the Anti-Defamation League as a ‘safe haven for white supremacists’ and Bitchute has been described as ‘dedicated to right-wing communities’ and set up by those with ‘far right leanings’.
Alternative truths and outlets for the far right. I’m beginning to see a pattern.
But the body of the post is the list of over two hundred doctors.
Of course in the context of a global pandemic two hundred ‘hero’ doctors doesn’t seem that many if you take into account the global amount of doctors.
Much like climate change deniers trying to create the idea of science being undecided when it isn’t, a list of doctors with different views might give you the impression that the medical world is actually divided about the pandemic.
Yet, and I’m not for one moment going to portray this as great investigative journalism, this is not even a list of medical doctors.
Google, Duck Duck Go, Bitchute, Telegram. Doesn’t matter where you look them up. They’re not medical doctors.
For instance, and this is just at random, one of the ‘doctors’ on the list, has worked for Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and has a doctorate in philosophy.
She won’t really know much about your bad back.
Another has a doctorate in theology, and is the Chancellor of an American Biblical College. He’s written a number of books about his family being attacked by the occult. I don’t believe he can write you a prescription.
Another name on the list is a ‘doctor’ who has a doctorate in education.
By this stage I’m fairly convinced this post originated in America but taking into account where we are I look up the most Irish name I can find on the list.
That person appears to have trained as a psychiatrist but is no longer registered and is associated with the wellness guru Gwyneth Paltrow.
She may well prescribe you something but it looks like you have to subscribe to her website first.
Just for balance I should point out that there are less misleading names on this list.
One is an actual medical doctor and not only that, he worked for over three decades as a surgeon.
He also served in Trump’s administration, with a portfolio for housing, and reportedly believes in the literal truth of the Biblical creation story.
In a few hours, less than exhaustive enquiry, I’ve discovered that this Facebook circular can’t even manage to muster the list of ‘doctors’ it purports to consist of.
Yet even this tardy piece of misinformation has picked up traction.
I know now what the WHO means.